Saturday, March 7, 2015

FCWC 2015 Report

Teen Track 2015!

This is my sixth year attending the Florida Christian Writers conference and unlike the others this is my final year for a while anyway. I'm nearly 22 and I'm aging out of the Teen Track and the amazing Mr. Bryan Davis will no longer be teaching there.

Before I even heard that news, I felt a sense finality that I should move on. There are a lot of other conferences and I believe I need to attend one of them even though this one has changed me so much. I've cried more times during this year's than ever before in happiness and sadness. I love the people in that picture up there with all of my heart.

So many special things happened at this conference. I met in person one of my closest friends whom I met over the internet. She is a writer and lives in Canada and now finally we've met. My time with her and my other close friend Cassidy was so priceless. I love these two young women so dearly.

Cassidy (left), Me (middle), and Cassia (right).
Teen Track, you're amazing. You're some of the best people on the planet. You're smart, witty, hilarious, kind, courteous, geeky, talented, and all around awesome. Thank you Cassidy Clayton, Cassia Schaar, Alyssa Greer, Zach Brown, Casey Covel, Amy Covel, Christian Johnson, Ian Hancock, Christian Whitted, Bethany Long, Kevin Perez, Rachel Hastings, Emily Hauge, Aaron Traciak, Cadi Murphy, Natasha Sapienza, Charissa Swanson, Tori Sharp, Lauren Moye, Olivia Hofer, Channah Lohman, Alisha Lavender, Heather Lawrence, and so many more of you that have come for making me feel the most loved, accepted, and happy than with any other group of people in my life. 

You have made me feel like I belong somewhere. Any time I got a success you all cheered me on and gave me highfives and made me feel all around amazing. Any time I've had troubles you've prayed for me and helped me through them. You've made me grow as a writer and as a Christian. 

Teen Track 2015!
Thank you, Mr. Bryan Davis, for all you have done for me. Over six years ago, you told a shy sixteen year old girl to come to the Florida Christian Writers Conference. Look where she is now. She went from using the word "was" over twenty times on one page to an award-winner. She went from feeling like she was the only young writer out there to knowing so many others. She went from adopting the Christianity of her parents to making it her own and growing strong in it. 

This is all thanks to your teachings, your invitation, and your books. *stands up on desk* O captain, my captain, you will be sorely missed. 

Bryan Davis (left) and Me (right)
I also taught a class with the awesome Ben Wolf called Selling Yourself to Agents and Editors. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Ben. Be sure to check my book review of his debut novel Blood for Blood. This was my first time ever teaching a class at a conference and I'm hoping it will open up some other opportunities. It was a great if not nerve-wracking experience and I got some compliments that I did well so I'm assuming I didn't totally mess up. 

Me teaching Selling Yourself to Agents and Editors
A few weeks before the conference as I started stressing over contest entries and one sheets, I really started to doubt myself. I felt like after six years of devoting myself to writing, nothing was happening, and I was wondering if it ever would. I got close to giving up writing for good or at least a while, because I couldn't take waiting with no hope anymore. I decided to wait until the conference to make my decision. 

The night before the conference I got down on my face, as in forehead was touching floor, and I pleaded to God that I could finally get published. I told him I had been patient, but I couldn't anymore. "God, please tell me if all of the tears, time, and dollars I've spent on this dream were worth it. Show me so I don't doubt anymore. This doubt is eating me alive."

At the conference I pitched to two editors and an agent. They showed very high interest in my work far more than the other years. One even said, "This is some of the best writing I've seen at this conference." And, "This book needs to be on the shelves." And, "If for some strange reason [publishing house] doesn't accept you, then talk to me." 

I'm so so very excited! The next few months of my life are going to be spent getting ready all of the material requested for these three people. Since Red Hood is shorter than some of the other novels I've written I should be able to get it finished faster. This means I will need betas soon. ;) I'll do an official shout out at the exact time. 

This baby may have her books on shelves soon!
At the awards banquet, I sat at my table in my fancy dress next to Cassidy and Cassia, eating supper. Then Rebeca Seitz of Believers Trust, a Christian, non-profit company devoted to helping writers, walked onto the stage to announce the winner of the Beyond the Steeple award which comes with a $200 prize. I had entered Red Hood into this award last minute. She said that the winner was a "she." 

