Cec kicked off the conference with a keynote address that spoke directly to my heart. He talked about how people struggle with significance and how some people write to become significant. He reminded us that our names may never be remembered, but our stories might. He told stories about the people with whom he has worked and gave illustrations from his own life. He spoke of the Sunday school teacher who took him by the shoulders at age eleven and told him that God had a plan for his life. He left that Sunday school class, partly because of how often his teacher kept repeating those words to him, and eventually accepted Christ in his twenties. After a few years in the ministry, he went back to see his Sunday school teacher, and she told him that not only did she remember him but also that she had prayed for him every day.
Those words speak of such commitment, a commitment that Cec has demonstrated to the One who called him all those years ago and to his craft. He comes across as authentic, often to a fault. He's not afraid to speak truth into a writer's manuscript. And he's also not willing to give up on those who work hard at the craft. To sit under his tutelage on Friday was a blessing. To spar with him at his table at lunch was priceless.
Some of my favorite quotes from Cec include the following:
On being transparent - "I'd rather be disliked for who I am than admired for who I'm not."
On praying while writing - "God, help me do the best I can today with the ability you've given me."
On when to stop work on a piece - "This is the best I can do at this stage of my development."
I hope I have the opportunity to attend one of his mentoring clinics or one-day intensives at some point in my writing career because he brings out the best in his students by challenging them. (I accused him of having taught law school due to some of his lecturing techniques.)
Like last year, TJ joined me on this adventure, and we convinced Tina to come with us as well. We reconnected with Renae and met a new friend named Ashley. The saddest part was that I didn't feel I could prepare for Tuesday's lecture if I went to both days of the conference, so I skipped the Saturday sessions. That loss whets my appetite for next year's conference.