8 Fantastic Authors I Met At The 2018 ACFW Conference & What I Didn’t Know About Them

8 Fantastic Authors ACFW 2018

This was my first year attending the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference and I can’t tell you how excited I was in the weeks leading up to the event. Over the last few years I have been blessed to connect with a number of authors online, but for many of them, this would be my first chance to meet them in person.  I know that as readers, many of you can share in my excitement over meeting these wonderful women who have crafted some of our favorite stories. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments with you. (Presented in alphabetical order because I couldn’t possibly rank by favorite.)

Tamera Alexander

alexander145rt - Version 2

I actually met Tamera in the one place they tell you not to bother the faculty: the bathroom. LOL To be fair, it’s not like I stalked her in there. I just happened to come out of the stall just as she was finishing washing her hands. While I was washing my hands, I said, “Well, this is an awkward place to meet, but I have to tell you that I think your books are awesome.” Or something very similar to that. She very graciously thanked me for my compliments and that was it. Not much of a conversation since we were both hurrying to the next class, but a little while later I was able to sit in on a class where she was part of the panel discussing “Writing in Community.” It was great to hear her thoughts on the subject along with those of the others on the panel (many of whom I was also silently fan-girling over: Deborah Rainey, Jody Hedlund, Lynette Eason, Lynn Blackburn, Karen Witemeyer).

What I didn’t know about Tamera was that Deborah Rainey is her critique partner. The banter between those two kept the panel discussion fun.

Books by Tamera: A Note Yet Unsung (2018 Carol Award winner & 2017 Christy Award Winner & part of the Belmont Mansion series),  The Inheritance (2010 RITA Award winner), From a Distance (One of my personal favorites & 2009 Christy Award Winner & part of the Timber Ridge Reflections series). Find more of her books here!

Pepper Basham

After reviewing a few of Pepper’s books for the blog, I’ve had the opportunity to begin a friendship with this wonderful woman via email. Getting to finally meet her in person was such a pleasure. She immediately recognized me when we spotted each other in the huge crowd and gave me a hug. She is just as friendly and genuine in person as you could hope for.

What I didn’t know about Pepper was how comfortable she could appear on stage in front of nearly 600 people as part of the conference worship team. Her beautiful voice blended well with worship leader Rachel Hauck’s(!). (Rachel isn’t on my list because I just didn’t get a chance to connect with her – so many people, so little time – but yes, I was totally fangirling over her, too.)

Books by Pepper: The Penned in Time series (the books that made me fall in love with her writing), the Mitchell’s Crossroads series (how can you not love a great reimagining of Pygmalion?), and Jane by the Book (featuring a hero like no other). Find more books by Pepper here!

Mary Connealy

MaryConnealy by Ginger Murray Photography

Mary Connealy is a Carol Award winner and a Rita and Christy and IRCC Award Finalist. I have been a fan of her writing for so long, I can’t remember when I started reading her books. I only know if there’s a book of hers that I haven’t read (and I’m not sure there is), it’s only because I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet.

It was the first day of the conference when I was speaking to Carrie Schmidt (another online friend I was thrilled to meet in person) when Mary’s name came up and I mentioned what a huge fan I was and that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting her. Carrie, dear heart that she is, immediately got up and went to pull Mary from the crowd and bring her over to introduce us. I’m not sure I managed a very fascinating conversation considering my brain just kept repeating, “No way. No way. I can’t believe I’m actually meeting her!” LOL But I do recall that she asked what genre I wrote in and I managed to get some intelligible words out . . . I think.

What I didn’t know about Mary was her willingness to help other authors. Later that night there was an event at which nervous authors were invited to come practice their pitches before facing agents and editors in appointments on the days to follow. Carrie Schmidt was one of the hosts so I stopped by to see how it was going and Mary was there, along with other experienced authors who’d volunteered to listen to pitches.

Books by Mary: The Cimarron Legacy series (don’t miss the novella prequel!), the Wild at Heart series, & The Kincaid Brides series, and Garrison’s Law is her fun new contemporary series that I’m loving.  Find more of her books here!

Emily Conrad

Emily Conrad

You know what’s really fun? Having a casual conversation with another author and suddenly realizing you just downloaded their debut novel the night before! That’s what happened when I met Emily Conrad at the conference. If you haven’t heard of her debut novel, Justice, I definitely recommend you take a minute to check it out.

