Why I LOVE the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference // Let Me Count the Ways

Blue Ridge Sky

Five ways to be exact.

Yes, there are more. Many more⎯but I’ll stick with my top five today. Like you, I’m busy preparing for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference and it would take hours to list the reasons I absolutely love it and look forward to it every year.


5 Reasons I Love the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference {And You Will Too}



Clouds Coffee Cafe

Clouds Coffee Shop. Starbucks has nothing on this cafe since their remodel. It’s beautiful⎯but not nearly as beautiful as those who work there. Ladies like Loretta, aka, “the Foaminator” greet us with smiles and show genuine interest in our days… and they’ve seen it all. Everything from mascara-blotted cheeks following a difficult critique to giddy grins when a book proposal is accepted. If you’re searching for a place to escape, or to slurp down a fancy frappe or sip a decent cup of coffee, you’ll want to visit the Clouds.


Staff. Experts in their realm of the writing community come prepared to equip, encourage and inspire us. They’re approachable and leave a lasting impact on the lives of many. The fact that conferees are able to enjoy lunch and dinner with staffers is a bonus. I’m especially looking forward to sitting with Todd Starnes from FOX news again this year. He’s a staunch supporter of our faith but he’s also a lot of fun, as are many of those on staff. Who are you looking forward to sitting with this year?


Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod…Productions! Last year, in the wee hours of the night, my cohort in crime fellow pea, Dee Dee Parker, came up with an idea to film our disappointment over the lack of real snack food available in the vending machine on our floor. While those on the upper floors were feasting on Cheetos, candy bars, and peanuts, we were stuck with Daisy razors, plastic combs, Listerine, and hand wipes. Not to say these items weren’t needed when enclosed with hundreds of other people but we had our hygiene under control. Our appetites, not so much. We went on to produce a few more videos that week and heard more than once how our friendship inspired others, and for this, we thank God. {Watch for us again this year!}


Fellow Attendees  Fellow {Quirky} Writing Friends. You may arrive at the BRMCWC with fellow attendees but chances are, you will leave calling many of them friends. Where else can you spend days surrounded by other believers and writers who totally get you? Quirks and all.


Tech Savviness. The BRMCWC Facebook group is stellar. Especially for newcomers. There, you can ask any question you have about the BRMCWC experience. Want to know what to wear? What to pack? How to prepare for an appointment? No question is too silly. It’s a closed group and you’re among friends. You will find nothing but encouragement awaiting you. {Bravo, Bethany Jett!}

And let’s not forget the collaborative effort that goes into the BRMCWC Web site. Our exposure to top-notch information is no longer limited to one week at the conference. It’s now available five days a week. It’s obvious this team values our time by the information they share on a consistent basis. Scroll down the home page to find the Ridgecrest app. And finally, if you’re not already following Blue Ridge on Twitter, do so today – @BRMCWC.

Dee Dee Parker and Cathy Baker

The Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod…with Frappes!

So, these are my top five reasons I love Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference. I can’t imagine a better way to close out my month of LOVE posts than highlighting a conference that has changed my life in many ways.

If you are a returning attendee, what’s one thing do you love about the conference? If this is your first year to attend Blue Ridge, what are you most looking forward to?

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3


Do you like what you’ve read? Click the subscription box in the sidebar and simply enter your email address. It’s a privilege to spend this time with you. You are prayed for on a regular basis.

One Question to Ask When Decluttering Your Home

Change: It's A Good ThingDecluttering is in full-swing at the Baker’s house. Maybe it’s the excitement of the move, or the adrenaline of the unknown, or the simple fact that I can’t find squat that makes this particular decluttering effort seem more successful.

As I began sorting through clothes, paperwork, and yes, even books, I began asking myself one question:

“How will I FEEL the moment I see this item when unpacking it at the new house?”

Talk about changing one’s perspective! This one question Is freeing me both emotionally and physically. If I knew a particular item wouldn’t spark joy the moment I spotted it when unpacking in our new home, it was placed in one of three places: Goodwill, consignment, or trash. It was an immediate score. Woot Woot!

In the past, we’ve hauled the entire contents of one house to another, assuming we’d one day go through all the boxes. Not this time. We’re now going through everything before it’s packed away. Last week, I took two totes to consignment, five totes to Goodwill, and tossed 8 bags of trash. Oh, the freedom!

Yes, the process of ridding ourselves of clothes that have worn out their welcome and tossing papers with scribbles from long ago is freeing, but it still boggles the mind as to how we got here.

At one point during last week’s mission it occurred to me that much of the clutter was due to procrastination on our part. It always seemed easier to find a spot for something, say, next week. Until then, any flat surface would do. Especially if it’s a book. Or a notebook. Or fountain pens. Okay, I digress. But you get the point.

During this frenzied season of decluttering and preparing for a move, I find that the one question I ask myself while deciding what to pack, or what to toss or share, brings rest to this old soul and a renewed determination to do things differently this time around.

So how do you go about the process of decluttering? Do you have a particular question or mantra that helps you stay focused?


4 Ways to Show the Love When Writing is a Trusted Friend

A few of my childhood friends

An only child, such as myself, is known for entertaining imaginary friends. With them we clinked tea cups, whispered at bedtime and played out back in the summertime. It was only recently, however, that I realized another trusted friend had hitched a ride to my adulthood. 

