Good morning, InpsyRomance! If you saw my post on Sunday (or follow pretty much any Christian author on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc.), you know that last weekend was the annual American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. This year it was held in Dallas at the Hyatt Regency at DFW. Someone (I think it was Ginger) summed up one of her conferences earlier this year and I thought I’d do the same. So…here it is…
- Stayed up super late (like 2am) to get papers graded so it wasn’t hanging over my head while I was gone
- Up with the birds to finish the last minute packing
- Left as soon as the bus did, hit two Walmarts, and McDonald’s then picked up author friend Helen Gray at Sam’s Club about 915 to begin our trek
- Turned a 7 hour drive into a 10 hour drive by stopping at another Walmart (where I finally found the sweater I’d been looking for!), stopping for lunch, and hitting rush hour traffic – and going the wrong way. Siri tried to take us to the Hyatt Regency downtown. Fortunately, Kristen Ethridge is local and answered my desperate texts (sent while stopped in stop and go 2mph traffic) and helped us get back on the right track – we only missed the turn by a mile – in super slow traffic :p.
- Saw camels in Oklahoma.
- Arrived at the hotel at about 630, got checked into our room (she was sharing with me the first night), registered for conference
- Found about five friends hanging out at the registration desk – they encouraged me to jump up and down and squeal for real (like out loud) at my QIP ribbon (it means I’ve met a minimum threshold for sales as an indie and can enter contests like the Carol Awards and do other stuff limited to published authors).
- Had dinner and made a new friend with a random conference person we found in the lobby
- Went to bed fairly early (like 1030 ;))
- Slept in because we didn’t have anything we HAD to do until afternoon. 830. Yep. That’s late at conference!
- Headed downstairs to the conference office to get tape because my ribbons had already started falling off and we couldn’t have that! Said hi to Robin Carroll (Miller) who is the Director of ACFW and runs the conference and her husband, Casey, who is her right hand man. He takes care of all the appointment details for anyone who wants to meet with agents or editors, etc. They explained how all of it works to some of us one year – wowza! It’s a job I wouldn’t want! Something like 1500 separate appointments over the course of about 14 hours in two days. EEP!
- Sat with dear friend Kristy Cambron while she ate breakfast and chatted with another new friend.
- Found Jen Cvelbar (writing as Jennifer A. Davids) and took our picture under the elevator sign – because that’s where we met three years ago. Moved her into my room and moved Helen out ;). (I’d planned to room by myself the first night until Helen decided she was going :D. Not that I don’t love Helen…But no sense in both of us rooming alone the first night…)
- Went to the First Timer Orientation. No, it’s not my first time, but I help with the email loop for First Timers. Offering encouragement and advice – and answering questions when they’re asked over and over again (because people join as they register and didn’t see the answer last week). And so on.
- Hugged a lot of necks!
- Went to opening session. Missed most of praise and worship (my favorite part) because of a text message from home and childcare that needed dealing with. There’s something completely indescribable and inexplicable about worshiping with 500 other people who get me. Who understand the voices in my head don’t mean I’m crazy ;). The first one is always super special to me, but I ended up missing a chunk of it :/.
- Opening keynote with Bill Myers – creator of McGee and Me and a bunch of other stuff. He was fabulously funny and deeply insightful at the same time.
- We all changed for the genre dinner then came back down for a fantastic meal. I went as a harried author. I didn’t get any super cool pics of all the other costumes. Everything from a 1930s type PI with a (obviously fake) machine gun to Regency to anything else you can imagine!
- Jen and I sat with a group I’m part of. It was fabulously fun. There are pics to prove it. I can’t find any of them.
- Jen and I decided to head to our room and had both changed into jammies by 830. This is odd. Very odd. In fact, when I mentioned it on Facebook, Peter Leavell asked if we were feeling okay :D.
- Up super early because breakfast starts at 8 so you need to be downstairs by 745 and you have to be like, presentable.
- It’s Zone Breakfast day which means there’s a group of tables for people from your zone – my Central Zone is Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska. I got to eat with Deborah Raney and Jocelyn Green, along with several unpublished authors I didn’t know beforehand.
- I headed to the morning session of Traci Hilton‘s Tricks Rich Indies Use class. During the break I chatted with her and Gregg “Mr. Hallee” Bridgeman. Between them, they told me the one thing I’m doing not quite right. I know Traci, and she’d already told me she thought I was already doing almost all of the things she’d recommend. That was fabulous to hear!
- Time to be a greeter for lunch! That means we check nametags to make sure only the people who paid for the meal get in. It’s also a great way to see a whole bunch of people you haven’t yet (like Betsy St. Amant!) and get lots of hugs.
- Lunch was great, though I don’t remember who we sat with that time…I think it was “just” new-to-me people, but those are some of the funnest times!
- Chatted with Candace Calvert, my very first writer friend when I started pursuing publication for realz. I also had my first selfie-stick photo taken.
