Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What Happens at a Writers Conference Stays at . . . Well, Not Always

I’ve attended so many writers conferences over the years that I’ve lost count. The earliest ones were back in the 1980s when I was writing children’s and YA stories and had joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Oh, those were the days! Meeting favorite authors in person and hanging out with the editors I hoped to write for someday . . . talk about starstruck! 

Things didn’t change much several years later when, after transitioning from children’s writing to romance and women’s fiction, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (it was American Christian Romance Writers back then). It was both thrilling and inspiring to sit in workshops taught by the very authors whose success I wanted to emulate, or to find myself in the same elevator with the editor or agent I was targeting—and shaking in my shoes at the very thought of sitting down with said agent or editor during the dreaded pitch appointment! 

Yes, in those early years of attending conferences, I was a sponge, soaking up every drop of information on craft and marketing while basking in the reflected glow of all those writing professionals I admired so much. Not to mention I bought books like crazy, not just on the writing craft but every novel I could get my hands on by my favorite authors—autographed, of course! I’ll never forget arriving at the airport following my first Mount Hermon conference and frantically repacking all those books I’d bought because my luggage was too heavy!

Fast-forward several years. Now that I’m a published author myself, the way I approach a writers conference is a little different. While I can still glean many helpful pointers from craft workshops, I look for classes that go beyond the basics. I’m also much more interested in workshop topics like marketing, industry updates, independent publishing, social media, and time management. 

Plus, a huge draw is spending time with my Seeker sisters and so many other writer friends I usually never see except at conferences. Also, it’s the one time during the year I can sit down for an uninterrupted face-to-face conversation with my agent.

So, for those of you who couldn’t make it to ACFW in Nashville last month, here’s a recap of my conference experience. (Since workshop recordings can be ordered directly from ACFW, I won’t be covering specific content.)

Tuesday, August 23. 

  • Climbed in the car with Project Guy for the 8-hour drive to Nashville.
  • Arrived around 3 p.m., greeted in hotel lobby by Seeker Debby and friends Patti Jo (CatMom) and Darlene, also just arriving. Patti Jo gave me one of the yummy Georgia peaches she’d brought!
  • Checked into hotel, unpacked, generally got organized.
  • Joined Seekers Janet, Debby, Mary, Ruthy, and Julie for dinner and Seeker business meeting at a nearby restaurant.
  • Crashed early. It’s been a long day!

Wednesday, August 24

  • Breakfast with Project Guy in our room (we brought juice, milk, & cereal from home—yay for in-room fridges and Keurigs!).
  • Carpooled with other Seekers over to the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat. Spent a fun day mingling with authors and enthusiastic readers.
  • Returned to hotel. Met Seekers & friends at a barbecue restaurant and enjoyed some Texas-style smoked brisket—yum! (Have I mentioned how hard it is to find “real” barbecue in the Carolinas?) 
  • I heard a Seeker or two had late-evening publisher/agent meetings or mingled in the lobby after dinner, but for me it was another (relatively) early night.

Authors in their genre attire at CFRR,
seen again at the ACFW genre dinner

Thursday, August 25

  • Breakfast with Project Guy in our room.
  • Project Guy and I met Seekers Janet, Mary, and Debby in lobby (plus Janet’s & Mary’s hubbies) for an excursion to The Hermitage, the historic Nashville home of Andrew Jackson. Toured the house and grounds, then lunch in the café. 
  • Returned to hotel. Sorted through ACFW registration packet. Freshened up for 3:00 opening session.
  • Enjoyed worship time led by Rachel Hauck, then an inspiring keynote by Ted Dekker.
  • Short break, then the genre dinner. Ogled all the interesting genre-specific attire many writers arrived in—ATF agents, cowboys/girls, Victorian-era ladies, cops, medieval damsels, and so many others . . . plus a high percentage of “ordinary” writers like me who didn’t dress for the occasion. 
  • Attended two Spotlight sessions. I chose Bethany House and Gilead Publishing.
  • More mingling in the lobby (for some of us, anyway).

Myra, Debby, Janet, & Mary
with docent at The Hermitage

Friday, August 26

  • Up early to head downstairs for the Zone Breakfast, where conference attendees had the opportunity to meet with others from their region of the country/globe and possibly form new writer friendships or locate an ACFW chapter near them.
  • Began continuing education class. I attended Jim Rubart’s “Using the Power of Innovation to Revolutionize Your Career.” 
  • Break for lunch, followed by Ted Dekker’s second keynote address. Thought-provoking, very spiritual, worth getting the recording if you’re interested.
  • Returned to continuing education class and tried to stay awake after eating too much at lunch.
  • Dinner on our own and a chance for writers to dine out with their editors, agents, etc. I attended the Love Inspired author/editor gathering, held in a private area of one of the hotel restaurants. We chatted, ate, mingled, ate, took a group photo, ate . . . What more can I say? 
  • Social time with Seekers and friends in the hotel lobby until whenever. (For some of us, “whenever” comes a little earlier every year.) These evenings are a fun time for unwinding after a busy day, celebrating with friends who got manuscript requests at their editor/agent appointments, and just getting better acquainted.

Love Inspired authors & editors at Friday night dinner

Saturday, August 27

  • Early breakfast with Project Guy in our room, then later joined Seekers Julie, Janet, Debby, Mary, and Pam, along with Seekervillager/editor/author Barbara Scott for “second breakfast” in the hotel restaurant. I actually skipped the first workshop of the day because sometimes there’s even more to be gained from informal conversations about the writing life with people who get it.

Debby, Myra, Mary, Julie, Janet, Pam
at "second breakfast" (for some of us)

  • Attended 11:00 a.m. workshop given by agents Natasha Kern and Karen Solem, “How to Write for ABA While Keeping Your CBA Values: Part Two” (part one was actually presented at the 2015 ACFW conference).
  • Lunch in the conference dining room. Ate too much again.

