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ACFW Conference Blog – Two Posts Today

First post is from Rachel Smith Fernandes:

This year’s conference in St. Louis will be my fifth conference. I guess I’m somewhat of a seasoned professional.

Or not.

Like many other writers I’m an introvert. The prospect of attending my first conference was both exciting and terrifying. I’d made friends through the email loop and blogging, but what if I didn’t have the nerve to talk to them? What if I end up at a table with an editor or an agent and they ask what I’m working on and I don’t know what to say? What if nobody sees me?

I did find the nerve to talk to my new friends. I did end up at a table with an agent or editor and was able to talk about what I was working on. Lots of people saw me. I talked to my favorite author and she was sweet as can be. I had a great time!

A first conference experience does not have to be scary. It can be the most thrilling, exhilarating thing you’ve ever experienced. How?

Be a sponge.

I attended my first conference in 2007 with the mindset that I was there to have fun and learn. And that’s exactly what I did. I learned new things in every class and had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I arrived home exhausted, but happier than I’d ever been in my whole life.

I still take this mindset with me every fall. I’m not there to make that first sale, or meet that editor, or talk to that agent. If God makes it happen, great! I’m there to learn and have a good time with 600 other people who know exactly what it’s like to argue with people who exist only in your head. Who don’t think it’s weird that someone is on the floor in the corner scribbling like a madman.

I also made the choice that first year to not make any appointments. I think that was the best choice I ever made. No pressure. At least of the pitching kind. This year, I’m doing appointments. But the thought doesn’t scare me because I took the time to just observe and enjoy myself.

So if you see someone looking like a sponge, it’s just me, enjoying myself and soaking up everything I can. (And if I have that glazed look in my eyes that says I’m in another world–while I’m walking–step out of my way. I won’t see you in time to keep from running over you.)

Rachel Smith Fernandes writing as Rachel Wilder
Romance with Old World Charm

Now, let’s hear from Jerri Ledford:

This year was to be the year that I made it to the ACFW conference. After listening to all of the stories that come out of the conference, I decided this year, I would go. But probably not for the reasons that most writers go.

I don’t plan to go for the opportunity to get published. Sure, I want to get published. But I don’t have a manuscript ready to put in front of an inspirational house right now. And if I’m being honest, I’m not completely sure that I want to go the traditional publishing route.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn about publishing. Sometimes learning how others have been through the process is just as valuable as going through the process yourself. Hearing the stories published authors have to tell about how they reached their publishing goals can give you insight into what you’re doing wrong, even before your manuscript gets in front of an editor or agent.

I also don’t plan to go for the opportunity to find an agent. I have one. She’s fantastic, and if there is one bit of advice that I could give to any writer, it’s that an agent is worth their weight in gold, and I don’t say that as a tired old cliche. For the money (and headaches) that my agent has secured/handled for me, I would gladly have paid the going market rate for enough gold to equal her weight.

That doesn’t mean agent information isn’t valuable to me. Even though I have an agent, I would gladly listen to whatever other agents have to say. Agents know the business. They know what houses are buying, and they know what books are selling. Don’t discount what an agent has to say simply because you have an agent. Like writers, they all have a different perspective.

My goal from the ACFW conference is to learn. As much as I can. From anyone I can. Because as a writer, as an author, it doesn’t matter if I’m a newbie or a bestseller, I can always learn more about my craft and the business of my craft. And honestly, the ACFW conference is one of the best places to do it.

Really. For the money, where else could you get such a deep education in such a short amount of time? Workshops, lectures, conversations with other writers, agents, and editors. Every moment of every day that you’re at the ACFW conference is an opportunity to learn. It’s an opportunity to see the industry and your craft from dozens if not hundreds of different perspectives. And that, as they say, is priceless.

I may not make it to the conference this year. But I’m not worried. I will make it when the timing is right. Until then, I can still achieve my goal from right here in Deep South Alabama…I just need to pick up the recordings after the conference and listen to all the stories coming from the attendees.

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