by Karen Ball
The American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference (acfw.com) is just around the corner (Sept. 18-23 in Dallas, TX), and I’m seeing increasing buzz online about all the fun attendees are going to have. It’s true, too. Writers’ conferences are a lot of fun, especially those focused on the Christian market. In fact, I’ve equated them to church camp because the feel is very much the same. It’s a delight to be with folks you haven’t seen face-to-face for months, even years. And there’s just no joy to compare with being surrounded by folks who love words and writing and reading as much as you do. So it’s little wonder that people are excited. Heck, I’m excited. I’m looking forward to copious amounts of hugs and laughter and coffee shared with those of like mind and heart.
And yet, for all the great fellowship and teaching we’ll find at ACFW and other writer’s conferences, allow me to give two cautions.
First, be strategic. If you wanted to, you could do things from dawn to…well, dawn! Between workshops and teaching tracks, general sessions and panels, spotlight sessions and late-night events, author and editor meetings, brainstorming and marketing sessions…you can find something to fill every moment of every day. I know that’s the temptation, especially considering that conferences aren’t cheap. After all, you want to get your money’s worth, right? As true as that is, you also need to make sure you’re not overdoing it. (Consider reading some of the related posts linked at the bottom of the page.)
Writers’ conferences are among the most exhausting thing I do, and I’m an off-the-scale extrovert! For most of you folks, who tend to tip the chart at introvert with a capital I, writers’ conferences can pretty much do you in. Not only can you end up physically exhausted, but your emotions can run the gamut as well. Hopes rise and fall, dreams come true and crash and burn, and egos are inflated, bruised, and decimated.
So be strategic. Go ahead and sign up for whatever you want to do, but pay attention to your body and emotions. If you start dragging, be willing to head to your room to rest. If you’re feeling hurt or discouraged, get away from the crowd with a good friend and talk it through. Or take some time to immerse yourself in God’s Word. And don’t worry about missing out on anything. Almost everything you want to attend will be available as a recording!
Second, be grounded. Those emotional ups and downs I just mentioned? You can avoid most of them if you prepare your heart and spirit before you head to conference. Remember, the One who tasked you to write has you—and your career—in His hands. He is at work on your behalf, not to make you a best-seller, but to make you the best tool for His work. As much as we’d like to think this whole gig is about selling books, it’s not. It’s about obedience. About writing, because that’s the task He’s given us. It’s about seeking to serve Him and others through the gifts He’s given us.
As you go to conference, go in anticipation, not of what He’s going to do for you, but what He’s going to do to refine you. And use you. That’s where the greatest blessings lie. And that’s where freedom lies. The freedom to be at conference and enjoy every encounter, every event. To rejoice with those who experience wondrous blessings. To commiserate with those who face disappointment. And to be Christ to all you meet.
I promise you, that will make this conference the best you’ve ever had!