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A First Time Perspective circa 2003: Eileen Key

Houston, September, 2003
American Christian Romance Writers Conference

I struggled from my car to the hotel entrance, my huge suitcase (with no wheels) flopping this way and that. A kind gentleman stepped forward and carried it to the reception desk. My friend and I checked in, received our key, and–by chance (ha! God-appointment)–met the gentleman and his wife in the elevator. He toted my bag down the hall to my room.

The buzz in the lobby that afternoon reminded me of a pep rally. Screams of “Oh my goodness” echoed off the walls as women embraced each other. My friend and I scurried through the mass of people and registered. I became a name-tag-toting-conferee! But I still knew no one except my friend.

We smiled and ducked into the ballroom for the first meeting. “Good morning to you Christian fiction writers!” a red-headed extrovert bellowed into the microphone. “You’re here to learn your craft and hear Robin Lee Hatcher this year.”

(My heart pounded against my ribs. THAT was Brandilyn Collins…and Robin…on the dais. I was “in their presence!” Wow. Wait ‘til I tell the folks back home… I digress.)

Meeting others wasn’t a problem for me, after all, my nametag gave me permission to be there. I greeted, smiled, and walked the hall to my first critique with Tracie Petersen. This compassionate woman didn’t laugh when she reviewed my WIP. She is such an encourager. I know I would’ve given up had she not spoken golden words: Learn, Write, Read, Write, Critique, Try Again, Write!

In my first class, Gail Martin spoke, and I wondered if I’d best go home after all! I had SO much to learn. Would my brain be able to absorb ANYTHING? I took notes, hustled through the classes, enjoyed dining with others and had blessed SLEEP.

Day two I had my first editor’s appointment with Jim Petersen. Cue cards in hand, I entered the room only to spot the kind gentleman who carried my luggage! I was mortified. Knees knocking, I sat in front of him, speechless. He noted my anxiety, covered my hand with his huge paw and suggested we pray. A calm pervaded the room. And he didn’t laugh either! Another encourager.

By Saturday night, I was ready to SLEEP through the banquet. I’m so glad I didn’t. The excitement in the room gave the waiters extra pep in their step! Announcements, winners, squeals, pictures…a glittering spectacle of exhilaration.

Sunday morning…. I think you have to experience it! Amazing. (Try to stay! You won‘t regret it.)

I met so many wonderful people who have become life-long friends. American Romance Writers morphed into American Christian FICTION Writers who all share one goal:
To glorify Jesus through the written word.

Conference is a special time carved out each year. If you’ve not been, you’re missing a life-changing weekend. Come, get your nametag, receive your hugs, learn your craft and CHANGE!

See you soon!!

Eileen

Eileen Key serves as the Zone Officer for ACFW. You can learn more about Eileen and her books on her website.

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