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Top Ten Reasons to Go to the Conference

American Christian Fiction Writers Conference—September 18 – 21

Only 73 days until the 2008 ACFW Conference kicks off in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This will be my third time to go, and rather than wax dramatica about the life-changing moments I experienced the last two years, I did an informal survey (meaning non-scientific) of a few ACFW friends to get their thoughts about what makes this conference the one to attend. Ta-da!

Here are the TOP TEN reasons you absolutely should not miss this year’s ACFW gathering of the scribes in Minneapolis:

10) Packing for a conference is the ultimate excuse to go shopping, scope out the summer bargains, and find the perfect wardrobe additions to dazzle your friends and make a good impression on those elusive agents and editors. Rule of thumb: Business casual for all sessions and meals except the Awards Banquet which is semi-formal (anything from your Sunday best to sequined evening gowns). Last year, two attendees went the extra mile, and anyone who attended will never quite be the same from having seen Mama Ruth Seamands in an elegant evening sari from her missionary days in India and Chip MacGregor in his Scottish clan’s full-dress kilt. One word of caution—wear comfortable shoes. Your feet will thank you.

9) See a new part of the world. Since ACFW holds their conference in different cities each year, it’s a great way to visit a city you’ve never experienced. Minneapolis will be a new destination for me. Although I’m flying this year, many people within a day’s driving distance will get out the Rand McNally and drive in, taking in new vistas. Mid-September is the perfect time to hit the road and practice your editor pitches with your traveling mates. You might even consider bringing your spouse along and spend an extra day before or after the conference taking in the local history and attractions.

8) Escape from your ordinary world. No diapers, laundry, or meals to plan for four glorious days. You can put on your “writer” hat and be just that. No one will think you are weird because you will be with people who understand your quirks and your passion. You will be hanging out with your tribe. And there are no strangers at an ACFW conference. Only friends you’ve yet to meet. The atmosphere is friendly, helpful, and nurturing. And that’s just in the lobby upon your arrival. It gets even better after that.

7) Reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen since the last conference. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking about your work in progress with a new buddy over an iced caramel macchiato. You’ll also have the opportunity to put faces with all those names you see cropping up on the loop. Expect to be delighted, especially when the Chris or Terry you imagined being a vivacious female turns out to be a guy!

6) It’s all about writing fiction. You’ll have the opportunity to advance your craft to the next level no matter where you are in your journey right now. The continuing ed track and workshops are designed for different levels from novice to the multi-published. Expect to be challenged and learn concrete techniques to polish your own prose. Hint: Conference CDs and MP3s are available so that you can listen to “all” of the workshops when you get home.

5) Star gazing. You will see your favorite authors up close and personal, chat with them at meals or hang out in the lobby with them after hours. It’s quite possible they were just like you a few years ago—waiting for a publisher to fall in love with their manuscripts. This year offers a stunning lineup of famous authors. Breathe. Relax. Ask them your burning questions, and yes, it’s okay to ask for autographs. The best place to do that, however, is at . . .

4) Author Book Signing at the Mall of America. How cool is that going to be? Not only can you get a suitcase full of books signed by your favorite authors, but you will also be able to stroll through the largest mall in the land.

3) Appointments. An ACFW conference is an excellent opportunity to meet editors and agents face to face and is the best way to get your manuscript requested by your favorite publishing house or make that all-important contact in acquiring an agent. Agent and editor angst, though, cause more sweaty palms, malfunctioning deodorant, and panic attacks than any other part of a writing conference. This year, vow to relax. Do your homework and decide who you would like to meet—either in a 15-minute appointment or during one of the faculty-hosted luncheon tables. Prepare your one-sheets and practice your pitch with anyone who will listen. It’s been rumored that agents and editors are ordinary people. Even so, we writers tremble at the thought of being rejected by an agent or an editor because they seem to hold our professional lives in their hands. Stop stressing. Yes, they have power. Yes, they are looking for specific things. Yes, it’s a good idea to be courteous, professional, and prepared. But it’s also a good thing to be yourself. And the best way to do that is to relax and let God orchestrate the outcome.

2) Worship. Unlike general market conferences, at an ACFW conference you will find worship to be an integral part of the whole experience. After all, that is the common bond we all have—faith. And while you will find quite an eclectic mix of Christian believers, it is an amazing feeling to sing, pray, and worship alongside the other conferees. Many people believe this is the best part of the conference.

And now, the NUMBER ONE reason you should attend the ACFW conference this year:

1) Divine Appointments. These cannot be planned, studied for, or manipulated by mere human effort. Your appointment may come when you least expect it or need it the most. It may be waiting for you in the prayer room or while you are lounging on a sofa in the lobby. It may be a casual word in the hallway or having an editor request your full manuscript. Whatever it is, you simply do not want to miss it.

Need more inspiration? Specific agent tips? In an effort to get all your questions answered, ACFW is sponsoring an ongoing Blog Tour. Stop by to get more great info from some of the others participants on the tour. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in Minneapolis. You might be one of the friends I just haven’t had the pleasure to meet yet.

Carla Stewart

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