This year, I’ll be attending my second ACFW Conference, which is also my second writing conference.
Those of you who know my pre and post Katrina stories, I’ll spare you the details, but what’s important here that I want to share is looking back and seeing God’s hand shape what seemed to be globs of clay into a vessel God has used since then to fill with his goodness and gracious gifts.
Had we not moved to Lake Charles following the hurricane, I would not have met Jessica Ferguson, who–in her inimitable, no-nonsense fashion–told me, essentially, “Serious writers go to conferences. If you’re serious about writing, you need to go to the ACFW Conference.”
From that moment on, everything that could conspire against my being there roared out of some howling abyss and attempted to sabotage my plans. I plugged the abyss with persistence, met Jessica, and then Marcia Gruver, and with Jess behind the wheel, we talked our way to Dallas on Wednesday so we could attend the Early Bird Session. Sandra Robbins, Jess’ critique partner and one of our roomies, met us at the hotel.
I spent the next twenty-four hours staring at name tags and faces, seeing people who’d only been names on email, blogs, or websites appear in the flesh. And, if you’re new, it’s great because no one really expects you to know anyone and you have some leeway on the staring…well, Chip’s banquet attire notwithstanding, the prayer room-most definitely not, and clearly not in restrooms or elevators.
Sometime between the Early Bird Session and Thursday morning, I experienced a wee panic attack. Truly, I think it coincided with opening my packet for the 19th billion time and staring at the names of the agents and publishers on my schedule. The abyss morphed into a tornado spinning in my gut. At one point, curling into the fetal position under the desk in our hotel room seemed like a pleasant alternative to the weekend. The reality that I’d be meeting REAL agents and REAL editors who’d expect me to be a REAL writer was far too REAL. Oh, and my first critique was with the REAL Mary DeMuth. The first night of the conference!
The frenetic editor who lives in my brain jumped up and down, bounced like she’d been trapped in a pinball machine, and screeched, “OMG! Are you CRAZY? Who do you think you are? You’re going to sit in front of writers and agents? ACK!!! Abandon Conference. Abandon Conference. All insecurities on deck. Abandon conference.”
God placed Mary between me and hopelessness. Friday morning I woke up with God tapping me on my shoulder, reminding me that He was in control…I just needed to get out of His way.
So…are you trying to decide if you should attend the conference? YES. YES. YES.
Step out in faith.
I volunteered, met new friends (JennyBJones and I shared teacher trials and tribulations), finally had a chance to have face-to-face with “old” friends (Cheryl Wyatt, my consummate cheerleader; Gina Conroy, my WI connection), and I learned. I learned what I didn’t even know I needed to learn.
Cathy West recently had a blog about what a difference a year makes. Can I hear an “AMEN!”? Because I wouldn’t let anyone steal my dream of attending that conference, I’ve had dreams come true. I finished my first novel. I signed with Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. I’m ecstatic to have an agent who’s buoying me through this journey to publication. And I’m still learning.
And I’m still doing my prayerful best to stay out of God’s way.
Jess was spot on! “Serious writers go to conferences. If you’re serious about writing, you need to go to the ACFW Conference.”
Put legs (or an airplane or car) under your dream.
Angela Hunt is the best-selling author of The Tale of Three TreesThe Debt, The Note, and The Nativity Story, with over three million copies of her books sold worldwide.
Angela is a regular speaker at major Christian writers’ conferences and for three years she was a faculty member of the Young Writers’ Institute, a national program that taught intensive creative writing seminars for students ages eight to eighteen.