Saturday, June 18, 2011

What I Learned in the Trenches

Tips on surviving the ACFW writers' conference
Posted by Teresa Slack
I finally did it. After much inner debate and rechecking the balance in my checkbook I registered for the ACFW conference to be held this September 22-25 in St. Louis. I attended last year, a little overwhelmed and out of sorts. This year I vow to get more out of the experience.

The thought of meeting with editors shouldn't cause any undo stress. Your idea will either resonate with them or it won’t. Every story idea doesn’t appeal to every editor. Nor will it fit every current need. It’s not a statement on your worth as a writer. It’s just a matter of fact. If you’re going to the conference and freaking out over how to approach editors or your dream agent, remember they are people doing a job who really, really, really want to see you succeed. If you succeed, so do they.

Last year, besides equipping myself with beautiful one-sheets and fortifying doses of chocolate, I made note cards on each of the editors present at the conference (Didn’t do this with agents since I am already agented by the fantastic Terry Burns.). If they were interested in romance, I wrote that down. If the editor was a dog person, I made sure to tell her about my heroine’s animal rescue endeavors. If he liked military heroes, I made sure to mention that my hero was just home from Iraq. When I met an editor over lunch or during a face-to-face meeting, I knew at a glance what they liked and if I could supply it or not. No use belaboring an editor who deals only in romance with an extensive outline on my gothic thriller.

I added to my note cards throughout the conference during late night chats and at every opportunity. No telling when this little nugget may come in handy.

Be well read in what you write. Several times an editor asked me who or what my work could be compared to. The example I used was from a popular secular fiction series. Both editors recognized it (hard not to notice books that sell in the millions) and appreciated my comparison.

The most important bit of advice I can give myself and you too—relax and have fun. Last year I was too worried I wouldn’t get enough out of the conference. Consequently I don’t believe I did. This year I’m going to look harder for those God appointments and not freak out about over-scheduling every minute of the day.

Hope to see you there. I’d love to hear your advice for conference goers or questions if you haven’t been yet. Definitely take time to meet other writers. That’s the best part. My hit pick for Miss Congeniality—Lena Nelson Dooley. She rocks. If you see her, give her a hug and thank her for everything she does for nervous, first-time attendees. You’ll be glad you did.


Molly Noble Bull said...

Good article. I am glad you are going to the conference, Teresa. Wish I was joining you. You will learn plenty and make gobs of new friends.

Teresa Slack said...

I can't wait, Molly. Wish you were going to hold my hand and make me step out of my comfort zone. Of course if you were holding my hand, I'd still be in the comfort zone.

Cecelia said...

Wonderful tips. Great pics. Thanks for sharing. I wish I could join you!
~Cecelia Dowdy~

MarthaE said...

Nice article with good tips. Hope you enjoy the conference!