Thursday, June 13, 2024

Nibble—Or Gobble—Your Way Through a Writing Conference

by Julie Lavender @JLavenderWrites

My husband’s delight for his babies shows each time he talks about them. And that’s every morning these days, after he walks outside and checks on them first thing after waking. 

David carefully planted and tended pots of fennel, celery, dill, and curled parsley in the back yard. He also made sure to station pots of milkweed nearby. You see, my now-retired, former entomologist hubby plotted and planned just the right methods to attract black swallowtail butterflies to our yard to lay eggs after feeding on yummy milkweed nectar. 

His plan worked. He counted two eggs one day, then three more the next day, and a few more after that. Soon, tiny caterpillars emerged. And oh, my goodness—those very hungry caterpillars appeared to triple in size daily! 

I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite books to read to my own kids and my classroom full of students—The Very Hungry Caterpillar. With conference season upon us, I began to envision writers as hungry little caterpillars, feasting on the wisdom and experience of authors just a little farther down the path.

That very hungry caterpillar started with one apple, delicately nibbling his way through. Is that you at a conference? Cautious and careful … meeting only one new friend at a time, taking in the information at one session or one keynote? 

But the caterpillar was still hungry, so it ate his way through two pears, just like the writer at a conference attends another session, meets a new friend, or reconnects with an old one. 

Still hungry, the caterpillar consumes three plums. The conference-attending writer nourishes his or her soul with keynotes and worship time and one-on-one sessions. 

Four strawberries and five oranges later, the caterpillar and the writer devour every crumb and soak up every bit of nutritional value offered. 

Next comes the goodies—cake, ice cream, pickle, slice of Swiss cheese, salami, lollipop, cherry pie, sausage, cupcake, and watermelon slice. Silly, right? Nothing of nutritional value there for a caterpillar, but maybe these are the parts of a conference that are just-for-fun extras that may or may not lead you further down the publication path. But what fun you’ll have in the process!

And with one green leaf remaining near the end of the book, the caterpillar is no longer “little.” Just like the conference attendee—stuffed to the brim with sustenance, tidbits, and extra goodies. As the caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon—or as my entomologist hubby would correct, “chrysalis,” the writer wraps himself or herself in a cozy blanket of satisfaction from yet another successful conference. 

Though it may take time, with the information and wisdom the writer gleaned and absorbed at the conference, he or she changes and grows, maybe a little, maybe a lot. The conference attendee transforms into a beautiful butterfly, ready to fly and soar and take on the writing world like a champion. 

It’s a beautiful journey. 

Nibble—or gobble—your way through a writing conference. And be ready for the transformation!

Tell us about a recent conference experience, the nibbles and gulps. What was your favorite part? What life-changing bit of information did you learn while there?


Julie Lavender’s favorite part about attending writing conferences is the people she meets there. Many of those writers, faculty members, and staff have become dear friends over the years. She attributes conference-attending to the blessings of several recent books, including Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime, Strength for All Seasons: A Mom’s Devotional of Powerful Verses and Prayers, and 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories. She’s especially excited about her first picture book coming out in the fall. A Gingerbread House, published by End Game Press, releases in October.


  1. As a children's writer, I absolutely love this analogy. It's perfect! Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much! I've loved that story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar from long ago when I taught school! Just read it to my grandson last weekend!! Thanks for commenting.