By Elizabeth Ludwig
I was privileged to attend the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference recently in Dallas, Texas. This is an event that I’ve attended before. In fact, I’ve only missed a couple of conferences since I started writing for publication back in 2002. The math on this one is pretty simple…that’s fourteen conferences over a span of an equal number of years (give or take a year when life got in the way).
On paper, the conference hasn’t changed much. The focus has always been directed toward teaching aspiring authors the craft of writing and inducting them in the intricate, and often treacherous, world of publishing. To accomplish this, the staff at ACFW do quite a remarkable job of scheduling informative workshops and speakers with a heart for authors. They also put together an impressive list of industry professionals—editors, agents, book reviewers, and media—for authors to meet and talk to about their respective writing projects.
At one time, this was a very valuable experience. In 2002, as an unpublished, un-agented author with a dozen different writing projects and no clear sense of direction, what ACFW provided was instruction and guidance. Several years later, with thirteen book titles to my name, including a Carol Award Finalist, an ECPA bestseller/SELAH Award Finalist, and a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist, I have to admit that the conference no longer holds the same allure. In addition, I honored to say that I am represented by one of the most respected agents in the business.
|ACFW 2015: Beth Adams, Elizabeth Ludwig, Susan Downs|
So what is the takeaway for an author in my position? Why would I bother spending the money to go to a conference that I’ve attended at least twelve times before?
If I’m honest, I struggled to answer that question before arriving in Dallas. I justified the expense with some inane excuses that sounded good but held very little validity. And then, I looked over my schedule. Along with the appointments I remembered, I had signed up to serve as an appointment monitor.
For two hours!
Two hours of doing nothing more than standing outside a door and holding up my hand to signal when the time on a fifteen-minute appointment expired (insert whine here). Two hours of pacing in bored stupor while the workshop I really wanted to attend went on without me and other people went in to speak with people I hoped to meet but now would not be able to…or so I thought.
What really happened was that I stood outside the door and chatted with a representative from RT Book Reviews for almost all of those two hours. Shortly thereafter, we were joined by a representative from Library Journal who asked about my books, my career, and eventually my publishing history. Please understand…I have never, ever had the chance to rub elbows with such prestigious industry professionals for such an extended length of time. With my very best efforts, I could not have coordinated such an opportunity!
In addition, I renewed old contacts as I walked editors and agents to their seats, introduced them to their respective appointments, and volunteered my services as timekeeper, hostess, and overall gopher.
That, my friends, is the takeaway from a conference such as ACFW. It’s not always about the scheduled appointments. Sometimes, it’s about the chance meetings that only God can orchestrate. It’s about the friendships that happen over coffee, and the kinship that comes with shared prayers in crowded hallways. Finally, it’s about stepping out in faith, without an organized agenda but with a heart for service—even if that heart started out whining, and ended up being incredibly and unbelievably blessed.
Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, books one and two in the popular EDGE OF FREEDOM series. Book three in the series, Tide and Tempest, was recently named a finalist for the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Elizabeth was also named a finalist in the 2015 Selah Awards for her novella “One Holy Night”, part of the bestselling anthology collection, Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine. She is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit ElizabethLudwig.com.