Attending the 2011 ACW Writing Conference

Last weekend I attended the Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids Michigan. It was my second time at that particular conference, with last year being my first writing conference ever.

Last year, I was the proverbial deer caught in headlights. I was overwhelmed with how a writing conference functions and the voluminous information — much of it surprising — that was poured into my brain. This year I knew what to expect in terms of content and what I needed to do to squeeze the most value from the experience.

Although attendance was light, the speakers were again excellent. For day one, I chose the non-fiction track, buying the CDs for the fiction track. On day two, I bounced between the many breakout sessions. I was also fortunate to garner 15-minute personal consultations with three of the speakers. All offered wise counsel, which was worth the price of attendance.

I broke my rule of only purchasing one book, instead buying a work of each of the two main speakers. In addition, I was given a third book: The Slave Across the Street, a powerful — and shocking — true story of human trafficking in the US. To win this book, I needed to briefly write: “Why I deserve a free book.” My response was concise: “I write, therefore I am.” Everyone who submitted something won a book, but I was pleased with my submission.

I didn’t pitch any of my book ideas at the conference, citing that a need to complete my dissertation and a biography project were more than enough for me to handle right now. However, I was encouraged to begin pitching my ideas anyway, for even if one were accepted today, it would realistically be six months before I actually could begin work.

I also questioned what type of writing to focus on. Should it be my many non-fiction ideas, my memoir style concepts, or a fiction series? The advice was to pursue all three and let the marketplace (that is, agents and publishers) determine which road to take at this time. You never know what someone is looking for or what direction may be taken, so multiple pursuits are a wise strategy.

Putting all that I learned into practice will keep me busy for quite some time.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!