Thursday, September 1, 2016

One Writer's First Experience at the ACFW Conference

by Lynn H Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I attended my very first ACFW(American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference last week. 

I know many of you may be thinking about attending ACFW at some point in the future so I thought I’d share my thoughts and impressions with you.


Here’s my day-by-day guide to ACFW.
Day 1 - Thursday
This year the conference was held at the Omni in Nashville. The Omni was lovely. Nice rooms. Excellent service. It’s a very large hotel, and it has to be because there were close to 600 people in attendance. I’ve attended quite a few conferences, so when people warned me about how big ACFW was . . . well, it’s not that I didn’t believe them, but I wasn’t worried about it.

I probably should have been just a little worried. My introverted self wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer mass of people. SO. MANY. PEOPLE.

Fortunately, I know myself well enough to know the feeling of “I need to get away from all these people” will subside once I get my bearings, which really didn’t take very long. Thursday afternoon and evening were packed with worship, keynote, genre dinner, and publisher spotlights. All of which were fabulous and not to be missed.

Day 2 - Friday
Friday was an interesting day. The morning started off with a zone breakfast where I had a chance to get to know other writers from my zone. Then there was a worship time and then it was off to continuing classes, appointments, and drop-ins with publishers. It’s a full day and looks different for everyone depending on their schedule. Friday evening is open. In my case, I joined other Love Inspired authors for a meal with our editors and it was a wonderful opportunity to finally meet many of my online friends.

Day 3 - Saturday
Saturday began with worship and then went straight into classes. I had a blast volunteering to be a hostess for a couple of the classes I attended and I highly recommend signing up to volunteer. It’s a great way to feel like you’re a part of the event. Saturday evening ends with the Gala and awards ceremony. It’s a lot of fun to dress up, but if you’re worried about it, know that you don’t have to go with a tuxedo or a floor length gown. Regular Sunday clothes will work just fine. 

Overall Impressions
ACFW is big. It’s intense. The schedule is packed. But people are friendly, helpful, and kind.

ACFW is filled with opportunity. There’s more opportunity than you can take advantage of in three days. There are more classes than you can take and more people than you can meet. But God is in control and time after time the “right” person sits down beside you or winds up on the elevator with you.

ACFW is absolutely about helping you in your career. But it’s even more about helping you write for the One who called you. I wish I could fully convey to you how even in the cacophony, God’s Spirit was evident to me. The worship times were precious, and I would argue that they are critical. When everything is swirling around you and you feel like you have to be “on” every moment, it’s vital to spend time each day refocusing on what matters and why you’re doing this in the first place. The classes also pointed me back to the Creator. I attended several classes so full of Scripture and Truth that my seat felt like holy ground.

I have a few regrets. I was in the same room with a few authors that I just couldn’t work up the nerve to talk to, and I wish I had. I also wish I’d taken more pictures of the authors I DID get up the nerve to talk to. I tried to be friendly, but sometimes I just sat quietly by myself (particularly in classes). It’s my coping mechanism in large groups, but I wish I’d pushed through some of that and been more intentional about meeting people.

I mostly have joys. I got to hang out with lots of writing friends, and that’s always a good thing. I got to meet many of my virtual friends and discovered that they are absolutely delightful in real life. I laughed a lot and more than once I heard the still, small voice of God and that confirmation will resound in my mind and heart for a long time.
I left ACFW exhausted but enthusiastic about my writing and my career, and looking forward to the next time.

So how about you? Did you attend ACFW? Did you have any huge moments while you were there? Or maybe ACFW is on your wish list? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

TWEETABLE
A writer looks back on the #ACFW Conference - @LynnHBlackburn (Click to Tweet)


Lynn Huggins Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. You can follow her real life happily ever after on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at lynnhugginsblackburn.com.

14 comments:

  1. It sounds like a lot of fun. I will definitely have to attend next year. I do have a question....where do you find other Christian fiction writers? I have a few writer friends, but none that write fiction. I would love to connect with some, but mostly the fictional. Writers that I meet are not Christian. And it does seem to make a difference, mostly in the kind of conversations we have. Sometimes I feel so alone. If you have some thoughts on that, it would be great :)

