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First Impressions

by Ian Anderson

My anxiety level increased as I approached the open door for the early-bird “writing skills” class. I hadn’t written anything for weeks and felt very unprepared for the session. Fortunately, when I walked into the large room 100+ people were already sitting down. I was happy that I could easily slip into anonymity.

This class was just what I needed. It was hands-on doing exercises. It woke me up, reinvigorated me to start writing and got me in the mood for what was to follow.

That was my introduction to an ACFW Conference. It was September 2012 in Dallas Forth Worth. Being an Aussie, it was a long way to come but I’d cushioned the journey by suggesting to my wife she join me. Proposing a two week vacation in New York and Washington DC before the conference sure helped my cause.

Immediately prior to the official opening, they held a session for all the “first-timers”. I entered the room of 150-odd people (I’m guessing), notice a guy sitting by himself on the end of a row (a favourite position of mine), introduce myself and sit down. Arthur is a Fort Worth local, so he didn’t have far to come, and had taken two days off from his teaching job to attend. I relax as Cara Putman and Brandilyn Collins, our hosts, get things underway. The 45-minute session ends with a 15-minute get to know other first timers. We’re split by writing genre and are soon forming small huddles, swapping introductions and business cards. Arthur and I hang out and head off to the big auditorium for the kick-off.

That was how my first experience of an ACFW Conference began. I didn’t want it to end. Even though my brain was mush after three days of information overload, I felt at home in this community who shared the passion for writing stories whilst walking with Jesus.

I felt affirmed.

Even now two years on, my heart is still smiling. I struggle to put words to the feeling. Is it joy, happiness, I’m not sure. Others have shared a similar feeling. We best sum it up as a feeling of being … home.

I met some lovely people, and continue the journey together with a handful. In friendship. In sharing our writing lives.

God is so so faithful. I was so struck by the many stories of His faithfulness: newbie authors like me being asked for their manuscripts, not by just one, or even two, but in some cases, by three publishers/agents. Or the way friendships were refreshed and renewed as virtual writing buddies met, some for the first time, or for the umpteenth time at this annual sojourn.

The tangible evidence of answered prayer, whether it was specific needs as prayed over by Brandilyn in the prayer room or simply the wonderful spirit of camaraderie and generosity that gently blew through the hallways, was inspirational.

God is good.

He’s at work.

If you’re a first timer this year, you’re going to love it. And you’ll want to go back again and again.

I won’t be there again this year and I so hope the Lord wants me to attend another one at some time in the future.

What do you most recall of your first ACFW Conference?

Ian AchesonIan Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney, Australia. Ian’s first novel, Angelguard is available in US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian’s website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter.

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3 Responses to First Impressions

  1. My first national conference was in Kansas City. Meeting Brandilyn Collins and Karen Kingsbury blew me away. They were celebrities to me, but they were warm and friendly and made everyone feel right at home. We were much smaller then as were the classes, but I learned so much and realized I had a long way to go get a manuscript ready for an editor.

    Maybe you can join us again some time soon. These conferences have been well worth the time and expense.

  2. LeAnne Hardy says:

    My first experience of ACFW conference and every other has been very similar. They leave me feeling like I am part of a community committed to serving the same Lord via fiction. I love the worship times and celebration of new accomplishments, not to mention the workshops.

  3. Ian says:

    Thanks Martha and LeAnne for your encouraging responses. I trust you’ll be blessed at this year’s event next week and experience many divine moments.