Darlene, Janet, & Lyndee at lunch

  • One-hour appointment with my agent to discuss where my current projects stand, talk about my writing plans for the upcoming year, and just enjoy each other’s company. This is always a conference highlight for me!
  • Attended 3:30 p.m. workshop “Extreme Survival Skills,” given by Dani Pettrey and Becky Wade. The perfect ending to the conference, with practical advice and inspiration for surviving and thriving on the writing journey.
  • Returned to hotel room to start packing for the trip home tomorrow, then dressed for the gala.
  • Met Seekers and friends downstairs and admired each other’s finery while waiting for the doors to open.
  • Enjoyed a fabulous dinner and dessert (ate too much again!), then applauded as each of the Genesis and Carol Award winners were announced. (Watch the replay on YouTube here.)
  • Debby, Janet, and I, along with Patti Jo and Darlene, popped in for a bit of socializing at a hotel restaurant/bar with Love Inspired editors Melissa Endlich and Tina James, plus several other LI authors. Debby high-fived the bodyguards escorting a bride’s bachelorette party, then nabbed Ted Dekker for a photo op. There may have been an incident involving Janet’s attempt to photograph a passing pedal vehicle. 
  • Returned to the hotel lobby for one last evening with Seekers and many of the new friends we made this week. 
  • Stayed up way later than I’m used to, fell into bed around midnight.

Myra, Mary, Janet, Debby
at the Awards Gala

Sunday, August 28

  • Finished packing and hauled all our stuff down to the lobby. Gave a lot of hugs. Made the 8-hour drive home.
  • Arrived to greetings from very excited doggies and began the weeklong attempt to catch up on sleep and return to some semblance of normal.

Shadow & Poppy

If you attended ACFW this year, how does your experience compare? What were the highlights? What, if anything, would you consider doing differently next year?

If you weren’t able to make it to the conference, what burning questions are you dying to ask? 

Join the conversation for a chance to win one of two giveaways—print version of my latest release, Castles in the Clouds, or the audio version on CD. Just mention in your comment which drawing (either or both) you’d like to be entered in.

About Castles in the CloudsYoung and impressionable Larkspur Linwood, aspiring to become a teacher, mistakes a college professor’s interest for romantic love. When he offers her the chance to join his efforts serving at a mission a school in Kenya, she pictures herself bringing the light of knowledge to hundreds of African children eager to learn. But the menial tasks she’s assigned at the school aren’t so different from life on the farm where she grew up. Worse, her fragile heart is broken when she realizes her feelings for the charismatic professor are not returned. Miserable and deflated, she gives up and returns home.

Enter Professor Anson Schafer, whom she met briefly in Kenya. Partially blinded from an eye infection he contracted there, Professor Schafer cannot return to Africa. He has come to Lark’s college to recruit teachers for a more modest venture—the founding of schools here in the U.S. for those struggling through the Depression.

Still stinging from her experience in Kenya, Lark is reluctant to risk more disappointment, but she knows how great the need has become, and—although this isn’t yet the teaching career she’d envisioned—she finally agrees. As they work side by side, Lark begins to realize that the deepest satisfaction comes not so much from what you do, or where you do it, but from the attitude of your heart. She also slowly realizes that the gentle, determined Anson is the true love of her life.

Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Myra is a two-time finalist for the prestigious ACFW Carol Awards, and her Heartsong Presents romance Autumn Rains (November 2009) won RWA’s 2005 Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript.  Myra and her husband are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters who, along with their godly husbands, have huge hearts for ministry. Seven grandchildren take up another big chunk of Myra’s heart. Originally from Texas, the Johnsons moved to the Carolinas in 2011. They love the climate and scenery, but they may never get used to the pulled pork Carolinians call “barbecue”! The Johnsons share their home with two very pampered doggies who don’t always understand the meaning of “Mom’s trying to write.”

Twitter: @MyraJohnson and @TheGrammarQueen (that is I!)


  1. This is a super great breakdown for those who have never been to ACFW and for those who want to know about CFRR.

    I have a bunch of questions-some for me and some on behalf of others.

    1. Can you explain the Genre dinner?

    2. What meals does ACFW provide?

    3. How is seating determined at meals?

    4. At ACFW and CFRR are there opportunities to share swag and are there booksignings?

    5. Do you know if CFRR will be held in Dallas next year?


  2. And once again, Myra, I have to say..your cover for Castles in the Clouds is gorgeous.

  3. I agree with Tina. That cover is beautiful! Definitely has me wanting a print copy ;)

    This was a great post! I haven't yet had the chance to go to conference, so it was nice to get a break-down of what it's like. I second a few of Tina's questions. Number 2 was a big one for me - meals are an issue for health reasons. Do you know if they are able to accommodate severe dietary restrictions? Or do they allow you to bring and prep your own food if needed?

    Also, socialization and networking... Especially for newbies :) I know you can set up an appointment to meet with an agent or editor, but what other opportunities are there for networking with other authors, agents, and publishers both formally and informally?

  4. By the way...as a reminder...Julie Lessman will be going into detail on the CFRR on Wednesday. So more info is coming.

  5. I SO wanted to go to CFRR! But it's quite the distance from me and the expense is much more than I could afford. So I lived it through all the pictures other reader friends posted (and TRIED not to get too jealous) :-)

    Myra, the ACFW conference sounds very busy! I don't blame you on the early nights, I got tired just reading your post...lol! But at the same time, I'm sure as a writer you'd walk away with some new insight/book ideas/new friends/quality time spent with agents-editors-fellow writers....etc. Sounds like valuable time spent learning new things or sharpening your skills! And you can't beat the face time you spent with writer friends, nothing like getting a real hug from your fellow authors :-) Fun fellowship, good food (and lots of it), great classes/meetings, what more could you ask for?

    No need to toss my name in the hat this time as I have already won a copy of Castles in the Clouds. I'm just excitedly & anxiously awaiting for it to arrive in my mailbox :-) Thanks for the insight to how you filled your days at the conference!

  6. I love the authors in the period dress. I know it's not all play, but what fun.

    Please count me in for a print version of "Castles in the Clouds" thank you.

  7. Myra, what a great re-cap! This is a true bird's eye view of how busy a conference can be... and how fulfilling!

    The Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat was amazingly fun... and I loved seeing friends, mixing and mingling in the hotel for the conference.

    Meg, meeting authors, etc. at the conference is pretty easy because you're surrounded by them! And the Seekers always pick a gathering spot to hang out, touch base with folks, and get to know the people we love and usually see only through tiny GOOGLE pics! So that's wonderful. And we never, ever, ever let you get overwhelmed or lonely. If that happens, Mary makes fun of someone and suddenly the world is all right again! :)

    I'm going to let Myra answer meals questions....

