Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Seekerville's Roving Reporters Bring Home the Scoop from ACFW 2015

with guests Natalie Monk and Courtney Ballinger.

 This year Seekerville assigned coverage of the 2015 ACFW Conference in Dallas, Texas to two extraordinary Villagers, and they didn't let us down! 

Natalie:  Ps. 9:1 “I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.”
The highlight of my 2015 ACFW conference experience was meeting my crit partner Courtney Ballinger for the first time in person—she’s been a total God-send to me! Having her there to talk to and practice pitches with was invaluable.

I also had the best roommate ever—shout out to Elizabeth Van Tassel, gemologist and “female Indiana Jones” for the Middle Grade reader. I also got to hug Seeker Pam Hillman and several Villagers!

To share every heart-stopping moment would take waaaaaaay too long, so I’ve written a few highlights via bullet points. A few aspects of my crazy-wonderful, whirlwind, “Wow, God!” first-time conference attendee experience are summed up below:

•    Having my name drawn from ACFW’s “The End” program for a free conference registration

•    Family and extended family volunteering out of the blue to pay for my hotel and gas and drive me to Dallas

•    A deep heart-peace knowing the weekend was covered by my prayer team and the ACFW blog prayers

•    Eating one of Carol Moncado’s chocolate chip cookies

•    Getting to wear-again the bridesmaid dress from my best friend’s wedding (still fit after two years!)

•    Watching God’s hand move through appointments and “accidental” circumstances (more about that coming soon on my personal blog)

•    Being invited to sit down in a small group with my crit partner and my writer-crushes to learn insider info about the craft and industry

•    Getting one-liner writing advice from the Christ-like ACFW 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Francine Rivers

•    This shy, normally-reserved girl being able to come out of her shell and meet five AMAZING agents by “happenstance” and friends’ introductions

•    Getting a partial request from a publishing house I had my eye on, getting a “really like some aspects, but needs work” from another publishing house WAY out of my league, then getting a full request from an extremely gracious editor with my “dream” publisher 

•    And for the grand finale, watching my incredible critique partner Courtney Ballinger win a prestigious award and give a charming, humble, unplanned acceptance speech

You can’t make this stuff up, y’all. God is way too good to me, because I don’t deserve the first bit of this. Can you tell my well-spring is bubbling over right now?
Courtney (left) and Natalie (right)
Left to right: Nancy Kimball, author of Chasing the Lion, & Natalie

Left to right: Historical romance and YA author Pepper Basham & Natalie dressing up as characters on the genre night. Pssst! Pepper can rock a killer British accent. And she sings!!!
Between appointments, preparing for those appointments, and meeting fascinating people in the hallway, I only took in about an hour of the Continuing Education Session and then about 30 minutes combined of all the workshops, but here goes:

•    In the CE session “The Story Equation” by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck, we studied the Dark Moment’s components and watched a clip from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty showcasing character development and “back story breadcrumbs” as Susie May calls them.

•    Ronie Kendig gave lots of cool scientific research and guy-speak examples in her workshop about the male point of view. I was only able to grab about 5 minutes of this one before a pitching appointment and was so nervous I forgot to snap a photo! She did a wonderful job.

•    In the “Working With Your Agent” workshop by Steve Laube and Tamela Hancock Murray, we learned an agent can do for you what no one else can, and what to do when it’s time you fire your agent—or they you.

•    Lastly, I attended the “Do’s and Don’t’s For Your First Year” workshop by Harper Collins authors Kristy Cambron, Laura McNeill, Katherine Reay, and Mary Weber. They gave us incredible insight into the stuff they wish they’d known pre-contract and how to balance the dual persona of “normal person/mom/wife/coworker” with the writing celebrity personality and online presence. I had to leave in the middle of the session for a pitching appointment, but as I slipped out, they encouraged us to anchor our identity in Christ, not what we do—a beautiful reminder He loves us, with or without visible success.

Literary agents Steve Laube and Tamela Hancock Murray made learning about agents fun
Left to right: HarperCollins authors Sara Ella, Katherine Reay, Kristy Cambron, Mary Weber, and Laura McNeill

Natalie and contemporary romance writer and parent coach Sarah Hamaker (Thanks to inspirational romance author Alexis Goring for the use of this photo!)
Above, left to right: speculative YA author Amanda G. Stevens, Natalie, and inspirational romance author Alexis Goring. (Thanks to Alexis for the use of this photo, too!)
Left to right: Historical Romance Author Carrie Turansky, Natalie, and Becky Yauger, ACFW web manager

 Left to right: Melissa Endlich, Senior Editor for Harlequin's Love Inspired Books and Shana Asaro, Associate Editor for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Books

Joseph Courtemanche, 2015 ACFW Genesis Winner, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category

Michael and Rosanna C. Sharps

Courtney and I, laughing it up with Biblical fiction author Connilyn Cossette (center)

Left to right: literary agent Ann Byle, ACFW executive board member Brandilyn Collins, and Courtney Ballinger! We accidentally chose the wrong table and these ladies were kind enough to insist we finish our half-eaten breakfast with them.

