Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'Twas the Week Before Conference And All Through the Writer's Houses

This year the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conferene (ACFW) will be held next week in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Alley Cats are excited to see you there, to cheer you on, encourage you, and pray for you. Be sure to say hi. We love to chat.

If you are unable to come, there is an "At-Home-Conference" available for all ACFW members. Click this link to register: (if you attended last year, it will say you're registered, but you will still need to update your information).

After you register, if you want to participate in the Facebook group, let Karen Beery know at and she will send you an email invite to the group.

Between now and then let's talk about what we can pack to make our time at the conference smoother.

One HUGE lesson I learned was: prayer should be the first thing I pack. Not as in hide inside my suitcase, rather it needs to be the foundation for my packing. Talk to God without ceasing. He will prepare your heart and help you to remember to pack exactly what you really need.

Some of the things you will want to remember to pack for this trip are:

1. Empty space -  That sounds weird, right? But it's true! You will be receiving free books and have a chance to purchase books signed by authors in the bookstore. You will need space to pack them. Fear not, though if you're like me and find yourself sitting on your suitcase trying to zip it shut, these books can also be mailed to you.

2. Clothing suitable for a job interview - When we meet with an agent or editor, we need to show our genuine interest in pursuing our writing career. In many respects this is a job interview. On the other hand, the interviewers (editors and agents) you will meet at this conference have your best in mind. They really care and want to talk with you. They are real people with hearts for God. So dress to impress, but don't be afraid.

3. Money for Friday night dinner - This meal is not provided. The purpose is to give us a chance to network with friends and other writers. There are many restaurants in the area ready to handle our crowd. This doesn't mean there won't be long lines, but the food and company is sure to be good.
4. Business Cards - I give my business cards to everyone, even people I know. My business card has my email address, my website, and my photo. I love looking at the stash of business cards I've received from others at the conference when I get home. I spread them out on my bed and think about the people associated with them. Not only are these cards a great tool to remember friends and network, they also serve as a tool for your appointments. An editor, agent, or mentor may not have the space to carry your one-sheet, first chapter, or proposal, but they are willing to take your business card. Be sure to have a photo of you included on the card. Names run in and out of our head, but a photo speaks a thousand words.

5. One Sheets - A one sheet contains a short blurb about your book, maybe a related picture, your name and contact information and basic information about what you plan to pitch. Do a separate one sheet for each project you plan to pitch. The purpose of this fantastic gem is it works the same as a safety net for a tightrope artist. Walking into an appointment all prepared to tell the person on the other side of the desk all about our book is easy, until we suddenly forget everything--even our name! Having your one sheet ready to set on the table reminds us of information we planned to say or we can hand it to the agent-editor to look at. I have been saved several times by my one sheet. If you would like help making your, Alley Cat Angie Dicken offers this service. You can contact her at

6. A nice outfit for the Saturday night Gala - Conferees will dress in a range of clothing ideas for the Gala. This is a dress up time. A time to feel pretty or handsome. There will be dressy pantsuits, floor length, calf length, knee length dresses. Some will be Sunday best, others will be glittery. Jeans are not suggested. Several have found the perfect dress at Goodwill or a consignment shop. You don't need to spend boo-koo bucks.

7. A fun outfit for Thursday Night's Genre dinner - This is the night we get to dress like one of our characters. Sorry, no weapons real or fake allowed. Hotel security will not be happy to see these. You can dress like a victorian mistress of a manor, an alien, a superhero, even a villain. HAH I just remembered Wednesday Adam's costume in the Adams Family. She said "I dressed like a homicidal maniac. They look like everyone else." Have fun!

8. Camera, medicines, Bible and any other necessities.


9. Optional-exercise clothes. There is an exercise room in the hotel.

What to leave home-

1. Scented perfumes, lotions, etc. The conference is fragrance free due to many coming who have allergies.

2. Your entire manuscript. Feel free to bring one chapter, a one page, and business cards. Editors and agents don't have the space to take the entire manuscript and will ask you to mail or email it to them instead if they are interested. Consider bringing a flash drive with any information you want to have. The hotel has a business office complete with computers, copiers, and etc.

If you are able to go, this will be a great time to learn more about the writing craft, pitch your work to agents and editors, network, and just be with others who completely understand why you would want to have a conversation with one of your characters.

If you are not able to go, you can still benefit from the classes by getting an mp3 recording. Also, we will be focusing on helpful writing topics here on the Writers Alley. Stop by each weekday for a new writing concept.

Your turn: 
1. If you are going to the conference and have been there before, what are you looking forward to seeing, doing again?

2. If you are going to the conference and have never been there before, what do you hope to accomplish and what question do you have that we can help you with.

3. If you are not going to the conference, what topic would you picked for a class. We will address this topic here on the Writers Alley.


If you found any typos in today's post...Mary Vee, (that's me sheepishly grinning), is waving her hand as the guilty party. 

If you have questions or would like this topic discussed in greater detail, let me know in the comment section. I'll gladly do the research and write a post...just for you :)

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Photo Courtesy -


Laurie Tomlinson said...

Ahhh! Sharing this with everyone I know! It put me at ease, and this is my second time!

I just got really excited :)

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

I know!!! Me too!

Robin E. Mason said...

Hello there Conference Bound Collegues!! Jealous am I - I got on the band wagon too late to board this train. LOL I'm still wading through networking / blogging / marketing - and WRITING!!! I guess if there was a class (or magic formula) it would be how in the world to navigate! (and yes, I've read (or skimmed) articles)

One of the take with items that struck me, and perhaps some might feel superfluous: the one sheet. I graduated last year with my BFA in Interior Design (yeah, I know, and now I'm writing! go figure!) I can't tell you how many times we did class presentations, and I knew I knew my work and my topic. Until I stood before my class - and there were only 5 of us! - or the ID dept - and I froze. Omitted critical details, forgot pertinent key factoids!

Soooo.... of all the aforementioned must haves, I can vouch for the value of the One Sheet! and be sure, next year I will attend - and I will have my One Sheet in hand!

~ Robin E. Mason

Sarah Forgrave said...

This is great list, Mary! And I'm so glad you mentioned business cards, because mine are tucked away in a dark corner of my desk -- I just might have forgotten them! :)

Can't wait to see you soon!

Sylvia said...

I'm not a writer, but am a reader! I am curious about ACFW. Are people from the "outside" allowed to come in and shop at the vendors' booths or do you have to be a ticket-holder? I don't live anywhere near St. Louis, but if I did, I would probably want to come to shop and gawk at my favorite authors. :)

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

You are totally right about the one-sheet. It has saved me from many stumbling conversations. I hope we from the Alley can see you there next year.!!

Blessings on your writing.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

I hear say that dark places preserves the quality of the ink.'s time to get that little stack of treasures out of the drawer and into the suitcase.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

I'm checking for you.

Casey said...

Hello Sylvia! To mingle on the event floor does not require any kind of pass or name placard. To get into any meals or events does. And there is an AWESOME book store on site which is always a blast to spend time (and too much money!) in. It's a pinch-worthy moment for me too, as an attendee, to see some of my very favorite authors. :)

Tea Time said...

Hi there! I am going for the first time to ACFW. A wee bit apprehensive, but really looking forward to it. Can't wait to learn lots about the craft. Blessings to you.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Cara's first timer class is absolutely A-MAZING. I remember going to it and feeling soooo much better about attending the rest of the conference. Be sure to say hi!!