Monday, August 14, 2006

ACFW Conference

So this is the week to talk up the conference. Well, last week, too, but I’m a little behind.

This year’s conference will be in Dallas September 21-24. It will be my third ACFW conference and my sixth writing conference over all.

My first ACFW conference was the 2003 conference in Houston. I had just joined ACFW and knew no one. I got there, went to my room, and called Peter. I told him I didn’t think I should have come. I felt so out of place. But I met Diana Brandmeyer and Julie Lessman who would end up being in my critique group.

It was also the conference where God really confirmed to me that He had called me to write. I remember so specifically praying before I went for God to show me if I should commit myself fully to this writing thing that I had just been playing at for years. God whispered something to my heart during that prayer, and it played out exactly as He said it would during the conference. I didn’t realize at the time how much I would need to cling to that promise of His faithfulness to keep me on this path. Most days it would just be easier to hang it up.

I missed the 2004 conference in Denver because we were going through a major upheaval in our lives. Good old Crit 19 had evolved into a wonderful support group not only for our writing but for each other spiritually. Whenever I think back on that time, I remember how much comfort I got knowing they were holding my family up in prayer.

Last year’s conference in Nashville was terrific all the way around. Once I got there. Jenny called me a couple of days before the conference during my son’s birthday party to tell me I wasn’t booked on a Thursday flight. Her daughter worked for Southwest and was trying to get her on the same flight as mine. What? When I got home I e-mailed Jenny my confirmation. I was booked on a flight. She called me back. I was booked on a flight for Wednesday. Except I didn’t have a room for Wednesday. Luckily the hotel wasn’t booked up (unlike this year), and I got a room a day early. Got to hang out with another member of Crit 19, Greg Williamson, and Malia Spencer from my mentor group for a day. I liked it so much I decided to come a day early this year.

I also met my agent at the conference. I got to meet my mentees Sabrina Fox and Malia in person. I took Gayle Roper’s fiction clinic and met Jeanne Damoff and Mike Snyder there. We hit it off, and they have added much laughter to my life this past year. In fact, I can blame Mike and the conference last year for the fact that I even have a blog. I wanted to leave a comment on Mike’s blog, and I couldn’t without a Blogger account. I got one since I had wanted to talk about my conference experiences to my friends who couldn’t go and decided that a blog might not be a bad way to do that.

As you might have noticed, what I’ve taken from the conferences have been my experiences with people. Yes, I’ve learned a lot in the classes, but you can always order the CDs. What you can’t do is replicate the experience of hanging out with other warped people who call themselves writers. In real life (not to be confused with cyberspace) the only writer I ever see is Jenny, and that not very often. So coming to a conference is like coming home. I get to see friends that I only know through blog comments, forum postings, and e-mail.

But there’s also a practical side to this. It’s one of the only ways to make business connections. Because the ACFW conference focuses on fiction, this is the place to be if you want to meet editors and agents that are acquiring fiction. Making those personal connections either though an appointment or at meals can make a big difference between being an actual person on the other end of that proposal or just a name on a piece of paper. In my experience the two editors I’ve had extended dealings with are ones that I met in person. If I hadn’t met them, I doubt I would have gotten as far with them as I did. Now, that’s no guarantee of success. I met an editor who didn’t like my writing and flat out rejected me (lots of sympathy, please). Still, I’m farther than I would be if I hadn’t been to these conferences.

This year I’m looking forward to hanging out with all my old friends and meeting new ones. And because I have an agent and my project is out to pretty much everyone it could be out at, I don’t have the pressure of pitching anything. I’m also teaching a late night chat on mentoring, so be sure to come and heckle me. I’ll even have chocolate to hand out.

Feel free to post your favorite conference memories or what you hope to get out of this year’s conference in the comments. If you talked about the conference on your blog, let us know that too.

See you in Dallas.


  1. I'm so excited for all of you who get to go. **sniff** Maybe I can join you next year. You'll have to take lots of pictures and post them here, and you must reveal who brings the best chocolate!

