This is one of my two blog posts I'll be sharing as part of the ACFW Blog Tour promoting the upcoming national conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, in September this year.
So many of those who know me know I am not one to be a wallflower at any social event. Even if I don't know a soul, I will find someone who is willing to hold a conversation with me. Most folks view me as someone who has "never met a stranger." And it's true...for the most part.
There are times when I willingly blend into the background, but there are other times when I make an entrance and can't help but stand out. I supposed it's part of my personality, but I generally command attention without putting forth much effort. Some folks are just wired that way.
Since 2002, I have attended every annual conference held by ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). That first year in Kansas City, we only had 100 members in attendance...and that included the faculty! So, needless to say, it was a rather cozy bunch. :) Still, to this day I can look back at that conference and recount several meetings of fellow writers I now consider close friends or mentors.
This was the year I met Tracie Peterson for the first time face-to-face after years of emailing and writing. From being a bookstore buddy with Tamera Alexander, to manning the registration table with Jennifer Johnson, or laughing with Linda Windsor when Jennifer admitted how to Linda how Linda's books "affected" her. And who can forget the tale of the "Kissing Bandit" with Kaye Dacus or Brandilyn Collins telling us to be careful, because "there are normals about."
In Houston, there was the stalking of Deborah Raney (whose first book was made into a film) with Cindy Woodsmall (now a NYT bestelling author) and discovering Brandilyn Collins' serial killer from Eyes of Elisha was present in living, breathing form in our main meeting hall. That year also began the identity confusion with Allison Wilson, which still occurs to this day, even though neither one of us look anything like the other. We still have a lot of fun with it though. :)
Next came Denver in 2004 where I first worked with Jeanne Leach and Connie Stevens, helping run the conference bookstore. This was also the conference where I met the man who is now my husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton. And of course, this year, I pitched my first novel to Jim Peterson, eventually landing a contract in 2006. He and his wife, Tracie, remain mentors and great friends.
Then, there was Nashville, where many matchmaking mamas decided to intervene in my relationship with Stuart, believing we were perfect for each other. Ane Mulligan and Lena Nelson Dooley are two who come to mind, although I know there are many more.
Dallas followed for 2 years, and this is where I met another Tiffany. Tiffany Colter, that is. She has since gone on to work with Chip MacGregor, James Rubart, and Susan May Warren on the Masters Seminar series. She also does author coaching, and we both write for the ACFW AFictionado e-zine. We both go by "Tiff" and people confuse us all the time. We have a lot of fun redirecting folks, and sometimes even taking credit for each other's accomplishments.
2008 was in Minneapolis and 2009 was in Denver. Each year, I meet someone new, and each year, the friendships I've established become that much more dear to me. Because of the conferences, I met most of my clients for web design, many of whom have become friends as well. At the conferences is where so much fun, laughter, memories, and good times happen. I can't even begin to recount everyone the conferences have brought into my life, and who are still in my life today, but those I've shared above are just the dusting the surface.
These friends have moved from mere writing acquaintances, to friends and prayer partners, and even babysitters, helping me when I've needed them to be there in a pinch or lend a hand.
So, if you're wondering about the aspects of the conference aside from writing instruction, consider that God might want you to attend so He can use the conference as a means of bringing you together with someone who will become a best friend. If you don't attend, you might miss out on the blessing of a friendship you won't discover...unless you attend.
Thanks, ACFW, for providing the platform where I have been able to meet many treasured friends.
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