I just returned from Nashville, the home of the 2016 ACFW conference. As usual, the event was packed full of teaching, celebrations, and relationship building.
Most years I try to arrive the day before the conference begins. My introverted self needs some warm up time before taking my first meal with 600 other writers. This year, however, my husband and I had tickets for the Josh Groban concert, and I wasn’t going to miss that for anything. The venue was outside, the weather was perfect, and that man can really sing.
Before the concert started
The next morning my husband dropped me off at the airport, and I was on my way. Well, I was on my way after TSA checked my laptop for explosives. Apparently I was looking rather suspicious.
My cute driver
By the time I arrived at the hotel, right in downtown Nashville, most people had gone on to bed. After a day of travel, that was all I was thinking about too.
Flying into Nashville
The next morning I jumped right into conference mode. I connected with some authors who are also represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Agency. Their enthusiasm and kindness was very appreciated.
I took a great continuing ed class from the remarkable James L. Rubart. In the afternoon, I met with a couple editors.
Cara, Nancy, and me
On Saturday I was able to meet with one of the editors from my publisher, Kregel Publications. Dawn greeted me warmly and made me feel welcome and excited for this next year.
Saturday ended with the annual awards gala. All who attended were dressed for a fine evening. I watched as well-deserving writers were honored. The last award was given to Linda Brooks Davis. What a powerhouse of enthusiasm! I could have listened to this woman’s acceptance speech for an hour. She was wonderful.
I woke up the next morning and had breakfast with my friend Nancy then headed out to church. Down the road I found a Baptist church offering traditional and contemporary services at the same time. I chose contemporary. Not a surprise, but the music was phenomenal. The pastor shared about how we should serve, and I left with much to think about.
The plan I had months ago, when making my reservations, was to stay an extra day in Nashville, spending time with a friend. Unfortunately, she had to cancel. With my manuscript due to the publisher by September 1, this extra day turned out to be a blessing even without Jodie. I hunkered down in my hotel room and finished my final read-through.
By the time I was done, my eyes were strained, and my legs were aching for a walk. I took a long stroll around downtown Nashville. If you’ve never been to Nashville, you should consider planning a trip. It’s like no other place I’ve visited.
Monday morning, I took my first Uber to the airport. I tell you this because I’m sure it makes me sound modern and savvy. Haha!
My first flight was delayed, so I was moved to another airline. The first leg took me to Chicago. Wouldn’t you know it, thunder and lightning started right after we landed, and they shut down the airport. Of course my second flight was then delayed. I ended up sitting next to a with a man who had arms like the Hulk for the four and a half hours trip. But, I’m home now, and back to the keyboard.
I failed to take enough pictures, but here are a few.
This is just part of the line to get into the concert.
Ted Dekker giving the keynote
With Elizabeth Van Tassel
It’s food like this that causes me to gain a couple pounds at each conference.
With Voni Harris
Thanks to everyone who works hard to make ACFW function.
So…you’re staying home from ACFW this year? Me too.
For a Christian writer, ACFW is the big event of the year. It’s a place where crazy authors from all over the world meet in one place and feel normal for a few days. A great experience, but one that I can’t afford to attend each year.
The way I see it, we have a choice. We can watch all the updates on Facebook and dip into I-wish-I-were-there self-pity, or we can take the time we have at home and further out writing careers in a different way.
Here’s a few things to prioritize this week:
- Continued commitment to your writing goals. Monday through Saturday I have a minimum word count goal. Right now, because I’m doing more editing than writing, my goal is 600 words. Next month I’ll start a new manuscript and the goal will increase to 2,500. At the end of the day I mark my number on the calendar and total the week on Saturday. Set yourself goals and stick to them.
- Spend time learning. There are so many resources we can access from home. Check your local bookstore, library or writers group for books on writing. Check out some blogs focused on craft. Listen to audio recordings from past conferences. And of course, read a good book in your genre.
- Connect with others. It’s easy for my introverted self to nestle in at home with only my laptop for company. Take some time to reconnect with friends. Go out for coffee and just enjoy a good conversation.
- Take your writing somewhere new. If you work from home, go to a coffee shop, or the library. A change of environment is a great way to spark new creativity.
- Cheer on those who did go. Jealousy and comparing ourselves to others will only serve to zap our energy and passion. Those who are attending ACFW this week are some of our friends, and they’ve worked hard to be there. Let’s get behind them and pray them through the week.
- Start making plans to attend a conference. Next year the ACFW conference will be in Dallas, Texas. The year after that, Nashville. Conferences are expensive and time-consuming, but I’ve never left feeling I’ve wasted my money. Start saving now. Consider applying for the ACFW scholarship. If you can’t manage this national conference, look for a local option. Last year I attended Mount Hermon, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had.
