by Tamela Hancock Murray
As most of you know, I am just back from the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference, held in Dallas this year. Attendance was nearly 700 this year — amazing in this sluggish economy. People are still buying books, which means authors keep writing, and publishers are acquiring. That’s the good news.
Contrary to the opinions of bloggers who make their living expressing anger and outrage about publishing, I didn’t see bad news coming out of this conference. Positive energy vibrated. Though our individual careers are important, we are in publishing for the Lord, and no one seemed to forget that. Rather, strangers became friends and fellowship strengthened ties. I haven’t spoken to anyone who had an overall negative experience at this conference. That’s not to say no one suffered disappointment. But disappointment leads to new direction and growth. Guidance is a big reason why we go to conferences. Authors learn from editors and agents, and we agents continue to keep on top of what authors are writing and editors are pursuing.
Many writers, agents, and editors taught classes and participated in spotlights and panels. I participated on a panel along with several other agents. I was privileged to teach one class solo, another with our agency President, Steve Laube, and a third with my respected colleague, Karen Ball. We were all slotted in the same time period as other excellent offerings, and we appreciate each and every attendee who chose our workshops. Thankfully, audio recordings will be available on CD in a couple of months so you can listen to any workshops you missed. Check the web site for details. In the meantime, you can order CDs from 2010 and 2011 from the site.
Like many other industry professionals in attendance, I took appointments with authors. For me, this is a conference highlight. I enjoy speaking with authors about their work, whether to offer guidance on the project itself, career advice, or excitement about a proposal that appears to be ready to submit to editors. I’m not able to make a firm decision based on a brief appointment, but connecting in person and getting a feel for the writer’s work, hopes, and dreams energizes me.
Though I meet with lots of editors during the conference, for me, meetings rarely turn into pitch sessions. Editors and agents hear so many pitches from authors that for agents to add more isn’t productive. Rather, we use our meetings to listen, learn, and strengthen our already robust relationships with other professionals.
The conference gives me time with many of my authors — a definite bonus and great fun!
The ACFW conference also gives us a chance to gussy up for a big awards Gala. I love this part, because it’s a time of honoring hard-working writers, editors, and agents, and a time of sharing that’s less about business and more about friendships.
My only regret? That, in spite of making myself available at least 16 hours every day, I still didn’t have as much time as I wanted to spend with everyone I wished to see. But there’s always next year! September 13-16, 2013 in Indianapolis, in fact. Find more information on future conferences here.
Hope to see you then!
What is your favorite part of conferences?
From a career standpoint, what is the biggest benefit?
Share a funny story or conference highlight with us.