Left to right: RT BookReviews Magazine Senior Inspirational Reviewer Melissa Parcel, Librarian & Christian Fiction Columnist for the Library Journal Christine Sharbrough, MSLIS, and author/speaker Cynthia Ruchti, who writes stories hemmed in hope.
Literary agent Chip MacGregor and family
Seeker Pam Hillman and Harvest House senior editor Kim Moore
A photo with the lovely Brandilyn Collins
Two of the first acquaintances Natalie made at the conference, contemporary romance author and Frazier finalist Jessica Everingham and speculative YA author Amanda G. Stevens

Natalie and her somehow distant cousin Pam Hillman (Natalie’s just glad Pam still claims her after they met in person, haha!)

Seeker Pam Hillman asked Natalie to take a photo of her and her agent Steve Laube.

The welcome sign autographed by the Hyatt Regency DFW staff!

Natalie Bio:

Natalie Monk writes historical romance stories of laughter, love, and redemption. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Natalie is currently seeking representation and plotting her third novel. Natalie is a home school graduate, a piano teacher, devotional speaker, hog-hunter and former post-hole digger. She loves sweet tea, book talk, porch swings, and watching musicals and action movies with her family. 

Follow her on 

The Sweet South Blog: http://sweetsouthblog.blogspot.com,
Twitter: @NatalieDMonk,
Facebook: www.facebook.com/nataliemonkauthor, or
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/nataliedmonk.

Courtney here, still a little travel-weary after the 600-mile drive from Dallas. But what a trip! 

This being my first conference experience, I had no real clue what to expect. Sure, I’d read blogs, articles, and every bit of insider info I could find, but nothing prepares you for the overwhelming thrill. (Or for the airport maze leading to the hotel.) My husband joined me—and thankfully drove—which calmed my introverted self. Meeting my critique partner, the fabulous Natalie Monk, for the first time EVER helped as well. We embraced in the hotel lobby and immediately starting chatting as if we were friends reuniting instead of email pen pals. I’m still thanking the Lord for her.

The conference, for me, required quite a bit of stretching.

Stretching far out of my comforter zone. Stretching my small talk skills. Stretching my ability to speak about my books instead of write about them. Thank the Lord I met with my agent Mary Keeley Thursday morning. She’s a mighty encourager and handed me the pointers I needed to display confidence as I met with editors. She was, in fact, my very own fairy godmother come to transform my tattered dress into a gown.

And if Mary was my godmother, Natalie was my creative mouse. Which doesn’t sound like a compliment, but I promise it is. Don’t we all love Gus-Gus from Cinderella?

Okay, my imagery might be falling apart here, but I hope I was also Natalie’s Gus-Gus as she glowed while conversing so readily with agents, editors, and other authors. (She even wore beautiful gowns like Cinderella!)

I’ll skip ahead to one of my top highlights of the conference. After the nervous exercise of editor appointments, the time came for the Awards Gala. We dressed up, slid into our heels, and rode the elevator down to the dimly lit room where a fancy dinner awaited. 

I wasn’t nervous. At all. Because despite the fact I was a Genesis finalist, I wasn’t going to win. That might sound like false humility, but it’s most definitely not. I didn’t scribble down even a bullet point of a speech. I didn’t practice walking across the stage. 

Because I’d told the Lord all I wanted was to final. And when He blessed me with that honor, I didn’t ask for more. (Though I might’ve whispered that winning would be nice.)
Seconds before the winner of my category was announced, I was shaking.

I leaned toward my husband. “I don’t want to win ‘cause I don’t want to go up there and make a speech.”

Then the deep-voiced announced called my name.

I like to think God was chuckling, His plan too amazing to be combated by my shyness.
So that’s a bit about my ACFW conference experience, folks. You’ll experience every emotion and, Lord willing, go home trusting the Lord even more than you were before.

(If you’re like me, you might also go home in a different vehicle than you arrived in. But that’s a another story for a different post.)

Courtney and her agent Mary Keeley

Left to right: Melissa Tagg, Courtney, and Becky Wade

Jennifer Major and Courtney

Francine Rivers and Courtney

Courtney and Casey Herringshaw
Courtney, Mary Keeley, and Jaime Wright

Courtney’s name tag and registration packet

“Courtney’s Awesome Husband” Ethan
and Courtney with her Genesis Award for best contemporary romance!

