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Conference Benefits

by Dani Pettrey

I’m often asked if the cost of attending a writing conference is worth it, particularly for the unpublished author. I can only speak from personal experience, but I have found writing conferences to be extremely worthwhile, especially in the following four areas:

1. Friendship: Attending a writing conference is a great way to meet likeminded folks, to connect with people pursuing the same passion as you-storytelling. I still remember some of the women I met at my very first conference, and that was nearly a decade ago. Conferences also provide the opportunity to meet online friends in person. Connecting with writers via the ACFW email loop, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter is wonderful, but there’s a great deal to be said about being able to sit down with a friend over a cup of tea. To spend time one-on-one and to share in person. I’ve been blessed to form some really special friendships at conferences.

2. Learning: Conferences are chalked full of learning. From Continuing Sessions where you receive instruction over a series of days, to a daylong pre-conference workshop packed with in-depth teaching, to single hour presentations, there is something for everyone. I always leave a conference with a bevy of notes and newfound knowledge. Examples of advice I’ve learned directly from conference workshops include: how to properly format a manuscript, how to write a query letter (directly from an editor), how to submit to agents, how to deepen description, story structure, and the list continues.

3. Encouragement and Inspiration: A huge benefit of any writing conference is the inspiration and encouragement you come away with. Listening to speakers passionate about storytelling can’t help but rub off on you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a workshop and the ideas start percolating. The beauty of a Christian writing conference is the deepening of your passion and commitment to write for Christ, to share your struggles with others who understand (via the prayer room or over the dinner table), to celebrate your achievements (finishing your first manuscript, signing with an agent, getting your first editorial request), and to join fellow Christians in times of worship and prayer.

4. Networking: One of the greatest benefits of attending a conference is the opportunity to meet face-to-face with editors and agents. ACFW’s conference, for example, offers not only appointments with industry professionals scheduled through out the day, but also the opportunity to share meals with them. I’ve had the joy of chatting with numerous of agents and editors this way. I met my editor at the 2010 ACFW conference. His appointment slots were full, so I approached him after his Spotlight Session on Bethany House. He asked to see the first three chapters, and roughly two months later, I was offered a three-book contract. My first sale was a direct result of attending ACFW’s conference that year.

I know conferences can be expensive, so I’m thrilled a number of conferences, ACFW included, offer scholarships. If money is a factor, definitely look into the scholarship options.

I hope sharing my conference experiences and the benefits I’ve enjoyed have been of help and encouragement to you in deciding whether or not to attend a conference.

Question for you: Have you experienced any other benefits? If so, I’d love if you’d share. Which has been your favorite conference? Any fun and encouraging conference memories you’d like to share?

Dani Pettrey March 2013
Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom, and author. Her debut novel, Submerged, released in 2012 and her current release, Shattered, was released in February. Dani feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters’ faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two daughters. Visit her website at

This entry was posted in Advice, Conference, Encouragement, Fellowship, Friends of ACFW, tips. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Conference Benefits

  1. Ian says:

    Great post, Dani.

    And congratulations on the success of Submerged & Shattered. Fabulous to see them both doing so well.

    I attended ACFW last year. I was blown away by the spirit of the event. There was such warmth and generosity, I felt I’d come home. Funny, considering I live in Sydney, Australia.

    God was present. The spirit of the conference stayed with me for weeks after arriving back home. Any opportunity to be in His presence or to gain a better sense of His presence is too good a one to miss.


  2. Dani, You’re right on the money with the benefits listed. Honestly, I believe the networking and friendships that have come out of my conference attendance have been even more beneficial than the things I’ve learned about writing. It’s an expensive trip, but well worth it in the grand scheme of things. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I agree with Ian and Richard. The ACFW conferences are unlike the ABA conferences. The focus is so different…it’s not all about “me” but about honoring Him! The praise and worship is awesome and the speakers are encouraging and informative. And the friends you make from fellow writers to agents and editors is worth the price!

  4. Dani says:

    Thank you, Ian. So glad to hear how much you enjoyed attending the ACFW conference. That’s wonderful you were able to travel so far. I’d LOVE to visit your neck of the woods one day. Australia looks absolutely amazing!

    I completely agree–the spirit of the conference and fellowship definitely stay with you long after the conference ends.


  5. Dani says:

    Hi Richard,
    I wholeheartedly agree. The networking and friendships are such an amazing benefit of conferences. Can’t wait to see my friends this year!


  6. Dani says:

    So true, Patricia. There is an entirely different feel. I always leave ACFW feeling renewed, encouraged and inspired!

  7. Miranda says:

    I have felt so led to become an author. My whole life it has been my dream. I want to turn my day dreaming up of characters and scenarios, into a page turning glorification of Gods love. I just know that He is leading me this direction with my life and will open the doors along the way. I too, am a homeschooling mother of three and also a goat farmer. 🙂 I just heard about the conference from Colleen Coble and would love to go, but seen that the price was a bit out of my price range as homeschool studies and books take up most of our expenses. I seen where you meantioned the scholarships. But i cannot seem to find out where those are. Could you please direct me? Thank you, and God Bless.

  8. ACFW says:

    Hi Miranda,
    Unfortunately, our scholarship application deadline has already passed for this year’s ACFW conference. I hope you will look for it next spring for 2014. I know in the past many of our attendees are quite creative with coming up with financing to attend. Today may be the day to start thinking about our 2014 conference in St. Louis. 🙂

    Becky Yauger
    ACFW Web Manager

  9. Miranda says:

    Thank you. I will most certainly begin looking, planning, and praying for God to open those doors. 🙂