The Highlight of the Conference

WORDS

Image: Martin French

Last weekend, I attended the 2014 Faith and Culture Writers Conference at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. Here is a short description of the conference from the website:

“Both inspirational and practical,the Faith & Culture Writers Conference is a place of diverse community, camaraderie, and connection. You will be encouraged, enriched, and challenged to live the creative life that God has called you to. Join us and take your art to the next level while discovering your unique voice and place to house your story.”

Cornelia Becker Seigneur, Director, Faith and Culture Writers Conference.

Like last year it was an amazing experience, and over the next week I will be writing about my impressions, what I learned, all the great things, and the few things I would change for the better, on my professional site (DavidOzab.com). Here I want to write about the unquestioned highlight of the conference, which had nothing whatsoever to do with writing.

I got to hold a seven-month-old baby.

Happy baby Anna

I remember when Anna was that little. It seems like yesterday.

Dads, Moms, you all get this. There is no experience that can compete with a bright eyed, curious, smiling and laughing little one. A fellow writer and foster mom brought this precious little girl with her last weekend. Like I said, she was seven months old, small for her age, and had probably been through a lot in her short little life. But she was bright and happy and to a dad missing his own not-so-little-anymore girl she was a magnet.

“Hello there beautiful!” I said.

She replied with a glowing smile.

“Would you like to hold her?” my friend asked.

We both knew the answer. I held her, I bounced her, and I sang to her. She grabbed my nose and my mouth, and played with my beard.

It was wonderful, and hands-down the highlight of the conference.

Please check out my other posts on Faith and Culture 2014. They’ll all be linked here as I write them.

Willing to Let Go

Anna walks through the grass at Hendricks Park in May 2009

Even when she was little, she wanted to go off on her own.

I dropped Anna off at school this morning, just like I do every morning, but today I had a hard time saying goodbye. I’m going to a conference this weekend, and I won’t see her again until Sunday afternoon. I’ll call her tonight before her bedtime and tomorrow as well, but it won’t be the same. I won’t get to hug or kiss her goodnight.

Knowing that, I was hard to end the hug this morning. Hard to let go. But I had to, and I have to be willing to let go again.

She wants to ride the bus in the fall. We’ve told her she’ll be old enough and as long as she shows she’s responsible enough to handle it, we’ll let her. But it’s going to be hard that first day in September, when she gets on that school bus and someone I don’t know drives her to school.

I have to be willing to let go.

And as she grows older, she’ll want to go out with her friends without me or Julia hovering in the background. When she’s old enough, she’ll want to learn to drive, she’ll want to go out on dates, and she’ll want to move to Corvallis and go to college.

I have to be willing to let go.

It won’t be easy. It will probably be the hardest thing I ever do as a parent.

But I have to be willing to let go.

Five Minute Friday

And a new linkup on the first Friday of each month …

Fatherhood Fridays

Thank You For Visiting

Anna makes a welcome sign

Photo: Julia Ozab

Welcome to my small part of the Internet.

If it is your first time here, please introduce yourself in the comments

If this is a repeat visit, or if you stop by frequently, say “hi” anyway.

I want to thank you for visiting. This is but one of countless millions of active blogs on the internet. It’s hard to get anyone’s attention in such a big crowd.

A community like Five Minute Friday helps. Thanks Lisa-Jo for creating this opportunity for us to visit one another in this limited way, and thanks to the community for welcoming me even though I don’t fit the predominant demographic.

Virtual visits are no match for face to face contact, and I’m glad for the opportunity to meet at least a few of you from the Pacific Northwest and beyond at the Faith and Culture Writers Conferences (I attended last year and am returning in March). But to the rest of you, I wouldn’t know your writing or your experiences without this community and the technology that supports it.

And for that I am grateful.

May God bless all of you—both FMF contributors visiting today and other followers of my blog—and may we continue to encourage and uplift one another with our words.

Five Minute Friday

Sing a Song

Wireless microphone on table

Photo: Chris Engelsma (CC BY 3.0)

“Sing a song.”

It was a strange request at a writers’ conference of all places. I was sitting in the front row of the conference room. My friend Melissa was about to start a travel writing workshop. A wireless microphone sat on the table between us.

“Sure,” I replied. “Got a request.”