Courtney Bio:

Courtney Ballinger, lover of all things Southern and bookish, writes about “Faith and Charm on the Front Porch.” A 2015 ACFW Genesis Award winner, Courtney has devoted years to improving her craft and familiarizing herself with the publishing world. In 2014, she also won the 2014 RWA Touched by Love Award and signed with Mary Keeley of Books and Such Literary. Courtney aspires to glorify the Lord with the stories He’s called her to write. You can connect with her at www.courtneyballinger.com.

Our roving reporters at the end of the gala! Thanks, ladies.

Leave a comment today about your  2015 ACFW conference highlights or if you didn't attend, what you enjoyed most about our reporter's play-by-play and Seekerville will toss your name in the hat for your choice of any Genesis finaling book in print or ebook. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


  1. You reporters look so glam. I bet no one even knew you were undercover.

    Fabulous photos (Okay you sent me 50 and I only managed to get 30 some up and labeled in an hour). I smiled the whole time.

    Courtney what a supportive hubby you have!! Congratulations on your win!

    Lucky, Natalie got to room with Elizabeth. She's a sweetie!!!

  2. Thanks for all the great pictures and "inside scoop" about the conference. Some day I hope to be able to go.

  3. Congrats to Courtney on the Genesis! I've had the honor of reading some of her work, and she's an awesome writer. This was my first ACFW conference, as well. What a glorious experience worshiping and meeting all my sweet ACFW critique partners in 3D. The classes were informative, and everyone was so friendly! Meeting Francine Rivers... worth the price of admission!! All in all a wonderful weekend!!

  4. P.S. Not sure my comment made sense because I'm still a bit sleep deprived from all the excitement.

  5. Oh my goodness gracious, I forgot to mention, my historical dress for the genre dinner was sewn by my critique partner Elaine Manders. She does awesome work and allowed me to borrow her beautiful creation for the ACFW conference. Keep an eye out, that dress may soon appear on the cover of one of Elaine's books!

  6. Everyone looks so happy. Loving all the photographs thank you.

  7. Natalie, Elaine made that???? It's stinkin' GORGEOUS!!!! Elaine, awesome job!!!

    First, I loved, loved, loved seeing this conference through your eyes. I laughed and smiled and nodded as you went through your descriptions, and the excitement simply shined through your words, ladies!

    And then I laughed when you talked about how little time you actually spent in sessions because that's a total Ruthy thing!!!!! :) Bump Knuckles Time!

    But seeing the conference through your eyes ladies, brought it to life! Thank you!

    And the pics are G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S! Yeeeee haw!

  8. Thanks ladies for sharing your pictures.

    Congratulations to Courtney on winning! So happy for you.

    Natalie, it was so great to meet you in person!

    I attended Jeff Gerke's continuing ed. on Friday between meetings. He was amazing!

    My favorite part of the conference was meeting with two of my critique partners, Misty Beller and Janet Ferguson! And you know those people you meet and immediately connect with, like you've always known each other? Last year I met Shelia Stovall, and we got to spend more time together this year.

    It was a great year, and I can't wait for Nashville and seeing the Seekers!

  9. Courtney & Natalie -- AWESOME JOB as our roving ACFW reporters! You both look SO beautiful, and it sounds as if you had a fun, jam-packed few days in Dallas! One of the best things about ACFW is meeting all the people IN PERSON that you've only previously known on-line.

    Courtney - Congratulations on your Genesis win!

    Natalie - I didn't know Elaine was such a skilled seamstress. WOW!

    LOVE the pics. Thank you!

  10. Wow -- I'm giddy with delight reliving the highlights with you. This is the closest I'll likely get to a conference so I'm soaking it all in. Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. Looks like a grand time was had by all! I hope to attend next year when the conference is in Nashville. It will be much more affordable without having to pay airfare.

    Congratulations on the Genesis win, Courtney!!

  12. Oh how fun to read your updates--from critique partners, no less!

    NATALIE—I loved reading all the God-moments before and during your conference this year. And it was such a joy to meet you and chat for a few minutes. Your pictures were fun!

    COURTNEY—I didn't know this was your first conference. It was great meeting you as well. And congratulations again on winning the Genesis! :)

  13. Thank you Courtney and Natalie. Of course I wasn't there in person but I was watching the awards gala on video stream. My favorite part of the conference was hearing my CP's name called as a Genesis finalist. We all know that ALL the finalists are winners.
    My second favorite moment was hearing my facebook friend and contest-finaling buddy Courtney Ballinger's name called and for the first time, hearing her adorable soft voice with the southern accent. Courtney, your speech was sweet and heartfelt! Thanks for the conference experience.

