Wednesday, August 1, 2012

ACFW Conference

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Proverbs 15:22

I've decided to use my blog as a survey of sorts today. Recently my husband surprised the socks off me (a term my mom is fond of:) by telling me we have the funds and childcare available to let me go to the ACFW Conference in Dallas! Before that, I hadn't even considered the possibility.

At first I was beyond thrilled, but as I began thinking more and more about it, and after I read Jody Hedlund's How to Know When to Go to a Writing Conference, I started to question if I'm ready. Going to the conference would be a big financial commitment and I want to make sure I'm using the money, and my time, wisely.

I've heard that one of the biggest benefits of going to the conference is the ability to pitch to an agent and an editor, but currently my WIP isn't ready for that. I know I could finish it in time for the conference (I'm in the rewriting and editing phase), but it's never been critiqued, it's never been in a contest and I'm not even sure if it's quite "there," yet. But should that stop me from going to ACFW?

So, here are my questions for those of you who've gone to the conference:
Was your manuscript "pitch" ready when you went the first time?
If my manuscript isn't ready, is it wise to make appointments with an agent and editor, just to talk about my idea and learn from them?
In your opinion, what is the biggest benefit of going to the conference - do you agree it's the agent/editor appointments?

For those of you who haven't gone before:
Are you going this year?
Is your story ready to pitch?
What are you looking forward to?

I appreciate your insight on this subject. I've had the opportunity to hear Laura Frantz' perspective (thanks, Laura!) and Lindsay Harrel's (thanks, Lindsay!) and I'm eager to hear yours, too.


  1. I hope you find everyone's comments helpful, Gabe! :)

  2. Okay, I think the answers might be different for everybody--especially depending on financial things and such. BUT, here's my take: sooo much of the value, to me, in conferences may not be something you can measure in firm terms. Pitches and whether or not they result in MS requests, that's measurable. But friendships, networking, learning, the chance to meet authors you admire in person...that stuff isn't as measurable. Also, going to a conference is proof to that someday agent/editor that you're investing in your craft. To me, that value is sky-high. I've had some fun developments lately--and they didn't necessarily happen because of a pitch, but because of connections made at a conference...and, of course, because of God.

    All that said, now I'll actually answer your questions. Haha!

    Was your manuscript "pitch" ready when you went the first time?
    Yes, it was.

    If my manuscript isn't ready, is it wise to make appointments with an agent and editor, just to talk about my idea and learn from them?
    I think it depends on the agent/editor. I believe most are so kind and they want to help and they're probably open to that! But I probably can't speak for them. :)

    In your opinion, what is the biggest benefit of going to the conference - do you agree it's the agent/editor appointments?
    I answered that in my rambling paragraph above. :)

    Hope you get lots of helpful advice!

  3. Good morning, ladies! I went on Rachelle Gardner's blog last night and looked up "Writer's Conferences" and found a wealth of knowledge. Melissa, her words mirror your own. Conferences are so much more than your fifteen minute agent/editor appointments, they are for learning, growing, connecting, listening, sharing, encouraging, dreaming, reality-checks!, Q & A's and so much more. Thank you for sharing your take - I can't wait to hear what your fun, recent developments are! :)

    Lindsay, thank you, thank you. :)

  4. I read Jody's post. I plan to attend, but I'm not sure if I'm going. I took the time off of work, and I started to fill out the registration form.

    The plus column would be headed by meeting my agent in person. We connect all the time through email, but meeting her would be awesome.

    Another plus would be that I would personally pitch to some editors.

    The minus column is only headed by the fact that my son is moving to California to go to Law School. Hubby and I have been thinking about taking that time in September to go out and see him, and his know, make sure he's okay.

    So for now, it's up in the air. I know I have to make a decision very soon.

    I've been thinking about doing a day or two in Dallas, then heading to California for several days from there. We'll see how it goes.

    I do think Melissa is right - making friends, meeting other authors, agents, and editors, and networking is a huge plus plus plus!

  5. My manuscript was ready to pitch. I met with one agent who wasn't interested in it, but I learned so much from the experience. I would recommend signing up for a mentor appointment. You can do a "practice" pitch with an experienced author and he/she can help you feel more prepared for the next time you do pitch.

    I would love to meet you at conference!!!

  6. Loree, that sounds like a hard decision to make! A couple days in Dallas and on to California sounds like a good compromise. If I go, I hope to meet you! I love talking with historical reenactors and if they're authors, all the better! Add to that, you're a beautiful woman of faith - I know we'd hit it off. :)

    Julie - I hadn't considered a mentor appointment, instead - that does sound like a great idea. Thanks! I'd love to meet you, too!!

  7. Gabrielle,
    My first conference was the North Texas Christian Writers Conference last September, and I went with Sherrinda.I didn't pitch, but had lunch with Mary DeMuth's table and shared an appointment with Gayle Martin to critique a few pages of my book.The experience was fantastic and I was sort of depressed when it was over.
    While blogs keep writers connected, there is nothing like the energy of a room full of Christian writers all supporting each other. I learned so much from that conference that I have incorporated into my writing on an everyday basis.
    I read Jody's post too, and I'm weighing both sides. Pitching can be the focus for some, but that is only a 15-30 minutes out of a 4-day conference of workshops.I don't think it should be the sole reason for attending.

