Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The ACFW Conference starts next week!

The ACFW conference begins in Minneapolis next week, and like so many of our Seekerville residents and guests, I’m busy getting ready to head that way.

Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot more to getting ready for a conference than deciding what clothes to pack! Creating one-sheets. Designing business cards. Making editor/agent appointment choices. Practicing pitches. Does it ever get any easier?

After twenty-some-odd years of attending writers conferences, my unequivocal answer is a resounding NO!

However, I’ve picked up a few pointers over the years that have helped lower my stress level at least a little.

1. Plan ahead. Don’t wait until conference week to make sure you have everything in order. If you’re reading this and you haven’t started getting your act together yet, may I remind you the clock is ticking!

2. Arrive early. If at all possible, get to the hotel at least a couple of hours before the first scheduled event so you have time to check in, settle into your room, and maybe freshen up from the trip.

3. Face the fact that you can’t do it all. There is no way any normal human being can physically, emotionally, or even spiritually take in everything a conference has to offer. You’ll save your sanity and maybe even your health if you give yourself permission to skip a workshop or two and take a nap or visit the prayer room instead.

4. Volunteer. You may have already seen announcements on the ACFW loop about volunteer opportunities, and there may still be openings available.

5. Dress for success, but keep it comfortable. Conference days are long and you could be in the same clothes and shoes for 12 to 16 hours. Bring a sweater or jacket, or dress in layers.

6. Stock your portable office. A few weeks beforehand, I start putting together a conference organizer notebook that includes my registration and hotel confirmation, the schedule, workshop descriptions, editor and agent information, and my pitching notes. Don’t forget a legal pad or tablet for taking notes, extra pens, a highlighter, sticky notes, paper clips, and anything else you might need.

7. Get your pitching materials in order. Write out and practice an attention-getting one-liner and a slightly longer “elevator pitch.” I also like to print out answers to typical questions editors or agents ask about my story so it’ll be handy for quick reference (see #9).

8. Plan your appointment strategy. Locate the room ahead of time and make sure you know exactly how to get there. Arrive a few minutes early so you have time to catch your breath and organize your thoughts. Have your notes handy and your one-sheet, business card, and possibly a writing sample ready to show the editor or agent.

9. Be prepared to talk intelligently about your project. You should be able to tell:

• Why readers will identify with your hero or heroine
• Where the is story set
• The projected length
• Your target audience
• The main character’s visible goal and external motivation
• What obstacles the main character will face
• How the main character grows through the course of the story
• How the conflict is resolved
• Published books similar in tone or style to yours
• Your passion for this project
• Where the idea came from

10. If there’s a particular faculty member you’d like to sit with during the Friday or Saturday lunches, get to the dining room early. If you can’t find a seat at the table you were hoping for, God may have someone else in mind for you that day, so wherever you find a spot, introduce yourself around the table and see what happens.

11. Soon after you get home, sort through all your notes and handouts. Send thank-you notes to anyone who was especially helpful and to everyone you had an appointment with, even if you didn’t get a request. If you did get a request, send that proposal!

12. If you haven’t already, start right now to cover your conference experience in prayer.

A writers conference can be transforming. It’ll stretch your mind and your faith. It can open doors to opportunities you may never have anticipated. Expect an emotional roller-coaster ride, because there will be highs and lows—moments you wonder why in the world you ever thought you could be a writer, and then those mountaintop highs when you know this is what God called you to do and you know you have to keep writing no matter what. That’s the voice you want to listen to!

See you in Minneapolis!


  1. THANKS Myra. This was most helpful. I won't be at ACFW conference this year, but 2009 I'll be there. I'll keep this post handy!

    Have a great day!

  2. Oh, this is SO exciting!!! I wish so badly I was going. Maybe next year.
    But your list is wonderful!

  3. This was an EXCELLENT post! And I have not started getting packed. Yeesh. But the first year I went to the ACFW conference...I was SO excited to be able to go...I packed six months early. Not kidding. Well, my husband accidentally took the ENTIRE suitcase (with business clothes, jewelry, EVERYTHING) to the Salvation Army because I'd set it near our door beside some boxes of stuff that I had filled while decluttering. WAAAAAA!!!!!!

    So...don't pack TOO early. LOL!

    Hi Jessica and Sheri...hopefully we'll see you next year! Be srue to keep our Seeker sisters who are staying to hold down the home fort hopping okay?


  4. Oh, Cheryl, how wild! Sounds like my husband--if I'm not on my toes he'd throw out anything that isn't tied down.

    BTW, Cheryl, I remember your great blog post before the 2007 conference about covering the whole thing in prayer. I've used a few of your lines (with due credit, of course) in conference prep talks I've given.

  5. Oh, Myra, thanks for your great post, which comes from a lot of experience! I especially liked those questions you listed. I'm answering those and printing them out to take with me!

    I'm afraid I've already broken your first two rules, though. My flight doesn't get there until 2:20 on Thursday (and that's hoping I don't get delayed!!!) But I'm with you on not trying to make it to every single workshop.

  6. Myra, Great post and it sure makes me long to be there with all of you Seekers. I will be covering you all with prayer that you meet who you need to meet, learn what you need to learn and are blessed with many wonderful experiences and confirmations for your calling.

