Writing is one of the few businesses with a very small required investment. A computer, printer, books on writing, and a membership in ACFW: That’s the bare minimum. You can get books on writing from the library so buying them isn’t necessarily an expense you have to have. So now you’re in pretty good shape. Or are you?
There’s one expense I consider vital. A conference a year. Some writers object to the cost of a conference. I counter that by saying ANY business requires you to invest some money. In the scheme of things, the cost of the ACFW conference is a drop in the bucket. And there’s nothing that can take its place. Nowhere else can you meet editors and agents face-to-face. Nowhere else can you find people who “get” you. The rest of the year we’re like birds underwater. We’re gasping for the air of creativity, to find like-minded people. Among our own, we are free in a way that we never see without that experience.
When I was first writing, I’d never even met another writer. I call that my “wandering in the wilderness.” My first conference was a small Indiana one called the Midwest Writer’s Conference down at Muncie. I went on a scholarship that year. It was the most remarkable experience to find out that I wasn’t strange, that other people had characters living in their heads too. The next conference was after I was published, and it was Glorietta. I met Kristin Billerbeck and Carol Cox at the conference along with Tracie Peterson and other “stars” that I’d only dreamed of meeting. I was hooked when I realized I got to meet editors and agents. Hallelujah!
Then I started going to the Mount Hermon’s conference every year with Kristin and Denise Hunter. Diann Hunt began to join us, and I met Ami McConnell for the first time. That conference changed my life. I can clearly picture sitting on the floor outside the advanced writers session and pitching Without a Trace to her. She bought it and I’ve been with Nelson nine years now, writing the stories of my heart. So conferences have changed the game plan for me in many ways.
The ACFW conference is phenomenal. Nowhere else will you find so many FICTION writers gathered together. Nowhere else will you find so many editors and agents for fiction. Nowhere else will you have so much opportunity to connect with someone with your same passions.
People ask me why I still go to conferences. I’m at my dream house. I have a great agent who has helped me for ten years. What benefit is there for a published author? The benefits are still huge! Being with people who understand you is incredible. There is a lot of synergy gathered in one place at the conference. I get to meet with my agent, editor and publisher. I get to spend quality time with my peeps. I am privileged to encourage those just starting out on their journeys, to look them in the eye and tell them they can do it. The road can be hard and the climb steep, but the rewards are waiting.
So is it worth the sacrifice to get there? Yes, a resounding yes. Come, you won’t be disappointed. It’s the first step to success.
Colleen Coble serves as CEO of ACFW.