My ACFW Conference Journey

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by Gina Conroy

Since I started writing fiction seriously and pursuing publication in 2005, I never missed an ACFW conference…except last year.

Each year my motivation to attend ACFW was different. Each year I had new goals and dreams. Each year I grew as a writer and took home something specific I would need on my journey ahead.

And each year God met me at the perfect moment!

The first couple of times I attended ACFW, I went to pitch and SELL. I was focused, driven, and hardly recognized my introverted self. I had to will myself to be an extrovert, in fact, flying to my first conference I distinctly remember the moment I put on my game face. I gazed out the window, worrying about having to push out of my shell and said, “Game on.” Yes, I was a big Survivor fan at the time, but it gave me the focus I needed to play the game.

And it worked, I got multiple requests for multiple manuscripts (yet to be written, of course.) I admit I was naive and believed what I’d been hearing, that you can sell without a completed manuscript. Sure, if you’re Francine Rivers, Brandilyn Collins or Ted Dekker. Sadly, I was not.

Then there was the conference where I witnessed my critique partner, a newbie writer whom I had mentored some, receive a contract, before me! Oh, the pain and growth that happened that conference as God’s timing and plan for my writing finally started to sink in. Mine would not be an overnight success, but a long haul.

There have been ACFW conferences I attended, knowing I wouldn’t pitch anything. I had given up writing for a season and simply went to network and make friends. It was awkward for me, a little no body, sitting with the big guys, late after classes. But I did it and prayed I didn’t look like the misfit I felt like. Good thing I pushed out of my comfort zone. It was at this very conference that I met my agent, Chip MacGregor, but didn’t pitch to him until I was ready two years later.

Then there was the time I didn’t have the money to attend the conference, but I knew I had to be there, so I applied for an ACFW scholarship. And didn’t get it. But that didn’t stop me from scrounging and saving and earning money by blogging just so I could go. And though I wasn’t at a point to submit anything to an editor, I did have a God meeting which encouraged me to keep writing! And it was the encouragement I needed for the next year!

And I’ll never forget the conference where I introduced myself to James Scott Bell, the keynote speaker, and asked who he was!

I remember each ACFW conference as a mile stone in my writing life. Each one ministering to me in a unique way, and each time I was able to be used by God to encourage another writer in their journey. Even the conference last year is remembered simply because it was a time in  my life when I knew I needed to stay home. I attended each ACFW conference with different expectations. Sometimes they were met, other times God had his own agenda.

As I look forward to attending the 2011 ACFW Conference, I have a new set of goals and expectations. This year I’m attending as a contracted author who just turned in her first novella. But will it be any better than the ones before because of my achievements?

I don’t think it will be any better, but it will be what I need.

Why are you going to conference this year? Are you willing to break out of your comfort zone and let God move in your life?

Learn more about Gina here.

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