    Love to all of you. Have fun. Be sure and plan at least two days afterwards to REST because you'll be exhausted. Be sure and follow up on requests for manuscripts too. Editors say many don't follow through.

    Hugs, Sandra

  7. Myra, I hear that ticking clock and I haven't started preparations for ACFW! Well, I do have my registration info and workshop selections in a folder. You've given me some great pointers and the kick in the pants I needed. Great post!

    Cheryl, how awful!!! Were you able to get your suitcase and belongings back?


  8. So true, Sandra--there's always the necessary recovery time after conference! We'll be driving, so I'll have plenty of "chill time" in the car.

    Praying everything's on time with your flight schedule, Melanie!

    Sheri & Jessica, we'd better see you at ACFW next year, okay?

  9. Excellent post, Myra! I totally agree with all you said--especially that you can't try to do it all. I tried at my first RWA conference, and nearly collapsed from exhaustion when I got home. So I recommend pacing yourself. and take time to meet your online friends in person! It's one of the best things about a conference. :)


  10. Cheryl!!! I can't imagine losing all my conference clothes and jewelry! Ack! Especially since I wear the same things over and over.

    Hmmm.... Could that be an excuse to buy new clothes??! :)Gosh, and you were even able to blame that shopping trip on your husband! LOL


  11. I think that's horrible, Cheryl! That happened to a friend of mine, only it was her oldest daughter's clothes that she was saving for daughter #2. Her husband took it to Goodwill by mistake. She drove to Goodwill and bought back as much as she could, but didn't find some of the things.

    I hope you got to buy some new stuff!

  12. CHERYL!!! You've left us with a cliffhanger! We want to know if you recovered your possessions.


  13. I just remembered something similar that happened to me! A friend had given me a bag of cute little boys' clothes to pass on to our grandson. Before I got around to it, though, my husband put the bag with some other stuff going to Goodwill and it was GONE!

  14. Myra, thank you so much for the post! I am so excited about my first conference, and I appreciate all the information. I especially liked the editors questions. Although I'd guessed some of them, I hadn't thought of all of them. This will give me a chance to write down the answers and prepare my thoughts for a hopefully somewhat intelligible response.

    Cheryl, how awful! Were you able to get the suitcase back? Since he took it, I hope he didn't complain when you had to go out and buy all new clothes.

    I have one question. After you introduce yourself to the editor/agent, do you just start in on your pitch, hand them your one-sheet and sit quietly while they read it, or ask them where they'd like you to begin? I've heard all three.

  15. Lorna, I just HATE doing pitches! I start with a very short personal introduction, maybe say something about why I chose that editor or agent, briefly mention the kind of writing I do, and lay my one-sheet on the table. Then I give them a few moments to look it over and start asking questions.

  16. Thanks Myra, a great post and especially appreciate #9.

    Yes, I will be there, God willing.

    I designed my one-sheet for Outaw yesterday and I really like it, although I'm not crazy about my pic on the bottom. (sigh)

    Teen daughter looked at the cowboy pic at the top and said, 'You're not leaving that! He's not even handsome.'

    I took one-sheet back mumbling, 'It's all a matter of opinion and it's my one-sheet.'

    The cowboy pic on my one-sheet is the same one I have as wallpaper on my laptop. The man is in western gear beside his horse and he's bearded - just like my hero.

    I have noticed however, that since I put my bearded cowboy and horse wallpaper on my laptop, my hubby has now grown a beard. Hmmm

    What does that tell you, ladies?

  17. How fun, Anita Mae! Beards do add a certain macho effect. Both my sons-in-law have a little bit of a baby face, so they think beards make them look more mature.

  18. Well, I guess I have been just a terrible hostess today--haven't brought out the refreshments yet! I'm no Ruthy in the gourmet department, but how about some fresh fruit, brie on fresh-baked sourdough bread, and sparkling cider?

  19. Anita Mae, that's so funny about your hubby growing a beard! :)

    Jenny, have a great trip!


  20. See you in 2009 Sheri. It's in Denver (my backyard) so alas I am not going this year either. But I hope you all have tons of fun!

  21. Ditto what Tina said. Y'all have a great time. I look forward to hearing all about it, and seeing the photos. A video clip or two wouldn't hurt, either. Am I being pushy? Sorry, I love photos.

    Cheryl, that's awful!

  22. One of these days.....

    IMW, if any of you are in the vicinity of SW LA/SE TX Bayou Writers Group is having our 1 day conference Nov 15th!

    Email me for details: pthib-7@centurytel.net

    Have fun @ ACFW!!

  23. Hi, remember me? That's good because I dn't remember mywself.


  24. Great post, Myra. Being a planner, I know exactly what I'm taking. I'll pack my suitcase this weekend. I loved #9 and plan to print out the questions and put them in my conference portfolio.

  25. Oh, Cheryl! What did you do?!


    Since this is my BIG trip for the next couple of years, I signed up for everything. I covet your prayers b/c I just felt led to do that. It will be easier than baling hay or working at the restaurant, so hopefully I'll have enough energy for everything.

    I'm going to keep my eyes peeled (um, sounds kind of gross, literally) and hope to run into some of you all in person.

  26. I am printing this out! Thanks for putting it all together.