Juggling Family & Writers Conferences

by Lisa Jordan, @lisajordan 

Autumn is my favorite season because September and October bring several special dates to mind—my wedding anniversary, the birthdays of my two boys and the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference.

I’ve been attending ACFW since 2005, which is the first year I met Susie May and knew she was someone I wanted to help mentor me through this crazy writing journey.

That initial conference was everything I dreamed and even more. I formed friendships, realized I had a ton of things to learn about the writing industry and leaned into the knowledge God called me to be a writer.

Attending conferences are not required to get your books published, but they allow you to build relationships with other writers and industry professionals, which is one of the essentials for a writer’s career. Investing in a conference means investing in educating yourself as to what industry professionals are looking for as they read hundreds of proposals that come across their desks or fill their inboxes.

However, the months and weeks leading up to the conference can be challenging especially if you’re a parent, working inside or outside the home. When I made plans to attend my first conference, I needed to take time off from my day job and find care for our two boys, who were ages 14 and 11 at that time because my husband worked second shift at the time. We needed someone who could be available for our boys after school and help with their extra-curricular activities.

One more juggling act for writers wearing many hats.

For us, our primary responsibility was to find care for the boys. They stayed with friends who had kids close in ages to our boys, and they lived within walking distance to both boys’ schools. I felt confident leaving them with responsible adults because I knew they’d receive great care.

In order to help our friends take on the additional responsibilities of our boys’ activities, I used a weekly calendar and wrote out all of their after school activities and homework projects that needed to be completed while I was gone. I made sure my boys understood their responsibilities in seeing these things to completion. I wrote out checks for lunches, school pictures and made sure they had clean clothes for school and practices.

I reviewed everything with Hubby, the boys and the family who would be caring for them for those days. I made a few casseroles ahead of time that could be frozen, and I gave them to my friend’s family to help with evening meals. Even if they decided not to serve them for dinner, she had an extra meal on hand for some other time when cooking time was tight. Plus by adding two extra boys to their family of 5, I wanted to make it as easy as possible for her.

Once my boys’ needs were taken care of, I focused on preparing for the writers conference. I studied the ACFW conference information on the website, ordered business cards, prepared my one-sheet for pitching and communicated with my upcoming roommate. I packed my suitcase and printed boarding passes for one of the greatest adventures of my life.

Having peace of mind about things on the home front allowed me to keep my focus where it needed to be while sitting in workshops, meeting with editors, chatting with agents and getting to know other writers. I called my boys each night and talked about their days, making sure they were ready for the next day.

Once I returned home from conference and after passing out hugs, I made notes about what worked that year and what needed to be improved for the next year’s conference. Yes, I was already planning ahead because I needed that time to budget the money and have the days marked off my work schedule.

If you desire to attend a writer’s conference, but wonder how you can leave your family, don’t despair. With a bit of planning and asking family or friends to help out, you can work everything out in order to attend your favorite conference.

TWEETABLES

Juggling Family & Writers Conferences @lisajordan on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2xDZmQF

Want to attend a writers conference, but unsure because of family? @lisajordan shares on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2xDZmQF

Trying to balance kids and a conference? @lisajordan shares how she managed it on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2xDZmQF

——————–

Lakeside Romance

A Recipe for Romance Sarah Sullivan will do whatever it takes to make her summer youth program permanent. But when she’s tasked to teach the teens basic kitchen skills, her hope goes up in flames. Not knowing the first thing about cooking, Sarah needs help. Smelling the delicious aromas coming from her neighbor’s apartment one night, she thinks she’s found her answer. Alec Seaver might know his way around pots and pans, but the lone-wolf widower doesn’t want anything to do with the free-spirited beauty next door. But after he becomes Sarah’s reluctant partner, Alec realizes that she might just be the key ingredient missing from his life.

Heart, home, and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. Represented by Rachelle Gardner, Lisa is an award-winning author for Love Inspired, writing contemporary Christian romances that promise hope and happily ever after. She is the Operations Manager for Novel.Academy, powered by My Book Therapy. Happily married to her own real-life hero for almost thirty years, Lisa and her husband have two grown sons. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys family time, kayaking, good books, and playing in her craft room with friends. Visit her at lisajordanbooks.com.

Writers Conferences–Are They Worth It?

by Pamela S. Meyers

Just after the calendar turned from 1999 to 2000, when I was starting to write fiction, I became aware of a Christian writers conference in my own area called Write to Publish. I had heard from others that a conference like WTP was the best way to get noticed by editors and agents.

