Thursday, June 26, 2008

Conference is Coming!

Are you ready?
I'm talking about the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, an annual event, this year to be held in Minneapolis.
See our sidebar ad for all the details.
This will be my third year of attending, and I have to say, whether you're a new writer or a seasoned author, you should seriously consider making every effort to attend this particular conference.
I'd like to address three particular things that come to mind when I think of the ACFW conference, then I'll offer some tips for first time attendees.
It's a common misconception that writing is a gift and something that really can't be learned. Well, okay, I can't argue on the gifting part. Writing is a gift. You really need to have a love for the craft and a desire to do it, day in and day out. But please don't ever think you know it all. I think we will continue to learn until the day we die, that's life.
Now if you're like me, when I first heard about writing conferences and the word 'teaching' came up, I immediately shook my head. Done with school, done with lectures and essays. No thanks.
Let me say this: if you are passionate about your craft, you owe it to yourself to do all you can to improve upon it. And if you're actively seeking publication, you really will learn so much from the sessions at this conference.
Granted, they pack a lot into four days, but don't be put off. Select your choices wisely. This year there were so many excellent choices in both the Continuing Education and the Elective Workshops I really did have a hard time choosing!
You are guaranteed that all faculty at an ACFW conference possess a level of excellence, a gift for teaching, and a willing servant's heart. They're doing it because they want to see you succeed. How cool is that?! Okay I think they get paid something too, but seriously, I know many of these folks, and I can promise you their hearts are in the right place.

Your Continuing Education session will carry you through the conference, so you'll want to be sure you're really selecting something you're interested in that applies to your genre or where you are as a writer.
Now, here's the thing. And I don't mind fessing up to this. When I signed up for my first conference, I really didn't like the way they divided the courses into tracks. A, B, C, D. I felt like I was back in high school, being classed according to my level of ability. But I quickly realized this is exactly the way it should be. We are all at different levels in our writing journey. Some have been attending conferences for years, they can handle pov issues in their sleep and they can talk circles around anyone who dares to listen when it comes to high concept, marketing and making a profit. Many of the attendees are multi-published authors who don't want to sit through kindergarten again. I understood that I didn't really know as much as I thought I did, even though I'd been writing for years, so I signed up for mostly beginner level courses.
I'm so glad I made that decision. There is SO much to learn you just won't believe it.
So don't let the letters put you off - there is a right place for you - the right course at this particular time in your journey. If you're still not sure, pray and ask God to show you where you need to be. And don't hesitate to ask any of us for advice.

Which brings me to my next point.

Fellowship: Wow. If all the teaching stuff seems intimidating to you, then just go for the fellowship. You're not going to be put in detention if it all gets to be too much and you skip a couple of sessions. Honestly, the friends you will make at this conference will be well worth the money you spend getting there. Trust me.
I'm from Bermuda. When I went to my first conference, I didn't know a soul. I'd chatted with a couple of people online and through the email loop, but I'm pretty shy in general and I was really scared to go. I actually made my hubby come with me that year! He spent most of his time at Home Depot and the movies. Suffice to say, within two hours of Registration opening, I realized he didn't need to be there at all. Take a deep breath, put yourself out there and make some friends.
You've got two things in common right off the bat: You love to write and you love the Lord.
Each year now I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones too. And if you haven't yet heard about the Chocolate Party, go find Michelle (Sutton) Hutchinson (at, and she'll tell you about it.
You're also going to get the unique opportunity to fellowship not only with writers, but with agents and editors. Outside of your fifteen minute appointments, you can sit with an editor or agent during lunch or dinner. The tables are labeled, so if you're able to get to the dining-room early you can sit with the one you most want to talk to. I'll be giving some tips on this.
As has already been mentioned on the ACFW loop, if you're shy and don't know what to do with yourself, volunteer. There are many opportunities to get involved from being a greeter and ticket taker at meals to working in the bookstore. You can also volunteer for the prayer room. Which brings me to my third point.

This is NOT a secular conference. If you missed the word Christian in ACFW, it's definitely there. First and foremost, this conference is about giving glory to God. We come to worship Him, to thank HIm for what He's doing in our lives, and to seek His will in our writing journeys. Most of us are writers because we truly believe God has placed this desire on our hearts, and we want to use our gift to glorify Him.
At this conference you will worship like you've never worshipped before, pray like you've never prayed before, and you will see God move. It's the most amazing experience and I'm getting super excited just thinking about it! Come with an open heart and mind, come expectantly. He will meet you where you are. And so will your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As I said, there is a prayer room available, people there to pray with you if you want, or you can just sit in silence with God.
There is corporate worship at meals, every one, and you don't want to miss it. The keynote speaker is also a blessing you don't want to miss. Yes, they're going to talk some about writing, but they're also going to minister to you.

Some tips:
Shoes - Some people are perfectly comfortable in heels, I'm not. I don't know what the hotel is like in Minneapolis, but in Dallas, you needed to do quite a bit of walking to get from A - B, and there was a lot of standing around too, chatting or waiting in line for something. Do yourself a favor and make sure you're wearing comfortable shoes!
Dress - Smart Business Casual. You'll see everything from dresses, skirts to nice jeans with, um, heels. I usually wear smart trousers or capris with a nice blouse, loafers or sandals. If you don't have an appointment, you don't have to over dress, be comfortable, but remember what you wear does say a lot about you.
Editor and Agent Appointments - My least favorite thing in the world. I get all sweaty, nervous and tongue tied. Don't even talk to me about an elevator pitch. I'm going to defer this one over to Tiffany and ask her to post something about this in the near future.
What to Bring - Don't over pack. I do this all the time, but especially now with the bag restrictions, you really want to plan out what you'll be wearing. And there is a Banquet on Saturday night, so don't forget a nice dress or pantsuit for that. Given that we're in such close proximity to the Mall of America, I'm sure you'll want to leave room in your luggage for a little shopping! And also leave room for all the books you'll be buying!
Don't bring your complete manuscript! Do bring a one sheet. I've heard it said that you shouldn't even bring sample chapters. I always have and I've never used them. This year they're staying home. If you have business cards, bring them as well as your one sheet. The editor or agent will ask you for what they want, and if they like what they see they'll ask you for a proposal, which you can send them when you get home!

Finally, pray. Pray that God would bless this conference abundantly. Pray for all those involved in organizing and teaching. Pray for those who may leave with broken hearts, it does happen. Don't hedge all your bets on getting published by the end of the conference. Think of it as a stepping stone along the way.
Pray for those who may leave rejoicing, whatever the reason. Pray for yourselves. For wisdom, for patience, and for peace.
We say it every year, but here's to the best ACFW conference ever!

Any questions, leave them in the comments!
I look forward to seeing you in Minneapolis in September!


Erica Vetsch said...

I'm getting more and more excited every day...watching the countdown on my blog tick away the days and hours...then remembering all the work I have to do before then...EEK!

Carla Gade said...

Oh, how I wish I could go. I hope to attend next year. I like reading about how to get prepared for when I do go.

CatMom said...

Thank you for this article! I am a "newbie" and this will be my very first conference, so reading your article really helped me.
Blessings, Patti
(from Georgia)

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Great tips, Cathy. And I second the plug for the Worship and fellowship. Not only are the workshops, continuing sessions and late night chats stellar, but it rounds out with worship and fellowship better than any other conference I've attended.

If you're on the fence and are able to attend, tip over to the going side and make your reservations now. You won't regret it!

Audra Silva said...

I wish I was going, but it won't be happening this year. :)