The conference schedule is in
full swing. If you will be attending any of the several available, your
nerves may be bundled tightly. Don’t worry. Everybody wants your
conference experience to match or exceed your expectations. Here are a
few easy steps you can take to prepare for whichever conference you
will be going to … and if it’s ACFW’s
in Dallas, September 20–23, I can’t wait to meet you!
1) If you are making appointments, do your research ahead of time. Most
conferences will list on their Websites the people available for
appointments. For example, ACFW offers editor, agent, mentor, and specialty appointments, and you
can find their bios and, even more important, what they are currently
looking for if they are an editor or agent. With mentors you can learn
what they write and have to offer. Review the bios before you make your
selections. If Jacque Alberta with ZonderKidz considers only YA, then
don’t select an appointment with her if you write historical romance.
The editors and agents who attend are as excited to meet their next
writers/clients as you are to meet them.
2) If you aren’t ready for an
editor or agent appointment, then work with a mentor. The best advice I
received before my first ACFW conference was to focus on
learning rather than stressing about an editor or agent appointment
when I wasn’t ready. Instead, I focused on talking to other writers and
sucking every bit of writing knowledge out of my time. It removed so
much pressure from the experience. Even so, I walked out of the
conference with the invitation to send proposals to several editors …
when I was ready.
3) Every conference has a different feel and focus. Pick the right one
for you. ACFW focuses exclusively on
Christian fiction. If you write erotica or nonfiction, then ACFW isn’t
the conference for you. However, if you want to build your skills in
fiction writing, this is the one conference where you will find more
than 700 people gathered for the purpose of learning about and
discussing Christian fiction.
4) Don’t be afraid that a large conference will be overwhelming. ACFW
has worked hard to develop programs that help the most introverted
person thrive. Brandilyn Collins and I run a first-time orientation
program that focuses on the details of the conference, framing pitches,
meeting other first-timers (there are usually around 200), and
answering the questions. I also run a similar program as an online
course. Then immediately before the conference begins, we get all the
first-timers in one room, answer more questions, and then have them mix
and mingle. The goal is that when you enter the ACFW general sessions,
you will already have connected with others who can share the
conference with you. It’s a great way to move from feeling lost in a
crowd to making lasting friendships.
Writer conferences are a great
way to take your writing to the next level. I look forward to meeting