  2. Hey girl! Gonna be great to see you again. Sure had fun with you and your crew at Mt. Hermon. Who are we going to terrorize this time? ;-)

  3. ooooh terrorize people? I'm SO in!Can I be in?? :o)

    Jen, how is it I didn't meat you in Nashville?? I can't even remember seeing you. Looking forward to meeting you in person!

    Oh and I did blog about the conference... kinda had to since I helped set up the blog tour. LOL

  4. I love you, too, Jen-benny-boo-boo. Maybe Snyder and I will choreograph a coordinated heckle in your honor.


    P.S. Even though Eustace isn't playing, I think you should still plan to jump up and throw a few spontaneous body-guardish kicks and punches in the middle of workshops, meals, and worship times. Because, you never know.

  5. I met Lisa Harris, Linda Windsor, Gail Sattler, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Brandilyn Collins at ACFW in Nashville. Not name dropping, I just didn't have the guts to speak with very many people. I'll try to be less shy in Dallas.

    However at Mount Hermon this year, I met Dineen Miller (frequently) and Jeanne Damoff (at a meal). Two fabulous people to meet at a conference, I must say. Very friendly and easy to talk to.

  6. Ya'll can terrorize me! This will be my first time and won't know anyone.

  7. Oh man, where do I begin? Evil plots, terrorizing people, super secret ninja moves and, wait, Dineen, I have a crew?

    Don't worry, Georgiana and Sabrina. We'll keep you posted on all the behind-the-scenes stuff that doesn't make it into the official ACFW loop. I'm planning on blogging daily.

    Heather, I don't remember seeing you in Nashville either. I remember catching fleeting glances of Dineen, Camy, and Robin. Are we going to have a mods breakfast? Or do we need to do that in secret?

    Jeanne, I can feel the love. And I'm keeping up on those kicks in case some crazed Eustace fans show up.

    Can you tell I've been smelling paint fumes all day?

  8. I'm totally looking forward to seeing you at conference!

  9. A synchronized heckling routine? I'm in. As long as it's not in the pool. I tread water like an anvil.

    This should be a fun conference all 'round.

  10. I want to go so're a good sell, Jen...but I wanted to go before you blogged about it! ha.
    I'll hang with Georgiana, we'll commiserate!
    Thanks for adding me! And for the dry erase board tips! They worked! Yay!

  11. Ooh, good news about the dry erase board, Mary. I knew I'd dealt with it before, just could remember which miracle chemical worked. We'll miss you too.

    Mike, does that mean any imitations of me swimming with broken arms will be done out of the pool? Peter wants a video of that, btw.

  12. Woo-hoo!! I look forward to meeting you in person in Dallas! I'm sorry I missed you in Nashville.

  13. Are you bringing the chocolates for the chat or is that just another box I need to buy? :)

    Don't worry everyone there will be lots of chocolate to go around, even the chocolate covered macadamia nuts. I always bring a few extra boxes "just in case." And bribery works if you want one of them. ;)

  14. Dineen, crew is so passé--let's be her posse (okay you should have seen me trying to look up how to spell "passé" and "posse"--attempting to read over my glasses and focus. Keystone Cops have nothing on me--yet again I date myself. Where was I?)
    Jen, no practicing kicks in our room--your legs are scary long, girlfriend!
    Mike, I've been hearing about this broken arm swimming routine for months now and can't wait to see it. Please promise you won't charge admission, I'm too broke already.
    Malia, don't you dare give away any of the dark chocolate macadamias with my name on them!
    Jeanne, Heather, Camy and Dineen, I'm looking forward to meeting you all in person, finally. Your reputations preceed you:-) Just ask Jen!
    Cythina, you are going to have the time of your life. Randy Ingermanson gave some great advice before my first ACRW conference--focus on the relationships instead of killing yourself trying to meet just the right people for your book. I took his advice to heart and have made some great friends. The rest will come as God leads it.
    Georgiana and Mary, don't think you are off the hook since you can't go this year--keep us all in your prayers (especially Jen since if there's heackling, I don't want to think what might happen! Oy Vey!)
    Dallas, I can't wait!
    Abundant blessings,

  15. I wish I was going this year! :(
    Maybe next year everyone in the crit group will make it to Denver.

    I'm glad I met you in Houston Jen!