  8. And may I say it was SO MUCH FUN to see so many people in Nashville... I didn't recognize Tanya Agler in the elevator... She's absolutely adorable! And Carrie Pagels is tall!!! Preslaysa Williams is a little bit of a thing, but she talks tall on facebook! And the Lobby Lurkers, the great bloggers and reviewers and readers who made so much of CFRR possible... Bonnie Roof, Annie Sturt, Carrie Schmidt, The Two Rachels/Rachaels... Sydney Anderson (Singing Librarian) I'm missing some names here but it's early in upstate!


  9. Thank you for giving us all a 'taste' of what it is like at conference. That is someplace I've never been but would truly like to go in the future.

    I agree with the cover of your book Myra...it is gorgeous. I would love to love to win a print copy.

    May you have a blessed day!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  10. Myra, what a beautiful cover for Castle in the Clouds.

    Growing up in Kentucky, we ate barbecue beef, chicken, and pork. We didn't have a preference. (Probably whatever was on sale.) When I moved to Georgia, I was soon told, "No self-respecting Southerner would eat BBQ beef." I loved Georgia so much I began eating pork all the time. Even after being back in Kentucky for years, I remember that conversation and lean toward cooking pork.

    ACFW was a great time of meeting online friends and renewing friendships. The event was huge, and a little overwhelming. There were so many people I didn't get to see, but I still had a good time connecting with others.

    Thanks for sharing!

  11. Hi Myra! Thanks for giving us the play by play of your conference schedule. You were certainly busy. I'm curious, as a somewhat shy, introvert, how do you keep from becoming overwhelmed by it all?
    As a transplant to the Carolinas from Northern Virginia, I'm with you on the BBQ.
    Your cover is fabulous! I'd love to be entered for a print copy.

  12. Awesome, love this breakdown! I miss attending conferences... (yes, I know I was at RT but that was a bit different). Thank you for sharing with us! Dekker was one of my first CBA loves and I've always found his thinking to be challenging and stimulating.

  13. Myra, Thanks for sharing the conference with us. I would love to attend a conference some day, but until I am able, I can enjoy through other's eyes.

    I love your cover. Please enter me for a copy of the book either by print or audible CD.

  14. hi Myra
    Great post! I agree with you about BBQ. Just not the same around here in the South (VA & Carolinas). As a native Coloradoan, I miss some good ol' beef BBQ.

    I LOVE your cover for Castles in the Clouds, would love a shot a winning the book too. I absolutely loved the first book in the series. I'm pretty sure I posted a review for it too. I'll go double check to make sure I put LOVED IT in there somewhere...

    Right now I cannot envision ever going to a writer's conference. Personally I would covet the opportunity to go to a Seeker conference where I could meet all y'all in person. A weekend to bask in the presence of a bunch of ladies who dared to take a vision and share it with the world (PRICELESS). I'm not a planner though. That's a dream for when I win the lotto - except I don't play the lotto... *sigh*

    Anyway, cool post! Thanks for sharing so I at least have a glimpse of what it's like.

  15. Love your breakdown, Myra!!! How did you remember everythibg. Honestly, that week was a blurr to me. Thanks for thr reminder. Love that photo you took of the genre authors. Can I use that on our website too?

    Thanks for the giveaway. Please enter me for the audible cd.

  16. Myra, I think I saw you, but I never came up and said hello to you. :( I enjoyed ACFW. This year, I wasn't pitching anything. I sensed my role this year was to be an encourager for friends as they shared how their appointments went. It was definitely a different role to be in, but taking me out of the equation made for a more relaxed ACFW.

    I got so much out of Ted Dekker's speeches. They spoke to my heart and challenged me. I was able to attend most of my classes, which was great! I usually only get to one or two.

    I loved reading your recap of your ACFW. :)

  17. It looks like a fun time! Thanks for sharing so I can get a glimpse of the event. I would have loved to hear from some of my favorite authors!!

    And your book is so lovely. Please enter me for the giveaway!!


  18. Good morning, Seekerville!!! As usual, I'm still finishing my morning cup of Earl Grey and prying my eyes open. Glad you're enjoying my conference recap so far. I'll be back shortly to reply to each of your comments and answer questions.

    In the meantime, how about some cream cheese Danish and blueberry-flavored coffee--my new favorite for my new Keurig! Yep, thanks to years of listening to Tina, Ruthy, and others sing their Keurig's praises, I have joined their ranks!

  19. Sounds like such WONDERFUL time, Myra! Still wishing I could have gone this year--but it wasn't possible to fit into my work/writing deadline schedule. Maybe another year -- looks like so much fun and I missed seeing everyone.

  20. I didn't get to go to conference this year, but I shouldn't have an excuse next year. It's near Dallas only about an hour from me.

    Myra, or any of the conference-goers, what is the funniest/scariest/embarrassing thing that's ever happened at conference?

  21. This feels SO WEIRD... the accidents of calendar timing generally have me after Myra and Julie... except when the first day of the month is on a Thursday! And then I'm before them, but I keep feeling like I'm messing up the week because I should be writing a blog post...

    But I'm NOT DOING THAT, so rest easy my friends!

    I did, however, bring coffee!!!

  22. My Keurig...

    I love my Keurig.

    I don't mind admitting it.

    It's truly "An Affair to Remember"... (oh be still my romantic heart!!! Now I must go to the top of the Empire State Building!!!!)


  23. Okay, I'm back!!!

    TINA asked some specific questions, so I'll start with those.

    1. Can you explain the Genre dinner? It's basically just dinner--LOL! With the option to come dressed as a character in your book or in the manner of the genre you write. Genre attire is absolutely optional! I'd say there was a much higher percentage of us who came in our "normal" attire than those who dressed for the occasion. But it was definitely fun checking out all the interesting costumes!

    2. What meals does ACFW provide? At the Nashville conference, the meals included in registration were Thursday dinner, Friday breakfast and lunch, Saturday lunch and gala dinner.

    3. How is seating determined at meals? Mostly anywhere you want, except for tables reserved for faculty. At the Friday morning Zone Breakfast, there were signs on the tables indicating the ACFW zones, and you're encouraged to sit with others from your part of the country/world so you can get to know them. At the awards gala, the finalists are allowed in first to select their seats. Then it's every writer for him/herself.