What I didn’t know about Emily was … well I already covered that, didn’t I? 😉 I had no idea the author whose book I’d just purchased would be standing in front of me the very next day.

Find Emily’s debut novel here.

Sarah Sundin

Okay, technically this was my second time meeting Sarah, but she is just too wonderful a person not to mention here. I first met her at the 2018 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in the spring. This time we happened to catch the same shuttle from the airport to the resort and were able to reconnect as we rode. It was lovely to get to know her better over the next few days through several conversations and her moderation of the Historical Fiction panel at the conference. (The panel also included: Karen Witemeyer, Carrie Turansky, & Melanie Dobson)

What I didn’t know about Sarah was that she is a serious outliner when it comes to plotting. Some writers start with a basic idea, then just sit down and start writing. Others outline nearly everything that happens in their novels before writing a single word. Sarah falls into the latter category and it can take her about three months to complete an outline, but then her actual writing goes pretty fast.

Books by Sarah: The Sunrise at Normandy series, the Waves of Freedom series, the Wings of the Nightingale series. Find more books by Sarah here!

Carrie Turansky

Carrie Turansky

I just happened to cross paths with Carrie Turansky after checking in at registration for the conference. She was very sweet when I stopped her to tell her how much I loved her writing. We had a couple more opportunities to talk during the conference and I found her to be a very kind person.

What I didn’t know about Carrie was that she is not only a fabulous author but a mentor as well. She was a finalist for this year’s Mentor of the Year Award.

Books by Carrie: Shine Like the Dawn (My favorite!), Waiting for His Return, and Across the Blue. Find more of her books here!

Erica Vestch

Erica Vestch

I met Erica at the Pitch Practice session where she was helping listen to authors practicing their pitch. While I was there, Erica very kindly took the time to look over some of my writing and provide me with invaluable feedback. The fun part is that I knew her name was familiar but couldn’t bring to mind her titles (my brain was mush by then – almost 10pm). So when I returned to my hotel room, I searched her name and discovered that I had actually read many of her books. Better yet, I immediately downloaded her latest novella, A Perfect Christmas, which has only recently released as part of The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection and, despite the anchors weighing my lids, I had a very difficult time putting that book down!

What I didn’t know about Erica was what a kind and helpful spirit she has.

Books by Erica: A Perfect Christmas in The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection (Highly recommended!), Prescription for Love in The First Love Forever Romance Collection, My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas: Priscilla’s Reveille Find more books by Erica, here!

Karen Witemeyer

I first spotted Karen seated at a table beside mine, but she was engaged in conversation the entire time and I didn’t get to say hello until later that day when I mentioned to Kristi Ann Hunter (another great author!) how much I loved Karen’s books. Kristi kindly introduced me to Karen the next time we were in the same hallway together. After telling Karen how much I enjoy her writing, the first thing I asked her was if she had an assistant that helped her maintain the seemingly impossible schedule she keeps with her incredibly active Facebook Group (The Posse) and her writing deadlines and her fulltime job and everything else she does. The answer? Her assistant’s name is Karen Witemeyer. 😉 Her words. 😀

What I didn’t know about Karen (besides her not having an assistant) is that her humor is just as witty in person and she is genuinely kind. She really cares about her readers. I also didn’t know that she has a lovely singing voice. Karen and Kristi were both members of the choir that sang for us at the ACFW Gala.

Books by Karen: More than Meets the Eye (Laugh-out-loud-funny!), Heart on the Line (picked as one of my Top 5 Heroes of 2017), and A Tailor-Made Bride (the first book I read by Karen). Find more of Karen’s books, here!

Why only 8?

Well, because it’s 2018 and I had to cut it off somewhere. Honestly, though, I could fill 30 blog posts talking about all the wonderful people I met at the conference. I told my mom that it was like an actress who’s still waiting tables walking into a room filled with all the A-list celebrities you can think of and discovering their all happy to meet you and willing to help you, AND they all love Jesus!!!

Let’s Chat!

Have you had the pleasure of meeting one of your favorite authors?

Which Christian Fiction author would you most like to meet?