I attended the conference with the dream of having my current WIP contracted by the time it was over. I didn’t see my dream realized (rarely is a contract signed at a conference), but I came away with a lot more.
I learned how to start a novel in the right place (mine did not), attended a continuing class on writing a Christian novel, and met with a multi-published author who read my short story and declared I had the beginnings of a novel. I also heard about a fledgling Christian writing organization called American Christian Romance Writers (it wouldn’t become the American Christian Fiction Writers, better known as ACFW, for several more years). Those things, plus the interaction with other writers, made the conference worth every penny I spent.

I

Pam with Ane Mulligan & Gayle Roper 
at
last year’s ACFW Conference

soon joined what is now ACFW and made plans to attend their first conference in Kansas City. Since then, I’ve attended every ACFW conference and others, including ones in Florida and Colorado. I cannot speak strongly enough on the value of these conferences.

It was at the Kansas City ACFW conference that I connected with my first agent, and when she retired from being an agent, it was at the Colorado one that I began discussions with the man who would eventually become my second agent. I pitched my stories to editors, attended writing workshops that helped me grow in my writing skills, and met other authors, some of which have become life-long friends. I’ve also been able to keep up with the publishing industry and current trends in ways I could not by staying home. This is so vital in this time of publishers cutting back their fiction lines or canceling them altogether and the rise of indie publishing. 

I didn’t receive my first publishing contract until 2011, and since then have been blessed to have published more books, some traditionally and others indie. The contracts I’ve received came about through contacts made at conferences, and not all were through an editor appointment. There are a lot of opportunities for random conversations with editors, publishers, and agents at meals and in the halls, etc.
If you are new to writing fiction or a seasoned veteran, there is much to gain from attending a conference. The conference season is almost here and there are many good ones to consider, such as Mt. Hermon, Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Write to Publish, and the ACFW Conference which is held in September. That’s a partial list of what’s out there.

If you’ve attended writers conferences in the past, what have you gained from the experience? Please share in the comments!

TWEETABLES

Writers Conferences–Are They Worth It? by Pamela S. Meyers (Click to Tweet)

So Many things made the conference worth every penny~ Pamela S. Meyers (Click to Tweet)

I cannot speak strongly enough on the value of these conferences.~ Pamela S. Meyers (Click to Tweet)

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love and her historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Her novella. What Lies Ahead, is part of a novella collection, The Bucket List Dare, which is now available at Amazon in both print and Kindle formats. Second Chance Love from Bling!, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, released in January

2017. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas. Here’s the link to her Amazon author page where you can purchase Second Chance Love and any other of her books: http://amzn.to/2kqP5C

Title Photo Copyright: kasto / 123RF Stock Photo

Grabbing Our Attention for a Shift in Vision

The day I wrote this post, we mourned again the shift
that happened to us as a nation on that September 11, the lives lost and
the pain experienced by so many on that day and in the days since. We-the-people
and they-the-leaders have heard and told so many lies in the ensuing years . . . some purposeful, some hopeful, some just plain stupid.
by Zachary Staines, Unsplash
Turmoil in the heavens (titled by me)
We live in times that challenge us to ask questions of
ourselves and each other. How shall we live? How did we get here and what are we
going to do, what can we do, to climb out of the mess? I hear hopelessness from
so many, anger at the political games and the candidates, fear about tomorrow
and tomorrow’s tomorrow.
This isn’t a political post. It’s a writer’s post. It’s a
human’s post. I’ve asked these questions here before, and I’m asking them again
because I don’t think I’m the only one pondering these things. Don’t you feel a
stirring to do something different—or at least to do it differently?
I just returned from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Nashville, the first ACFW gathering I’ve attended since
2010. Cost nixed any thought of ones in between, that and wondering if I fit
among CBA writers. I’m merely a Christian who writes fiction instead of a Christian
who writes fiction that’s Christian. There I go, anthropomorphizing books: our stories don’t, in themselves, have a belief system. Let’s say instead that
some Christians write fiction that does more than reveal their worldview; it
actually provides a strong and unequivocal faith message. My “Oh, I can’t
afford it” had some backbone in the thought that a conference designed for those
who write for the tribe instead of those who write across lines wasn’t
something I needed.
If you’ve read my recent posts here, such as Writing in a Time of Discontent and Writing and Reading When the Living Ain’t Easy, you will have noticed a certain angst building in me. I’ve
begun to believe this was a God-driven discontent. I had no specific reason for it, no
answers. All I knew was that I longed for a new or renewed vision.
NASA, Unsplash
Vision? Yes, please.

