Getting The Most From A Writers Conference

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By Rachel Hauck

I confess it took me awhile to get the hang of writers conferences. Why? Because I attended with the hope of networking with the best of the best or pitching a knock-their-socks-off story idea.

My focus was very inward.

“What can I do?”

“What can I accomplish?”

“What connections can I make?”

“Who will I impress?”

While those are great questions to ponder, and certainly ones to pray over, I’ve come to understand attending a conference is about others every bit, if not more, than myself.

I’ve learned having an outward/others focus serves me so much more.

Instead of heading to Nashville with a “What’s in it for me?” mentality, what if we headed to Nashville with a “What’s in it for others?” mentality?

“How can I be a blessing?”

“Lord, how can You use me?”

Know what? None of my publishing achievements came from sitting across from an editor who said, “Wow, that’s the best idea ever and I like you. Let’s work together.”

Same with finding an agent.

My connections came from serving. One year as the conference coordinator. One year as ACFW President. Years as a volunteer behind the scenes.

I’m not saying you have to volunteer or serve at a high level, but simply watch for someone in the corridor who help or an encouraging word.

Visit the prayer room and see if you can pray with someone.

At dinner, purpose to talk more about others than yourself. Or maybe sit back and let someone else talk while you listen. This can be so hard because we’re all excited about our work and what we’re learning.

I’m a venter and talking about my stories out loud really helps me process and see the bigger picture.

Don’t ask me about my book mid-draft. Oh no, you’ll wish you hadn’t. Because an hour later . . .

You’ll be looking for a way of escape.

Invite people to join you and your friends for dinner, or chat in the lobby or coffee shop.  This one is really hard because we only get to see some of our writing buddies at conference. We get a bit selfish with our time.

One year, I was invited up to a party with a bunch of author friends, editors, and agents. It was a bit of the who’s-who of the industry at the time.

However, I was talking with a young, new writer about the time I was to head to the party. I kept watching the time. Finally I announced I had to go. She knew where, but I didn’t invite her.

I thought it would be awkward. I wanted to mingle without worrying if she was sitting by herself.

Yet as I got on the elevator, I knew I couldn’t ride up to the party floor without her. I tracked her down in her room and invited her to be my guest.

Guess what? She had a great time. Made a nice connection. And there was no awkwardness. Go figure!

So invite that newbie along for a meal or coffee chat.

Also, attend the workshops. We can get so busy making connections we skip the workshops.

Make it a point to attend several a day.

Sit with new people at lunch.

Wake up for morning worship. I know it’s early, but those short morning sessions are such a blessing. God shows up.

To sum up my advice for this year’s ACFW conference: Look outward. Look up to the Lord. And see what HE will do with and for you in Nashville this year.

Advice for this year’s ACFW conference: Look outward. Look up to the Lord. And see what HE will do with and for you in Nashville this year. @RachelHauck #ACFWBlogs #ACFW2018 Click To Tweet

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Reviews. She is a double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award Winner. Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding Series, was filmed for an Original Hallmark movie and aired in April 2018. A member of the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers, she teaches workshops and leads worship at the annual conference. At home, she’s a wife, writer, worship leader and works out at a local gym semi-enthusiastically. She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.

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