Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

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The Ragged Edge Conference – A Review (and Extras)

Posted by Ben Erlichman on August 18, 2011

I recently returned from Ted Dekker’s Ragged Edge Conference, which I described a bit in my post last week here on Reflections. What follows is a review of my experiences there.

For the most part, I really, really enjoyed the conference. The only thing I wasn’t too keen on was the fact that I had to pay $649 plus airfare, a rental car and gas to get there. I found out later that the pricing for the conference was intentional: Ted and his team specifically wanted to weed out those people who weren’t totally serious about writing so that their message would reach only the most committed, most dedicated people. I guess I can’t be too upset about that.

The other thing I didn’t like was that for whatever reason, I didn’t receive any of the preliminary emails once I registered for the conference. I actually had to email one of the organizers to get an itinerary, and then I found out once I got to the conference I learned that I had missed out on a second, subsequent email that the other attendees received. What’s more, when I tried to check the itinerary via a link in the email when I arrived in Nashville the page had been removed from Ted’s website. These were little things, but they got on my nerves enough to mention them.

All of that aside, the conference was not only helpful but also very entertaining. Despite what he said about being introverted and how he enjoys isolation sometimes, Ted Dekker is truly an entertainer. He loves his audience, and he loves to be the center of attention. When it’s your conference, though, I suppose that makes sense and isn’t a bad thing.

I should add that all of the authors were clever, witty, and fun to be around. They were also very knowledgeable in regard to the craft and the struggles of writing. I enjoyed their approach overall–they focused more on what it really takes to be a writer, what it really takes to succeed, and what that looks like real-life situations. They didn’t focus on the craft of writing for very long because, as they correctly stated, we can learn about the craft of writing at any writers conference or from books on craft which are much cheaper.

The first day consisted of the authors putting into words a lot of what I already knew with regard to the lifestyle and sacrifices of a writer: lots of isolation, even loneliness, fewer friends, and having to claw your way through the muck and mire of publishing a book. The second day focused on a bit of craft in the morning and then ended with a long discussion about marketing and talking with agents/editors (or seducing them, as Ted put it).

What I really benefitted from the most was meeting and re-meeting the authors who were presenting. I met best-selling authors Eric Wilson and Steven James for the first time, and I now have signed copies of one book from each of them so I can start reading their work too. Robert Liparulo and I reconnected in person for the first time since 2009, which is also where I met Ted and Tosca for the first time as well. I strengthened ties with all of them, which certainly can’t hurt when it comes time to publish.

When I re-met Ted, I was in line to have him sign one of the free books we were given. He saw me and then did a double-take as if he recognized me. I explained that I had met him in 2009 at the ACFW Conference and that I was literally sitting shoulder to shoulder with him at a bar/restaurant in Denver for the better part of the night because we all went out in a big group.

He remembered, and he asked me how I was progressing in my writing, and when I told him I had completed three novels and had a meeting on Monday (the 15th) with a local big-name publisher, he was a bit surprised but happy for me as well. The next day as the conference was wrapping up, he passed me as he was cruising through the crowd and he did another double-take. Then he said to me, “I think you’re one of the ones who is going to make it.”

Wow. That’s huge, coming from Ted Dekker.

Then I asked him to endorse my first book and he said he probably wouldn’t. (HAHA) I’m going to try anyway. ;)

Overall, the conference was definitely worth my time and the money, even though it was pricy. Then again, I already talked about how persistence and money are exactly what it takes to get published, so I know the investment was sound.

How about you folks? Did any of you go to the conference? What were some of your experiences?

-Ben

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8 Responses to “The Ragged Edge Conference – A Review (and Extras)”

  1. I wanted to go to the conference, but I’m sorry, the $649 fee to ‘weed out’ those who were or were not serious was ridiculous. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it at least included meals and a shuttle from the airport to the city the conference was in. I can understand paying for your own lodging.

    Even with the scholarships they offered, travel costs were way out of my budget. It honestly made me feel a little like because I don’t have oodles of money at my disposal for my craft, therefore I can’t possibly be serious about writing.

    I’m settling for going to another nearby conference that has only one person I’ve ever heard of speaking, but at least I’m able to go with 4 other girls I know so we can get the cost of lodging/travel/etc down.

    I would have loved to be there, but it was not meant to be this year . . .

    I’ve just started reading Eric Wilson’s ‘Jerusalem Undead’ series, which is the first of anything of his I’ve read. Hopefully we’ll both enjoy his writing :).

    I would have loved to be there for the session about talking to agents, etc. I’m not quite to that stage yet, but I’m a planner, and it’s suddenly feeling much closer than it was before to that step.

    • Ben Erlichman said

      I totally hear what you’re saying about the price. More details below in my response to “Anonymous.”

  2. Excellent analysis of a conference. And you got to meet my current hero, Steven James. Way cool.
    I’m trying to get to the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference in November.

