Fighting Discouragement, Melanie Dickerson

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1. It’s easy to get discouraged in this business, and

2. Success seldom happens quickly.

Two reasons why it’s important to go to the ACFW Conference with realistic goals and a fierce determination to stick it out, no matter what.

I attended the ACFW Conference in 2005 in Nashville. I had just completed my first novel and was very excited about attending my first writers conference. In the months leading up to the conference, my daughters and I discovered a new favorite movie—National Velvet. We watched it over and over. I loved Elizabeth Taylor’s character, Velvet Brown, a young pre-teen in love with horses, and one horse in particular, and determined to race him in the greatest and most grueling race of all—the Grand National.

It had never been done before. A girl had never entered a horse in this prestigious race, and certainly no girl had ever ridden in the race. Her horse, The Pi, was wild and undisciplined, with no credentials; he’d never raced before. But he and Velvet adored each other, and she just KNEW he could win.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Velvet and The Pi do win the race. You also know that Velvet has a quirk—she faints. A lot. She faints when she realizes she’s won The Pi in a lottery. She faints when she and The Pi win the Grand National, falling off her horse after crossing the finish line.

Well, I decided I was just like Velvet and The Pi. I was an underdog. I was a complete nobody. There was no reason why my book should get published. I didn’t have a degree in English or Novel Writing. I didn’t have family members in the industry. I hadn’t even been writing long. But I believed I WAS Velvet Brown. I was going to win the Grand National of writing. I was going to go to that conference and somehow win a publisher for my book.

You can probably guess what I’m about to say. I did NOT win a book contract. In fact, no one I spoke to was particularly interested in my book. I went to appointments with editors and agents, but I was told that they weren’t looking for stories like mine.

But as it turned out, I actually HAD been preparing myself for the conference by watching National Velvet, and I WAS like Velvet, but not in the way I had expected.

While at the conference, I was so keyed up I couldn’t sleep. So on the second night, I took an over-the-counter sleeping pill to help me sleep. The next morning I felt very strange and swimmy-headed. I thought maybe I just needed to eat. So I ate breakfast, but then I felt stranger than ever. I put my head on the table, and while the beautiful and talented Brandilyn Collins was making announcements, people around me realized I had fainted.

An ambulance was called. I was half-conscious by the time they arrived and was able to appreciate the fact that I was being wheeled out on a stretcher in front of almost four hundred people—everyone at the ACFW Conference. Thankfully, they didn’t announce the name of the person who fainted, so it wasn’t as embarrassing as it could have been!

The point is … be careful who you aspire to be like! No, the point is to be realistic about your goals at the conference, and to realize you need to develop a fierce determination and tenacious perseverance to make it in this business, because it’s easy to get discouraged, and success may not happen quickly.

Make the most of your time at the conference, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t immediately see any tangible results. The friendships and connections you make at the conference, the things you learn, will bless you in many ways that you might not be able to see right away. So I hope you will attend the ACFW Conference if at all possible!


Melanie Dickerson’s first novel, The Healer’s Apprentice, releases September, 2010. The Healer’s Apprentice is a Young Adult Historical Romance, loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, published by Zondervan. Melanie lives in north Alabama with her husband and two daughters. She has attended four ACFW Conferences and continues to believe in the impossible, just like Velvet Brown. You can catch up with Melanie on the web, check out her new book, and watch the awesome book trailer of The Healer’s Apprentice at You may also see her at this year’s conference in Indianapolis, where she would be happy to sign a copy of her first published novel.

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