  14. Looks like so much fun!
    Natalie and Courtney, ya'll are natural reporters.
    I've never been to a ACFW conference. I'm planning on going next year NO MATTER WHAT. So between now and then I need complete 2-3 more ms so I'll have something to shop.

    I want to dress up in costume...(in my best whiny voice)

  15. Thank you, COURTNEY & NATALIE, for this fun recap of ACFW15! Looks like you gals had a ball--and congrats to Courtney on the Genesis win! You go, girl!!!

    Great to see all the pix, too! You are the stars of Seekerville today!

  16. Congratulations, Courtney. And ladies, you managed to bring the excitement right to the blog...and I've never been. But then, I'm not a writer...

  17. Oh my goodness! Congratulations Courntey! I can't believe that I gave a little squeak of joy when I read you won. Seriously, my husband looked over at me with the oddest expression. I am truly happy for you and love that hug you got from God. :)

    Natalie, you are absolutely adorable (and I mean that so sincerely) and I so appreciate your bullet points. I am equally excited for you with all your success at the conference. It looks like you made the most of this wonderful opportunity (and congratulations on being drawn from ACFW’s “The End” program). I love how God works!

    Courtney and Natalie, I have dreamed of the day that I can attend an ACFW conference (of course I still need to join but that's another story) and your posts have definitely made it come even more alive for me and spurred me on to get off my duff and join.

    I look forward to reading more about your experiences and joys on your blogs. Thanks for sharing all the lovely pictures and memories (you both look stunning by the way).

    Now I'm off to get ready for work. So glad I stopped here first. :)

  18. I was so blessed to get to meet Natalie in person at the conference! I didn't know she was working undercover! :D

    Congratulations to Courtney on her Genesis win. And her speech was delightful. :)

  19. Thank you for the report, I've been dying to know how it went! It looks like such fun, and the photos are wonderful!

  20. CONGRATULATIONS Courtney on your Genesis win! Thank you for sharing the ACFW Conference with us. It looks like it was a FANTASTIC event.

  21. Congratulations Courtney!

    Thank you for the pictures and information about the conference. It is my dream to be able to attend one at some point. You did a great job.

  22. NATALIE and COURTNEY, Great job as undercover reporters. I loved hearing about the conference from your pov. Lovely.
    And I am jealous that I missed out on one of CAROL Moncado's chocolate chip cookies. They are to die for. smile

    So happy you met all those people.

    Congrats COURTNEY on the Genesis win. How exciting and what a handsome hubby to share the excitement. Love those real life heroes. smile

    Thanks again for doing such a great job. Thanks also for the wonderful photos. Great job TINA in getting those up in an hour. You are amazing.

  23. RUTHY did their report bring back memories? RUTHY and I were online crit partners and we met face-to-face for the first time at our first ACFW conference in Denver. Sure brought back fun memories RUTHY girl.

    Thanks again NATALIE and COURTNEY.

    Anyone notice how young and adorable those two "reporters" are?

  24. Thanks girls for sharing the fun! You did great with the photos, made me feel like I'd been there, too!

  25. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing such a fun trip. Glad you both enjoyed it. ACFW is always a blast. Like Mary said, I felt like I was there! And huge congratulations on the winning in the Genesis. Such a thrill for you! Blessings on your continued writing journey.

  26. Natalie and Courtney, you make a great team. I loved all of these photos, as well as the photos posted on FB.
    Congratulations on your Genesis win, Courtney!
    SANDRA, Yes, I did notice how YOUNG and adorable they are. :)

  27. Tina -- Elizabeth was awesome! So helpful, and I looked forward to our end-of-the-day reports, because she celebrated every exciting moment with me! A truly incredible lady.

    Jan Christiansen -- I hope to see you there one day!!!

    Janet Ferguson -- I know what you mean about sleep-deprived, haha! Good to meet you there!

    Mary Preston -- That's one thing that stood out to me too while we were there. Everyone was happy and friendly and helpful and gave off an exciting glow! Such a great atmosphere.

    Ruthy!!! -- Haha! Returning your fist-bump here. I can't wait 'til next year to maybe meet some of the Seekers!

    Jackie -- I'm so excited I got to meet you there! Don't you love the instant connection of like minds? And having the foundation of Christ and a love of words combined at the ACFW definitely helps forge relationships.

    Glynna -- I didn't know Elaine was "sew" good with making dresses either. I knew she could crochet, but I never expected such a gorgeous gown. Made me feel like a 1880s princess!!

    Kav -- So glad we could bring a little of the ACFW excitement here to Seekerville with us!

