by Jennifer AlLee
Don’t get me wrong. I love tweeting to my peeps and keeping up with Facebook buddies. I’ve made a lot of connections in the virtual world. My friend list includes newbie authors, published authors, editors, agents, and a bunch of old school friends I’d completely lost track of. I’ve connected with more people via social networking than I ever could have the old fashioned way, including a multi-published ABA author who I consider one of my writing inspirations. Obviously, I’m a fan of the online water cooler.
But sometimes, a writer has to stick her head out of the cave, venture squinting and hunch-backed into the sunlight, and interact with flesh and blood folk. And there’s no better place to do this than a writer’s conference.
I joined ACFW back in April 2007. I signed up for the email loop and began electronically meeting other authors. It was like a whole new world opened up to me. Even though I’d been writing for half my life, I was clueless to the concept of writers supporting each other. Really? There are groups that do that? What an amazing thing.
In September of 2009 I attended the ACFW conference in Dallas, TX. Not only was it my first ACFW conference, it was my first writer’s conference ever. I was more than a little nervous. But from the minute I set foot on Texas pavement, the world I thought couldn’t get any better, did. Standing in the queue for the Super Shuttle, I met other writers going to the conference. In the hotel, the lobby was swarming with excited, chatty writers. I’d fallen into writer-heaven.
Now, everything wasn’t peaches-and-cream-perfect at the conference. I had a very traumatic meeting with an editor. It was my first time pitching a story. It was a story I had written specifically for this house. And I found out my story was totally wrong for them. My spirits were crushed as I walked out of the room. Not because the editor had been mean to me (she hadn’t) but because I felt like a failure. But after I left that meeting, God put not one but three different people directly in my path. Three people who encouraged me, hugged me, empathized with me, and helped me see that my writing career had not just ended. You can’t get that kind of support on Twitter.
That evening, I reported for duty at the bookstore and was paired up at the checkout table with Lisa Richardson. We instantly clicked. When our shift ended, we headed out to dinner. We forged a friendship that night. Now, we critique each other’s work, support each other, share in highs and lows… we even share the same birthday, although I’m just a tad bit older than she is. While Lisa and I might have eventually met via the email loop, or Twitter, or Facebook, I doubt that we’d have developed the same kind of relationship. Only a face-to-face encounter can do that.
So definitely come to the conference to network with agents and editors. It’s one of your best chances to do so. But also come to grow friendships. Your life will be all the richer for it.
As a child, Jennifer AlLee lived above a mortuary in the heart of Hollywood, California, which may explain her unique outlook on life. Her publishing credits include The Love of His Brother, a contemporary romance novel from Five Star Publishing (November 2007) as well as skits, activity pages, and over one hundred contributions to Concordia Publishing House’s popular My Devotions series. Her next novel, The Pastor’s Wife, releases February 2010 from Abingdon Press. She’s an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and serves as the Nevada Area Coordinator. Jennifer resides in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas with her husband and teenage son.