Directing the annual La Jolla Writers Conference can be a little exhausting. There are 70+ classes to schedule, 25+ faculty members and staff to coordinate, 30+ private read and critique sessions to plan, banquets to organize, transportation to arrange, and so on. But the truth is, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
With all of the turmoil and time that comes with planning a major conference, there are some great perks too.
One of those perks is giving out the “Person of Letters” award each year. This year, we had the honor of presenting the 2015 award to international best-selling author, Andrew Peterson. This was especially enjoyable for me because he happens to be my favorite author (sorry Nelson DeMille–you have been demoted.)
A little about Andrew. First, he is incredibly humble. When I first met him about 6 years ago, he was attending the LJWC as a student, quietly taking classes and improving his craft. Unbeknownst to me, he was already an accomplished author.
A year later, once again attending the conference as a student, I asked Andrew a bit about his writing and he kindly offered me a free copy of his first book in the Nathan McBride Series, First to Kill. While I appreciated the gesture, it is safe to say that I am given hundreds of books a year. And while I give the first few pages of every book handed to me a chance, very few make it to my nightstand.
Suffice to say I could have cursed Andrew because by the time I settled into my hotel room after a first long day of the conference, it was nearly midnight and I read his book for the next three hours until my eyes finally gave up. For the rest of the conference weekend, I snuck a few pages here and there and finished his book by the end of the conference on Sunday. I was hooked.
Yes, Andrew Peterson is a great writer. But this is not why we gave him the award.
Very few people in the 15 year history of the La Jolla Writers Conference have transitioned from student to instructor. I can think of two. And when I asked Andrew if he would consider teaching for us, he was honored but confused. I think his exact response was, “I don’t know what I could offer.” How about teaching great character development, amazing cliffhangers, or how to write suspenseful scenes or starters? He reluctantly acquiesced and has been a staple to our great faculty and even keynoted for us in 2014.
Yes, Andrew is a great teacher and generous with his time and knowledge. But this is not why we gave him the award either.
Andrew Peterson is a great person. Whether it is visiting troops oversees, giving copies of his books away, anonymously picking up the tab for service men and women in restaurants, writing novels that celebrate our country and the men and women who serve it, or being incredibly gracious and giving of his time, Andrew’s character transcends his success. He has used his writing as a tool to connect, inspire, support, and encourage others. He truly epitomizes what is means to be a Person of Letters.
If you get a chance, pick up a book by Andrew Peterson. You’ll be entertained and you’ll also know the type of man you are supporting.