Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Preparing for Conference Season

While most of the country is reaching for lemonade and ice cream in these super hot temperatures (welcome to summer in Florida, by the way-bleh!) fall is around the corner. I promise. And that not only means cute sweaters and pumpkins, but also conference season! Huzzah!

If you're planning to attend the ACFW conference this year, did you realize it is almost exactly two months away? Is it just me, or is that really hard to believe?

So today I wanted to put together a list of some things you can do now to start preparing for the conference, and to keep you the dreaded panic that comes from waiting until the last minute.

  • Research, research, research. Sometimes people spend a lot of money to attend conferences but not much time preparing. If you are going to meet with an editor or an agent, please take the time to find out what that person represents. If you write historical, you don't want to wind up pitching to someone who's only looking for YA, or vice versa. Many publishing houses have a very specific vibe that they specialize in. Take time to read books by prospective publishing houses, and see who's publishing work like yours. Then target those people. Impress editors and agents by being able to converse about their current authors. You'd be surprised by how few people do this, and it will give you the edge up.
  • Start working on that one sheet. Don't wait until the last minute to get your materials ready. The sooner you get started, the more time you'll have to tweak. Your one sheet should give your title, your hook, a blurb about your story that leaves the editor/agent wanting to see more, and a bio about yourself. Our own Alley Cat Angie Dicken is offering an amazing deal on one sheet designs (only $40 per one sheet!) if you haven't already heard. You can see some examples of her work at this link:
  • Get that book ready! To pitch a project, it needs to be at least mostly done. With two months to go, you still have plenty of time to get it ready, but time's a 'ticken, so be sure you get serious about putting in that consistent word count so your project is pitch-worthy.
  • Pray, pray, pray. Pray for God's favor, His appointments, His vision, and for Him to use you to minister to others. Pray for the editors and the agents and the publishing houses and the future of CBA. We 
We so desperately need to stand up as the body of Christ--and especially as Christian writers--to pray for the future of Christian fiction. If we, who are already so passionate about this field, fail to seek God's council and favor, who will? God wants to do incredible things through all of us, and I have personally seen and experienced His presence in a deep way at the ACFW conference. 

Think of it this way. Imagine if you had a relative or friend who wanted to give you something valuable, but they were waiting until you were ready, and until they could give it to you in person. They needed to know you were engaged, and that the moment was right. What if you never spoke to that person? What if you knew that gift was yours, and yet you never claimed it?

I wonder how often God is holding the gift-wrapped box out to us, hands outstretched, and waiting. How often His heart must be grieved when we close our fists and turn away.

Don't turn away. Believe He has great things for you, and seek His face until you find them.
  • Leave your nerves behind. When we begin to prepare for something big in our lives, it's natural to start getting more and more nervous as the excitement builds. Everyone feels a little scared to get on that plane and take the next step. Don't let anxiety keep you from your dreams. Keep in nerves your check by reminding yourself of the vision God has cast in your life and your writing. And at the ACFW Conference in particular, people are so friendly. You'll feel like you belong there the moment you put on that ACFW lanyard and the front desk workers ask if you're a writer.
  • Get those first three chapters polished! You may have a few people ask to see a writing sample if they like your story, so be sure your first three chapters are sparkling and ready to go. No time like the present to start passing those around to critique partners, moms, and best friends. Make them as good as they can be! You want to put forward the best possible reflection of yourself.

Hope this list gives you a good idea of ways you can start preparing for conference season. Are you attending any conferences this year? Do you have any tips to add to the list?


Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Julia M. Reffner said...

We so desperately need to stand up as the body of Christ--and especially as Christian writers--to pray for the future of Christian fiction. If we, who are already so passionate about this field, fail to seek God's council and favor, who will?

This is gold, as usual, Ash! Love it!

I also want to add if you get nervous, ministering to others at ACFW is a great way to fight them. There are so many going through so much both in their writing and other struggles. Praying with other people was one of my favorite memories from last year.

~cjoy said...

Thanks for the tips and reminders to pray. Fabulous suggestions for a first-timer like me. I'm tingling with excitement - I secretly keep resisiting the urge to pack my suitcase....LOL! :)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great tips, Ashley! I think I'm more or less on track with what you've suggested. Except I need to do more research about the people I picked to meet with. It's a little unnerving that you don't find out who you get until you are there!

I also am getting my paid critique ready. I didn't do this the first time I went, and regretted it. So am taking advantage this time around.

I am going alone this year, so will be looking for lots of friendly faces!


Cynthia Ruchti said...

Such great information! Thanks for posting it. Worth sharing.

Pam Hillman said...

Love it! Can't wait to see everyone. It's like a giant house-party!

Pinning to my Christian Fiction Billboard! :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


I think you'll find you will get your money worth from the paid critique. I had one from Deborah Raney that was absolutely invaluable.

I know I was one of the friendly faces looking forward to meeting you, but unfortunately because of family health won't be coming! You'll be in good company with alley cats & alley cat friends though!

Ashley Clark said...

I loved getting to pray with you too, Julia! That is SUCH great advice and I'm glad you mentioned it! When we start to feel uncomfortable, what a great opportunity to look around for opportunities to help others.

Ashley Clark said...

I know you're going to have such a great experience! Let us know if you have any questions about what to expect!

Ashley Clark said...

Sue, I've done paid critiques in the past and have gotten so much from that experience... In fact, I paid for two last year!!! We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you for stopping by, Cynthia!

Ashley Clark said...

Thanks, Pam! I agree! It's so encouraging to meet with all of you! :)

Ashley Clark said...

Oh Julia, we're going to miss you

Lindsay Harrel said...

Great advice! I am sooooo looking forward to ACFW this year!!

Ashley Clark said...

Thanks, Lindsay! I know we're all excited to see you! :)

Angie Dicken said...

Great post, Ash! Thanks for the shout out!

Anonymous said...

The part about prayer and about how God might be holding a gift for us and we just need to reach out. Inspiring!