Wednesday, September 25, 2013

ACFW Conference First Time Attendee's Story

The View from an ACFW Conference First Time Attendee’s Seat

Today’s post should be about a craft subject, but I returned from the ACFW Conference Monday September 16th, and I’m filled with excitement. Instead of sharing a craft I’d like to tell you how God “knit” this journey together.

I've never been to a conference and the idea of attending one of the largest . . . Well, needless to say was scary. 

With faith, I filled out the registration. I chose the continuing education class and workshops I’d like to attend. I checked my four choices for agent appointments and my four choices for editor appointments, praying before, during, and after

I began to prepare. Spending hours researching the editors and agents I selected. What did they expect to see during an appointment? Should I take a One Sheet, the first chapter of my work in progress, the first three chapters, a proposal letter, or synopsis? Remember, we don't know whom we’ll see until we get to the conference. Oh, Lord what did I get myself into?

The enemy pecked away at my thoughts, “You’re wasting your time, you’re taking precious resources from your family” and on and on. You name it, I let it rear its ugly head in my thoughts. A pastor we had used to call it “stinkin’ thinkin’” (said with an exceptionally strong Mississippi accent).

Then, I took comfort in the fact He has overcome and will overcome. I started to pray for leading and peace. I wanted to know my writing was His will not mine. Seek Him first.

The day to leave home for the ACFW Conference arrived. I had done everything I knew to prepare for this trip. My husband reluctantly dropped me at the airport. I sat in a row of fellow flyers and prayed, and in God’s phenomenal fashion – He arranged I bump into my middle son’s mother in law . . . at Orlando International Airport, what are the chances. Only God, and only because this woman is a prayer warrior. Ok, God. I see You.

After safely arriving and a good night sleep, Thursday morning I decide to go get a coffee at the coffee IV shop in the lobby, and wouldn’t you know “Pumpkin Spice Latte” is available! Give God the glory for everything, right?! Anyway, back to the conference. As soon I stepped in line two ladies introduced themselves as ACFW attenders.

My first contacts. We sat in the lobby and talked. “What do you write? What’s your pitch? How long have you been writing? Are you published?” The conversation flowed. Then, another author joined us and two more. Suddenly I was going to lunch with ladies who were strangers twenty minutes before, but now shared a kindred spirit.

After lunch, registration opened, and the wonderful volunteers for ACFW did an excellent job and kept the lines moving. When I opened my registration packet I put my name tag together stuck my “First Time Attendee” ribbon on, took a deep breath, smiled at a nice lady next to me and – oh, she had her appointment schedule out. I’d forgotten about my appointments. You know that feeling when your stomach lurches into your chest? Well, that’s what I felt. I was sure not only would the editors and agents mock me out of the room, but they would spread the word I couldn't even write my name and address . . . But more on appointments later.

Early Bird was awesome. I highly recommend it and especially to first time attendees. I met a Genesis Finalist. Her humbleness was inspiring.

Friday was the official start of the conference. It began with a Pumpkin Spice Latte and First-Time Attendees Orientation. This is a Q. & A. time for those of us who have no idea what we’re doing. Again, all questions were answered with grace and wisdom. I thought, this wasn't so bad, maybe even fun! Until I remembered the appointments.

We moved to the “big” room, and Brandilyn Collins eloquently welcomed us, Rachel Hauck led us in a Holy Spirit filled worship, and Robin Jones Gunn delivered the Keynote Address. Robin is beautiful inside and out. The Lord oozes from her and gets all over everyone! She was inspiring, and because of her teaching, I began to pray for God’s reassurance that I’m following His will and writing to His glory. I recognize His dreams are better than mine, and I may not be here to meet the agent or editor of my dreams.

Saturday morning we gather for breakfast and worship,
then attendees dispersed to conference events. My first appointment was at 9:30 am. I gripped my little packet of information, as I waited in a horde of attenders who had appointments with other agents, mentors, editors, or publicists. The dedicated volunteer stood – and announced, “9:30 appointments . . . go on back”.

Um, okay, I’ll just be super gracious and let everyone else go first. I find the right room. There were six small round tables against the walls, each with two chairs. I locate one with the name I’m looking for, and it’s empty. What do I do? Should I ask? Should I leave? Then a lovely lady turns and holds out her hand. Wait, where’s her growl? Horns? Long talons? I shake her hand and introduce myself. We sit and talk, and she’s fantastic. Our fifteen minutes pass by in a flash. I almost skip out the door and down the hall flinging One Sheets and business cards as I go.

Oh, God. I see you!

The remaining time flew by, the classes and workshops were outstanding, the appointments were fulfilling, and the Gala was beautiful.

God came through loud and clear.

Do I think you have to attend a conference to get your answers? No.

But I know you’ll be blessed if you do.  


  1. I'm a reader, not a writer - but, enjoyed learning about the conference through the online comments, pics, audio, & video live casts. Was SO impressed by the comraderie there, the organization, the fun events, & the prayer room & worship services!

    1. Thank you for the comment. God always amazes me when I think I'm going or doing something for my reason and then He shows me His reason. And His way always turns out better than anything I had planned! Have an awesome day, Bonton!

  2. What a great experience you had and through your wonderful post, I feel like I attended as well. Thank you! I can only imagine how nervous and yet, how excited you must have been. I love to read and I love to write but the thought of publishers and editors and dates and deadlines is overwhelming to me. Thank you for doing what you do!

  3. Michelle, I loved getting to know you at ACFW. Be sure to keep in touch!

    1. Edie, so good to hear from you! I enjoyed meeting you too! We certainly will have to keep in touch.

  4. I loved reading about every step you took, knowing God was in this from the beginning, Michele. I know you were well prepared and I pray your manuscript gets into the right hands, and you're off, my friend! Enjoyed this blog so much!

    1. My dear friend! You're always so gracious and kind. Thank you for your comment. You always cheer me onward!

  5. Every time I attend, I go through that same conflict about "am I wasting family resources," especially travelling all the way from Canada. But I find it really is a time to refocus on God's guidance.

    1. So true, C.L. and God always has something for us when we attend with open hearts and hands.

  6. I love this view of the ACFW Conference and thank you so much for sharing!

  7. Thank you, Britney. Your comment means a lot.

  8. I'm glad you had fun!
    I hope to go next year or the following year in Dallas for sure.