Friday, July 13, 2007

A Godsend of a Conference

For me, discovering the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference was a godsend.

I don’t use the word “godsend” lightly. Here’s how the Oxford English Dictionary defines it: “Some desirable thing received unexpectedly and as it were from the hand of God, esp. something of which the recipient is greatly in want.” This describes perfectly how I received the gift of ACFW and its conference.

A few years ago, I was trying to write for the secular market. I experienced a lot of frustration because I would get great feedback on the quality of my writing, but would be told the stories were “too traditional” or some such thing. I interpreted these criticisms as “too Christian.” I attended a couple of secular conferences and had a really bad experience with an editor at one. It was the most discouraging day of my writing life. In fact, I made a decision that I had had enough and was quitting altogether. God, however, had other plans.

One of the ways he nudged me was reminding me of days past when I was trying to write for a Christian market and went to Christian writers’ conferences. He reminded me of the worship services, the prayer, the fellowship with other believers. In other words, even if I hit a bump in the road, folks were helping look after my wounded spirit. At a secular writers’ conference, it’s easy to focus on “me, me, me.” At a Christian conference, there’s a lot more emphasis on finding God’s will for our lives and our work—whatever that might be.

So that started me thinking about Christian conferences. But I had never heard of ACFW. There was a particular agent I wanted to meet, and one day I did some research to try to find a place to meet him. And I discovered ACFW. I was astounded. A whole organization not just for Christian writers—but for Christian fiction writers! I, for one, am a fiction writer. I’m not particularly interested in writing articles or nonfiction or plays for my church. Most Christian conferences I’d attended in the past tried to be all things to all writers. As a result, I paid a lot of money and was thrilled if there were two fiction editors in attendance.

Reading the list of fiction editors, agents, and authors in attendance at an ACFW conference almost made me swoon! I felt like a child locked in a candy store overnight. In the past, if I had the opportunity to meet one well-known author, I was amazed. I can’t begin to tell you how many amazing, successful authors I’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know at the ACFW conference. And they’re so willing to help and share their knowledge.

The Queen (r) shmoozes with authors Elizabeth Musser and Deborah Raney.

For years, I prayed that God would help Christians to be influential in the area of entertainment—movies, books, whatever. I had a really emotional moment at an ACFW conference dinner last year, when I looked around at these hundreds of writers and thought, “This is what I prayed for. This is God’s army that He’s raising up to influence hearts and minds. These people aren’t my competition. We’re all fighting together.”

I assure you, I never got that feeling at a secular conference.

(The ACFW conference is scheduled for September 20-23, 2007, in Dallas, TX. For more info, go to .)