7 Reasons I’m Going to the ACFW Conference

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.


  1. Richard Mabry June 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    See you there.

  2. Susan Woodring June 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    I LOVE writing conferences. Have a great time!

  3. Rob June 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    I love Plot & Structure. My copy is literally falling apart. I wish they’d done a hardcover version.

  4. Morgan June 8, 2010 at 5:11 am #

    I’m like you Randy, I’m an introvert too. But there is something about a writing conference that burns all that shyness away šŸ™‚

    I’m trying to decide if I’ll be going to the ACFW conference. I live in Indianapolis now (so that’s a big plus!), but we just bought a house and leaving my husband with 4 little kids sometimes leaves him glassy eyed and drooling :P. So we’ll see…

  5. Judith Robl June 8, 2010 at 6:12 am #

    Once again the timing is wrong for my calendar, and the cost is over my budget. But I look forward to a debriefing in this blog. Bring us the highlights, Randy,
    please. We always learn something here.

    And if it’s not a repetitively redundant, unneeded and extraneous admonition, do have fun. šŸ™‚

  6. Camille June 8, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    I’ll be there, my first acfw conference! I’m not an extrovert either but I can fake it just enough to keep from dissolving into the carpet. I’m looking forward to learning great gobs of amazing stuff tho I am sure my head will explode, and meeting many people with whom I’ve gotten to know online and to whom I owe many thanks. It’s dressing up for the banquet that freaks me out. Ack. šŸ˜›

  7. Lois Hudson June 8, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    Randy, since you’re on the board where plans and decisions are made, how about a future ACFW conference in the Reno-Sparks area. I can’t travel long distances, but will be moving there in the fall and it seems a good hub location. šŸ™‚

    Randy sez: I would love it if the conference could meet closer to the west coast, but generally the plan is to keep it near the middle of the country to minimize travel expenses for the most people. Indianapolis and Nashville are about as far east as the conference as ever gone, and generally it doesn’t go west of Denver. šŸ™

  8. Hannah L. June 8, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    I have a question. I’m one of those aspiring writers who would like to get a novel with christian themes published through a secular publishing company if I can. Would I still want to go to a Christian writing conference? (The idea of a non-christian one doesn’t really excite me that much…)


    Randy sez: Yes, you’d probably get a lot out of a Christian writing conference, especially early in your writing career. As you get closer to publication, you’d want to focus more on general market conferences. Writing is writing, so most of what you learn about the craft will be identical either way.

  9. Lynda June 8, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    I think Malibu would be a great place for the next conference!

    Hi Morgan.

  10. Sheila Deeth June 8, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Wish I could be there.

  11. Trevor June 8, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Are Canadians able to go to the ACFW? It’d be so fun to connect.

    Randy sez: Yes, we often have writers from outside the US at the ACFW conference.

  12. Kim Miller June 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    “writing conferences bring out my inner extrovert”

    This is a phrase worthy of Sam the Plumber. Of course, with Sam, it would have to be something other than a writering confr’nce.

  13. Karen Ward June 12, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    Camille, I’m so excited for you (and a little jealous – or a lot!)

    Randy, I’m glad to hear you say “Writing is writing, so most of what you learn about the craft will be identical either way.” I’m in Australia, so while ACFW conference is on my long term wish list, it’s not gonna happen for a while, BUT I’m off to my first writing conference here. I’m settling for the Romance Writers of Australia conference. I write women’s fiction with a romance subplot, and this is the most professional conference I can find in Oz close to the mark.

    I’m also off to the Faithwriter’s Australian conference in October, but that’s a much smaller event. They had an unofficial conference a few years ago which was like coming home for me. Like minded people gathering together, it was amazing. That’s how I imagine the ACFW confernce, but on a much bigger scale. Can’t wait for the day when I finally make the trek!

    šŸ™‚ Karen

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