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    1. Hi Lisa! Thanks for stopping by! Do you mind telling us where you live? We might have some folks here who are Christian writers near you and they would be able to give you some great suggestions. I'm blessed because there are a lot of Christian writers near me (I'm in South Carolina), but I have friends in the Northeast who don't have anyone nearby. Without knowing specifically where you are, I would say the very best way is to attend a conference. It could be ACFW, but there are also a lot of excellent conferences all over the country that are a little bit smaller and might be closer to home. Another way is to join ACFW and plug into the email loops they offer and get to know others in your geographical zone. There might even be a local ACFW chapter near you. One other way is to follow blogs like this one, follow the people who contribute to this blog and the people who comment--find them on FB, Twitter, sign up for their newsletters, etc. and you'll start to see a lot of the same names popping up again and again. It isn't the same as face-to-face relationships, but the online community can help you feel connected to the larger body of Christian writers. I have online friends who I've never met in person but who are faithful to pray for me, rejoice with me, and answer questions I have! I hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you aren't comfortable sharing any personal details in this space. I'd love to help you connect!

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  2. It sounds like a lot of fun. I will definitely have to attend next year. I do have a question....where do you find other Christian fiction writers? I have a few writer friends, but none that write fiction. I would love to connect with some, but mostly the fictional. Writers that I meet are not Christian. And it does seem to make a difference, mostly in the kind of conversations we have. Sometimes I feel so alone. If you have some thoughts on that, it would be great :)

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  3. Lynn, mega congrats on winning this year's ACFW Carol Award for Covert Justice!

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    1. Thank you, Sandy! :) I'm still pinching myself! :)

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  4. I have been a member of ACFW since 2001 when it was a fledgling organization and have been blessed to have attended every conference since they began. The first was in Kansas City when there were only 100 attendees--including the presenters! It's been exciting to see ACFW grow the way it has. I love our conferences. Very God-focused and unique in that it's all about fiction. Most conferences include many writing disciplines. I am not an introvert at all, so large crowds don't freak me out, but I do understand how it can be intimidating. As you attend more ACFW conferences, you'll be more at ease and will know more people. Even so, I only know about half of the attendees (maybe less). Hey, you are published yourself and have your own peeps there through Love Inspired. I'm so glad you came to conference, Lynn. I encourage you to gather your courage and go up to authors whose name you recognize and introduce yourself. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming and approachable!!!! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Wow! Every conference since 2001?! That's amazing! It was awesome to meet so many of my online friends and actually hear their voices for the first time. And I've reached out on FB to a few people I didn't get up the nerve to talk to. :) And of course they've all said, "Next time say something!" Each time will be a little easier! Thanks for the encouragement!

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  5. Thank you for this detailed post on the conference! I'm sending it to my husband, lol. I haven't been to a conference since 2003 for a variety of reasons but am putting ACFW 2017 or 2018 on my list of goals. I'm in Canada so our "Chapter" is all online. I'd love to see some chapters up here some day.

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    1. Hi Laurie! I met several Canadians at ACFW this year! :) I hope you can come soon!

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  6. Thank you for this detailed post on the conference! I'm sending it to my husband, lol. I haven't been to a conference since 2003 for a variety of reasons but am putting ACFW 2017 or 2018 on my list of goals. I'm in Canada so our "Chapter" is all online. I'd love to see some chapters up here some day.

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  7. Thanks for the report of your first ACFW, Lynn. Believe it or not, I haven't been to one, either, but I'm definitely looking forward to next year! And congrats on your Carol Award, Lynn! So proud of you!

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    1. Vonda! I'm surprised to hear this! You'll love it. :) And Thank You so much! I'm still not convinced it happened. :)

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  8. Gosh, Lynn, you did a WHOLE lot better than I did at my first ACFW conference, girlfriend, so I'm proud of you! But goodness, I wasn't up for a Carol Award (called Book of the Year WAY back then!), so WOW!! SUPER CONGRATS!!

    My 1st ACFW experience was so bad (and so good!) that I wrote a blog about it once entitled CONFERENCE CPR: CRY, PRAY, REPENT, so you can guess how first one went. However, it ended up AMAZING by the grace of God. This year was my 13th or 14th ACFW Conference, and it was really nice, so I guess I'm starting to settle in. :)

    Next time you go, though, come down to the lobby bar area (the Library at the Omni this year where the fireplace was) after 9:00 PM any of the nights of the conference, and you will meet SCADS of great people and authors. I am part of the Seekerville blogs for writers, and the Seekers meet and hob nob there nightly, so next year, come on down because we'd love to meet and mingle with you too, okay?

    Hugs and CONGRATS on that Carol!!
    Julie

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    1. Oh my word! It's Julie Lessman! (Sorry. Fan-girl moment here). :) Thank you for sharing your experiences and for the invitation. I'll definitely take you up on it! :)

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