    4. At ACFW and CFRR are there opportunities to share swag and are there book signings? Yes to the swag. CFRR held a book signing at the end of the day. There was no formal book signing event at ACFW.

    5. Do you know if CFRR will be held in Dallas next year? Sorry, don't know yet, but it would be great if it can be arranged!

  24. Beautiful cover, Myra. Sure wish I could have gone to the conference to meet you in person. Thanks for your play-by-play. Really interesting to someone like me who can only wonder what it was like.

  25. Thanks, TINA & MEGAN, for the cover compliments! I love it!

    Yes, MEGAN, you can include dietary restrictions on your conference registration form. The kitchen staff will be made aware, and at mealtimes you have a card to place on the table that tells the servers you need a special meal. The need for gluten-free has become so common that it seems pretty routine for the hotel staff. Dairy-free, too.

    As for networking, typically you can request two agent/editor appointments. You'll also find most publishing professionals easy to chat with after hours or between sessions--as long as you're polite and respect their time constraints. Don't interrupt them when they're obviously in discussion with someone else. And, as has been said many times, do not EVER corner them in a restroom stall!

  26. TRIXI, yes, it's a busy few days but so rewarding to spend that time with writer friends!

    And your book is on the way! Hopefully you'll have it in your hands sometime this week!

  27. Hi, MARY PRESTON! Yes, it's lots of fun admiring the writers that come in genre attire. I wish I had some photos from the actual genre dinner. There were some interesting "characters"!

  28. Oh, RUTHY, yes, it was great to meet the real people behind those tiny Google photos!!! You described them beautifully!

  29. You're welcome, CINDY W! I hope you have the chance to experience a writers conference one day soon!

    And thanks for the book cover compliments!

  30. JACKIE, so you understand my beef/pork issues--thank you! We've lived in the Carolinas for over five years now, but I still don't care for this pulled pork business! Thankfully, we've found one excellent barbecue place nearby that knows how to do smoked brisket Texas-style!

    Oops--now I've made myself hungry for some brisket!

    I agree--the conference can be overwhelming. So many people!!! So much going on!!! In the past I have been known to skip a workshop just to chill out in the quiet of my room for an hour.

    But, hey, if you really want to be overwhelmed, try an RWA national conference! There are probably four times as many in attendance!!!

  31. OH what a fun recap to read!! GOSH it was such an amazing time, wasn't it?!

  32. JILL, yay, someone else who understands "real" barbecue!!!

    It's definitely a challenge for introverts like me to be "on" all the time. It's especially hard at mealtimes in the huge, noisy dining room when everything becomes one loud hum and I can't hear anyone talking except the people to my right and left. I'm sure people look across the table at me and wonder why I'm wearing a deer-in-the-headlights stare.

    To keep from being overwhelmed, as I said in a previous comment, sometimes I just have to claim some quiet time in my room. Or latch onto other introverted types to find a secluded corner somewhere and talk without all the hubbub going on around us.

  33. Hi, JESSICA! Yes, Ted Dekker will really get your brain in a twist!

  34. Hi, WILANI! I hope someday you'll be able to attend a conference. If not the national ACFW conference, maybe you can find a smaller one close to you. Those are great for getting introduced to the conference experience without the higher cost, travel time, and sheer numbers of attendees.

  35. Yes, DEB H!!! Barbecue is supposed to be beef!!!!

    You know, we have batted around the idea of a Seekerville retreat, but figuring out the logistics is always the big challenge. Maybe someday . . .

    Honestly, Seekerville would not be what it is today without loyal Villagers like you!

  36. Ohhhh -- thanks for this, Myra. At last -- details!!!! And I'm exhausted just reading the schedule. So questions:

    Do they have something in place to help new conference attendees? It all seems so overwhelming I can't imagine navigating my way around. I'd just feel lost. I'm a Scaredy Squirrel when it comes to huge crowds like that.

    Is the conference run more like a business or church gathering? Like do sessions open and close with prayer? Is there worship music at any time? A quiet place set aside to think and pray? I guess I'm asking what sets ACFW Conference apart from say the RWA Conference?

    I'm assuming accessibility for people with disabilities wouldn't be an issue? Though the gala dinner seemed cramped with al the tables and chairs.

    No need to enter me in the draw -- I have read and loved Castles in the Clouds. Such an awesome story! Though you made me cry and I'm sulking over a certain plot point.

  37. LOL, JUST COMMONLY, I had to refer to my ACFW schedule and personal calendar to make sure I got everything in the correct order!

    Sure, feel free to use the genre photo. It was so fun to see the ladies all decked out like that!

  38. JEANNE, it can be so freeing not to have to stress about pitch appointments! Even after all these years, I still cringe at the very thought! I'm sure you were a great encourager to others, and I wish we'd had the chance to connect. If I remember right, you were also very involved with the contests and awards. That must have kept you very busy, too!

  39. Hi, KATE! Yes, there's so much to learn from other writers. Even after years of studying the craft, you never know when you'll pick up a new way of looking at something that you can apply to your own writing.

  40. GLYNNA, we missed you!!! One of these days . . .

  41. Oh, CONNIE, I don't know where to begin! Should I let MARY tell her story about MELANIE DICKERSON?

    For me personally, my most embarrassing moment was at my very first pitch appointment. I barely got my mouth open before I started crying! The editor was so sweet and understanding and offered me some of her M&Ms. Which I should have accepted, since I did NOT get a request!

  42. MYRA, thanks bunches for this recap of ACFW that allowed me to relive the conference and those times Seekers and Villagers got to hang out together! I was impacted by Keynote speaker Ted Dekker's talks and got some good info from Jim Rubart's workshop. I was blessed to hook up with my agent and hang with LI editors. Loved touring The Hermitage! Nashville is a fun town with lots to see.


  43. So, RUTHY, what coffee flavors did you bring to serve in your Keurig for us this morning?

    Or are you keeping them all to yourself?

  44. CINDY R, glad you enjoyed my recap! Would love to meet in person someday!

  45. MYRA, I love the cover of Castles in the Clouds and the story between its pages!


  46. MEGHAN, yes, it was quite an experience! Lots of memories!

  47. Myra, I was very sad that I couldn't go to the conference this year. I attended it a couple years ago, and your schedule was pretty much how I remember things going. (Well, yours had a few more exciting moments in it than mine did!) Thanks for sharing so I could experience a bit of the action.

