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Friday, June 29, 2007

ACFW Conference Tips

Today is my 2nd day of posting as part of the ACFW Blog Tour. If you haven't kept up with the others who have blogged, I recommend you check out that link and visit other members who have shared insights, memories and other details. Because the interest has been so high, they're going to be doing another month in July. I'll post the schedule as soon as it's released.

Now for the tips for anyone attending the ACFW Conference in Dallas this year. All right, so some of these could probably be applied to any writer's conference, but the focus is ACFW, so I'm highlighting that. :)

1. Leave your frowns at home. This conference is full of smiles, hugs, laughter, zany moments, opportunities to broaden your horizons, chances to rub shoulders with your favorite authors, times to meet new people, ability to hang out with others who understand you as a writer, a way to network like you'd never believe, and the presence of God that will astound you!

2. Come with an open mind. Be ready to step through an open door you might not have thought possible when the opportunity presents itself. Although you arrived with certain publishers or editors or agents in mind for your writing, don't discount the impromptu meetings or conversations that could lead you in a different direction that originally planned. This could even mean a chance to work on something that has been sitting on the back burner for years, or even something completely new that you hadn't even considered. If you expect the unexpected, you won't be disappointed.

3. Relax. Take time out to have fun and not be so focused on your agenda. It's when you least expect it that the greatest opportunities cross your path. Also keep in mind that everyone you meet was once where you are or is in the same place you are. They all put on their pants one leg at a time...well almost all of them. *winks*

4. Prepare ahead of time. Read the needs of the faculty represented. Make appointments to see the ones you want and know the others so you can possibly join them for lunch or dinner at the faculty-hosted tables. Study their photos (if available) so you recognize them in case you wind up in a conversation with them. Check the workshop schedule and mark the ones you don't want to miss. Be aware of the timing of everything so you're not caught unaware. Don't be afraid to ask questions of others you find when you're confused or uncertain. Have business cards, one-sheets, pens, pencils, paper, a sample query letter, one copy of a proposal, and your various "pitches" ready. Make sure you can summarize what you're writing in 10-second, 30-second and 2-5 minute "pitch." You might even find a friend or fellow writer to rehearse with you.

5. Be ready for anything. Each year at ACFW, there have been many surprises where the stories have been told months and even years afterward. Memories like these are what make this conference so special. From the kidnapping of Brandilyn Collins' books with a ransom note left in their place, to a revealing workshop led by Randy Ingermanson (the Snowflake Guy) which led to a water shortage at the hotel, and from zany slippers, head gear and costumes to dinosaur masks, boas and men wearing dresses...this conference brings out the wacky side of fiction writers and reaffirms that we are NOT NORMAL. :)

6. Get some sleep. This is a key tip. A lot of times you can ride high on the emotions and adrenaline of a conference such as this. However, you can't deny your body the rest and sleep it needs. With a 4-day conference (sometimes 5-day if you attend the Early Bird session), you'll be in a divetail before the end if you don't allow your body to replenish its own energy. I know I often think I'll "miss something" if I'm not the last to go to bed and the first up, but I also know my limitations. Stay fresh and rested. It'll make the entire conference more enjoyable.

7. Don't be overwhelmed. Last, but not least (as there are many other tips for a successful conference), take everything in stride. Try not to over-extend yourself or rush to make every workshop, late night chat, session and meeting. Remember that just about everything is recorded on CD or MP3 for you to purchase afterward, so if you miss something, you can always go back and mine the nuggets from the recordings. And if a meeting or appointment didn't work out that you had wanted, perhaps it wasn't meant for you at this time. Appreciate what you've received and don't stress on what you might have missed. There's always next year!

So, there you have it. My tips for making the ACFW conference (or almost any writing conference) a success. Again, check out the other blogs listed in this post for more behind-the-scenes reports and tellings from ACFW members. Have a great weekend.

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