    Rhonda Starnes -- Hope to see you in Nashville! It's going to be much closer for me, too. This years conference is barely over and I already can't wait for 2016. :)

    Jeanne T -- Getting to meet you and chat with you about your novel was one of the more vivid moments in my memory from last weekend! I think our discussing Tim Tebow helped clear some of the writer-fog from my head. Now whenever I think of you, I see him in my mind's eye. Let's plan to stay in touch often, LOL.

    Cindy Regnier -- Isn't it exciting when you hear that familiar name called over the speakers? My heart was beating so hard--not as hard as Courtney's I'm sure--and when they called her name I'm pretty sure I stood and screamed, haha. Congratulations to your CP for being a finalist!

    Connie Queen -- Hope to see you in Nashville next year!! And I can't wait to see your costume! I admit, that was what I looked forward to most of all--dressing up.

    Myra -- Awww, thank you! We're so honored to be here!

    Marrianne Barkman -- So glad we translated some of the excitement here for you! The reader in me loved meeting all those authors, published and pre-published, and thinking about all their great stories I hope will be published soon!

  28. Thank you Courtney and Natalie!! We really appreciate you sharing with us. I feel almost as if I've been to conference now. However, I miss the hugs!

  29. Courtney, congratulations on the Genesis!! I was so thrilled when I heard the news. :)

  30. Janet, you made perfect sense! :) I'm glad you got to go!

  31. Natalie, that's so cool that Elaine made your dress. Great job, Elaine!! It was beautiful!!

  32. Jackie, I've had that same experience meeting people at conference. You sometimes just click and feel you've met a lifelong friend.

  33. What a FUN recap. So great to read of how God worked and moved and all the fun ya'll had. Wish I could've been there but thank you for sharing all of this!

  34. Thanks for the congrats!

    Wasn't Natalie's dress amazing? I wish I had the talent to sew something like that.

    Unfortunately, I'm on my way to a funeral, but I'll check in soon. :)

  35. I'm curious what Courtney's husband thought of the experience.

  36. Natalie and Courtney, such a good job of bringing the conference to us. You both look so cute. I watched the gala Saturday night and just before they got to the romance category my computer went down. How exciting Courtney won the Genesis. How exciting Natalie got requests for partials and fulls. I know she's ready.

    Thanks for wearing the dress, Natalie, and thanks Ruthie and Glynna for the compliments. Yes, I was a seamstress before I was a writer. This weekend I'll be making a Disney Princess Belle costume for my granddaughter to wear to a halloween party. It's such a bright yellow I doubt it'll ever make it to a book cover, but who knows.

    Now I have to go finish writing my blog for Stitchesthrutime for tomorrow. Is it OK to mention another blog? I forget.

  37. What a fabulous post! I loved the pictures! It is always fun to put faces with names. Congratulations on your award Courtney! Natalie you looked lovely and how exciting on your contacts.

    For someone who loves reading, it was fun to see how it all comes together.
    Becky B

  38. Kelly Blackwell -- Thank you! I'm so excited we've made you want to join in on the fun at ACFW! They have been invaluable to my writing--and to my blog!

    Erica -- You were so kind to put up with my fan-girling, haha! When I saw you in the lower hall, my little reader-heart turned a somersault! Loved getting to meet you! Now I just wish I'd brought my copies of your books for you to sign. Maybe next year!

    R.J. Skaer -- So good to see you here! Yes, ACFW 2015 was more than I ever hoped for. :) Hope to see you there one of these days.

    Caryl Kane -- So blessed to be able to bring these snippets back home to you guys and share the experience!

    Wilani Wahl -- Hope to get to meet you at ACFW one of these days! Thank you!!

    Sandra -- How fun that you and Ruthy had a similar crit-partner experience! I admit I felt so lost the first couple hours in the hotel, then I went to eat with some newly-made friends, and that helped to stay busy, but I didn't really start to get over the lonesomeness until Courtney came around the corner and called my name! It felt so good to see a familiar face, hear a fellow Southerner speak, and I think we both needed that hug so much! Haha.

    YES!!!! TINA is the true rock-star of today's blog. I don't know how she put all this together so fast. I was sitting up last night wondering if she'd be able to work with what I sent her in so little time, but she did it! Go Tina! :)

    Mary Hicks -- So glad we could bring some of the excitement of the experience back here for you!

    Carolyne Aarsen -- Thank you so much for your encouraging words! It's so fun to be able to share with y'all!

    Jill Weatherholt -- Glad you're enjoying all the photos! I was learning a new camera, and most of the ones I shot turned out a little blurry, but it made a memory at least, haha! Next time, if I get to go to Nashville, I'm taking my clunky Canon SLR. I didn't take it this time, not wanting to lug it around, but I've learned my lesson with the point and shoot, haha!