TWEETABLES

Ever wondered if Karen Witemeyer has an assistant? #ACFW2018

This author has a kind and helpful spirit AND her Christmas novella just released! #ACFW2018

Do you know which of your favorite Christian Romance authors was a finalist for Mentor of the Year? #ACFW2018

Can you guess which Christian Romance author has research down to a science and thoroughly outlines her novels? #ACFW2018

When your talking to someone and suddenly realize their book is on your kindle! #ACFW2018

Meeting this author caused total fan-girl brain melt. #ACFW2018

Not only does she write incredible Christian Romance, she can sing, too! #ACFW2018

Do you know who @TameraAlexander’s critique partner is? #ACFW2018

SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference 2017

SoCal Christian Writers Conference 2017

If you have been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I attended my 5th conference last week:  the first annual SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. Here’s a little taste of what it was like:

Biola Campus SoCalCWC17

I arrived early on Wednesday to check in and get settled in my room.

Dorm Room Pillow SoCalCWC17

Headed to Registration SoCalCWC17

After registration, I ate dinner in the cafeteria and then hung out with these two wonderful ladies:

New Friends SoCalCWC17

The next morning we ate breakfast in the cafeteria before heading to the chapel for worship and morning announcements.

Morning Announcements SoCalCWC17

They also introduced about one-third of the faculty at this time. They continued these introductions each morning of the conference. I really liked this unique feature because it was helpful for matching names and faces to those whose appearance didn’t exactly match their bio photos, and it gave us a chance to get a peek into each faculty member’s personality.

Next up was a quick break followed by my first continuing session. I chose the Intermediate/Advanced Fiction session with Tosca Lee.

Tosca Lee SoCalCWC17

I admit to some hesitation in my choice since I had taken similarly titled classes at other conferences and walked away feeling like I’d gotten little more than a review. Tosca’s class was nothing like that. It was original, intense, and interactive. It felt as though I were in college again. She even gave us homework at the end of each class.

Next up was lunch at the cafeteria where I got to spend time chatting with my fellow conferees as well as faculty. Meal times quickly became one of my favorite parts of the conference because of the great conversations and connections I was able to make.

 

Breakfast SoCalCWC17
My new friend Kara Swanson just debuted her first novella, The Girl Who Could See! Check it out!

 

After lunch there were two workshop sessions with a break in between. I wound up entirely missing the first workshop I had wanted to attend because it happened that my first two appointments were both during that class.

I met with Erin Taylor Young and then Miralee Ferrell. Both conversations were very enlightening and the resulting conversations were just what I was hoping for from the appointments.

I did make it to my second workshop, given by Sandra Barela on Keys to A Successful Book Proposal where I realized I’d misunderstood what the agent was looking for in one section of the proposal the last (and first) time I had put one together.

Successful Book Proposal SoCalCWC17

After the afternoon workshops we had another break followed by a Publishing Panel where they passed microphones around the audience and we had a chance to ask questions of the publishing experts on stage.

Publishing Panel SoCalCWC17

After that was another break and dinner. Then we sang more worship and a Keynote was given by Karen Ball. I have to tell you, I felt as though this Keynote was the reason God had me at that conference. Not to discount the many other wonderful conversations and classes, but I truly felt as though God were speaking right through Karen to me. That doesn’t happen all that often for me, but for some reason lately, He seems to be getting my attention in exactly this way.

Karen Ball Keynote SoCalCWC17

After Karen’s keynote, there was a break followed by a live blog radio broadcast by Parker J. Cole with interviews of faculty and conferees and a Story Tell-Off, where two authors went at it by trying to tell the best story.

I took advantage of the break to run back to my dorm room to retrieve something, and on my way back to the broadcast, I spotted Sandra Barela setting up her laptop in the lobby of the dorm. Since I had wanted an appointment with her, but she booked up before I could sign up, I took advantage of the opportunity to speak with her. (She had mentioned in her class earlier that afternoon that she would be available to talk that night in the lobby.) What I thought would be a quick 15-minute conversation turned into 70 minutes which only ended because another conferee showed up wanting to speak with her and I quickly excused myself. After all, I’d already taken over an hour of her time! But she was so easy to talk to and her genuine heart for writers and for God practically glowed from her. Although I was disappointed to miss the broadcast event, my talk with Sandra was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me. Part of the result of that conversation is that I am now a member of the Celebrate Lit blogger team!

After my talk with Sandra, I headed to my room where I reviewed my notes on what was happening the next day and completed my homework for Tosca’s class before grabbing my Kindle and heading to bed.

The next two days went very much the same:  breakfast, morning announcements & worship, continuing session, lunch, afternoon workshops, and dinner.