“How about ‘Danke Schoen’?”

We were both children of the 80s and fans of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so why not, I thought. I sang the only verse I remembered, which turned out to be a mix of the first two verses, but close enough . . .

Danke Schoen, Darling, Danke Schoen.
Thank you for all the joy and pain.
I recall, Central Park in fall.
How you tore your dress, what a mess, I confess.
Everybody!

And the whole room sang the same “verse” over again. Melissa smiled and thanked me, and then she started her workshop.

After the workshop, she pulled me aside.

“Thank you for the song. That was lovely.”

“I thought you were just kidding around, and wanted to put me on the spot.”

“No,” she said. “When I sat up front and saw that big microphone staring at me I got so nervous and I didn’t know what to say. Then I saw you and I blurted out ‘Sing a song.’ I had no idea you would.”

At that point we’d only known each other a few months. She didn’t know my background—that before I got into writing I was a musician and a formally-trained singer. She didn’t know that I could sing just about any song, and sing it quite well,  as long as I knew the words.

She just got nervous and blurted out “sing a song.” And I was there and it made all the difference.

Five Minute Friday

Three Days at a Writing Conference

WORDS

I’m back today from the 2013 Faith and Culture Writers Conference. The weekend passed in a blur, going something like this.

Friday: Show up, drink coffee, and be thoroughly overwhelmed. Three hours race by. Go back to the hotel room after a few hours and try to sleep. Don’t sleep . . . still don’t sleep . . . sleep.

Saturday: Breakfast, coffee, socialize, get a book signed, more coffee, seminars, frantic notetaking, more socializing, lunch, still more coffee (coffee runs out!) more seminars, time to pitch, coffee is back (yay!), even more coffee, heart starts racing (aaah!), appointment delayed fifteen minutes . . .

Calm down.

Breathe.

Pray the Rosary and center myself.

Meet agent. Chat about the origins of our last names, pitch the book, he loves both the title and the concept and asks to see the proposal and manuscript, float out of the room on a cloud, more seminars, more frantic notetaking, conference wrapup, win a prize, more socializing, dinner out with friends, return to the hotel, collapse on the bed exhausted, think about what a great experience it was, and wish it wasn’t over already. Sleep.

Sunday: Wake up and thank God it is over because there is no way I have any energy left over for another day. Relax in the room for a bit, get breakfast, pack, and stop off for 10 a.m. Mass on the way home.

By the way, The Grotto is beautiful. I’m going back when I have the time to enjoy it.

Go home and hug Julia and Anna. Go out for frozen yogurt that evening to celebrate a successful weekend. Return home to my own bed and get a good night’s rest.

Today: Get Anna ready for school, return the rental car, do laundry.

Some things never change.

Aside

Dad 2.0 Summit 2013 in Review

Dad 2.0 Summit Logo

On Monday, Adam Gertsacov of DADaPalooza posted his review of the Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston (crossposted on NYC Dads Group) and it’s a great rundown for those of us who couldn’t make to trip to Texas this year:

In case you don’t know, Dad 2.0 is an annual conference that is an open conversation between dads and brands.  Some of the best and most influential Dad bloggers descended on Houston to talk about their work, meet with brands, talk about the changing perception of Fatherhood.)  The conference is not a “Best practice for being a dad” conference. (although tips were exchanged)  It was about being a better dad blogger, and being more vulnerable.

One of the founders, Doug French, said in the opening remarks was that this was where the Expectations get a little lofty.  I think the conference really did a great job of connecting and inspiring all of its participants.  I had a few moments that I thought were great, and I’d like to share them.

He provides a great rundown of what has become the national stay-at-home dad conference. It’s one I hope to attend in person someday.

If only it were a little closer. From what I’ve found online the last three Dad 2.0 Summits were in New Orleans, Austin, and Houston. In my opinion, it’s time for them to visit a different part of the country.

How about the Pacific Northwest? Yes, it’s a little rainy this time of year, but it’s still a beautiful part of the country. If you’re looking for a big city like New Orleans or Houston, you could put it in Seattle. Rather do something smaller? How about Portland? Want the college town atmosphere of Austin? How about Eugene?

Is that asking too much? Probably. Time to start saving up on airfare, I guess.