My name is Jennifer AlLee. Iâ€™m 43 years old. Iâ€™ve been all over the country, seen a lot of things, done a lot of stuff. But until last year, I was a conference virgin.
Pretty amazing, huh? Even though Iâ€™d been diligently studying my craft for years, writing manuscripts, seeking publication, I was clueless when it came to writers conferences. But then I joined ACFW, and a whole new world opened up to me.
What? You mean I can actually be in the same room with agents and editors and no one will tell me Iâ€™m in the wrong place? And theyâ€™ll talk to me? I can sit with one at a table and share a meal? Published authors will breathe the same air as me and be happy about it? I had to be a part of this.
For me, the months leading up to the conference were full of excitement and stress. I was like a kid planning out my trip to Disneyland, making lists of what Iâ€™d do and see so I wouldnâ€™t miss a thing. I got business cards. I submitted my manuscript for a paid critique. I made one sheets (after finding out that I needed one sheets and then finding out what the heck a one sheet is). I practiced my pitch. I planned my wardrobe, second-guessed it, then planned it again. Finally, I was ready.
Being in Dallas, surrounded by hundreds of people who are not only fellow writers, but fellow Christians, was an incredible experience. Yet, despite all the preparation Iâ€™d done, the things that blessed me the most were the things I never expected. Here are some of the things I learned:
- Flexibility is a must – I had my one sheets, but in the end, I never gave any of them out. But thatâ€™s okay. I would have hated to need one and not had it, but at the same time, forcing it on someone is not cool.
- Be a sponge – Seriously, soak it all up. Thereâ€™s so much knowledge floating around, you canâ€™t possibly attend the conference and not leave a better writer and a better person. Between the classes, the times of fellowship, and the worship, this conference feeds every part of you. Which leads me to my last point….
- Expect God to bless you in ways you donâ€™t expect – This was huge for me last year. Before I left for Dallas, I thought the conference would be a success if I got submission requests from one or more editors. In that respect, things didnâ€™t go so well. But God had so much more for me! Whenever I was feeling discouraged, He put me together with someone who lifted me right back up. Because of that, I got to be great friends (and critique buddies) with Patti Lacy and Lisa Richardson. I was blessed by the prayers of Mary DeMuth and Meredith Efken. And I canâ€™t leave out the hugs and infectious smiles of Shar MacLaren, Ane Mulligan and Leanna Ellis, which have to be experienced to be truly appreciated.
When I get to Minneapolis in September, Iâ€™ll be one year older, and a bit wiser. This time around, I’m leaving my stress at home. Iâ€™m ready to learn everything I can, reconnect with young friendships begun last year, get real-life hugs from my cyber-buddies, and soak up Godâ€™s presence. I canâ€™t wait to see what Heâ€™s going to do this year!