Reflections on the NCWA Conference

Philip Irvin reflects on the 2011 NCWA Renewal Conference.

What’s the main reason anybody goes to any conference? Is it really to learn things?  How much can you absorb in a 53-minute session? Can’t you read an article or watch a video and get about as much out of it? Is it to make contacts? Sure, if you have a book ready to publish and want to tie down a contract-but the vast majority of attendees are not in that boat.

If the truth were told, the real reason most people go to conferences is to be around crazies like themselves. You tell someone at church you are going to write a book. And you are going to publish it. And people are going to buy it. And you even expect the amount of revenue to exceed the cost of publication. What response do you get?

“That’s nice,” and they drift off to sharing their recipe for oatmeal cookies. They did not believe your vision is possible or even worthwhile. Being surrounded by people like that will suck the life out of any vision.

Some conference attendees had never had a letter to the editor published while others seemed to spit out a new best-seller every two weeks. When you are at the conference you are not an isolated author trying to keep your vision alive in a skeptical environment. You are melded into that continuum, marching onward but with similarly motivated people. Your vision is rekindled.

Although the conference stirred vision for me, paradoxically it heightened a sense of isolation and forced me to reveal my real self: I am a troglodyte. There, I’ve said it.

I can train you how to use a slide rule (for those of you who know what it is)  but I’ve  never sent a text message. I love reading my history book published in 1880, and revel in the nuances of how things were said and seen differently back then, but I am nervous holding a Kindle. I could drone on and on about how some original Civil War firearms I own are used, but I remain too flustered to set up a web site. You can run through the process and exclaim, “See, it’s easy!” to which I will reply, “No, it’s not.”

Afflicted with “century gap,” I am struggling to shift my technological skills out of the last century. While aware of the need to increase connectivity in order to connect with a publisher, I’m dubious whether I will ever be able to cross the great technological mountain range.

Perhaps we need another conference or training session titled “Remedial Technology.” Or maybe troglodytes should form a group on Facebook.


Philip Irvin is passionate about Christian cultural transformation, which is the focus of his writing.  Philip is also a/an history buff and avid collector of “neat old junk.” Ask him about his “penny talk.”


8 thoughts on “Reflections on the NCWA Conference

    • And all kinds of other stuff. Just dropped off a WWII Life magazine and got rid of my fully automatic BB gun that runs on freon from the 1970s when freon was thought to be harmless. I really am a collector of neat old junk.

      With the niche I am in I try to find someone who supports my efforts and bask in their life-force.


  1. Phil, I’ve had that very experience at my own church! You’re right, I attend conferences, the monthly meetings and participate in the NCWA as deeply as I can (though not as deep as I’d like) simply because I am encouraged by those who are on this same road. C.S. Lewis once said, “We read to know we’re not alone” (though I think he quoted someone else) and I must agree that I attend the meetings to know that I’m not alone either. Thanks!


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