ACFW2016: My Perspective

ACFWThis past week/weekend was the annual ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. It’s the conference I look forward to each year. And for good reason. The teaching is phenomenal. The speakers are great. And the networking and fellowship is the reason to be there. This year was no exception. So, without further ado, let me give you the rundown of what I thought of this year’s conference:

People at the conferenceThe Classes. ACFW sets each class at a level (Freshman-Senior) based on which level of writer it will be most applicable to. I find this very helpful. In some areas, I am further along than in others, so this system means something to me. I walked away with great things from every class I took. Spiritually, I gained from “The Two Realms” the most. While craft-wise, the Early Bird and the Post Session were the most packed (and the longest) sessions. I have already started applying what I learned to my work in progress!

The Early Bird brought some great questions to ask yourself as you look at your manuscript. Questions that will enhance and deepen your plot and writing. While the Post Session went a long way to helping this “pantser” understand the importance of some high level plotting.

conference1The Keynote. Nothing at this conference was as challenging as what the keynote speaker, Ted Dekker, brought to us. Am I right, fellow ACFWers? I am still trying to unpack everything he said. He spoke about intimacy with God and “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” through our writing. It was beautiful and through provoking at the same time.

The Pitching. For me, the pitching is one of the highlights. Not necessarily that I love pitching. But it’s always good practice, a good skill to keep honed. Whether I’m pitching to an agent (which I did…twice), or to another author at lunch. After all, they are readers too. Being able to talk about your books in a concise way is a skill we all must acquire and maintain.

meeting peopleThe Opportunities to Meet Other Authors. This goes hand in hand with the next point, but what I’m talking about here is the authors we fan-girl. The ones we look up to. These big conferences are a chance to walk up to them and say to their face, “I love your work. Can I tell you about my book?” I got that very chance this past weekend. One of my favorite authors, Tamara Leigh, was in the coffee shop with her laptop (probably working…oops). I walked up to her and told her how much I enjoyed her work. And proceeded to tell her how it inspired my own work. Then we chatted a little about one of my books. How cool is that!?!

supportThe Networking. This is, by far, the reason that conferences exist, in my opinion. The classes are great…you can get that online. The pitching is wonderful…and you can do that at home or through your computer. The speakers are tremendous…but you can read compelling blogs and find great speakers online too. But nothing can replace the networking. The face-to-face bumping into another author and striking up a conversation that leads to a connection you didn’t have before. And who knows where that might lead?

All in all, you know my stance: conferences are well worth the money and time and effort you put into them. They show publishers, agents, and acquisition editors that you are investing in yourself and learning more about your craft. And that’s only ONE of the MANY benefits to you. I say take a chance and check one out. Start with a local conference, a small one if you must, but GO! Experience! And have fun!

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