Two weeks from today the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference will be getting underway in Nashville, Tennessee. This will be my fifth time attending the conference and so much has changed since my first experience in 2012.
Here are just a few ways that the ACFW Conference has changed my life:
1. I now have an awesome agent, Mary Keeley from Books & Such Literary Management. I didn't meet Mary at my first conference, but I did sit down with a friend of mine (Sarah Forgrave) at that conference who was represented by Mary. Because I'd had such a great experience at my first conference, and had so many editors ask to see my writing, Sarah volunteered to read my first manuscript and, if she thought I was ready, she would recommend me to Mary. That's exactly what she did! Mary read my story and offered representation. We've now been partners for over three years.
2. I'm now a multi-published author. My first contract came from Barbour Publishers and was a direct result of a meeting I had with an editor at ACFW in Indianapolis in 2013. It wasn't a scheduled meeting, I just happened to see her standing outside the elevators and went over and introduced myself. I had no intentions of pitching a story, or even talking about my writing, but I genuinely wanted to meet the editor, because I'd seen her several times that weekend and she looked like a nice person to talk to. :) We ended up having a great chat and she was the one who was eager to see me published with Barbour. I now have two novella collections on the shelf and one more releasing in December. I also have two Love Inspired Historical Novels releasing this year, with more next year, and I so enjoyed meeting my editor at ACFW last year.
3. I've made lifelong friendships. Every year, I walk away from the ACFW Conference with lots of new connections and friendships. Some have become like sisters to me and I wonder how I managed to get along before I met them! Almost all of them I met online before meeting them in person, but the face-to-face conversations allow us to bond in a way that computers never do. It was through the Indianapolis conference that I met Jaime and Anne face-to-face, and the Dallas conference in 2012 that I met Erica for the first time. Last year we had so much fun taking pictures together, and I know this year we'll have a blast cheering Erica onto the stage to receive her Carol Award!!
4. I've made industry connections. This is one of the main reasons we go to conference. Not only to meet and connect with editors, agents and publicists, but to meet other powerhouse authors who have so much experience. I've been blessed to get to know people who fall into each of these categories, and many have become good friends. It's awesome to have these relationships when I meet a promising new writer and can connect her with someone who would benefit from her talents (and vice-versa).
5. I've learned. A lot. And I look forward to learning even more this year. Every year I walk away from the conference with more knowledge, wisdom and insight. I learn about writing techniques, marketing and advertisement, organizational skills, industry insider perspectives, and so much more. I gain invaluable wisdom from veteran authors who have so much more experience than me. Sometimes this happens in the workshops, but even more so in the one-on-one conversations that happen in the hall or lobby.
6. I've seen the hand of God working. ACFW puts all its focus on God and what He's doing with the Christian Fiction industry. Not only in the big picture moments, but in the personal I-needed-that-for-me moments. I see God's hand in every aspect of my life, to be sure, but in this particular arena, it's even more apparent because everyone who attends is seeking to glorify Him.
I'd love to hear from you! If you've attended a writing conference, what are some things you've gained? What about other events?
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