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.
The highlight for me was two of my friends receiving their first contracts!!! There is nothing more exciting than seeing someone get that moment of realizing all the hard work has paid off.
This ACFW was my first conference ever, and I loved it. I learned lots, met many people I’ve connected with online. I think my favorite part was meeting so many writers and being able to cheer on those who received requests for partials or fulls.
I think a highlight was my editor and agent meeting. Sharing my story with them and finding that they both saw promise in it was a great encouragement for this newer writer. I’m sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to meet you, Tamela. Like you said, there’s next year. 🙂
Because the conference was in Dallas, many of my Oklahoma writer friends attended, carpooling and rooming together. Whereas last year, the highlight was making new friends, this year, it was strengthening old friendships. What a joy it was to have friends around every corner, hanging out near the appointments to see how each others’ appointments went, and cheering each other on.
I look forward to future conferences, where I can meet new writers and form strong friendships with them, too.
The absolute highlight for me was just getting to meet all of my online friends in person, and to feel without a shadow of a doubt that I was where I belonged.
I’ve only been to three major conferences, but ACFW 2012 was my all time favorite! With more than 13 authors attending from my home ACFW group in Houston, I was able to connect with these precious ladies on a deeper level. My two agent appointments were better than I could have ever hoped for. I met some people, but I regret not being more outgoing and introducing myself like others in our group did. I got to meet some of my Facebook friends in person and that was a blessing, but I rode the elevator with Cynthia Ruchti who I adore and was too shy to introduce myself (I know, dumb). I’m already looking forward to ACFW 2013 and vow to let myself be known! By the way Mrs. Murray, I had hoped to see you at conference but never saw you amongst the 700! Oh well, there’s always next year!
I couldn’t make it this year due to family constraints, but I’m already planning for next year. I’ve lived in and around Indianapolis for more than 20 years, so I’m excited that my first ACFW conference will be on familiar territory! (It will also be a unique way not to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary on the 12th.)
I went with no agenda and just prayed for the next thing to do. It was a delight and pleasure to be a critiquer and share the love of writing as art with the ladies that trusted me with their work. Wow!
I adored spending a little time with Tamela, my friends, and my editors. Being swept away by Danica and Gina to swing dance for an hour was an unexpected hilarious romp. I know they are planning it for next year too! But to sit and learn from others in so many areas of the industry is such a genuine blessing. I went like Tamela 16+ hours a day and it wasn’t enough.
Loved SuzyQ’s store and being able to visit with industry experts in pocket moments.
Loved seeing old friends and making new ones. Also encouraged by the fantastic offering of classes. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing worship time. Truly a worthwhile experience.
This year God really spoke to me about nurturing relationships and focusing one on one. It really is difficult to spend time with everyone you want to see, but I know it turned out the way it was supposed to. Already looking forward to next year!
I haven’t made it to an ACFW conference yet, but it looks like I’ll be able to attend the next one! I live 30 minutes away from Indy. Super excited for next year!
Tamela Hancock Murray
Sara, that’s so cool! I’ve spoken to several people who plan to drive next year since the location will be close for them. See you there!
LOVED LOVED conference this year!!! I’d missed out the past two years due to health reasons of my baby, so was SO happy she was well enough for me to come this year!
this year was different… I wasn’t pitching to agents and editors. SO much less pressure! I got to see my book in the bookstore for the first time… got to meet several fellow writers and give some big hugs and have tons of laughs.
But the biggest thing I got out of it was the reminder that while the business side of publishing is super important, that it’s nothing unless we’re serving the One who gave us the talent in the first place. I write to please HIM first and foremost!
As always, such a pleasure to see you and talk with you for even a few moments. Thank you so much for participating in the conference. It’s because of faculty like you, who give of their time so graciously, that the conference is such a success!
Debbie Lynne Costello
I think the Gala awards with my one critique partner winning the Genesis and my other critique partner winning a Carol had to be the highlight. And then it was topped off with several fun hours of girl time with some very special ladies.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Debbie Lynne, seeing your genuine emotion and happiness over your friends’ success really touched me.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Robin, I really appreciate your kind words. Your gift for organization and ability to make everyone feel special make the conference a wonderful place to be!
One of my favorite parts of conference is being surrounded by nearly 700 other writers who argue with the people in their heads. And lose. Up until the last few weeks I’ve been pretty isolated from other writers.
For my career, it was putting a face to my name for the agent I’ve been talking with via email. I didn’t pitch to her, but she has my face as we continue our conversation.
Highlights… so many! Seeing Kathy Maher win the Genesis, two friends win Carols, staying up way too late talking with one of my mentors. Hearing said mentor gush about me to her agent at the banquet. And of course being able to tell you what an encouragement you were to me last year.
Rajdeep "call me Raj" Paulus
Finally had a chance to reflect and write about Dallas! For my second writing conference, I felt both encouraged and… challenged! http://rajdeeppaulus.com/two-words-acfw-post-conference-reflections/