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An Unexpected Gig

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I felt like a bit of a fraud when I signed up for the Faith and Culture Writers Conference last year. I had recently started blogging and openly confessed it was more for my coaching business than my love of writing. I knew I had to ‘get my name out there’ to grow my business so I started blogging. However, I was surprised by how quickly my love of writing grew! Blogging and tweeting connected me to a world of wonderful people. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet them in person.  So I signed up for the conference with fairly low expectations and mainly to learn from others.

I was thrilled with my experience! The conference drew a unique, beautiful and gifted group of people together. It was clear by the ethos, speakers, and conversations taking place, that there was more going on here than just “networking” and “skill obtaining/improving.” People were making deep connections with each other and the connections previously made on line were being lived out in the flesh. Writing is such a heart-felt enterprise that it makes sense people would be deeply moved when hearing speakers like Sarah Bessey and Deidra Riggs while sitting in the company of fellow writers.

In addition to the depth, it was downright fun. I read a tweet by @TamaraRice describing it as “One big awkward blind date” and another person was commenting on how we should write our twitter handles on our name tags because we are often more familiar with them. Although I laughed in every session, I also witnessed deep transformation.

For example, so many of the conversations I had while waiting for a session to start involved women telling me they came to hear Sarah Bessey.  Now I am a Jesus Feminist, I read Sarah’s blog and appreciate her voice but I always found her words encouraging and similar to the way I’ve thought for a while.  However, I met more women at this conference whose lives were deeply changed by Jesus Feminist (and Sarah’s blog).  Women were finding their voice for the first time because someone told them they mattered.  Strangers welled up in tears as they talked about how writing had changed their life. I knew I would be back the next year and began to wonder about it.

As I continued to blog and coach (and coach bloggers), I grew in my understanding of how important the practice of writing and sharing your words means to people. Our passions, frustrations, encouragements and challenges all come out when we write.  The more writers I coach the more this rings true.

Because writing is so vulnerable, our identity is put on the table.

What will people think of this writing? What does it say about me if I write this or that? I want to be successful. I don’t want to be one of “those” writers. The list goes on. Our identity is wrapped up in what we write, for good or bad. And when you put a bunch of writers together this only gets heightened. But this conference seemed to be taking strides to approach this differently.  Instead of competition and comparison, there was a spirit of camaraderie and encouragement. It made me want to get more involved!

I sent an email to Cornelia, the Conference Director, with some ideas about how I would love to further serve this creative crew.

Continue reading here to find out more about how I’m going to be involved (and if you’re interested, sign up yourself!)….

 

 

Just a little JT for ya

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My husband doesn’t really like birthdays. He doesn’t like to receive presents or be celebrated in July. These feelings unfortunately affect how much he likes celebrating other people’s birthdays (i.e. MINE!).

However, once in a while he busts out some crazy outlandish gift for me.

Little did I know this year would be such a time. He could barely keep the smile off his face when he walked in the door after work on my birthday. After begging me to let him reveal this epic gift before we sat with our kids and enjoy the cake I baked myself, I finally caved and said, “Fine! Tell me!”

 “Oh Jane, this is like five Vitamixes all in one.” (Just in case it was going to be the crazy-go-nuts- birthday year, I figured he should be prepared with an idea so I armed him with that of a Vitamix).

 “This is going to be something that we look back on and say – Remember when we did that?”

 “Tell me already!”

 “We are going to see Justin Timberlake!”

 “Whhhaaat?”

I wish I could explain all the reasons this was so absurd. In brief: He hates live music, we can’t afford it, he never buys me big presents, I had never mentioned this concert. However, we both love JT! So four months later we booked a babysitter and headed downtown. Of course we left around 5:30 because if we are going out for the night, we are going out..for…the..night. The 5:30pm departure was almost as good of a gift as the concert itself.

