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Conference Celebrity Sightings with Jeannie Campbell

Since the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in only a few months away, I wanted to regale you with a very funny little story.

Last year was my second ACFW conference, but there is still something very jaw-dropping about running into the very authors whose books grace your bookshelves.

My first year, I was awe-struck by Ted Dekker. I mean, Ted Dekker! He just showed up in the atrium of the hotel. I own every single book he’s ever published. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture with him because I didn’t have a camera and this was a heartbreak.

Last year, James Scott Bell set off my celeb-dar. I mean, James Scott Bell! Of the Buchanan series and Plot and Structure fame. I’d been trying to work up my courage to talk to him since he spoke at the Early Bird, but the opportunity never presented itself.

However, one evening at dinner, my critique partner, Katie Ganshert, and I realized that he was sitting at the table directly behind us.

James Scott Bell, in all his published awesomeness, was close enough to reach out and touch! As far as I could tell, he was laughing and chatting with his dinner companions like a normal person, but I knew better. I mean, James Scott Bell, folks. Surely pure poetry poured forth from his mouth while he signed contracts under the table.

While I debated what fantastic opening line I could astound him with, we thought maybe the picture below would quell my desire to connect with celebrity authors.

Yep, that’s Jim in the background in the red shirt. Oddly enough, we discovered that this wasn’t gratifying enough. Jim didn’t even realize he was in the picture, much less able to smile appropriately. So after some more lip chewing and butterflies, I finally worked up enough pluck to turn around and say hello.

Imagine my surprise to carry on a conversation similar to the one below (pardon my lack of play-by-play…I was flustered):

Jeannie: Hi, you’re James Scott Bell.

Jim: Yes, and you are?

Jeannie: Jeannie Campbell. [shakes hand] Are you related to the Bell Witch? (Yes, this was my stunning opener. Google it if you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about.)

Jim: [bewildered look] Who?

Jeannie: The Bell Witch. You know, from the movie American Haunting. I’m related to the legend, and wondered if perhaps your Bell ancestors hailed from Tennessee like mine did.

Jim: No, not from Tennessee.

Jeannie: Oh, I see. [nudges Katie] Would you mind if we got a picture together?

Jim: [wiping mouth from unfinished dessert] Sure.

So even though I might have sounded like a complete bumbling idiot (and probably did, judging by the look on his face), he was still very gracious…and really, altogether normal. Which leads to the point of this post.

All the authors you meet at the conference are the same way. It doesn’t matter if they have one book published or thirty, they are all so gracious. Because of the atmosphere at ACFW, it’s very inclusive and familial. People want you to feel welcomed and a part of the conference and the organization at large. They want to be mentors, shepherds, and guidance counselors through the publishing world.

At some point, James Scott Bell probably felt the same way about some other published great that I felt when I ran into him. Now look at him–walking around causing normally clear communicators to regress to talking about witches. There should be some law against it, quite honestly.

So remember…published authors make typos just like everybody else!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT
the character therapist
an online therapy service
for fictional characters

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