  39. Elaine!!!! Love that dress. You need a shop on Etsy!!!

  40. Natalie and Courtney, you both looked so beautiful. Congratulations to Natalie on the positive responses you received from publishing houses. Congrats to Courtney on the Genesis win. I really enjoyed your reports. It's like being there.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  41. Meeting you two was a highlight!!! So glad you liked the cookie!!

    A lowlight for me was the almost complete dearth of Seekers - but Pam represented well!!!

    I had a great meeting with my agent. A chance(ish) encounter with an editor that may eventually turn into something. Confirmation from those who know far more than me that I'm doing the indie thing right!!! I got to hang out with friends. Hug necks. Skip classes to, ahem, "network."

    Plus I (quite literally after Becky Yauger, Dineen Miller, and someone I'm forgetting told me to) jumped up and down and squealed when I pulled out my QIP ribbon.

    And I rocked the pink and purple hair. I was quite proud of my willingness to be (temporarily) daring. ;)

  42. My recap (with pics) will be on InspyRomance tomorrow. I think I used a pic with Courtney on Sunday, but I may have saved it for tomorrow...

  43. Elaine, it's fine to mention other blogs! :)

    Carol, congrats on the QIP! I wish I could have seen the squealing. :) Wish I could have seen the colorful hair, too! :)

  44. What a bunch of sweet pictures and sweet memories! ACFW is the bomb. Best. Conference. In the world. Natalie, so happy you and Courtney had such a great time! (And it is obvious that you did!) Brings back memories of my first ACFW conference way back 10 years ago. Still can't believe I have missed the last two years in a row. Definitely planning to go next year when it's only two hours from me in Nashville. I almost feel like nobody will know me anymore, it's been so long. :-( I miss those thrilling days of hugs and squeals and breathless nervousness at meeting editors and agents. Well, I miss the hugs and squeals, not so much the nervousness. :-) So happy for everyone who was able to go.

  45. Awesome ACFW coverage!! Thanks for the photos!

  46. Pink and purple Carol???? Too funny!

    I'm planning a hang-out in Nashville next year. I want to gather with peeps and see people and hug newbies, but I don't go to classes or meet with editors, so I'll quietly bypass the conference, but I'd love to hang with some of the conferees!!!!

    So that's the plan, I think a few others will be doing that, too.

    I loved this overview from Courtney and Natalie, because it reminded me how exciting this was when I was new... And I laughed, delighted!

    Now I just wanna see peeps!!! and not the ones in my garage!

  47. Love all the photos and the details of the conference! I wanted to go...planned to go...and then it didn't work out. Thanks for the great post!

  48. Oh yay, RUTHY! I hope I get to meet you next year!!

  49. Roving reporters, Courtney and Natalie, thanks for sharing the highlights and photos of the 2015 ACFW conference! Sounds like you both had a blast and made great use of the opportunities! Love that you two are cps and met in Dallas. Wishing you both much success with your career!


  50. Congrats on the Genesis win, Courtney! Glad your dh could be there to share the moment with you.


  51. Natalie and Pam are cousins? Tell us more!


  52. Carol M is the Cookie Queen of ACFW. Chocolate chip is my favorite!


  53. Jackie Layton, I was so glad to get to spend time with you and Misty, too! And get to sit with you as your Genesis finalist friend!
    Melanie Dickerson, I hope to meet you in person next year and say thanks because you donated some of your young adult books to my high school when I was a librarian there!

  54. Hi Natalie. I loved your genre dress. We passed each other a dozen times during those three days and I kept turning around saying, "Is that Natalie that just walked past?" Sorry we didn't have a chance to chat. Where did the time go?

    Courtney, Congratulations on the Genesis win! I loved that your husband was with you to share the moment. Your speech was very heartfelt and I felt myself between tears and an ear to ear smile. GO GIRL!

  55. Tina, when my agent asked Ethan his thoughts about the conference, he was very honest and called it "interesting."

    He understands my writing world better now though, and I love that. I think he lacked things to do while I had appointments and classes only because he's used to moving around all the time instead of hanging out in a hotel room. But he was amazingly supportive!

    I do believe he's actually looking forward to Nashville (very close to us.) He has already looked up the hotel!


  56. Ethan also loved meeting all these people he's heard me talk about.

    He had me explain who everyone was and whether I had read their books or not.

    Carol, when he spotted me with a cookie, he was quick to ask where I got it. ;)

  57. Y'all are so kind to compliment that "speech" of mine. I just remember thinking, "I'm going to warn them straight off that I'm not a public speaker."

    Lots of people commented on my accent afterward and asked where I was from--so I do suppose my Southerness came through in those few seconds.