Afternoon Workshop SoCalCWC17

Friday afternoon I missed most of the second workshop due to appointments with Karen Ball and Stephanie Alton. Both appointments were encouraging and enlightening. I was very grateful for the opportunity to speak with both of these women.

Kim Bangs Keynote SoCalCWC17

On Friday evening there was an agent panel followed by a Keynote by Kim Bangs and a concert given by Sally Klein O’Connor.

On Saturday evening there was an Awards and Autograph Party followed by a Keynote by Allen Arnold and the ceremony for the Excellence in Editing Award winners.

 

Biola Scripture Art SoCalCWC17
Ready to start the last day of #SoCalCWC17 and enjoying the various #scripture displayed around this beautiful campus. #writerslife

 

By the end of the conference, although incredibly grateful for the many blessings it had brought, I was ready to go home.

 

Dorm Bathroom SoCalCWC17
The glamorous life of a writer…trekking down the dorm hall to the shared bathroom in your bathrobe and flip flops. #youknowyourejealous #writerslife

 

I wistfully looked forward to sleeping in my own bed with a bathroom that was not down a very long, shared hallway and my brain was absolute mush. In fact, Saturday afternoon I had caught myself speaking to myself – a quirk I develop when I am very tired. So if you ever hear me saying things like, “Wait, where was I supposed to go next? Oh  right. … No wait, it’s this way. Where did I put that? … Oh here it is.” Well, you’ll know my brain has reached capacity and has no more room for thoughts so the overflow is just spilling out my mouth. I’m not crazy. Just overflowing with knowledge. Yeah. That’s it.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the speakers and workshops at the conference. Please feel free to share them and don’t forget to tag me @KathleenDenly!

TWEETABLES:

“My identity isn’t being a writer. My identity is in Christ.” – Tosca Lee

“Make your marketing plan before you start writing. Update as necessary.” – Sandra Barela

“Stepping forward because the God of the universe whispered in your ear, ‘Write for Me.'” – Karen Ball

“Try to obey in a less worried way.” – Karen Ball

“Don’t get so focused on the destiny that you resent the journey.” – Karen Ball

“God has never called for shoddy work.” – Karen Ball

“Agents are like Yentas.” – Karen Ball

“The shortest path isn’t always the best route.” – Kim Bangs

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.” – Kim Bangs

“We’re not all broken the same way, but we are all broken. Broken crayons still color.” – Kim Bangs

“We have to know God more than we know our circumstances.” – Kim Bangs

“God’s never failed anyone and He’s not going to start with you!” – Kim Bangs

“In perseverance, you find your story.” – Kim Bangs

“Is protecting yourself keeping you from obeying God?” – Kim Bangs

“Are you more fearful or more faithful?” – Kim Bangs

“Secret #5:  Bestselling authors lead with their strengths & manage their weaknesses.” – Tosca Lee

“Even bestsellers get one-star reviews.” – Tosca Lee

“Allow room for mystery in the process.” – Tosca Lee

“You waste a lot of time. We all do.” – Lindsay Franklin

“Distractions are productivity killers!” – Lindsay Franklin

“Use humor to lighten the heavy moments.” – Renae Brumbaugh Green

Which quote is your favorite?

 

Tips To Maximize Your Time at a Writers’ Conference – Part 1

Tips to Maximize Your Time at a Writers Conference

If you are planning to attend a writers’ conference, chances are you’re facing a schedule which does not allow you to attend every single class offered. Of course, you’ve spent a lot of money to attend and you want to make the most of this opportunity. So how do you decide which classes to sit in on and which to skip?

Tip #1:

Know where you are.

Are you just beginning your writing journey? Do you have an idea, some notes, and maybe a few pages typed up, but that’s it? If the answer is yes, recognize that you’re a newbie and own it. There is nothing wrong with being a newbie. We all were at some point. As a newbie, you’ll want to look for classes designed for beginners.

If you’re a bit further along in your journey and have a couple complete drafts under your belt, but haven’t yet delved into the world of editors, agents, query letter, book proposals, and the like, I’d say you’re somewhere in the middle experience wise. Avoid classes that repeat basics you’ve already covered and look for classes to round out what you don’t know.

If you’ve already published one or more books or at least completed multiple drafts, gone through your manuscript with an editor’s fine tooth comb and written your book proposal, a few query letters, and have a one sheet ready to go, you’re looking for the advanced classes. You’ll want to look for classes which will update you on the market’s latest changes and classes that will review subjects you know but can always learn more about.

