I’m slouching on the bad leather couches in the coffee lounge at Mt. Hermon, a retreat and Conference Center that hosts the annual Christian Writer’s Conference. It’s my third year enjoying these couches… and the Redwoods standing guard above us, and the workshops, literary giants, agents, editors, and opportunities dripping with the golden sap of potential (and the syrupy prose dribbling from my brain when I try to get too poetic).

My first year I came armed to the teeth, clutching twenty copies of my latest manuscript, ready to pitch a ball an editor couldn’t resist swinging at in hopes of landing a home run with a publisher. I walked away full of amazing input from my instructors but my tail was dragging between my legs.

Last year I came with maybe six copies of my latest manuscript, bracing for the critique but hopeful in the face of the compounding (and complex) realizations about what it took to become a successful writer. Halfway through my week I realized my manuscript wasn’t ready to pitch at all, much less hit. That winded me.

This year is different. For one thing, I’ve signed up for a track where I’ll be dropped into a room with a writer I really admire (Brandilyn Collins) and four other budding writers. We’ve all sent each other the first twenty pages of our latest greatest, and the sole purpose of the track this week is to critique each other. So I’ve come with my thickest skin on, eager to have my blind spots revealed so I can grow and mature as a writer. I haven’t come to pitch, but to work. To learn. To grow.

And there’s more. Last night in our keynote session, I realized that I’m also here to give. Which is a switch, let me tell you. But here’s the thing: I bucked against it a little, protesting that I don’t always want to be a pastor. Here I’m just a person, another writer. “Then don’t give as a pastor,” God seemed to say. “Just give as a person.”

Just a person. Learning. Growing. Giving. Sounds good to me.