    Natalie, wasn't the most disappointing part the fact that there wasn't a bookstore? I so wanted to go home with a suitcase full of books!!!

  58. I can tell you girls had a great time. Thanks for sharing the experience with us. I love the pictures and hearing how much fun it was.

  59. Natalie: Okay so you are such a great spy!!! I remember asking you if you knew about Seekerville! You are so sweet and I loved getting to know you and Courtney. It was a lovely weekend all around and, once again, life-changing in new ways. I can tell your stories are going to be wonderful because you're so good at hiding this!

    Tina I have a couple of pictures to add that I'll post on my blog tomorrow, but it was such a special week and I love seeing it through both of their eyes, too!

    Here's the address for my blog:https://elizabethvantassel.wordpress.com/blog/

    Hugs to everyone and hope to see some of you at RWA in San Diego next year! ACFW is wonderful. So are all of you!

  60. You two did such a terrific job as Seekerville reporters. I totally enjoyed reading your accounts.!

    Courtney, I totally identify with this - "I wasn’t nervous. At all. Because despite the fact I was a Genesis finalist, I wasn’t going to win. That might sound like false humility, but it’s most definitely not. I didn’t scribble down even a bullet point of a speech. I didn’t practice walking across the stage."

    In 2011, I had myself so convinced I wasn't going to win that I cancelled my hotel reservation and didn't even go to the conference! I had to pinch myself - and then kick myself when I saw my name (real name, not Cate) be called over the live stream. Good for you for being there and how wonderful that Ethan was with you. You two are adorable together!

    I sincerely hope you both reap wondrous rewards from your conference experiences.

  61. Oh, and thanks for sharing all the great photos!


    NATALIE, I am sooooo excited about all the "God" details of your adventure, from the free registration (VERY cool!) to family and prayer partners stepping in to help make your trip all the better. I'll tell you what, NOTHING is better than a trip planned by God, eh?


    And, COURTNEY, NOOOOOO!!! You drove 600 miles??? YIKES!! I take it that was round trip (I hope, and not one way!) and THANK GOD your hubby drove!!

    Courtney, SUPER CONGRATS on the win -- and at your first conference, no less. THAT ROCKS!!


  63. JANET FERGUSON SAID: "Meeting Francine Rivers... worth the price of admission!! All in all a wonderful weekend!!"

    OH,MAN, I sooooo know what you mean, Janet! I attended the ACFW Conference at which Frannie was the keynote speaker, and it was a true highlight for me to hear her speak AND to discover one night that I was sitting at her table. YIKES!!

    WOW, Natalie -- Elaine made your dress??? She sews like that and writes too?? Okay, now I feel like a slacker ...

    KAV, do NOT say that -- I am praying that I get to meet you at a conference one day, my friend. Who knows? Maybe you will win a free conference too, like Natalie!!

    Gosh, reading all the comments about CPs meeting their CPs for the first time and others meeting FB friends, etc. for the first time makes me homesick for the first conference that I got to meet for the first time all the friends I'd made online. One of my fondest memories is passing Melanie Dickerson in the hallway and glancing at her name tag as I passed. At the exact same time, we both turned around and screamed each other's names -- it was the first time we met after chatting online so much, that we were overjoyed.


  64. Janet -- I can't remember exactly how we traced all the lines, but my great grandmother on my mother's side was a Hillman before she married. So fun that I started hanging around Seekerville because of the amazing fellowship and food, and it turned into a family reunion! Haha!

    Lyndee!!! -- Oh my goodness! I thought about you while I was there, but for some reason didn't think you had been able to make it! Maybe I saw someone else saying that and got confused. Next time, holler at me or trip me or something! :) I'd so love to meet you in person!

    Courtney -- I know it! I made extra room in my luggage for books and budgeted extra too! Oh, well. I'll put that unused book money toward next year's conference savings! I'm not sure, but I think the hotel may be a little bit pricier in Nashville. We'll see closer to time.

    Julie!!! -- I was thinking of selfishly saving Francine's advice for another blog post, but I'll share just for you. ;) She said, "Write the book you need to read." As in, you want to read it so much you just HAVE to read it. :)

  65. Ladies, thank you for sharing all of the highlights!

    Congratulations Courtney!

    Natalie I would love to hear about the hog-hunting!

  66. Undercover reporters!! I had no idea. :) So wonderful to meet you both and get a chance to hear your sweet southern accents. I enjoyed our conversations and seeing your writer's hearts. I also had fun cheering for Courtney during the gala and visiting with Natalie while waiting for editors who were late to pitching appointments. I'm bummed we didn't get any pictures together!! Hopefully next time. :)

  67. Ah Natalie and Courtney! You guys are so cute!! I just relived all my nerves of attending my first conference and I was WAY older than you!
    Congratulations, Courntey on your win! How exciting! You and Natalie have great careers ahead, I just know!
    Thanks for sharing your experience and your photos!

