Earlier this month, I announced the ACFW Conference Blog Tour. Registration for the ACFW Annual Conference began on June 1st and we're already up to over 300 attendees! The conference takes place from September 20th-23rd in at the Marriott Quorum in Dallas, Texas. For a list of faculty and general what's what, visit the web site's conference section.
ACFW is "The Premier Fiction Conference" because it's only about fiction. Editors and agents know that they'll find the best undiscovered new talent in Christian fiction at the ACFW Conference. Christian novelists of all skill levels know that they'll get the best teaching in fiction, and all-around comraderie with other novelists. It's a win-win situation for everyone.
I've been to every one since the first, and oh! the stories I can tell. There isn't time or space to share them all, so I'll go with highlights from each year.
Right from the start, the 100 of us gathered in Kansas City (2002) were told to, "Beware, normals are about." This referred to the average person who wouldn't understand a fiction writer. Since always hold the conference at a hotel, there are bound to be other guests staying there. Our MC, Brandilyn Collins, was right. From the maid who got scared when she encountered 2 women discussing the various methods of "knocking off" a guy because he was getting on her nerves, to the writers who get into knock-down, drag-out fights with their characters over a certain scene, to the general life a novelist leads...normals just don't understand. :)
In Houston (2003), we had an amazing lead-off opening session where our keynote, Robin Lee Hatcher, invited anyone who wanted to turn their writing over to God and would like prayer to come forward. Prayer counselors stood at the front as the majority of attendees filled the area. The ministry that took place there set the tone for the entire conference, and so many writers/authors received a great blessing that year. It opened the doors wide open to endless opportunity as they went forth and left their writing to God's leading. No more worries, no more unnecessary stress about where they were headed. They put their writing in God's hands, and continued to move forward. Since that year, I can count at least 35-40 who have received book contracts, and some whose books have gone on to become top 10 bestsellers!
Denver (2004) was a year that's very near and dear to my heart. My fiance made quite a statement when he replied to the contest for a free book by writing his answer in Saurian, the language he's created for his science fiction series. When Brandilyn opened his paper to read it, she made an honest attempt, but quit and called him up to the stage to read it himself. Everyone there got a rather unique introduction to Stuart Stockton, and not many have forgotten him. :)
Of course, the other BIG memory for me was working with the Jeanonator (my bookstore coordinator buddy) and Connie in the bookstore that year. We had a moment of hilarity that led to Connie falling off the bench and landing on the floor, which sent Jeanne and I into a fit of laughter and caused editors to step inside the bookstore, asking us to keep the noise level down so they could conduct their appointments. Sure wish I had a camera at that moment, but the memory in my mind is crystal clear!
Who can forget Nashville (2005), where our keynote, Karen Ball, talked about "Goldfish moments" and let us all know that "I have a castle!" She likened many writers to goldfish, with short-term memories when they get into the zone of their writing. Everything else seems to fall by the wayside, and we forget what we said 2 minutes ago, let alone what we were supposed to accomplish that day. Just like a goldfish who can swim around a bowl just 9 inches in diameter for an entire life because he doesn't remember anything beyond about 5 seconds. So every time he makes a turn, he gets excited. "Look! I have a castle!"
Last year in Dallas (2006), the prayer room set aside at the end of a long hallway and tucked into the corner saw a lot of activity. So many lives were touched by God's awesome power and working in their lives. I heard story after story of changes that had taken place, both in the hearts of those who asked for prayer and the ones who were praying for others.
Connie also joined Jeanne and me again in the bookstore, and after a Friday night escape to the hotel restaurant where laughed until we drew the attention of the others eating there, we were up until 3am Saturday night/Sunday morning closing down the bookstore. The culmination of this was a middle-of-the-night "float" ride on the luggage cart with me dressed to the 9's in my banquet gown, waving at the unfortunate folks in the foyer as we drove past and loaded the boxes to the conference staff room after locking the bookstore. You had to be there to get the full effect, but trust me when I say it was a moment that resulted from complete exhaustion.
Now, we're just THREE MONTHS away from Dallas this year (2007). I can only imagine the sorts of things that will take place. Of course, one thing I know is Stuart and I will be on the receiving end of all sorts of teasing as we'll be newlyweds and represent the very first ACFW Couple who met at a conference and is now married. I can hardly wait!
Don't forget to check out the rest of the blogs this month and read more stories and information about this fantastic conference. I'll be back next Friday with some tips for conference attendees.
Next up....Monday's countdown to the wedding. :)