I think the most common question I’ve been asked since being published has been, “How did you do it?” My answer is always, unequivocally, “With the help of others who were willing to mentor me.” The next question (especially if the asker is also an aspiring author or a closet writer) is usually, “How did you meet them?”
When I first started writing, I had no idea there were online communities or writers conferences. By God’s leading, I found the Steeple Hill (now Love Inspired Books) message boards where I met people like Margaret Daley, Allie Pleiter, Deborah Clopton, Mae Nunn, Lenora Worth and others who heavily encouraged me to join ACFW. Joining the organization and going to its conference were the two most common (and most beneficial!) pieces of advice I received from published authors.
I’m so glad I listened! I know that I know that I know that ACFW is the largest contributing reason to the fact that I’m published today and that my career and my craft continue to grow. The ACFW conference is a place where you can come face to face and heart to heart with people who are willing to reach back and help you along in the way of mentoring, just as they have been helped by someone a little ahead of them on the road. The face-to-face networking with other authors, agents and editors is absolutely crucial in my opinion if you are serious about being a career writer.
It might seem like a huge amount to spend but think of it as a business expense/business trip. In publishing, so much of the work and time and money is front loaded. But with any start-up business, the money has to be invested on the front end. Yes, conference is expensive but the benefits you receive from going will last a lifetime. The conference is unique in that it focuses solely on fiction. It is also very God-centered. You will come home spiritually refreshed if you let God have his way.
If you’re not in a place where you need a mentor, how about going in order to mentor someone else in a casual way? Every year I hear of people (usually first-time attendees) who are so frightened and nervous that they spend the entire conference secluded in their rooms. This deeply saddens me and I always wish I knew who those people were because I’d go knock on their door, give them a hug and then a good tug and bring them downstairs into the fold to see the friendship and blessings they are missing. Look outside of your circle of friendship to see if God can help you spot someone who feels alone or overwhelmed or scared. I guarantee they are EVERYWHERE. Ask God for discernment to show you who is in need of a friend, someone to reach out even if they look confident on the outside. I urge you to go with a heart to serve the organization and others. You can never out give God!
I believe that everyone has something to give and something to receive at conference. I hope you will step aside and give God room for His agenda. Open your heart to be mentored and to be a friend to someone who might be scared out of their wits. People are worth the investment of time and money and heart. The future of your writing career and the connections you will make are worth it. We dearly hope to see you at the conference in September!
You can learn more about Cheryl Wyatt at her website.