    Please throw my name in the drawing for a print copy of the your book. Thanks!

  48. Myra, Thanks for the breakdown of your days at ACFW Conference! I attended several years ago, but then switched to nonfiction, so I've not been back. But I still keep in touch with a number of members and hope to join again once my book is published.

    I would love to have the printed version of your book!

  49. Hi, KAV! Oh, yay, more questions!

    Do they have something in place to help new conference attendees? Yes, there's a first-timer orientation on Thursday afternoon before the opening session. Also, experienced attendees are always more than willing to answer questions or find the right people to help you.

    Is the conference run more like a business or church gathering? The conference itself is very businesslike, but worship and prayer begin every day, maybe half an hour or so. Rachel Hauck and her praise team have been the worship leaders for as long as I can remember. Usually someone prays before meals. There is also a prayer room with someone always on duty to pray with you, or you can just go in and sit quietly for as long as you like. In those respects it is definitely a different experience from RWA.

    I'm assuming accessibility for people with disabilities wouldn't be an issue? Shouldn't be an issue. I've seen people at the conference in wheelchairs, with walkers, with guide dogs, etc. Yes, the dining room can feel quite snug, but there's usually lots of extra room around the periphery.

    Uh-oh!! Wondering now which plot point in Castles you're referring to. I have a feeling I might know. If so, it was hard for me, too. :(

  50. JANET, it was so fun getting to see you again! These times together are just too few and far between!

    Ahem. I did notice you refrained from comment about the Saturday-night picture-taking incident. ;-D

  51. Hi, LESLIE! Yes, we had a few moments of excitement--but that's what makes each conference memorable in its own way! I hadn't been in a couple of years, so it was fun to catch up with everyone and be part of the action again.

  52. EDWINA, I hope everything is going well with your nonfiction writing. Have you attended other Christian conferences that have nonfiction tracks?

  53. Myra, my question (and I may have just missed it being asked earlier) what did Project guy do? (Except for the times you mentioned him doing things with you)
    I love the cover! And I am looking forward to reading the book!
    I've often wondered (inquiring minds want to know) what goes on at those conferences, so thank you!

  54. Hi, MARIANNE! Well, Project Guy had plenty of fun that week! He's become great friends with Janet's and Mary's and Julie's hubbies over the years, and so the guys usually plan their own excursions (and brag to us gals about it later). I think this year they visited a Civil War battleground near Nashville, went to some museums, looked around the Grand Ol' Opry (I think Janet's hubby actually went to a show one night), and other fun stuff.

  55. MYRA, I enjoyed seeing all these amazing ACFW photos. The genre dinner looks like so much fun!!!!

    Are the sessions recorded?

    Please enter me for a print version of Castles in the Clouds.

  56. Hi, CARYL! Yes, you can order recordings of many of the sessions. Here's the link:


    You may not be able to get them individually yet, just the entire conference on flash drive, but eventually they do usually break them out so you can order just the recordings you want.

  57. Hi Myra! It was so wonderful getting to hang with the Seekerville Group in the evenings and I'm so glad I got to meet you!

    This was my first ACFW conference so I'm still in the awestruck phase. The highlights (BESIDES THE SEEKERVILLE EVENINGS) for me included Ted Dekker's speeches and pitching to agents. Even though that was petrifying. Meeting some of my favorite authors was soooo groovy too! And there's nothing like hanging with other writers. I loved the conference and had such a great time.

  58. MYRA, I can never get enough time with you and all the Seekers. Though the photos don't prove it, Ruthy was there with her sparkling blue eyes having a blast! Loved getting to meet some Villagers in person for the first time!

    Ahem, situational amnesia...


  59. SHAREE, it was great to meet you in person, too!!! So glad your first ACFW conference experience was a good one! Yes, pitching is sooooo intimidating! But to be surrounded by so many writers--people who totally "get" you--is an amazing thing.

  60. Right, JANET, I think RUTHY had more fun than we did sometimes. JULIE too!

    Ahem. Need me to jog your memory??? [wink, wink]

    Actually, I still chuckle every time I think about DEBBY high-fiving those bodyguards!

  61. Thanks for the conference info, Myra. I haven't been to a big conference in ages. The pictures are great!

  62. You're welcome, CARA! Miss seeing you at conferences! I think the last time was Moonlight & Magnolias a couple of years ago.

  63. Ah, MYRA, this post sure brings back many fond memories, my friend -- EXCELLENT job!!

    I can't express HOW MUCH I loved spending time with my Seeker buds, especially the Seeker dinner the night before CFRR AND participating in CFRR with them as well.

    My only complaint is: Myra, how the heck do you get the names at the bottom of pix?? My blog on CFRR Recap tomorrow looks lame next to yours. Sigh.


  64. Myra, great recap. I feel like I'm reliving ACFW!!!

    May I add that our evening Seekerville gatherings were quite large. One night we had over 30 people in a library area off the main lobby. Comfy cozy and a great place to chat and visit.

  65. The hotel staff was delightful, all so friendly and helpful. The food was yummy...so much...so good! And the dining room service was like a 5-star restaurant. Fine-dining for sure!!!

    Myra mentioned diet options...gluten and dairy free as well as vegetarian and vegan. They aimed to please and ensure everyone had a lovely dining experience.

  66. Don't fret about the conference being large. It has a nice, comfortable feel to it and everyone is ready to help out if you need directions or info. The meeting/workshop rooms are easy to find. Plenty of time for breaks. And the food just keeps coming all weekend. :)

  67. JULIE!!! It's easy! When you place your image in the post, there should be a popup thingy of menu options across the bottom. You know, where you choose what size, right/left/center, etc. Well, farther along it says "caption." Click on that, and voila!!!

    Loved spending time with you in Nashville, too, sweetie! Precious moments!!!

  68. In my own defense, the body-guards, as Myra called them, were young guys who passed right by our table. I'm sure one of them high-fived me first. Really! :)

  69. Oh, DEBBY, so true!!! They fed us like royalty! Honestly, the Saturday noon meal was as delicious as we've ever had at some gala dinners! And you're right, the waitstaff was excellent. So accommodating and polite. The hardest part sometimes was just the sheer size of the group they had to serve, so sometimes it felt like it took a little longer for them to fill special requests or get back around to our table with coffee/tea refills.

