I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW) in Dallas this past weekend. This was my first time and there were about 175 others like me. Also attending were 30 editors and 17 agents. This conference has grown steadily over the years and attendance is topping the 700 mark. After spending several days with these writers I know this will grow to be a premiere event. One thing really different, for me, was the announcement that this would be a “fragrance free” conference. Attendees were asked to forgo the perfume and cologne. How refreshing to know those meeting rooms would be breathable. I’d love to see other events follow this example.
Keynote speaker Michael Hyatt got everyone motivated with his words of wisdom. He encouraged all to promote and build their platform. Michael also told the audience, “Now is the best time ever to be an author.” There are many opportunities out there for authors, but my favorite thing he mentioned was not to be a high maintenance author. I have heard authors, agents and editors talk about other authors who are demanding, critical and difficult to work with. No one likes these kind of people. I agree with Michael, don’t be one of “those kind.” Be an author you can be proud to be. “Traditional publishing is far from dead” and Michael says that more books are being published today than ever before.
Michael Hyatt notes, “The power has shifted to the authors.”
1.) Easier than ever to do the writing (going to conferences, software, research at your fingertips, support groups, chapters)
2.) It’s easier than ever to do market research (ask others on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google)
3.) Easier than ever to get into print (traditional publishing is not the only game in town, self publishing is available)
4.) It is easier than ever to build a tribe.
5.) It is easier than ever to build a business (speaking)
The place was buzzing after his rousing keynote and writers were off to the publishers spotlights. My only concern with having all the spotlights at the same time was that the writers had to decide which one publisher to check out. There was no way to visit several of them. Many authors told me that they would have liked to have heard what a lot of the different publishers had to say, but they (the authors) had to choose only one.
Workshops for writing and marketing were held day and night, but I’ve always liked to visit with the writers. I met several interesting ones that I’ll be writing about in upcoming blogs like the 16 year old who’s attending her second conference and the Amish like German Baptist writers who bring a new dimension to romance.
Since I wasn’t scheduled to do a workshop or be on a panel, Morgan from RT Magazine and I decided to do an impromptu session in the hall for those interested in what we had to say. It was standing room only for our 1/2 hour chat which introduced the writers to PW and RT and what they can offer writers. We also touched on social media and some do and don’ts for new writers. This may end up being on the schedule for next year.
I got to spend a wonderful evening with the Love Inspired authors. The Love Inspired line by Harlequin is described as “You believe hearts can heal. Love Inspired stories show that faith, forgiveness and hope have the power to lift spirits and change lives—always.” They cover several genres including suspense, historical and women’s fiction. The large group of authors and their editors invited me to dinner where the conversation was all things romance. There is nothing better than sharing a meal with people who think like you do. Their enthusiasm is contagious and it was an evening that ended all too soon.
One disappointing note was no book signing event. I think readers would love to get to meet the many authors congregated here, but because the conference was held at a Dallas airport hotel it wasn’t considered an ideal place to hold a book signing.
The highlight of any conference is the awards gala. The ACFW is no exception. Saturday night was all glitz and glamor as the awards for best books were given out. There are awards for unpublished authors (Genesis) and published authors (Carol). The anticipation was as exciting as the awards themselves.
Kathleen L. Maher
Caleb Jennings Breakey
Fairer Than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott (Thomas Nelson)
The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell)
Long Contemporary Romance:
My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren (Tyndale)
Fairer Than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott (Thomas Nelson)
Long Historical Romance:
To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House Publishers)
Falling to Pieces: A Shipshewana Amish Mystery by Vannetta Chapman (Zondervan)
An Accidental Christmas from A Biltmore Christmas by Diane T. Ashley/Aaron McCarver (Barbour Publishing)
Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson)
Lakeside Reunion by Lisa Jordan (Love Inspired)
Short Contemporary Suspense:
Nightwatch by Valerie Hansen (Love Inspired Suspense)
The Deepest Waters by Dan Walsh (Revell)
Broken Sight by Steve Rzasa (Marcher Lord Press)
Fallen Angel by Major Jeff Struecker/Alton Gansky (B & H Fiction)
Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate (Penguin Praise/Berkley)
The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan)
Other awards given out:
Editor of the Year – Julee Schwarzburg
Agent of the Year – Nicole Resciniti (The Seymour Agency)
Mentor of the Year – Allison Pittman
Member Service Award – Jeanne Marie Leach
Lifetime Achievement Award – Allen Arnold
Congratulations to all the winners and congratulations to the American Christian Fiction Writers for putting on an amazing conference. I know it left the attendees motivated, excited and inspired.
Bottom Line: The power of imagination makes us infinite. ~ John Muir