  68. Fun undercover reporting, Natalie and Courtney. I wasn't there, but I was smiling at all the fun you two had. Congratulations, Courtney, on the Genesis win. Very exciting and sounds like you handled that acceptance speech just fine. Great photos too. Maybe I'll drive to Nashville next year just to be in on the fun.

  69. Great job, Ladies! Loved your write-ups on the events. Feel like I was there! Congrats Courtney on your Genesis win!!!! So fantastic.

    Natalie, thanks for sharing Francine's advice. Something to remember!

  70. I have to admit that the genre dinner is my favorite part of the ACFW Conference and the banquet.

  71. Yeah, that's how it was for my hubby. Actually what happens is those men who go year after year hang out together. We'll have to hook him up with some of the guys for Nashville.

    Myra, Janet and Mary C's husband all go sightseeing.

  72. Donna -- Well, I would've said "deer hunter," but the deer never come out for me. Like, ever. Haha! So I finally went wild hog-hunting with some Texas friends who were tired of the mean things ruining their crops. I shot one my first time handling a .243, and got hooked on the thrill of the hunt--and the lean, rich taste. I'm definitely not a vegetarian, LOL.

  73. The highlight of the ACFW Conference for me was Bill Myers. His talks on being obedient to God's calling were so inspiring. It seemed to be s theme I had beat into my stubborn head throughout the conference.

    I also loved getting to spend time with Helen Gray. She had me in stitches at lunch.

    1. Please enter me in the drawing! I always forget to say that.

  74. Gabrielle! I loved visiting with you while we waited on our editors! The editor I was waiting on passed me in the hallway as I went out, apologized for missing the appointment due to some misinformation about the appointment schedule, then graciously set up a time for us to talk during the lunch hour. You'll have to tell me how things played out afterward for you. I hope you were able to meet with her again!

    1. There was also confusion with my editor (a mistake in the schedule). Thankfully she didn't have anyone scheduled during the next slot, so I was able to stay there and pitch to her.

  75. Because I've been writing my memoir "Abandoned Into the Heart of God" for what seems like forever, I haven't participated in ACFW in several years. I have enjoyed reading about everyone's experience, including Natalie and Courtney's.
    Congratulations on your well-deserved Genesis Award!

    Please put my name in for the drawing.

  76. Gals, thanks for the summary your wonderful times. I went to the conference and agree, it was fantabulous from start to finish. Natalie, I see some similarity in your and Pam's smiles. Courtney, I'm so glad you were forced to go up on the stage and make a speech. Best wishes to you both. :)

  77. How fun!! I wasn't at conference this year, but I really enjoyed your highlights, ladies! And the pictures! Thank you for sharing them!!

  78. I so loved getting to meet you both and know you better. You are both darling. Thank you for sharing your hearts here.

  79. I wasn't able to attend the conference. BUt I loved seeing all the pictures the authors took and seeing my favorite authors hang out together!

  80. What fabulous photos , such glam dresses and I really loved hearing how everyone described the fun events going on. I'll bet so much fun was had with all the authors getting to meet each other. Fan Girl time ! : ). I would love to be in the drawing for a print copy of a book.

    Deanne Patterson

  81. TOTALLY loved this and kudos to the Seekers for putting y'all up to this.
    Hey, you'd be right at home with K9 spies it seems. BOL!

    The photos are way too fun and what a blast for genre events. LOVE the garb everyone and yes Pepper is the most stunning... What can we say?

    Tears. Literal tears reading about the Genesis win.

    Love that you girls had such a terrific time.
    I'm debating whether to join ACFW or not since I don't technically WRITE Christian fiction, just from that worldview. But the mention of your friend who write MG as the female Indiana Jones makes me even more interested.

    Any words of wisdom there?

    Thank you again for the play by play. Sounds like entirely too much to take in at once but y'all did a fine job.

  82. Great work, roving reporters! I'm so sad our paths didn't cross at conference but I'm so glad you had an amazing time :)

    For me my favourite part of conference this year was NOT pitching and actually being able to be present in classes instead of counting down the nervous minutes until my next appointment :)

  83. I need to pay more attention --I didn't know Christine Sharbrough's reviewer job at Library Journal existed! =P New life goal ... review Christian fiction at a professional level *looks at blog* I have a long way to go --but I can't help "fangirling" about some of those books! =)

    Congrats, Courtney! Sounds like you and Natalie had an amazing time!