  70. Yeah, right, DEBBY. Selective memory indeed. ;-D

    I'm pretty sure I'm remembering this right, though, that you practically tackled Ted Dekker to get him to stop for a photo op!

  71. Wonderful recap, Myra. There was so much that was unforgettable at ACFW this year. (Even though Janet suffers a little amnesia.) The Omni was gorgeous and I kept taking pictures of those enormous glass chandeliers. But the real beauty for me was visiting with my Seekerville friends and feeling their so-appreciated prayers as I went to my editor and agent appointments.

    I can't ever thank you for that support enough. Seekerville evenings around that huge fireplace were so inclusive--such a nice way to relax after a busy schedule each day.

    Hugs to all,

  72. Myra, I loved the CFRR because that was like the missing link from the conference for me as a published author. My great need isn't classes that I skip... it's anything that connects me to readers, and the retreat was a marvelous resource for that.

    So for lunch and dinner, they don't have author/editor/agent tables anymore, where you can sit in AWE of an agent or editor and hope you don't spill something on them?

    That's probably a nice break for the agents and editors... I liked that when I was a newbie, though, just to hear them talk!

    But I can understand that they need time off just to 'be' during a busy, harried weekend!

    I love all this info!!!

  73. Wish I could have gone to this. Would have loved to have seen the Ted Dekker keynotes. Met him once before. He's fascinating.

    Can't find good BBQ in North Carolina. I'm going to assume you're joking on that.

    So many Seekers I still haven't met yet. Maybe someday. :-)

  74. What a great way to relive the conference! Thank you, Myra!

    This was my third conference, and definitely the best I've been to.

    Seeing friends I'm getting to know better with every conference is a big part of that - I think I was in almost every workshop with you, Janet, and Debby!

    Meeting new friends is fabulous, too. I love matching names and faces. Spending time talking in the lobby or even in the airport starts a friendship off right, doesn't it?

    Meetings with my agent and editor are so valuable that it's worth the price of the conference! I appreciate that face-to-face time more every time I go.

    But the high point of the week for me was my roommate. Ruthy is the best ever, and not anywhere close to as snarky as she sounds here in Seekerville. ;)

    Thanks for the great memories!

  75. It sounds like you had a great time. I personally find conferences extremely stimulating and I can't WAIT to get home and apply what I've learned. I also come home with possibilities for new markets and outlets. What I'm weak on: keeping in touch with the great people I meet.

  76. DARLENE, it was wonderful spending time with you at ACFW! (Not sure what to do about JANET's amnesia--LOL!) Yes, it was a gorgeous hotel. The only real problem I had was that for the first 2-3 days our room keys repeatedly quit working and we had to get them replaced! And wasn't that a lovely lounge area with the sofas and fireplace? So cozy and inviting!

  77. No, RUTHY, they haven't had faculty-hosted meal tables in a few years now. I think the conference just got too big for it to work comfortably and everyone get a chance to sit with someone from the faculty. And you can't hear across the table anymore anyway, in such a huge room with so much chatter.

  78. WALT, it all depends on what you call barbecue. Seriously--pulled pork????? WHERE'S THE BEEF????

    Yes, Ted Dekker's talks were really inspiring and thought-provoking.

  79. JAN, it was so fun getting to know you better and sitting in all those workshops with you!

    But seriously, are you really going to tell us what a great roommate RUTHY was??? I've heard stories about her strangely weird sleep patterns. I supposed she does have a non-snarky side if you give her half a chance. And she was definitely all sweetness and light and inspiration at CFRR. Who knew???

  80. Love your recap of the conference, Myra. It was wonderful to meet you and spend time with so many Seekers!

  81. KB, my brain is always on overload after a conference. So much to process! And I need all kinds of help remembering names and faces, even after meeting people in person. There's also something so different between the real-life 3D person and those 2D profile photos, so I don't always immediately recognize someone even if I've seen their photo every day!

  82. Definitely, MEGHAN! Always fun to meet our Villagers in real life!

  83. Thanks for sharing your conference week experience, Myra! I loved meeting all of you wonderful authors at CFRR and I'm looking forward to the next readers/authors mingling opportunity (although I don't think Texas is in the budget for me)! No doubt, I will lobby lurk the next chance I get!
    That's great that your hubbies are buds and get to enjoy the week as well. As an introvert married to an introvert, I know it can be hard to stretch those social butterfly wings and get out there. Plus my kids are still young and we like spending time together, it's hard to leave them behind ;)
    Please put me in the hat for a print copy of your book (and I agree, the cover is lovely!)

  84. Darlene, loved being your roomie! And so glad you had such a wonderful conference!

    I loved every minute! So relaxing, so fun, so enjoyable!!! Plus, lots of great workshops and people to meet!

    BTW, Ruthy was delightful whenever we were together. Really! Maybe it was Jan's influence. Jan is a very calm, peaceful woman. I'm sure she rubbed off on the Ruthinator! :)

  85. FYI, two great branding guru's from Seekerville wowed ACFW!

    Patti Jo with her basket of Georgia peaches!

    And Rhonda Starnes with her sparkling Converses that she wore to the gala!

    So proud of both of you ladies!

  86. Hi, BETH! Wasn't CFRR such a fun day? Yes, conferences can be crazy-intimidating for us introverts. It helps that we're surrounded by so many others just like us who understand.

    And don't worry--you'll have plenty of time for conferences after the kids get older. The years pass so quickly, so enjoy them while you can!

  87. Yes, DEBBY, let's give JAN all the credit for RUTHY's conference niceness!

    Oh yeah--loved PATTI JO's Georgia peaches and RHONDA's cool sneakers!!! Those sparklers at the gala were out of sight!!!

  88. Sharee Stover said the word groovy.


    I am so old that my generation's language is now back in style.

    Not sure that means I should cry or rejoice.

  89. Yeah, same here, TINA! Everything old is new again!

    Far out!!!

  90. Seekerville is groovy! So are Seekers and Villagers! :)

    Love it!