I thought. Well, that narrows down a lot of people, but there's still a lot of shes. 

Then Rebeca began to tell the audience that she thought the award would only have maybe two or three entries that she would choose easily, but she ended up getting about twelve. She tried to hand it off to another staff member, but the person refused, so Rebeca told herself she'd pick the one that she couldn't stop thinking about. She said one key factor to the entry she chose was that it reminded her of Once Upon a Time.

My mouth dropped open. Red Hood is a fairy tale retelling, but someone else could have written one.

Mouth droppin' open.

Then Rebeca said it was based on Little Red Riding Hood. 

I froze. That was my book.

Rebeca said, "And the award goes to Victoria Grace Howell for Red Hood!"

I doubled over and covered my mouth. Tears welled up into my eyes and I hyperventilated. I stumbled onto the stage on my high heels and Rebeca handed me this giant frame with the award and a check. We took a picture then she said, "Why don't you tell us a few words about this amazing story?" And she hands me the mic.

Me inside at that moment.
I look out at the audience of two hundred or so people and hold the mic. "I'm a little in shock here so bear with me." I managed to calm my breathing. "I thought of this story during snowpocalypse last year while I was on YouTube listening to music. I saw a tiny picture of a track in the related videos column  I clicked on it and it was a picture of a wolf standing in the rain growling at a little girl wearing a red hoodie staring back at him. My mind burst with the idea of Little Red Riding Hood as a werewolf huntress in a steampunk world. So in the end I owe all this to a random YouTube video, that happened to come at that time." Basically it was all God.

Rebeca Seitz (left) & Me (right)
I returned to my seat, getting high-fives from the teen track along the way. After getting my breath back and wiping my tears away without smearing make-up all over my face, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned, and one of the editors I spoke to earlier handed me a business card. I thought that was weird since he gave me one earlier. I moved my thumb to the side and found he'd written, "Congratulations. Consider the award confirmation from God. Go forth and WRITE!" Queue the waterworks. I didn't tell this man about my struggle. I was so floored. 

The card.
The next morning, I decided to go to breakfast. If anyone knows me for any amount of time they know that I am a firm believer that:

The previous mornings of the conference my roommate and best friend Cassidy had to force me to go. This time she stayed. After I had eaten breakfast with the Teen Track, I started to head to the keynote, but I noticed the editor who gave me the card sitting by himself. 

I walked over to him and said, "Thank you for that card. You have no idea how much it meant to me. I don't care if we ever work together, I just want you to know how much that's impacted me." I'm paraphrasing here. I started blubbering during this. 

"It wasn't from me," the editor said. "It was from God. He told me to give you that. I meant to give it to you later, but He said, 'No, go now.'"

I just couldn't stop saying thank you. I felt so blessed. 

"You're very passionate and we need that in this industry," he said.

I was a broken record and couldn't stop repeating thank you, thank you. The editor got up and hugged me. 

I posted this story in a more concise form on my personal Facebook page, my author page, and a writers group I'm a member of called Go Teen Writers and I got overwhelming response (You bloglings are special. You get the detailed version. ;) ). I've had so many people say they've cried from the story and they were so inspired. Many conferees want to read the book, even a Hollywood screenwriter, and a couple of them wanted me to sign some of the onesheets I brought for Red Hood. The primary reason I want to be an author is to inspire people with my life and my stories and I find it so amazing that it's starting now. 

Beyond the Steeple award!
I feel like I need to spread my wings and attend some other conferences. I have my sites set on Realm Makers and Blue Ridge as of now. I feel a deep sense of joy and nostalgia as I feel like a new era of my life is fast approaching. I can practically feel the winds of change on my cheeks. Thank you, God, for showering me with so many blessings. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in my dream to be a published author. I genuinely believe that is going to be realized very soon.

Have you been to a writer's conference? Have you had a big God moment in your writing journey?

Special schedule for this month! Saturday's posts will be changed. In this order will be the following Saturday posts: Link-up, Book review, and How-To post.

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