To attend or not to attend? I’m frugal by nature, and I
hate to inconvenience others. Attending would disrupt my husband’s life. He’d
have to man the fort here, and because my mama lives with us, he’d be in charge
of meals. (Michael doesn’t cook.) I’d already booked a flight to the Women’s
Fiction Writers Retreat in New Mexico. And now I was thinking of zipping off to
another one? It felt selfish. Greedy. The idea of seeing old friends didn’t
have the weight it needed to absolve me of guilt. Nor did the fact that on the
way home I’d be fulfilling a commitment to address a book club.

But I couldn’t rid myself of the idea that I was supposed
to be there, as if God wanted to do something in me and with me and for me,
something He could do best if I spent too much money, drove too many hours, and
got myself to Nashville.
My beloved husband said, “Go. We’ll be fine.”
I went.
And, oh, my. What an experience. Old friends, yes, and new
friends added to the blessing. But the inspirational messages from Don Maass
and Ted Dekker, the worship, the sheer joy of being among other writers at
whatever stage they found themselves, was so powerful that I wanted to do a
happy jig. The only downside to the entire experience was driving the mountain
road west of Asheville with marauding trucks for company. They didn’t like me
any more than I liked them.  
I am among the most blessed of women. I have a husband who
adores me and supports my dreams and sails with me. I have family of whom
I’m immensely proud. I have friends and tribes, and I have the most fun job in
the world, that of crafting stories and sharing love with readers. And I have a
God who pushes and prods me into action because He knows what I need.
I came away from Nashville with one answer, at least. I will continue with added zeal to cleave unto Him
with all my heart and not let the enemy distract me from my purpose. I won’t
worry about what others do. I will do—with all my might—whatever my hand finds
to do. Right now, that means loving Him and loving my readers with all I have
in me and crafting whatever story He calls me to write, hoping that His love
will pour through the words into hearts more in need of Him than ever before.

by Joe Gardner, Unsplash
Opening to the Light (titled by me)
I can’t fix the times we are in and neither can you. But
perhaps we can write stories that offer hope and point readers in the direction
they need to go, in whatever way we’re called to do that.
Because I had such a spectacular time, I asked three
friends to share their thoughts about the conference. 
Robin Patchen, http://robinpatchen.com,
critique partner and friend, said this about her experience this year. “The biggest takeaway for me was the sense of community. I
love the way veterans reach out to people new to ACFW and try to make them feel
comfortable. I love the way ‘big’ authors don’t act big but sit in classes and
learn with everybody else. I love getting to share my stories and hear others’
stories—not just our books, but our lives. I love feeling like I’m part of this
great, godly, flawed, writing, editing, publishing, crying, celebrating, and
worshipping community of crazy writers.”
Sharon Srock, http://womenofvalleyview.blogspot.com wrote, “…It’s such an encouragement to sit in classes, shoulder
to shoulder with much more accomplished writers and see your own ‘Ah ha’ moment
mirrored on their faces as an instructor gives us all something new to think
about. So much of Donald Maass’s early-bird session added to what I already
had. His questions about what can make things worse for your protagonists, what
can make them feel more human, what new highs or lows can you add to the story
were exactly what I needed. I finished the conference with Susan May
Warren’s session on ways to supercharge your series… Add in the chance to put
faces to names and seeing that we all struggle with the same doubts and worship
the same way… I can’t wait till next year.”
And then there was the woman I picked up in the hall. Who
could imagine I’d do such a thing, but as I headed to my room on the sixth
floor, I noticed a porter giving directions as he wheeled a stranger’s luggage
forward. I called out, “Are you here alone?”
She looked at me in horror. A strange woman in a strange
place asking if she were alone? She finally said, “Oh, no, I’m here with ACFW.”
I grinned, realizing I’d sounded slightly mad. “Oh, good,
so am I.”
by Alex Harvey, Unsplash
Give Kathy 20 years, and she might have looked at me like this!
Can’t you imagine her lifting her cane, ready to throttle me?

Kathy Beliveau—who, it turns out, lives within an hour or
so of me—is an aspiring author and a delightful new friend. She and I spent the
afternoon and evening together, checking out the bars and singers on Broadway
(as my husband said, “What else would you do when you pick up a woman?”) until
we decided we were too old—or our ears were—to handle the volume and we
retreated to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

by Linda Yezak of Kathy, yours truly, and Ane Mulligan

Here are Kathy’s words about the conference.

