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Preparing for a Conference

Along this exciting road that God has launched me down, I’ve had some very exciting destinations. Maybe not exciting the way the rest of the world would view them, but for a Christian fiction writer, they’ve been very beneficial. Attending a writer’s conference is by no means easy. But, the effort can truly be worth it. As I prepare to attend one this weekend- I’ll offer a few thoughts that might encourage others to give it a try.

 The first conference I attended was right here at home, in Little Rock. The Arkansas Writer’s Conference, held every year in June offers a whole list of contests in a variety of genre’s and formats. It’s a great way to get started, since you don’t have too travel far, and the odds of getting at least an honorable mention are very good. Be prepared to see ALL kinds of people, and have fun!

Branching out, I went for several years to the Ozark Creative Writer’s conference in Eureka Springs. Because of the fun destination, this one became an annual mini-vacation for me and my hubby. Once again, lots of contests, and lots of good input from other writers, many already published. This is where I first encountered the world of Christian Fiction, which instantly felt like home to me.

As a result of my membership in American Fiction Christian Writers, I heard about their big convention, and pondered for a year or two before finally getting up the courage (and money) to attend. The logistics of this one are more complicated, though now and then the location is close enough that you can save on air fare. It’s a fabulous experience, where you  realize that dreams really can come true, and often do for people just like you.

This year, I’m returning for a second time to a much smaller conference that is held in my childhood home town. Christian Writer’s Fellowship in Girard, Kansas hosts a remarkably good conference each year complete with agents, published authors, contests, and wonderful praise and worship.

What do all of these conferences have in common? They require preparation. The first thing is to check out the Website, order the brochure, and decide what you goal is for attending.

 Maybe the first time you want to just meet other people who really “get” you. There is so much value in just talking to others who have fictional characters bumping around in their heads. After all, this balance beam between genius and insanity we walk can seem pretty precarious at times. This isn itself is worth the money.

Then, check out the contests, and choose one that will challenge you to stretch a little. Instead of submitting something you have around the house, come up with something new, following the guidelines of the contest to a “t”. If the entry fee is reasonable, enter more than one. One of my most precious writing memories is the time at Eureka Springs I won 4 second places  and one honorable mention. The prizes were awarded by a very handsome cowboy author and musician, and my husband gladly tolerated the congratulatory hugs as he piled up those $15.00 checks on our table.

Then, prepare to network. If you’ve reached the part of your journey that involves a meeting or critique from a published author, agent or publisher, take a deep breath, prepare your submission carefully, and dive in. If you don’t get the result you wanted, you’ve at least put a human face on a person who might be able to help you in the future. Talk to them with confidence, and Let God be God. He will bring you the opportunities He wants for you. You just have to have the courage to open the doors as they come along.

Have fun, and don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. There’s a great big world full of people just like you out there!!

  1. Lisa Collins03-28-11

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights and the list of conferences. I am planning, even now, to enter some of the contests at conferences you named. It is good to get a check list going early so I don’t miss any crucial step in formatting or entries.

  2. Jamie Adams03-30-11

    You sure make them sound fun Jenny! I will have to make an effort to attend one. Thanks for the information.

  3. psstephens03-31-11

    Jenny: thanks for the info on these! Also, do you know of Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in the mountains of California, in Santa Cruz? They are known for their excellent Writer’s Conference…check them out here:

  4. Debbie Archer05-16-11

    In August, our new ACFW-Arkansas prez is going to do a program on the ACFW conference in Sept. She’ll be presenting and fielding questions about what to expect, specific situations, schedules, etc. This will be my first ACFW conference, so I’m really looking forward to that program. Great post, Jenny.

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