    On a side note, I had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a person sitting at Mary's table.The poor woman was embarrassed, but thanked me for saving her life. That was definitely a conference bonus.You never know why God is steering you in a certain direction.I hope He is steering you to the conference. I don't think you'll regret it.

  8. Ava, performing the Heimlich maneuver on someone gives a new definition to "benefits of the conference"! :) Wow. Can I sit with you while we eat?

    After reading Julie's comments above, I went on the ACFW website and checked out some of the mentors available. They look incredible and I think I'd get even more from an appointment with them, than I would with an agent right now. Also, I love what you said about the energy from a room full of Christian writers. For me, that would be a glimpse of what Heaven looks like!

  9. Gabrielle, visiting Rachelle's blog was the smartest thing to do. (That was going to be my two-cents worth of advice.) I can't wait to see you there!

  10. Gabe, all I can say is to pray about. God will lead you to the right decision. I know you are a women of faith so I feel you will find your answer.

  11. Aww, Gabrielle, I hope you decide to go and then blog about it, so I can live vicariously through you! Grin. Seriously, that mentoring sounds great and you could probably learn lots from the classes. What I wouldn't give to go and meet some of you writing peeps in real life!

  12. I think you'll go and end up having an amazing time and putting everything you learn to use in finishing your WIP!

  13. Go for it, Gabrielle! Yes, pitching is a great thing to do at a conference and so are attending the workshops, but I think one of the best things is networking - meeting agents/editors/other writers. Then later, when you feel your manuscript is ready, you've made connections.

  14. Donna, I hope we can meet! I'd love to have longer conversations than just a little here a little there Monday, Wednesday, Friday - but I'll take what I can get!

    Nancy, thanks for stopping by today. Yes, you're right, prayer is the best way to go.

    Heather, I know how you feel! Before my husband surprised me by telling me I could go, I was bummed that I wouldn't be able to meet all these amazing people. I will be sure to take lots and lots of pictures.

    Johanna, I think you're right.

    Stacy, if I've learned anything these past six months (and I've learned a LOT!), it's that connections are vital in the publication process. Thanks for your insight.

  15. Weighing in late in the game -- not reading others' comments because, hey, it's going on 1 am and I still have over 100 emails in my inbox.
    I know, so not your problem.
    Go, go, go, go to ACFW!
    The best benefit of going is not pitching -- although that is an excellent reason to go to ACFW
    The best benefit of going is networking -- building relationships with other writers. Meeting people face-to-face.
    We writers need each other and you will love being with other people who "get" you. You will come away so, so encouraged.
    Hug your husband, pack you bags and get thee to the ACFW conference!

  16. Hi Gabrielle! No, I'm not going to go this year. I wanted to. Someone provided the money for me to go. But when it became clear that God was moving my family to Kentucky, the door shut soundly.

    You're right, such a big financial investment should not be done lightly. I thought my manuscript was ready earlier this year, but after getting feedback from Genesis contest judges, I see now that its not ready, and I'm back to editing. I'm looking at it as a blessing. My manuscript is going to be that much better, and I'll be that much more prepared for next year's opportunity. :-)

  17. Beth, thank you for weighing in. After much prayer, and waiting to talk with my hubby who has been gone all week, I've decided to go! I'm so excited!!!

    Gwen, I remember hearing you say you were going to ACFW and I was still hoping you were planning on it, but I know how life changes and things come up that we don't forsee. I'm still praying for your adjusment in this season of life and I know, without a doubt, that I'll be seeing your name on the cover of many books someday. Next year, my friend!

  18. I'd LOVE to go, if I an ever get out of Cleveland. (See my blog...)
    I am confident my WIP is ready, but between the Great Fry Bread Road Tour and my mission trip to Bolivia in October, Gods would have to drop 3000$ in my lap for me to do the conference and then go to Bolivia.
    I want to hear ALL ABOUT your hubby's gift t you, how he arranged things, etc...

  19. *"God would have to"...clearly, I watched too much Battlestar Galactica.

  20. I've been following your flight - or lack of flight - from Cleveland! Hopefully you are able to get home soon.

    My hubby didn't arrange things, he just heard me talking about the conference since, oh, January. I never asked if I could go, I just kept mentioning things that would take place there and different people who I knew were going. Two weeks ago we were sitting around the campfire and I said: "Someone else asked me if I was going to the ACFW Conference again today. *Sigh*" And that's when he said: "You really want to go, don't you?" I nodded, of course I wanted to go! I was like a little kid who leaves hits about what he wants for Christmas around the house for months. That's when he said: "You should go. Find out what it will take to make it happen." And the rest is history! I did ping-pong back and forth for a while, but the entire time he supported either decision I made whole heartedly and that's what I needed. :)


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