I registered last week for the ACFW conference in Indianapolis. The dates for the conference are September 17 to 20, 2010. ACFW stands for American Christian Fiction Writers, an organization of over 2100 writers.
Why am I going to yet another conference? I can think of 7 good reasons that I want to go:
- Writing conferences are fun. I am an extreme introvert and I don’t do well in crowds. Yet somehow, writing conferences bring out my inner extrovert, and I always meet a bundle of new friends.
- Writing conferences are educational. I have never gone to a conference where I didn’t learn something completely unexpected and incredibly useful.
- Writing conferences are where you make contacts. I met my first agent at a writing conference. After he died, I met my second agent at a writing conference, although at the time, he was an editor and I was hoping to sell him a book. (I did, and after he quit editing to become an agent, he called me.) Virtually all of the books I’ve sold have come as a direct result of the people I met at conferences.
- Writing conferences are a place to serve. I strongly believe that every writer should find a way to help other writers. Normally I teach at conferences. At ACFW this year, instead of teaching, I’ll be taking appointments with writers to help them out on any question they might have. One-on-one for fifteen minutes. It’s amazing what you can get done in fifteen minutes when you’re focused. This will probably be the best part of the conference for me this year.
- The ACFW conference is one of the best in the Christian publishing industry. Last year, there were about 500 attendees, with about 20 editors and a dozen agents. If I could only go to two writing conferences this year, I’d go to ACFW and Mount Hermon. If I could only go to ONE, I’d go to ACFW and Mount Hermon and then I’d lie about how many I went to.
- Virtually all my friends will be there. You can never have too many friends in the publishing business.
- I’m on the ACFW Advisory Board which meets with the Operating Board twice per year to make key decisions for the future. One of the decisions we made two years ago was to create the FictionFinder web site.
Many of my happiest memories in the publishing business have happened at ACFW conferences. At the 2004 conference, I gave a talk on “Writing From the Male Point of View” which people still talk about because I revealed a number of closely guarded Guy Secrets. I gave an updated version of that talk again at the 2009 conference. In between those years, I’ve spoken on numerous topics, made hundreds of friends, won a few awards, learned more than I ever expected, and enjoyed it all immensely.
This year I’ll be taking Jim Bell’s Early Bird Session. Jim was the guy who taught me about Three-Act Structure years ago, the weekend I first met him at — you guessed it — a small conference in Malibu, California. He’s become a good friend of mine. Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes fiction. He served for a time as the fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest and he’s the author of Plot & Structure, one of the books I recommend most often to beginning writers. I expect I’ll learn something totally unexpected from Jim.