  91. I didn't go to the conference, but it was very interesting reading about your experience. Thanks! Probably the thing that interested me the most was the genre dinner. I love dressing up and so I use any excuse possible to do so! :)

  92. NICKY, I bet you'd have had a blast at the genre dinner!

  93. Giggle. Groovy NEVER goes out of style :)


  94. Nicky! Mary Connealy dressed up Western for the genre dinner is a sight to behold. She's pretty much, groovy.

    I will say this. ACFW tends to have the best food.

  95. Loved your post, Myra! (AND your book cover is beautiful! Congratulations!)

    Highlights of ACFW? Hmmm... So many: Ted Dekker's keynotes (amazing!!!), Don Maass's early bird workshop (learned lots), meeting some of the Seekerville community in person (FUN!), my sweet roommate's thoughtfulness (TWO kinds of fudge for snacking on), praise and worship time (LOVED it), fellowship with writers (YAY!), and being a Genesis finalist (GREAT contest experience). Ohhh...AND the food (YUM)!!! :-)

    P.S. DEBBIE G: I'll always remember your kindness. (((HUGS)))

  96. Y'all make it sound like SO MUCH FUN...I'm gonna put my quarters in my teapot bank and buy a ticket next year!!

    Myra, I'm jumpin' in with the "Love the cover" crowd!! Magical!

    Poured the last of my morning hot Huckleberry Tea over ice and now I'm ready to write!

    Have a beautiful day...and week!!

  97. Yes, MARY in her Western attire is a sight to behold!

    CYNTHIA, I attended a Donald Maass Early Bird a few years ago. He's quite a dynamic teacher! Wish I'd known about your roommate's fudge--you would have had to bar the door against me! And congrats again on being a Genesis finalist! That's huge!

  98. KATHRYN, start saving now! And remember, you can always write off the conference as a business expense.

    Oooh, yum, huckleberry tea! Sounds wonderful!

  99. Myra, I forgot to say how cute those puppies are!! Yes...Huckleberry Tea is yummy...didn't think I'd like it, but it's refreshing either hot or iced!!

  100. Thanks, KATHRYN! We love our doggies! Shadow is getting up in years--maybe 13-14 (not sure). Poppy is our feisty young thing, just turned 4. They are both very special!

    Must see if I can find some huckleberry tea. Is it a special blend? I got some blueberry-flavored coffee for our new Keurig, and it is outstanding!

  101. I loved your post, MYRA - thanks!! A huge highlight of my week in Nashville was truly the opportunity to meet many of you Seekers. As you know, I wasn't registered for ACFW, however, after CFRR - stayed at the hotel where the ACFW conference was held, for the rest of the week. Solely for the purpose of meeting and getting to know many more authors/writers, etc.. As one of the organizers of, and participants in, the CFRR program, there wasn't as much time to meet/spend with authors/writers as I would have liked at CFRR itself, it was such a joy to do that at the hotel.

    It was a exhausting week, but one of the most enjoyable of my life!! Not being involved in the ACFW activities, I was able to spend most of the time meeting and spending time with people - yet there were so many other people I would have loved to meet. The adrenaline rush compelled me to keep going the entire time I was there, LOL.

    Re: TINA'S question as to whether CFRR will be held in Texas next year - a decision hasn't been made. It will involve discussion of all options, advantages and disadvantages, comment cards from attendees at this year's CFRR, etc. - as well as lots of prayer, which was the case with this year's CFRR also.

    TINA, I was recuping from CFRR and not online for days afterward, but want to thank you for featuring pics from CFRR on Seekerville a couple of weeks ago, as well as the blog posts about it in the last few months.

    Also, a huge thanks to all the Seekers who participated in CFRR, itself: Myra, Julie, Ruthy, Mary, Debby, Janet, and Jan!! Looking forward to meeting the rest of the Seekers in the not-too-distant future.

    Please drop my name in the drawing for a paperback copy of your beautiful book, MYRA- thank you so much!!

  102. MYRA, Thank you for sharing your experiences and photos here! Thanks also to everyone who shared questions and/or answers in the comments! Looks like you all had an amazing time. I hope/plan to go next year and would love to everyone!

    As a lifetime Texan I agree with you on the barbecue - can't imagine it any other way.

    Love the cover of your book!! Truly beautiful!

  103. Oh, man, I wish I could have gone to the genre dinner, let alone the whole conference. I would have to dress up as a superhero, of course. Or a spy.

  104. BONNIE, we cannot thank you and your crew enough for putting together such a fabulous event! I was thrilled to be able to take part! I just wish there had been more opportunities to get to know you better without all the hubbub going on around us. Even in the library sitting area where we all gathered at the hotel, there were always SO MANY people!!! With all the busyness and excitement, it's no wonder you needed time to rest and recuperate.

    I'm sure there will be many of us praying for and about future CFRR events. Everyone seemed to have such a wonderful time, and it was delightful to see so many avid readers excited to be there.

  105. Oh yay, LAURA, someone else who understands Texas barbecue!!! I'm a native Texan and lived there all my life until 2006, but will always be a Texan at heart. Hope you can make it to the conference next year!

  106. BOO, I'm sure you would have had a blast! Playing dress-up is always fun!

  107. Myra, I felt like pulled pork at ACFW. When I made reservations for the conference, it was to hang out as an author...and then the Gilead acquisitions editor-at-large opportunity came along with lots of appointments with authors and agents. The best time I had was the short breakfast with the Seekers. So much fun!! But that's the fastest I've ever eaten a bowl of oatmeal. Wish I could have stayed longer!!! I felt at home with y'all.

    Please, please, please tell me where the Texas barbeque place is in Nashville! I like pulled pork but there is NOTHING like real Texas BBQ. When I was a kid we lived in Dallas and I still remember the delicious smoky taste of that beef. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

    I do need to apologize to Ane Mulligan. It was so late by the time we ate dinner on Wednesday night that I was in a full-blown hypoglycemic attack when she stopped by our table in Kitchen Notes. I could barely remember my name let alone recognize her. Really. When my blood sugar drops like a rock, I care barely think or talk. Ane, if you're out there, I apologize. I was trying to act normal, but probably came off as an idiot. You could have been Karen Kingsbury and I wouldn't have recognized you. After you walked away, my hands were shaking so hard that Sandie Bricker asked the manager to bring me an emergency bisquit and lots of sugary jelly. I was sucking on a sugar tab, but it wasn't doing the job. Besides girl, where did your short red hair go!? lol

    Next year, I want more time with the Seekers!!!!!