Tip #2

Set your goals.

This is really something you should do before registering when you are deciding which conference to attend, but if you haven’t already, set your goals for the conference you have registered for. Complete this sentence:  “When I leave this conference I . . . ”

Much of your answer will reflect how well you know where you are. (See Tip #1.) Some example answers may be:

  • When I leave this conference I will know more about structuring my plot and creating my characters.
  • When I leave this conference I will know more about building my author’s platform and maximizing my writing time.
  • When I leave this conference I will have at least three new contacts I can grow in the future.

Tip #3

Do your homework.

Aside from reading the class descriptions (which can often be a bit vague), be sure you read up about the instructors themselves. Who they are and what their area of expertise is will often influence the angle or approach they take to addressing the stated topic.

For example, a class covering book proposals which is being taught by someone who works exclusively in the non-fiction realm may or may not be helpful to someone wanting to know how to write a book proposal for a work of fiction. Sometimes instructors branch out from their area of expertise in order to help a wider audience, but not always. If you knew this about this instructor, you may be able to find someone to ask in advance of the class whether or not fiction book proposals would be covered. If you hadn’t done your homework on the instructor, though, and the description said only, “Learn to write a strong book proposal” or something similarly generic, you wouldn’t know what to ask.

Tip #4

Do your research.

Yes, this is different. This is taking your homework one step further and googling the instructors. Why? Consider this scenario:

You have to choose between the following two classes:

  1. 5 Things You Should NEVER Say to an Editor
  2. 10 Fatal Flaws of Fiction

Wow. Those both sound like important things to know, right? I mean, no one wants to be the person whose fiction contains a fatal flaw and then says something accidentally offensive to an editor. So how do you choose?

Here’s the thing. Most of your instructors are working writers themselves. They are busy. They don’t always have time to come up with completely new material and will sometimes rehash something they’ve blogged about, written an article about, or spoken about before. This means that often, though not always, it is possible to find at least some of the content for the class you are considering by doing a thorough Google search.

Take the title of your class combined with the instructor’s name and get searching. If nothing comes up with your first try, see if you can remove some details from the name of the class. So “10 Fatal Flaws of Fiction” could be searched as “Fatal Flaws of Fiction.” You can also think of different ways to title the same idea: “Common Fiction Mistakes.”Play around with it and see if you can find something the instructor has shared which might give you an idea of the direction they will probably take the class.

Part 2

Now that you have some tips to help you decide which classes to take, come back next week to read my tips for maximizing the rest of your time at a writers’ conference.

Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have any tips to share for maximizing your time at a writers’ conference? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Essential Items You’ll Regret Not Bringing to a Writers Conference

5 Essential Items You'll Regret Not Bringing to a Writers Conference by Kathleen Denly

Having attended four writers’ conferences now, I have a pretty good handle on what I like to bring and what I can happily leave at home. Many times I will pull something out to use it and the person sitting next to me will exclaim, “Oh I wish I’d brought that!” Here are 5 of the things which nearly always earn me that response:

1. Lip balm!

You will be surprised how quickly your lips will dry out after hours and days of talking in a temperature controlled room. Not one to normally need lip balm outside of a visit to the snow, my lips will inevitably begin drying out and cracking the second day of a conference even with repeated use of this stuff. Without it … I shudder to think.

2. A portable battery charger

Using your phone for digital notes, checking your calendar, time checks, and the occasional pop-in to social media during breaks, can be surprisingly draining on your battery. By the time you’re crawling into bed at one in the morning after 14 hours of nonstop learning and networking it can be easy to forget to plug in your phone and the last thing you want is to spend the entire next day asking the person beside you what time it is. So do yourself a favor and pack one of those portable battery charging things (yes that’s the official term) – just don’t forget to charge it before you do!

3. A fine point permanent marker

Over the course of a conference, if you’re networking like you should be, you will find you have collected several business cards from the people you’ve met. In addition to retaining all the wonderful advice the speakers are dispensing, it can be difficult to remember exactly who gave you which card. Thus, I have developed a little trick. I make a note directly on the card in one or two words that will remind me what story that person is working on, or what genre they typically write in, or whatever little personal bit of information I gleaned from our conversation that will help me put the business card to the face later on. You can do this with a regular pen of course, but I have found the glossy surface of some business cards difficult to write on. A permanent marker solves this problem and a fine point ensures that I can fit what I need to write in a tiny space.

