What Not to Wear: ACFW-Style

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by Melissa Tagg

I got stuck in a dress the other day.

I mean reeeally stuck. Arms over my head, uncooperative fabric playing boa constrictor with my torso while my sister laughed at me inside the department store dressing room.

And to be honest, I halfway blame my near death on ACFW.

Yep, that’s right. See, when my unfortunate incident occurred, I was shopping for the perfect dress for the awards gala at the upcoming ACFW Conference. If I didn’t need a dress for the gala, I wouldn’t have squeezed into a too-small gown…my sister wouldn’t have had to free me…and that Younkers employee wouldn’t have glared at me like I attacked the dress instead of it, well, me.

Suffice to say, I did not buy the dress.

But the incident got me thinking: With the big conference right around the corner, my-our-choice of attire actually goes beyond our wardrobe, yeah? We’ve got decisions to make about what we do and don’t “wear” at conference-time.

The don’ts:

• Anxiety. A case of nerves is normal at any conference, but anxiety is worry on steroids-and honestly, it’s avoidable.

• Ego. Confidence is one thing, but overactive egos are best left at the door.

• Jealousy. Even typing that word makes me feel icky, but it’s way too easy to fall into during conferences when, perhaps, it seems others are enjoying the spotlight.

• Fear. The worst of them all.

These don’ts and others are just like that dress-they squeeze and steal your breath, threatening to ruin what could and should be an incredible conference experience.

The best combat technique? Filling our “mental” wardrobes with the must-wears:

• Eager expectancy. In other words, hope! No matter what happens with pitch appointments and award results, good things always happen at the ACFW Conference. We meet new friends, make sweet connections, learn in classes. Heck, we eat like kings. Walk in expecting good stuff and that’s exactly what you’ll walk away with.

• Teachable spirit. This is so huge. At the conference, we’re surrounded by wise and experienced industry experts. If ever there’s a time to don a little humility, it’s now.

• Awareness. I want to walk into this year’s conference more aware than ever before that it’s not all about me. There are hundreds of other writers-all with stories churning inside and personal lives full of highs and lows. I want to see the people around me and do what I can to invest in and encourage them, the way so many have in me.

• Trust. Everything comes back to trust, doesn’t it? Trust that God has our back. Trust that He’s got a plan. Trust that we’re at ACFW for a reason.

And trust that when we’ve prayerfully and properly outfitted our thoughts, we’re in for an awesome conference experience.

What are you planning to wear to this year’s ACFW Conference?

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter turned contemporary romance writer. She serves on the development team for large nonprofit and as the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy. She’s a past Genesis finalist and winner of the MBT Frasier Award. Represented by Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary, Inc, she loves connecting on Facebook and Twitter (@Melissa_Tagg).

Comments 0

  1. Next time you go dress shopping, please invite me along, will you, Melissa?
    And I love how you turned the whole “What Not to Wear” idea into an analogy for what emotions to put on (or not) while we’re at ACFW.
    Going to go stuff a few of the right options in my suitcase!

  2. I started a new habit at the 2009 conference. I was blessed to be the recipient of the Barbour contract that year, and while I was still at the conference, I began praying for “next year’s recipient.” The following year, my friend, Rose McCauley, received the Barbour contract, and she and I together began praying for “next year’s recipient.” Last year, Paula Mouldenour received the contract and Rose and I added Paula to our “prayer team.” If you go seeking someone for whom you can pray, or someone to whom you can be a blessing, your conference will be positive, no matter what else happens.

  3. Thank you for the packing list. Such a great reminder! I’m a first time attendee and starting to feel a little nervous, but so far everything that I’ve been reading about the conference serves as a reminder of why I wanted to come in the first place and I can’t help growing excited, despite my little worries! In the end, as you said, it comes back to trust in God!

  4. Connie, I love the prayer idea and want to jump on that bandwagon. I’m going to pray for the three finalists in the Genesis category I won last year.

    Melissa, thanks for the post. I came looking for wardrobe advice, but found something much more important. I’m packing my most teachable of spirits. (Does that sound like I’m possessed?!)

  5. Thank you so much, everyone, for the comments!

    Connie, I love your prayer, too! And for Gillian and anyone else who’s a newbie, how awesome is to know so many are praying? I love the supportive and always-welcoming atmosphere of ACFW!

  6. Melissa!

    What a great blog!

    I’ll be shopping soon for that perfect “gala” dress. Yeah, I never did like shopping so I take good friends along that encourage me to try new dress styles.

    But like Deborah, I’m shopping on my knees until ACFW!


  7. Great post, Melissa! Were you in my head last week as I battled with fear and anxiety? At least it was before ACFW. I’m keeping your list of “what not to wear” front and center in my thoughts. Thanks!

  8. As I approach my packing, I will have an image of you stuck in that dress! 🙂 Your advice is so practical and spot on. Thank you! I can’t wait to see what dress you did decided to buy.

  9. Excellent, Melissa, and so practical. Whether it’s our first conference or umpteenth, what we wear mentally and spiritually is much more important than what we wear physically. Go with an attitude of joy at seeing old friends and making new ones and a spirit of anticipation for everything to be learned. I hope you found a comfortable dress for the awards. Comfort is more important than fancy for me these days.

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