A Day of Contrasts
I’m still on the road traveling but thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you about yesterday. For my writing life, it was a day of complete contrasts. I left home on Tuesday to attend two back to back conferences and they could not be more different in focus and nature. It’s part of what happens as you move into different situations.
The first conference as an invitation only conference on the Middle East called Sounds of Hope. An invitation only conference gathered about 80 leaders from North America with leaders from the Middle East. For two and a half days, the North Americans listened to speakers from the Middle East speaking about different current event topics. The format alone was unique. The speaker would talk on his topic for 30 minutes and the participants carefully listened. The room was organized into different tables of eight participants and one of those participants was from the Middle East. They spent the next 30 minutes discussing the topic. I found the interaction greatly enlightening and a lot of material that isn’t commonly told in the news media about that part of the world. These meetings were held on the campus of Wheaton College at the Billy Graham Center.
For example, yesterday morning, I heard His Grace Bishop Marcos, who is the Bishop at Large for the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, Egypt. Bishop Marcos spoke about how the ancient church views western evangelicals. The information was fascinating. Then since I had a flight, I had to miss part of the remainder of the conference. I slipped away from the conference and spent a few minutes inn the Billy Graham Center Museum. This exhibit is dedicated to documenting America’s Spiritual Heritage with a visual presentation about the growth of evangelism in the United States. You can spend literally hours at the museum and I’m thankful that I’ve been there before since I only had a limited time to see it again. It is a celebration of what God has done in the past as well as a look to the future.
I took a quick flight from Chicago to Dayton, Ohio yesterday and arrived for a completely different conference—the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. It was my privilege to ride to the conference with Andy Bombeck, one of Erma Bombeck’s sons. After checking into a new hotel and getting registered, I attended the opening session of the conference. The keynote speaker was humorist Dave Barry. The conference has been sold out for weeks with 300 attendees. Tomorrow I’m presenting about Book Proposals That Sell tomorrow for two different sessions. Dave Barry could not be more different than Bishop Marcos. I could not escape the contrasts.
My assumption is many of the people at this conference would aspire to be a full-time humorist like Dave Barry. His talk was full of twists and turns and loads of lines that elicited laughter. Underneath the laughs, an unexpected theme ran through it. Barry told his personal story and how he became a humor writer. It wasn’t something planned. In college, he majored in English and after graduation was hired as a reporter on The Daily Local News in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He wrote many stories for the newspaper and once a week began a humor column. After about the third week, Barry said you begin to think you aren’t as funny as you used to be. Notice the insecurity that creeps into every writer. After about five or six years in journalism, Barry went to the Associated Press and didn’t like it because he didn’t write any humor at AP. Then he began teaching Effective Writing Seminars and working as a consultant and traveling around the country. He continued writing his humor column for the Daily Local News. He received a request from another newspaper to run a past column and slowly learned about syndication. Ultimately he and his family moved to the Miami, Florida area where he continues writing today. It wasn’t an overnight success story but involved the discipline and perseverance of writing and writing consistently. Barry told us that he doesn’t believe in writer’s block or writing under inspiration. Instead he writes with the discipline and persistence of the work.
That’s a glimpse at my day yesterday. It was definitely a study in contrasts.