4. A disposable floss pick

Yes, seriously. Every conference I have attended has served salad and every conference I have attended there has been someone who comes out of the stalls behind me to find me digging a floss pick from my little pouch and says, “Oh that’s so smart! Do you have an extra?” There have also been two times when I’ve had to very discretely indicate to someone that their lunch was showing. Floss. Bring it. Use it.

5. Snacks!

The first morning of a conference can be nerve-wracking no matter how many you have attended. Skipping that first meal due to a nervous stomach, though, can leave your stomach rumbling with embarrassing loudness halfway to lunch. You might also find that the provided lunch isn’t quite all you need to make it to the dinner hour. Do yourself a favor and pack a few high protein snacks to help you get through the day. And throw in some water while you’re at it. A well fed belly and hydrated mind will help keep you on your toes and increase your odds of remembering what you’re trying to learn.

BONUS FOR THE LADIES:  Feminine Hygiene Supplies

Not your time of the month? Doesn’t matter. We all know stress can do some seriously strange things to our body. The last thing you want is to spend an hour hiding in the bathroom waiting for the next woman to enter and praying she has supplies to spare. Just pack your own. Better safe than sorry.

What about you? What do you find essential to have in your conference bag? Let me know in the comments below!

 

An Experience I’ll Never Forget – Asheville Christian Writers Conference 2017

asheville-christian-writers-conference-2017

This was my first time attending the Asheville Christian Writers Conference.  My first time attending any conference which was so far away I couldn’t drive to and from home each day. In fact, living in California, I had to fly myself to North Carolina just to attend this conference. I had to pay for the rental car which I drove over 100 miles each way from the airport to the hotel room which I also had to pay for. This was no small trip where my pocketbook was concerned and I was gone several days in a row, leaving my hardworking, crazy-busy husband to take care of our three boys alone. So was it worth it?

Well, let me tell you about it.

The people

One of the best things about attending a writers conference is the people you meet. I met so many wonderful people at this conference that it would take far too long to list them all. So I will limit myself to sharing just three of the many special connections I made.

em_photo-1Edie Melson taught the very first Early Bird Class for this conference on the “Hows and Whys of Social Media” and from that moment I knew I was in the right place. Not only did I learn a lot just in the short time she spoke, but her warmth and generosity came through in her words and the way she presented herself. Over the next few days I had several opportunities to speak with Edie both one-on-one and in groups. I can tell she is a woman who knows her stuff and has a passion for helping others. I am blessed to have gotten to know her.

ruth-and-i-at-acwc-2017Ruth Steel is someone I met in the halls. We made eye contact, smiled, and after exchanging names and shaking hands, I opened with the typical writers’ conference question, “So, what do you write?” (Original, I know.) When she replied that she was working on a historical fiction novel for the Young Adult audience, I immediately knew we were going to be friends. We enjoyed many conversations over the next few days and exchanged contact information so that we can keep in touch and continue to cheer each other on in our writing endeavors.

Melanie and I met in the shuttle at check-in on the very first day. There was something about her smile and her readiness to chat with anyone that told me I was going to like this lady. Turns out I was right. I think there was something about our personalities that we just clicked. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was a particular something she let slip in one of our earliest conversations that made me instantly decide she was my new best friend.

You see, when she found out that I write historical Christian romance, she responded, “Oh! I have a friend who writes that. In fact, her book just came out.” I was like, “Really? Would you mind giving her my contact info? I’m always wanting to get to know other people in my genre.” And she says,”Sure.” And then she says this: “I forget the title of her book, hold on….Her name is Sondra umm…” and she trails off as she starts looking in her bag for something and I’m like, “Kraak? Sondra Kraak?” And she says, “Yes.”!!!

I’m not gonna lie. I had a serious fangirl moment, but I tried to play it cool. (Not too sure I succeeded. Don’t call me out Melanie!) I could not believe I had the chance to maybe get to know Sondra. I loved her debut novel so much that I pre-ordered her second one which I also loved! I know. I’m using a lot of exclamation marks. I can’t help it. Sondra Kraak!!! Okay, I think my cool cover may be completely blown now. Deep breath. Exhale.

Seriously though, Melanie is a wonderful friend and writer in her own right and I am truly blessed to have had the chance to meet her and learn part of her story. I’m looking forward to staying in touch.