Do you have any other suggestions? Post them in the comments. I’d love to hear them.
Have a great and productive week,
Donna Moore is guest blogging for me today. She actually wrote this for me weeks ago, but I PROCRASTINATED. With Nanowrimo behind me and Christmas still a few weeks away, I’m forcing myself to get a few things done. Okay, I’m avoiding a writing project that has me stumped.
Before I hand my blog over to Donna, I want you to know what a special person she is. About three years ago I was matched up on an online critique group. If that sounds kind of like a blind date, it is. Sometimes the matches work, and sometimes…well, not so much. This group works. Donna is a constant encourager. She has three children and a husband and always shows by example how to love God through loving her family. Donna is always there when I need to talk, vent or when I need someone to pray for me. Her heart is tender and huge. She is one of the unexpected blessings I’ve been granted through my writing career. Thank you, Donna!
I have learned that my friends on Facebook have nothing to say. Not that what they say isn’t intelligent and important. That isn’t it at all. I have amazing friends. I mean, they simply weren’t updating as often as I was checking. Shouldn’t someone have something to post every two seconds?
This week I struggled with Blank-Page Syndrome. It is a painful experience for any writer. I was creative this week in my avoidance of the blank page and taunting cursor. I often tell my teenage son not to procrastinate, but when it comes to writing when I am up against a wall of little to no ideas, often I find myself doing just this. It’s another case of do as I say and not as I do.
It’s not that I’m not productive during my procrastination sessions. Things get done that I would normally put off for another. Yes, procrastination at times rules my life. In honor of my procrastination techniques I wrote a poem which also served as another way to avoid dealing with my manuscript.
If you give a writer a blank screen some will take off and write an amazing adventure, but others will clean their house and vacuum the living room twice just to see if the canister will fill up again.
If you give a writer a blank screen you might find yourself wrapped in the arms of a dashing hero as he woos his lady love, but others will take their puppy on a walk and pretend it was the dog’s idea.
If you give a writer a blank screen they might have you flying into outer space on in a hot air balloon, but others might check their Facebook just to see if anything has happened in their friend lives within the last two seconds.
If you give a writer a blank screen you could find yourself sailing the seas with a rogue pirate or coaching a football game of misfits, but others will organize the pantry alphabetically.
If you give a writer a blank screen they might write about a widower finding his second love or they could go scrub the bathrooms paying special attention to the area around the toilet.
If you give a writer a blank screen they might pull you right into the middle of a world surrounded with elves and dwarfs, but then others will go and mow the yard instead.
If you give a writer a blank screen they could take you to exotic locations, but then others will go to the grocery store for the fourth time that week just to walk up and down the aisles.
If you give a writer a blank screen those who sit down and write have the potential to do amazing things while others, well they will do lots of other things.
I joke about how much effort I put into avoiding writing this week when I find such joy in actually writing. The advice I have heard the most is “Put your butt in the seat and write every day.” It’s true. You can’t grow as a writer by avoiding writing anymore that you can grow as an athlete by avoiding practicing your sport. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to run 26.2 miles anymore than you can wake up and write an amazing story in one day. You have to work at it daily with diligence and perseverance. You have to train even on the days when it doesn’t come easily and everything you write you know will be cut. There are things that you can do to help get yourself in the seat daily. I feel I should reveal that this is an area I struggle with on the days and weeks when writing is hard but then you probably guessed that about me.
First, set up your area with little distractions. If you are like me, and seeing a messy house distracts you, find a space where you can’t see the shoes all over the living room or the laundry folded but not put away on the couch. I love to write on my swing on the back porch. I can’t see the clutter in the house and if I leave phones inside no one can find me. Salesmen can ring the doorbell all day long, but I simply can’t hear it out back.
Next, set a time. I am also going to add, and this is a hard one for me, if you sit down at the same time everyday you will become conditioned to know that this is your writing time. I would also add, you need to guard this time as the jewel it is. Don’t allow others to intrude. Don’t make appointments or set up meetings during your appointed writing time. Avoid self-imposed distractions. Turn off the internet to your computer while you write. Email, Facebook and other social media outlets will act as distractions. Trust me when I say, the email will wait and no matter how wonderful your friends are, they don’t update enough to check every two minutes. And really do you need to know that Janet is going to take a nap or Fred is on his second cup of joe? Setting a time will help you be more accountable. It is easy for writers to move that writing time around each day and if you are a disciplined person, which I am not, that may work well. For those who struggle with time management, put it on your calendar and set a date with your manuscript. Your characters deserve to have their story told and they need the time with you to do it.
