Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Parable of the Conference Elevator

by Rachael Phillips

Those who attended the national ACFW conference this past weekend viewed it through many lenses: those of the classroom, the worship time, the keynote speaker's wise, funny words, friendships renewed as we revived limp, weary brains and equally squishy courage drinking gallons of Starbuck's in the hotel lobby.

Upon returning home, piles of dirty laundry faded the vivid scenes to wallpaper status. But my hotel elevator perspective remains. In fact, as the conference continued, I saw how much my elevator experiences mirrored my writing career.

Sometimes the elevator moved at the rate of molasses in January. I waited. I pressed the buttons again. And smacked them when elevators arrived and opened, only to close to another chorus of "Sorry! No room!"

But stubborness is a virtue for a writer, and eventually, an elevator with space for me arrived--a new chance to get where I wanted to go. I inhaled and joined a group of people, all shapes and sizes, standing so close, they could experience organ transplants by osmosis.

We nearly asphyxiated each other with morning breath and sweaty armpits, but we also demonstrated a kindness and openness that shouldn't have happened, as we all were competing for space and air and publication. We introduced ourselves, even if we couldn't necessarily look each other in the eye: "Oh, so you're the elbow that's mutilating my right kidney. So nice to meet you. What do you write?"

We pressed buttons for others, shifted when we feared for our lives, even making room for more passengers. One man took a heavy box of choir folders and computer stuff from my arms and held it for me while we rode the elevator. Although many of us had never before laid eyes on each other, our ACFW nametags drew us into a camaraderie some don't experience with spouses or families. We were writers. We were Christian writers.

And if our elevator and publication opportunities seemed a bit crowded, we were learning to wait and care and adjust.

That's a life edit I can always use.


  1. I love your analogy. Although I stayed in a different hotel and didn't experience the elevator problems, I heard about them.

    And thanks so much for directing the choir.

  2. I was so desperate, I took the stairs to my room on floor twelve. After this, I waited patiently for the elevator the rest of the week.

    I'm not really a touchy-type person, but a few more days of the crowded elevator expreience and I may have been cured of my introvert nature. :)

  3. Yes, nothing like standing nose-to-nose with a perfect stranger to lose the shy thing. TWELVE FLIGHTS, Kenny? I didn't get that desperate....

    Thanks, Kathryn. It was a delight to sing with you!

  4. Rachael, I thought you were going to blog that you constantly rode the elevators up and down, waiting for "just the right" editor or agent to enter so you could give your carefully memorized pitch! Now I see what I missed by sleeping at home and just driving over each morning. :) Maybe next time in Indy I'll open a temporary Bed & Breakfast for the week and earn back a few conference dollars!

  5. Think of all that patience and self-control training you didn't get in on, Rick.

    As for the B & B--you'll probably have a bunch of takers!