All the way back in March, I made a decision: I would try for Hutchmoot tickets. I have tried in previous years, but the event is so terribly popular that tickets sell out, and quickly. I was online at 9:50 am for a 10:00 ticket release… I got my ticket, but the event sold out in about ten minutes. So for about six and a half months I have been waiting to go to Franklin, TN and see what all the fuss has been about. Y’all - it was more than I ever could have thought to hope for or anticipate.
If you are not familiar with Hutchmoot, it is a yearly conference put on by The Rabbit Room, a publishing house and ministry that works with musicians, authors, poets, and theologians (among others) as they work out what it means to be a Christian who creates. (PS - visit the Rabbit Rooms website and make a donation to help them renovate their workspace at North Wind Manor!) The conference has been around for nine years now, and I have constantly heard people say that it is a refreshing and encouraging time, with meaningful conversations and plenty of people who get it. They are other like-minded creatives and lovers of all things… rabbity and mootish.
I was feeling pretty nervous to go on my own, without anyone else in tow. There was no relational safety blanket, and I knew that was going to be rough for this highly sensitive introvert. But when I walked in, totally overwhelmed from the start (I think that’s Russell Moore! Jonathan Rogers! Pete Peterson!), everyone was so kind. The volunteers were kind and helpful, and everyone else there was in the same boat. It became so normal to sit with someone, ask their name and where they were from, only to discover some shared part of our stories. (Side note: I would have expected that to be Covenant Seminary; but it was always the University of Arkansas. Woo Pig.)
The first night was amazing: for our supper, we had Chicken Cassoulet and roasted vegetables accompanied by a beautiful essay from our chef, John Cal. The food was amazing, with twinkle lights and good wine, and plenty of laughter. I really appreciated the openness and joy of the people I met that night, who really set the tone for my experience. After supper, we were treated to a beautiful concert from Andrew Peterson and other guests (The Gray Havens, Ben Shive, etc.) - I was so tired from my drive that day that I left early and went back to my hotel. But something I really appreciated about Hutchmoot is that from the beginning they told us: you’re grown ups. If there is something you don’t want to do, you don’t have to do it.
The problem was that I wanted to do everything. The breakout sessions on Friday and Saturday were all so appealing, but I went to one focused on what it looks like to build a creative community and another on how to battle resistance, my third choice was on how writing changes the writer. Oh, and in between sessions on Friday there was Banh Mi for lunch. It’s always so difficult to know how to choose breakout sessions. Do I go to the session that addresses my felt needs? Aspirational goals or current projects? Do I go based on the speaker? Or the topic? I chose the morning session, Pushing the Bus Uphill, because I know that I need to help develop creative community around me. What I really appreciated from this session was the reminder from Janna Barber that if you want people to read what you write, you need to be writing and putting it out there. Another speaker pointed out that a lot of the time, as creatives, we say that we want community and support, but we have to build vulnerability in order to accept good critique and questions. Creative community isn’t just about feeling good about your work (though it can be), but it is about finding people who can push you to grow and change in how you approach your art, and help you make something amazing.
There’s so much more say; and it’s important to say that I’m glad that my family, my friends and roommates, even my coworkers, were all so supportive of my going. I don’t take it for granted that there are so many people in my life who not only understand the power of doing something like this conference, but helped to make it happen. Even if it was mowing the lawn for me while I was gone, or a kind gift of a new journal from a coworker, I have felt very encouraged in this pursuit of my creative work.
On to the next thing!