A friend once told me, if you’re serious about writing, you’ll be serious about attending conferences. They offer help on so many fronts—workshops, building friendships within the writing community, meeting with agents, and networking.
I was not able to attend the ACFW, but I’m pleased to include the following experience from first-time attendee, Kathleen Bailey.
Kathleen Bailey writes:
I was able to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in Nashville, TN. I’ve been writing Christian fiction seriously for about 20 years, and this was the first time it was feasible for me to go.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Due to a mistake on my end, there was no room for me at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. But there was room at the Inn at Opryland, a smaller boutique hotel also owned by Gaylord. I was able to ride the free shuttle bus between hotels, and missed very little of the event.
I was on hand for the keynote address from author, Debbie Macomber, who also signed a book for me (FAN GIRL MOMENT). I made it to all the meals, including a free breakfast offered by Love Inspired. I attended classes on tension and emotion, women’s fiction, and other topics and I met with two agents who agreed to see my work.
I got lost — a lot – but there was always someone to help me cope with the vastness of the Gaylord Opryland Resort. I ate too much, but walked it off trying to make it to all my sessions. (Advice I’m glad I heeded: bring flats.)
I soaked in the worship segment held before each group session or keynote. And in the prayer room, on my knees, God reached me right down to the bone and I surrendered my writing to Him again.
I enjoyed the fellowship of people of like minds, whether in a formal session or a chance encounter. We were all there for the same purpose, to glorify God through the written word. Egos dissolved in His presence, and the multi-published authors became as approachable as the newbies. And like the newbies, they glowed when you told them you enjoyed a particular novel.
I was encouraged as an agent told me she’d see my project, and if this didn’t work for her, she wanted to see another one.
ACFW conferences always conclude with the Saturday-night gala, a formal dinner and awards ceremony. I knew this was going to cause a problem — I was up for an award, and due to the shuttle bus schedule, I’d have to leave for my hotel by 8:15. Even a writer can do that kind of math, and I resigned myself to missing the awards ceremony.
A new friend couldn’t believe I wasn’t going. “But what if you win?” she asked the afternoon of the gala. “Don’t you want to be there to pick up your award?”
Did I? I looked down at my bulging folder of notes, at the digital camera stuffed with moments that may never come again. Remembered God’s touch on me in the worship services and as I poured out my soul in the prayer room.
Remembered sitting under the tutelage of experienced authors, huddling with agents as they explained the vagaries of the Christian publishing market, making new friends and meeting in the flesh people I’d only known as names on blog posts. Being prayed for and praying for others.
I gave the only possible answer: “I’ve already won,” I said.
Kathleen Bailey is a freelance writer with 35 years’ experience in nonfiction, newspaper, and inspirational fields. After 35 years in print journalism, magazines, and newspapers, she semi-retired to pursue Christian fiction. Her debut novel, an Oregon Trail romance, not yet titled, will release on Sept. 20, 2019 through White Rose Publishing, an imprint of Pelican. Kathleen has been named as a finalist in numerous awards, including Maggies, Tara Awards, Lone Star Awards, and this year’s ACFW’s Genesis. She won awards in the Phoenix Rattler contest Indiana Golden Opportunity, and this year’s Genesis.