  108. Oh, BARBARA, it was wonderful seeing you again, especially having some quality (if rushed) time together at breakfast that Saturday morning!

    Well, the barbecue place was almost right across the street from the hotel. Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint. The beef brisket was a little peppery, and the sauce wasn't exactly Texas-style, but it was close enough!

    Yikes, your blood sugar emergency sounds frightening! One thing I really dislike about alterations to my normal routine is when mealtimes get out of whack. It can throw off everything!

  109. So much fun, Myra, to read your recap of the conference. I love enjoying it vicariously. One of these days I will make it in person.

    Wish I had time to read all the comments. Signing in late since I was subbing today and soon have to leave for evening job at the book store.

    Please enter me for the print version of your beautiful book.


  110. I hope you can attend the conference someday, SANDY!

    Sounds like you've had a busy day with more yet to come. Hope you can enjoy some time with all those books at the store!

  111. Taking a dinner break! This is Tuesday, which means $10 pizzas at Papa Murphy's! Hubby's got ours in the oven--YUM!!!

  112. I loved meeting everyone at the conference. I only went to the Seekers gathering for the first night but it was absolutely wonderful to meet so many of you in person. I was coming from my day job straight to conference, driving 8 hours each way, and starting right back to work after the conference so I chose to get as much sleep as I could. Wish I could have visited more but I had to be realistic. By the way, I'm loving the bead book mark that Jennifer David's was passing out.

    As a first timer I learned tons. I loved meeting with 2 mentors and a paid critique. After the first day I realized I should probably have not met with an editor the first time at conference...I went to my meeting anyway...I learned a lot but it became more of a coaching time and not a sale. Because I had 4 appointments I missed several parts of the conference. After missing all of the first hour on Saturday I went in and added the after conference. I was truly inspired by Susan May Warren and Rachel H. If you are struggling to organize your thoughts they have some great ideas.

    Every meal proved interesting. I ate with published authors,editors, agents, people who have never been published, people who have their own publishing house, and PEOPLE WHO NEVER heard of Seekerville! I have a whole collection of business cards...which you will need if you go to conference.

    I brought home several bags of either purchased or free books. My reading and craft library population just exploded.

    The conference was a big investment but it was well worth the investment. I'm glad I went. Now I just need time to absorb and apply what I've learned.

    Myra, I would be honored for you to throw my name in for your book. Have a great rest of the day.

  113. I loved meeting everyone at the conference. I only went to the Seekers gathering for the first night but it was absolutely wonderful to meet so many of you in person. I was coming from my day job straight to conference, driving 8 hours each way, and starting right back to work after the conference so I chose to get as much sleep as I could. Wish I could have visited more but I had to be realistic. By the way, I'm loving the bead book mark that Jennifer David's was passing out.

    As a first timer I learned tons. I loved meeting with 2 mentors and a paid critique. After the first day I realized I should probably have not met with an editor the first time at conference...I went to my meeting anyway...I learned a lot but it became more of a coaching time and not a sale. Because I had 4 appointments I missed several parts of the conference. After missing all of the first hour on Saturday I went in and added the after conference. I was truly inspired by Susan May Warren and Rachel H. If you are struggling to organize your thoughts they have some great ideas.

    Every meal proved interesting. I ate with published authors,editors, agents, people who have never been published, people who have their own publishing house, and PEOPLE WHO NEVER heard of Seekerville! I have a whole collection of business cards...which you will need if you go to conference.

    I brought home several bags of either purchased or free books. My reading and craft library population just exploded.

    The conference was a big investment but it was well worth the investment. I'm glad I went. Now I just need time to absorb and apply what I've learned.

    Myra, I would be honored for you to throw my name in for your book. Have a great rest of the day.

  114. Highlights of the conference....
    THE CFRR was fantastic. I'm so amazed at how wonderful that day was.
    Seeing Seeker sisters and Seeker Villagers.
    I always love meeting my agent. I met some folks from Gilead, too and I really liked that, putting faces with names.

    The food. It was just really good, everywhere. In the hotel the meals the conference provided were unusually good compared to other hotels, at the dinner with Bethany House, just random meals with people.
    And getting to actually talk to Seekervillagers. Putting voices with names and the ID pictures. I always wish I had time to talk MORE to so many people.

  115. Hi Myra, Sounds wonderful. What a nice recap. I bet you enjoyed writing it as much as we enjoyed reading it. Always fun to go back and remember all you did because the day you leave your mind is mush. LOL

  116. Phew! I don't think you had to worry about eating too much at the conference, Myra. It sounds like you burned it off the rest of the time. I'm glad to see a discussion about how CBA authors can write for ABA. Would like to see more of that.

    Thanks for the recap and the pictures. So fun to see all those smiling faces.

    Nancy C

  117. BETTIE, I'm so glad your first conference experience was such a great one! Yes, it will take some time to absorb and process it all! And you figured out the downside of making appointments--you end up missing part or all of workshops you really planned to attend and learn from. The conference recordings are the next-best thing, though, and you can then listen to most if not all of the workshops that way. Years ago when I was commuting 45 minutes each way to some volunteer work a couple of times a week, I would pop a conference recording in the car stereo and listen.

  118. MARY, spending time with Seekers and Seekervillagers was the best! And AMEN on the food! It was fantastic!

  119. Mush is right, SANDRA! It always take me several days to get my brain back in gear!

  120. NANCY C, I wasn't able to attend ACFW last year, so afterward I purchased the "part 1" recording on writing for the ABA while keeping CBA values, then listened to it a few weeks before this year's conference. Good info in both presentations!

    I will grudgingly admit, though, that eating all that conference food did pack on a couple of pounds. Just about rid of them again, and would do it quicker if I'd get off my you-know-what more often during the day. Just still so much to catch up on at my computer!

  121. Hello Myra,

    That was a good recap. I always wondered how the conferences were structured. I think it would be fabulous to see so many people and so much energy in one place.
    Maybe someday I will attend the reader conference. But, with 7 kids home educating at the moment . . it will have to wait.

  122. BECKY, it does sound like you have your hands full! Yes, there's a lot of energy bubbling over at a writers conference, and CFRR was lively, too! I hope you'll get to experience it for yourself one day!