- I, uh, sorta skipped the second half of Traci’s class. BUT KRISTEN ETHRIDGE WAS THERE! She wasn’t coming to conference but did come hang out with us for a few hours. That was great since we’d never met before! I also got to chat with some other friends.
- Friday night dinner’s on your own, so our crit group (me, Jen, Kristy Cambron, Stacey Zink, and Joanna Davidson Politano) went to the hotel restaurant. They got downstairs before us and adopted a lonely conference goer planning to have dinner by himself. Poor guy probably didn’t know what he got himself into!
- We went back upstairs where Jen and I watched Girl Meets World WITHOUT our kids, before I headed down to a meeting for chapter presidents.
- Met Joy Massenburge by the elevators. She’s a hoot.
- Sat in the lobby with Traci Hilton and her husband, Bonnie Calhoun, Janice Thompson, Kathleen Y’Barbo Turner, and a couple of others and LAUGHED my head off!
- Then crashed.
- Breakfast was at 8. Again. No special groups this time, but I did spend all of it trying to get together some of my indie numbers because I’d forgot to earlier. Things like total books sold/borrowed/given away and total income, etc.
- Met with my agent, the fabulous Tamela Hancock Murray, and had a great discussion about said numbers. We also talked about a potential proposal for the traditional world. I hope to have it together by spring since I’ll need a completed manuscript.
- Indie publishing Q&A with Hallee Bridgeman, Janice Thompson, Traci Hilton, Randy Ingermanson, Cynthia Hickey. Didn’t really learn anything new, but had a couple of things verified in my own head. I’m blessed to be acquainted with all of them and to call several of them friends.
- “Networked” with Gina Welborn (okay – I ditched my next class and we talked ;)). Pretty sure meeting her was one of the big reasons for this conference for me.
- Greeted again for lunch. Sat with the InspyRomance gang. Unfortunately, Colleen Coble gave the “State of ACFW” talk during lunch so we didn’t get to chat as much as we wanted (the talk was good, but unexpected). But I did get to hear Narelle Atkins (Australia), Marion Ueckermann (S. Africa), and new friend Jessica Everingham (Australia) talk. I could have listened for hours. ;)
- Ditched classes again (I’m sure they were fabulous! I have the MP3s coming!) to network some more. I forget with who exactly though… Fun people I’m sure ;). Jeane Wynn was among them.
- Headed upstairs to get ready for the gala. Think fancy dresses and awards ;). Lots of pictures.
- Sat with my crit group and a couple of other friends. Yummy dinner. Genesis Awards for unpublished authors. Carol Awards (no! not named after me!) for published authors. Editor, Agent, Mentor, Volunteer of the year awards.
- More pictures. Hugged Pepper Basham.
- Managed to miss meeting Francine Rivers who was on hand for the Lifetime Achievement Award (link includes other winners).
- Change back into comfier clothes and hang out in the bar for a while. (It’s not quite as unchristian as it sounds! It has lots of chairs – and lots of food and nonalcoholic-y stuff too!)
- Had a wonderful chat with new friend Joy Massenburge and Pam Hillman. I’m pretty sure meeting Joy is another reason for this conference!
- Finally went upstairs and wrote Sunday’s blog. Then crashed. Hard. And my feet were completely swollen after standing on them so much for days.
- Up about 815 to finish packing. Loaded the van and left about 930 (after hugging Jen super hard one more time).
- Turned the 7 hour driving into an 8 hour drive by stopping four times to go to the bathroom or get gas or eat – and driving the same 3/4 mile stretch about four times to get pictures of the camels ;). No one believed me! (There was a place to U-turn not far on either side of them :D.)
- Dropped Helen off with her son-in-law. Made it home about 630. Got a couple “oh hi Mom” from two kids – one also gave a big hug. The dog was incredibly excited and snuggled up close for about half an hour. One kid came home from next door with her own “oh, hi Mom”. One kid came up from downstairs with it a while later.
- Oldest kid then proceeded to tell us the carpet in front of her door was soaking wet. Sure enough…the air conditioner drain in the utility closet was clogged and had overflowed (her room is across the hall). It also seeped out under the wall on the other side so two huge sections of carpet were soaked. Dried it as best we could. Bed on the couch at 145 when I’d done all I could do – and could keep my still-swollen feet propped up better. (After 24 hours of two of the snail looking fans blowing, the carpet, padding, and concrete seem to be completely dry.)
And in 336 days, we’ll do it all over again. In Nashville. And hopefully without the wet carpet ;).
Five days of little rest, lots of laughter, always some tears, way more hugs, and connections with people you never believed possible.
Yeah. I’ll do it all over again.
Did you recognize any of this? CANDID, the writers’ organization in my CANDID Romance series, is very loosely based on ACFW. What do you think would be your favorite part of a conference like this? Or something similar you go to. One lucky commenter will receive Kindle copies of books 2 & 3 (Finally Mr. Write and Falling for Mr. Write) – book 1, Finding Mr. Write, is free on all platforms. Winner will be announced Sunday, September 27.