“I was in such a dark swamp before the conference. And you,
Normandie, asked if I was alone….and then… Blessings.
“I’ve been blessed meeting some wonderful folks, cheering
folks I’ve marginally met who I ‘met’ while reading and judging their
books. 
“Thank you fellow writers for the help, encouragement,
support and the lifting up that ACFW conference provides. Reminds me of how
blessed I am.  Not in a swamp of my own making but amongst others who
reach out and say ‘come.’”
So, what about you? Did you attend the ACFW conference or
another one that brought on a shift in thought and motivation? What has been
roiling in your spirit recently? Do you feel the need for change? The need to
move in some different direction? Or perhaps just the need to get busy and get
out there, to be doing the work you were called to do, whatever that is?

I’d love to hear from you.
Normandie studied sculpture in Italy before receiving a BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Her women’s fiction has garnered numerous awards across the country, including a recent final in the Maggie (Heavy Weather): Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather(2015). Her first romantic suspense, Two from Isaac’s House, released in November 2015 and was a Romantic Times Top Pick. From Fire into Fire is her fifth book. A lifelong sailor, she and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. 
@WritingOnBoard

Conferences—Advancing Your Writing Career

by Robin Caroll
As a
little girl, I had a dream—to be a writer. Life ensued. I went to college and
graduated with a paralegal certificate, then realized I hated the legal
industry. I wanted to experience life, so I went to work in the automobile
industry. Stayed there, in customer service, for ten years. Let me tell you,
THAT was an experience. Every now and then, I’d remember the dream and write a
poem. Enter it in a contest, got a couple published. Then I got married and had
my first daughter. I had such a busy life, how could I think of my dream? Until
the day my little girl and I were reading, and I thought to myself, “I love
reading, have always loved reading. I want to be an author, have always wanted
to be an author.” I decided to do something this time. I enrolled in a Writer’s
Digest fiction course. Completed it, and began work on a manuscript.
Life
interrupted again. We moved—twice. I had two more little girls. But the dream
didn’t die. And ten years after I completed my fiction course, I decided to do
something again. I bought craft books. Joined writing groups. And learned about
writing conferences. Before then, I hadn’t a clue that there were conferences
you could attend to take workshops and classes to learn and study. Places you
could go and be taught by nationally recognized authors. Events where you could
meet with *gasp* editors and agents,
face-to-face. Boy, was I hungry for that.
I attended some small, local conferences. Learned
what a pitch was. Realized I was nowhere ready to pitch to an agent, much less
an editor. Honed. Networking  Robin Caroll, Novel Rockettudied. Absorbed. It took me having gone to four conferences
before I attended the “big” ones—ACFW National and RWA National.
At my first conferences I:
  • Met
    my critique partners face-to-face and our relationship changed from just
    writing partners to dear friends for life.
  • Met
    my mentor in person and realized I loved her just as much as I did on
    email and telephone.
  • Met
    my agent in person for the first time.
  • Pitched
    to the editor who ended up contracting my first book—the one I’d pitched
    to her.
  • Networked
    with editors who I just like hanging out with because they’re fun
  • Been
    blessed to have taught and encouraged other writers
  • Realized
    how much I NEED conferences to feed my writing spirit 
Now that I’m published and have many, many
conferences under my belt, I still wouldn’t miss going to at least one or two a
year. Why? Because now I can:
  • Connect with my
    writing friends. There’s something special about hugging a friend and
    praying with them in person.
  • Network with others
    in the industry.
  • Visit with my agent
    and various editors I’ve worked with.
  • Get up-to-date
    information on this ever-changing industry.
  • Feed my writing
    spirit.
  • Learn new insights
    as well as brush up on my skills to hone my craft. 

Want to advance your writing career? GO TO A
CONFERENCE. Yes, it takes money to go. Plan ahead. Apply for scholarships. Sale
the kids. (Ok, I’m kidding about that.) But the expense is worthwhile—you’re
investing in your career. And for me? It’s investing in my mental stability to
be around others in this crazy industry.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage–two aspects Robin weaves into each of her 25 published novels. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty-five+ years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons–in the South, where else? She serves the writing community by serving as Executive/Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best, and Book of the Year.
Bayou Corruption

“Don’t let them get away with it, Jacks-” 

Those were the sheriff’s last words. Left for dead in the middle of the road, Jackson Devereaux’s good buddy had slipped into a coma. Well, Jackson wouldn’t let them get away with it, once the ace newspaper reporter uncovered who they were. He’d start with the lovely Alyssa LeBlanc, the only eyewitness to the crime. Problem was, she hated Jackson-why?-as much as she hated being back in the Louisiana bayou. Unfortunately, the truth lay deep in the bayou’s belly. And whether they liked it or not, Alyssa had to lead the way.