A WRITING CONFERENCE
What’s That All About?
Earlier this week I returned from the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) Conference in Indianapolis, IN. This was my second ACFW Conference. The first one I attended was in 2011. A friend (not a writer) asked me some pointed questions when I told her of my three day odyssey. “So you like to write, why do you go to a conference for that? Do the attendees get together and sit around and write?” It was evident she thought my trip to Indianapolis was more than a bit odd.
Her questions brought to mind a comment I heard while I was at this year’s conference. It was announced early on that those of us who wanted to dress in the clothing of our genre* should only do this for the Friday evening dinner because there were also normal people registered at the Indianapolis Hyatt. Hmm, was that a subtle suggestion that writers aren’t normal folks? But hearkening back to the 2011 conference, I do recall seeing tables of inter-galactic creatures obviously representing the speculative fiction genre. Perhaps we are a “little different”.
I tried to explain the reasons why I, and many others, attend writer’s conferences. This is by no means an exhaustive explanation:
1. Fiction writing, or any writing, can be a very solitary endeavor. Most of us spend a good portion of our lives in front of a computer, or with a tablet, sharing life with our imaginary characters. Some of us spend just as much time doing research which
may be an activity we do alone. Being with other people who enjoy the same pursuit is energizing. It’s also a wonderful time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. (Old friends might be other writers we hardly ever meet face to face since our friendships might be initiated or grow over e-mails and the internet.) Attendees at the conferences come from far and wide; this year I know of some who came from Australia and Norway.
2. Writer’s conferences can provide an opportunity to network not only with other writers, but specifically with those people who write in our particular area of interest. Ten different genres were represented there. It is also a place to meet and have appointments with literary agents and publishers who have come from all over the country to meet with writers and listen to our
“pitches”, manuscripts we are hoping to publish.
3. Like other conferences, ACFW provides workshops for every learning level. These are taught by experts representing various aspects of the industry, whether it’s learning more about the craft, what is involved with working with literary agents and publishers, and what the present and future book selling market looks like.
4. Since ACFW refers to itself as The Voice of Christian Fiction – a professional organization devoted to the craft of Christian Fiction, it is a venue that provides inspiration and encouragement. There are wonderful times of worship, prayer, and fellowship, inspirational talks given by the keynote speakers (This years was Robin Jones Gunn **).
5. The last night of the conference is the awards gala, a time to recognize some very special people.
- The Lifetime Achievement Award (awarded this year to Frank Peretti ***)
- The best Literary Agent of the Year
- The best Editor of the Year
- The Mentor of the Year
- The winners of the 2013 Genesis contest (pre-published writers) in each genre
- The winners of the 2013 Carol Awards for the best Christian fiction published in each genre by traditional publishing houses in the previous calendar year.
- Other awards were given for service to ACFW
So it was an exciting, inspirational, affirming, and challenging three days for a bunch of folks who may not be normal, but we are a lot of fun.
*Webster’s defines genre as: a particular type or category of writing literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.
**Robin Jones Gunn is the best selling Christian author of over 82 books including The Christy Miller Series for teen girls as well as Christian fiction for older women and a few non-fiction books.
***Frank Peretti generated an interest in spiritual warfare with This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness, his first two books. He’s gone on to publish many more books with 15 million novels in print.