We had a lovely pre-show meal where no one needed a chugga-chugga-choo-choo to get their dinner down.  We pursued the cheesiest (literally, a dinner full of dairy) dinner possible because our household has had to go without such things to help remedy some health problems one of our sons is having. We miss the cheese. Dane went for ‘quarto-cheese pizza’ and I had something called ‘beer-cheddar macaroni au gratin.’  This of course was accompanied by beer itself. No one even spilled their drink! I remained in my seat their ENTIRE meal! And my favourite, no one got up from the table and came back with as many spoons as he could carry (oh the joy of dining with toddlers).

We were living the life and the show hadn’t even started yet.

We rolled ourselves down the street toward the arena, err…venue. Because, you know, “venue” is just another word we use when we normally go to see hipster indie bands. I saw the Civil Wars like FIVE years ago!! Ever seen  the National? Yeah, me either.

We arrived a bit early (read: we had an hour to kill before any sign of JT) and thus did plenty-o-people watching while DJ Freestyle Steve (or something?) tried to wrangled the crowd by offering to move people from the nose bleeds to the floor. Although we had a back wall to rest our heads on, DJ Steve neglected to notice us and move us to the floor. Instead we stayed in row nauseatingly-high and created back stories for those who passed by.

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We argued over whether the person a few seats to our right was a guy or a girl (I was right, he was clearly a guy despite his feminine moves and slim figure) and whether or not the two women in front of us were actually the parents of the three swooning teens next to them. We figured if they were the moms, then the young fans made a blood pact with each other to completely ignore their moms and show the world they brought their fourteen year old selves into the city alone on a Thursday night. They fooled no one but the moms were playing along nicely.

The show was insane. Six back up dancers, about fifteen musicians who danced while playing the guitar, piano, sax etc.  Lights and a stage that carried the performers across the floor, above the fans.  Once Justin made it across the floor, he did back to back covers of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature and an old (aren’t they all old?) Elvis song.

I hate to confess the highlight for me was when the boppers in front of us went still (and clueless) as JT sang Poison by Bel Biv Devoe. Now you know who is closer in age to JT babes. That would be me and the Grade 8 mixed tape referred to as “Jr. High Hip Hop.”  A quick glance to my left and I see a woman my age mouthing along…”That girl is pooooissson.” YES! Amazing.

Enough about the music, back to the people watching.

We saw another set of parents with their daughter and friend but these JT fans decided it was in her best interest to not ignore the grown ups.  Although we may not be as ‘cool’ as the tweens in little black dresses (ouch), we WERE cooler than the parents looking disgruntled as they waited out the pre-game show. I can’t imagine what kind of angst went down at the dinner table that night.

“Your mother and I have decided you can go to that concert with Kelly.”

“OH..MY…GOSH..thanks dad you guys are amaz…”

“And your mother and I will go with you…”

And said teenager girl collapses in disbelief onto the kitchen floor.

We were definitely cooler than those parents. Our kids stayed home with Meghan, their favorite babysitter, had ice cream, played LEGO and got to stay up until 7:45!  Ben, although only five, does a pretty sweet rendition of Mirrors. And Sam, closer to three, prefers the female genre (watch out Sam, Katy Perry is coming to the arena in September).

Speaking of female pop stars, as we were walking back to the train (during the second encore = coolness epic fail), we heard a somewhat over-served woman doing that drunk yell where you don’t really think you are yelling.

Young woman: Don’t you dare say, he is better than Beyoncé!!.

Slightly less drunk male friend: Well, I was just saying, um, he danced and sang for three hours with only one short break. It was amazing!”

Young woman: (with typical beer-infused voice inflections): Well I don’t care what you think, no… one is better than Beyoncé!

Male friend: I’m just saying, he was good.

Young woman: Well, BeeeYonCe, could have just stood up there [insert her body swagger and fierce finger snap] and said nothing and noooobody is better than the Queen B.

He then escorted her very high heels and this overly tired thirty something couple on to the train.  Note well, it was at least 14 mins past 12 when we got home.  Luckily no one turned into a dancing pumpkin.