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Is the ACFW Conference Worth It?

by Lee Tobin McClain

Why spend all that money going to an ACFW conference? Many reasons, but my main one is that it jump-started my writing career. Here’s how it played out:

Five years ago, I attended ACFW in Indianapolis. I’d signed up for two agent appointments, a mentor critique, and a volunteer gig—basically everything possible. When I had car trouble driving there, I seriously considered turning back. I’m so glad I didn’t!

Agent appointment #1 went poorly. I’d come to expect at least a polite request to see more of the manuscript from such appointments, but this agent bluntly told me my Christian romantic suspense opening was weak, and she didn’t want to see more of it. Ouch!

My mentor appointment with the lovely Carrie Turansky went better; even though my car trouble had forced me to reschedule, Carrie was gracious and helpful. I’d sent her a different manuscript: the opening of a contemporary romance targeted toward Love Inspired. She had great ideas about improving the project, and her grace and kindness and inspiring words made me feel better about everything.

At this point, I realized I had a problem. I knew that the last morning of the conference, I had an appointment with my dream agent. I’d known of Karen Solem for years—she was a big deal at Harlequin/Silhouette—and she represented several Love Inspired authors. I really wanted the chance to work with her.

However, the polished romantic suspense novel I’d planned to pitch had just been shot down by another respected agent. What to do?

That night, after some panicky prayer, I hid out in my room and revised the contemporary romance opening as mentor Carrie Turansky had advised. I printed it out in the hotel’s business center… and then prayed some more.

When I went to my appointment with Karen, I pitched her the novel opening I’d just revised… and she liked it! Long story short, she agreed to represent me and sold that book to Love Inspired. Another contract followed, and another. Now I’m a happy Love Inspired author.

Most recently, Karen has helped me expand into the world of ABA. She took my proposal for three longer romances to HQN, the mainstream, single title branch of Harlequin. Those three books come out in 2019. I’m thrilled that I’m able to have a light faith element and keep the romance sweet in these longer novels. I am hoping to reach a whole new audience with these books and have them cross over with my Love Inspired readership. Exactly what I’ve always dreamed of doing.

Thing is… it would never have happened if I hadn’t gone to ACFW and taken advantage of all the opportunities there.

The huge bonus is that I meet up with my closest writer friends at ACFW each year. We brainstorm new career directions, celebrate successes, and commiserate about writing difficulties. We’ve even acted out suspense scenes in the lobby of a fancy hotel. The friendship and fellowship I’ve found through ACFW is every bit as valuable as the career advances I’ve made.

Is it worth it to go to the ACFW conference? For me, it’s made all the difference.

Is the ACFW Conference worth it? Thoughts from @LeeTobinMcClain today on #ACFWBlogs. Click To Tweet

Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author Lee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. When she’s not writing emotional love stories, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.


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