  3. Anonymous said

    I was there, and I have to admit $649.00 was steep. I understand they had to ‘weed out’ those who weren’t serious but they could’ve done that by putting a limit on the number of tickets sold. I liked the conference, but found it lacking in a sense. Dekker repeated himself a lot, but he was very entertaining. I loved Stephen James’s advice on writing the best. Robert Liparulo gave a lot of good advice too and I loved Eric Wilson simply because he was such a nice guy. Tosca Lee was a bit too new agey for me but I still liked her immensely.
    I think the conference was worth half of what I paid for it, considering all I had to pay for hotel etc. Good thing I drove down to TN and saved on airfare. I’ve been to other writers conferences with lower budgets but the food provided was awesome, plus they had awesome raffles and prizes. The box lunches at this conference left me hungry. I liked the books we received from each author but I guess I expected a little more for my money. Oh well, that’s what happens when you compare it with other writer conferences!
    The best advice I got that was different from other conferences I’ve attended was when the publisher said that a new writer should have more than one manuscript ready for them if they like your stuff. That was a very good clue.

    • Ben Erlichman said

      Hi Anonymous,

      I agree with you on the price. They actually did put a limit on the number of tickets sold–it was somewhere around 100. That means that the first 100ish people to come up with the $649 and reserve a spot would make it. Either way, yeah, $649 was very, very steep.

      For me, I think it was worth it because I got to reconnect with Ted, Tosca, and Bob, all of whom I’d met in 2009. Tosca and Bob have already agreed to endorse my first novel when it comes out, so reinforcing that with some face time was, for me, a good move.

      I enjoyed the food we got in the boxed lunches, but I know what you mean about feeling hungry. The exception to that was, of course, that incredible buffet from Saffire on Friday night for the book signing. I wish we’d been able to have even more one-on-one time with the authors, or at least with one author of our choosing during a set timeframe. It would have been cool if they could have arranged everything so we could opt out of a session to meet with one of the authors for 15 minutes in sort of a mentoring session.

      I agree with you about the multiple manuscript thing too. That is a HUGE clue. I’d always kind of figured that having multiple projects to pitch would make me seem more desirable, but hearing what an agent/editor thinks when they see that was even more helpful.

      Here’s to hoping that our Ragged Edge Member Cards slice that conference fee at least in half for next year, or whenever.

      -Ben

  4. Wemedge said

    You sound like nice people who were just subjected to a big fat ripoff. I’ve corresponded with Eric WIlson and he’s a great fellow and deserves a wider audience. Dekker I find quite strange- a master marketer and good idea man but an incredibly poor wordsmith. His audience is a tribute to his marketing skills. Lee’s a little weird, too, but she can write, as well. I would have thought of attending this one for $100. If I lived in Nashville. But then I’m not a big conference person. For the record, I’d like to get published eventually, but I’m not too worried about it- which means I might never get published, and I don’t care all that much. I just love to write, and if my work has merit, it’ll find the light of day sooner or later.

    In 2007 I went to a secular writer’s conference, where I had access to Andrew Klavan (Homelanders, True Crime, Don’t Say a Word), Martin Cruz Smith (Gorky Park) David Morell (Rambo) and others, plus a one-on-one pitch with an established agent all for one third the price of Dekker’s conference. Ted Dekker’s always been really good at one thing- making money. Let’s say he pocketed only half of the seminar’s $64,000 take. That’s 34k for two day’s work. Not bad.

    • Anonymous said

      You are right. I did feel sort of ripped off. They should’ve had more for us, like one-to-one pitch sessions with agents, or personal time with each in a small group. They should’ve served breakfast and lunch for that kind of money. I should have brought home more stuff to share with my writing group, but I didn’t. I loved all of the authors but they could’ve organized it better for us. I was expecting way more for my money, I guess. I know Ted wanted to be real and raw with us but the repetition got to me.
      Eric Wilson was, indeed, the most humble and real–truly nice guy. I think I learned more from the other authors than I did from Ted Dekker. It was a nice experience to be there with other writers and to meet some wonderful authors in person, but it shouldn’t have costed us that much.

  5. Ben Erlichman said

    I guess I can’t argue with most of your points except to say that for me, this conference was a great opportunity to reacquaint myself with these authors and get a few helpful hints that I wouldn’t otherwise have received at other writers conferences. That said, yes, it was too pricy. But, if they do it again, then perhaps that member card will afford me a discount on the next one, and perhaps they will have agents and editors there to pitch to, or one-on-one time with the authors.

    As to Ted pocketing money from this, yeah, I’m sure he remembered to pay himself something, but if we’re to believe the claims of the folks who set this up, all profits (I know that term is totally subjective) go to charity.

    Wemedge, this was definitely geared toward serious novelists who are looking to get published, so yeah, it probably wouldn’t have been a good conference for you if you’re not serious about it. I know that for me, it was worth it. Plus I got to stay with an old friend whom I haven’t seen in about 5 years, so that was an added bonus. I did end up meeting with an editor while I was down there, since Nashville is a mecca forChristian pub houses, and things went (and continue to go) going very well. So I guess I’m happy with my experience overall.

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