“Writing is a friend whose shoulder we can cry on. Writing is a confidant who listens and lets us sort things out. Writing is a comrade, marching with us through the steep days of sorrow and despair.” -Julia Cameron, The Right to Write 

Writing has been a friend, a constant companion throughout my life. One letter in the above picture was handwritten to my grandfather when I was a young girl, maybe 8, asking if he loved me (using the reliable ✔ the box method, of course.) Another letter was to my cousin, Lisa, during a typing (yes, typing!) class in middle school. In high school I kept a daily diary and I’ve journaled my prayers for over twenty years. Over the past several years, God has also awakened a desire to write in ways I never imagined. 

Like any true friendship, love is to be reciprocated. Here are four ways I try to show the love:

  • Listen to the promptings within. Don’t ignore them. Jot them down! I carry a tiny Moleskin wherever I go. My scribbling rarely lets me down. How I wish I could say the same for my memory.
  • Respond to those ideas. Pray over them, drink coffee, write a terrible first draft, drink more coffee. If you’re not quite ready to explore the ideas further, that’s okay. Keep them close by, ready for action. 
  • Feed the friendship. No one wants to take a friend for granted. If God has called us to write, it’s our responsibility to hone our God-inspired skills to the best of our ability. We notice intricate details, the dialogue of a couple eating ice cream behind us, along with a host of other quirks. Let’s return the love by reading, writing, and thanking God often. 
  • Rest. We wouldn’t exhaust our friends by keeping them on the go for days on end, would we? Our writing deserves the same benefit. I’ve failed miserably in the past but now I’m taking a break from writing on Sundays. No getting-ahead-on-my-blog-schedule kind of writing for me. I refuse to give up the truth that if God can rest one day from creating, so can I.

Imagine. Long before I knew or appreciated it, God decided to tuck a friend in my pocket that would help see me through a myriad of situations in my life.

How about you? Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, how can you look back and see your God-inspired skills used in unexpected ways? 

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways. 
Psalm 139:1-4

Why Writing from the Senses Makes Sense

You need not consider yourself a poet to appreciate sensory details in writing, whether it’s poetry, fiction, non-fiction, etc. They engage our minds, memories, and imagination.  

Drink in the details of this sensory-soaked example I found on the internet. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. It’s all here:

Grandmother Workman lurched over and grabbed the pale skin of Randal’s thin forearm with her leathery hand. The folds and creases beneath her skin coiled themselves out like electrical writing, like the bloated, roughly-textured relief map of the world that his mother just posted above his bedside table. Randal looked ahead toward the winding spiral staircase, fidgeted with a small hole in his baseball jersey, and bit his lip. His mouth filled with the sweet, coppery taste of blood as she leaned in closely toward him, breathing her hot breath on the damp hair at the base of his neck. She smelled of wet cigarettes and bacon. As they slowly climbed the long, steep staircase, the only sound was his grandmothers’ labored breathing and the mournful creak of the wooden stairs.

courtesy of David Wilson, pdf   

Laura Deutsch breaks down each of these senses in Writing from the Senses, 59 Exercises to Ignite Creativity and Revitalize Your Writing. She touches on all types of writing—from memoir and journaling to fiction, journalism, poetry, travel, food writing, etc. Writing from the Senses is a new five-star release on Amazon. If it ends as strong as it began, Laura will also receive a five-star from me.

So, what’s your favorite sentence from the above paragraph?

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have
seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our
hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we
have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life,
which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we
have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have
fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and
with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our
joy may be complete.  1 John 1:1-4
(God, the masterful Creator and Author of all sensory details.)

What Happens At Ridgecrest Stays at Ridgecrest…Not So Fast!

Friends…they cherish one another’s hopes. 
They are kind to one another’s dreams. 
-Henry David Thoreau

Dee Dee Parker and I arrived a day early to the writer’s conference—not to play, but to work on a beloved project. We’d planned on trying to find a conference room as soon as we reached the campus. After all, sitting on a cushy mattress isn’t the most conducive way to work. Within minutes of arriving, however, God surprised us with a place to meet in the middle, literally. 

On Saturday and Sunday we prayed, brainstormed, took notes, and giggled like girls. I may have even spotted a few bolts of brilliance fly over Dee Dee’s head a time or two. (She’s amazing!)

One night, around 11:30 p.m., we decided to end “lobby time” (where everyone gathers after dark) a little early. We dropped our things just inside the door and patted ourselves on the backs for turning in earlier than normal. It was then the rush of wind took its cue and began to whistle. Trees swayed to and fro, leaning to the side as if to kiss the grass, and dry lightning struck gold. Dee Dee urged me to turn off the lights and take a seat. She on her couch…and me in my chair. There we sat, in the dark, cheering on the storm until close to 1:00 a.m. Oh, what a moment in time!

for the rest of the week, I’ll borrow the Las Vegas line: What happens
at Ridgecrest stays at Ridgecrest. Ha! Let’s just say I’m thankful no
one chose to walk past our window while I was dancing to Barry Manilow’s
Copacabana. (I kept forgetting we were on the ground level!)

(The view outside our window)

Perhaps those few snippets from our week give you a glimpse into why I chose the above quote from Henry David Thoreau to describe my friendship with Dee Dee.

When all is said and done, our writing aspirations may differ in some ways, but we are kind to each others dreams because we know the One who placed them within us—and that alone is something to truly cherish.

Whose hopes are we cherishing besides our own? Are we being kind to each others dreams? 

For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:28

(One of greatest blessings you’ll discover at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference is how eager others are to to join you on the journey. I encourage you to make your plans to join us next year. Hope to see you in the lobby!)

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