Lastly, what has worked well with my critique group is to hold each other accountable. Set a word count goal or a page goal and don’t get up until you have fulfilled it. Those are the days I feel best because I know I am one more step closer to my dream. Write to that goal even if what you write isn’t what you had in mind before you plunked yourself down. You might be surprised at what you get, of course you could end up cutting a large chunk, but buried in there might be a ruby of an idea.
Now stop procrastinating and go forth and write.
Today we’re joining Karen Barnett for an insider’s view of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.
After the evening session, I hurried to my room and grabbed my laptop, making a beeline for the lounge—I wanted to check my e-mail before turning in for the night. I sank down into a soft chair by a crackling fire. Within moments, the room began to fill. Before I knew what was happening, authors Mary DeMuth and Randy Ingermanson sat on either side of me, talking about their journeys to publication and offering me hope and encouragement. Other published writers joined the circle, aspiring writers ambled in, an agent sat down, an editor pulled up a chair. My laptop lapsed into screensaver mode, long forgotten. Jokes flew, stories were shared, and laughter ruled the evening.
Why is the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference special? Where else can you kick up your feet and feel at home while surrounded by the best in the business?
Here are the top ten things I love about Mount Hermon.
1. Beautiful Location—The Conference Center is situated in the California redwoods, not far from Santa Cruz. When you step out of a stressful appointment or an intense workshop, you walk out into beauty that refreshes the spirit. God uses those moments to remind me He is in control.
2. Casual atmosphere—Casual dress rules the day. You can leave your high heels and business suits at home. Most registrants wear jeans and slacks, layered t-shirts and sweaters. I like to pack scarves and fun jewelry pieces to dress up the casual look.
3. Unparalleled access to editors/agents—Lunch and dinner tables are hosted by faculty members, including agents, publishers, magazine editors, and published authors. It’s like a back door into the publisher’s office. The host keeps the conversation flowing around the table, speaking to each person and asking about their writing. If they’re interested in your project, they might request an appointment or ask to see your proposal. Good-bye slush pile!
4. Speaking of meals—Mount Hermon’s are the BEST. Ask anyone.
5. Pre-conference submissions—You are encouraged to send two copies of your proposal ahead to the conference, either to published writers for critique or to editors/agents for review. There are also opportunities during the conference to have your work critiqued on the spot by a member of the critique team. This is all included in the cost of registration.
6. Major morning tracks—Morning tracks are classes that you follow for the entire conference to receive in-depth instruction on the subject of your choice. The tracks vary, but they generally include classes for fiction, non-fiction, public speaking, magazine writing, and social media. Specialized tracks are offered for teens interested in writing, for beginners (Head-Start, actually held before the conference), and for published writers (career track—by application). Personally, I love the intermediate mentoring tracks. You pay a few dollars extra, but the class size is limited and you get personalized teaching based on your needs.
7. Afternoon workshops—With forty workshops to attend, how do you choose? (I decided not to stress out about it and bought the CD recordings for the ones I missed).
8. Trend-spotting—One of my favorite parts of the conference are the panel discussions. This is a fantastic time to find out what is selling, where publishing is heading in the future and which of these individuals you would most like to work with.
9. Casual conversations—From the moment you board the airport shuttle to the moment you leave, God arranges divine appointments. An editor might not hand you the rich-and-famous contract, but you might meet a favorite author and become friends. You might have a casual discussion at a table that leads to a magazine article (true story). You might catch someone’s airplane during an ice-breaker or get lost with someone on the hike to the cross… and make a friend for the long writer’s journey ahead. And like I said earlier, some of the best conversations happen after hours.
10. Confirmation of the Call—The first time I went to Mount Hermon, I hesitated calling myself a writer. Attending this conference taught me is that YES, I AM a writer—without question. God has a call on my life. Each year I go back, I feel it anew. The conference at Mount Hermon gives me the energy I need to make it through another year.
The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference is held every year over Palm Sunday weekend, so add it to your calendar for next year: March 22-26, 2013.
Karen Barnett writes historical romance for the Christian market and has been published in Guideposts, Ladybug and Babybug magazines. She lives in Albany, Oregon with her husband, two kids and a houseful of pets including a dachshund who loves to chew up her daughter’s dance slippers. When she is not writing, Karen enjoys hiking, photography, leading worship with her church’s children’s ministry and decorating outlandish birthday cakes for her kids. She blogs at “Cannot Be Shaken” found at http://www.cannotbeshaken.
Don’t miss next week. It’s our final installment with Jodie Bailey sharing about Blue Ridge