Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Expect the Unexpected at the ACFW Conference

Once upon a time, a writer with high expectations, boarded a plane for Kansas City, Kansas and the very first conference for American Christian Fiction Writers. (Back then the organization was called ACRW, the "R" standing for Romance.)

The excited newbie writer hungered to learn all she could about writing fiction and to meet other fiction writers--some of whom were published, while many others aspired to be contracted. The conference did not disappoint. Only 100 attendees, including the presenters, but they made a mighty impression on that rather small hotel and its staff.

What the writer didn't expect was a call a couple days later from Andrea Boeshaar, who was then agenting, saying, "I want to represent you." The writer had already been rejoicing over the wonderful experience in Kansas City that included a conversation with Andrea, and the call was like a cherry on top of the dessert. Totally unexpected.

As you may have realized, that writer was me.

I've had the blessing of attending each and every ACFW conference. What kinds of unexpected things happen at the ACFW Conference?

Margaret Daley announcing the Service Award Winner at the Denver Conference in '09
For some, having your name called out as Mentor of the Year or recipient of the ACFW Service Award which is given to an outstanding volunteer. Two awards the recipients have no idea about since there isn't a slate of finalists.

Every year someone has been blessed to have their name called out by a Barbour Publishing editor to receive their very first fiction contract. It's never expected and comes as a complete and awesome surprise.

"Chance" meetings go on every day of the conference. Someone sits at an editor's meal table and by dessert they have a request for a proposal, while out in the lobby another settles into a cushy chair to kick off her heels and happens to sit next to an agent. Soon she's being asked to send a proposal. Back in the dining room, someone is chatting with people at the dinner table and before long, they agree to become a crit group. Are these meetings chance? I like to think of them as "God Appointments." Opportunities don't all happen in editor/agent appointments.

Last year, one of our sponsors gave away an Ipad through a drawing. The winner was volunteering in the bookstore and someone had to get her. A very surprised woman came into the room to receive her prize. A totally unexpected moment.

One of the most unexpected moments for me came several years ago at a Dallas conference. Because Andrea had decided to stop agenting, I had gone to conference determined to find a new agent. The agent with whom I requested an appointment canceled due to a health issue, and all other appointment slots were filled. I found myself in the prayer room, pouring out my heart to God and opened to Psalm 37: 3:
Trust in the LORD, and do good. Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. (NKJV)
The part about feeding on His faithfulness prompted me to look back on how God had been faithful to me in so many ways up to that point. Truth be told, I didn't have a manuscript ready for any agent to present. God impressed that at the right time, I would have a new agent. And a year later I signed with Terry Burns. That was also unexpected, but has been the greatest of blessings.

I encourage anyone reading this who has not yet decided whether to attend conference this year, if it is at all possible, go. You never know what unexpected thing may happen while you are there!

Below are some candid shots of attendees at Denver in 2009 and Indianapolis in 2010.


Ane Mulligan said...

Congrats on being this week's Volunteer Spotlight, Pam. You've worked so hard for ACFW for so many years! And you've stayed the course to now enter its ranks as a PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm so proud of you, my dear friend!!!

Pamela Meyers said...

Thanks,Ane, MY dear friend LOL. Looks like this is the week God is good, all the time :-)

Barbara Hartzler said...

Since I'm from Kansas City, (Missouri), and am debating going to the conference, you post really hit home. I really hope I can make it this year! Don't know if the conference will ever be so close to home again. :)

BTW: Congrats on your first sale! How exciting. :)

Pamela Meyers said...

Barb, I hope you can come. Last year and this year for me the conference is drivable as I live in the Chicago area. That's been nice.
Thanks for the congrats on my book. It's been a real blessing.

Cara Putman said...

Can't wait to see you, Pam! Just read the contract post, too. So very excited for you!

Pamela Meyers said...

Thanks, Cara. Can't wait to see you too! I remember when you got your first contract at conference. What an excited day that was too!

God is good.