The Classes & Keynote Speeches

To be honest, I have never missed so many of the classes at a conference as I did at this one! I am so relieved that I have all the handouts and audio recordings of the lessons to review later. (I missed so much because I was so busy attending appointments to speak with all the wise and wonderful faculty who had attended the conference.)

 

linda-gilden-at-acwc-2017
Linda Gilden gave a very inspiring Keynote Speech

That said, the classes I did get to attend were pure gold. Again, that first class Edie Melson taught comes to mind. She reminded us to view social media as a place where we get to connect with other writers and readers who share our passion for the written word and not just a place to talk about me, my book, and I. She also gave great suggestions on how to make sure we are making the best use of these opportunities, advised us on avoiding common mistakes, and shared great tips for making the best use of our time.

 

I have to tell you, if you have not heard Vonda Skelton speak, you are missing out! Her keynote speech had me almost bent double in my seat and wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. This lady knows how to tell a story. Have you ever met someone who’s a bit petite, but when she speaks her spark and spirit fill the room? That’s Vonda. Of course, not only did I laugh until my face hurt, but I gleaned a lot of wisdom and encouragement from her words.  Her first book was rejected 63 times before it was accepted. Stop and imagine that for a moment. That is hard. She is one tough cookie. Sending your manuscript out time and time again in the face of so much rejection takes a special kind of determination, but she didn’t give up. Today Vonda is a highly successful writer and speaker, well respected and well loved.

The Experience

Becoming a professional writer is a different experience than entering many other careers. There are many paths to choose from and many steps to take before you reach success, and success can look very different for each writer. Being a professional writer involves so much more than waking up one day and writing down a few words, or even completing a story/article/whatever kind of writing someone does. While that is a start, it is only the start.

Part of the path I have chosen involves making connections with others in my industry, submitting my work for others to judge, and approaching literary agents to discover whether they believe in my novel enough to help me find the right publisher for it. Attending this conference provided the opportunity for me to accomplish all of that.

Does this mean I’m done and can check those things off my list? Of course not. The thing about this career is there will always be another book to put out there, another risk to take, another connection to make. It’s terrifying, I won’t lie. But it can also be very life affirming.

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I was blessed to tie for Second Place in the Badge of Honor Contest at this conference. The encouragement in that award alone is priceless, but even before I learned of this accomplishment, I was being lifted and encouraged by so many other people whom I spoke with during the conference. Whether the words came from faculty or fellow attendees, those words of support and encouragement were like water in the desert for this writer.

So, was it worth it? In a word:  Absolutely!

Do you enjoy conferences? Has anyone come into your life at just the right time to offer encouragement? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

TWEETABLES:

Find out whose keynote speech had @KathleenDenly wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. (Click to Tweet)

Is the Asheville Christian Writers Conference worth attending? – @KathleenDenly (Click to Tweet)

My First Long Distance Writers Conference

My First Long Distance Writers Conference by KathleenDenly.com

I am SO excited (and maybe a little terrified) to announce that next month I will be attending my very first long distance writers conference!!!

Thus far I have been restricted to attending those conferences close enough for me to be able to drive to and from the event each morning and night.  This time I’ll be flying!!! Okay, so maybe not every morning and night, but I get to FLY!!! For someone who once dreamed of becoming a flight attendant and now only gets to fly maybe once every 3-5 years, this is a HUGE deal!!!!

This will also be the first time I’ve stayed in a hotel room by myself since… wait a minute. I don’t think I have EVER stayed in a hotel room alone….Ummm. Yeah. Nope. Not ever…

…hmmm, what? Oh sorry. Got lost for a moment there imagining all the uninterrupted time to think and write and think and write and read and …. well you get the idea. Did I mention uninterrupted quiet?  *happy sigh*

Anyway. Aside from all that awesomeness, I also get to hang out with fellow writers for a full two and a half days while learning from those who have gone before. I’ll get a better understanding of what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong in this social media game, how to analyze my antagonist, and what common errors to look for in my manuscript, among other things.

So where and when will I be gaining all this newfound wisdom?

At the 2017 Asheville Christian Writers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, on February 17, 18 & 19!!! Woohoo!!!

If you happen to be in attendance this year, please take the time to say hello and let me know you visited my blog. You will make. my. day! 

If you are unable to attend, have no fear. I may not be able to share everything I learn while I’m there, but once I’m back I will do my best to share with you several of the best gems I collected. So be sure to sign up to FOLLOW ME so you won’t miss out!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear any tips you have for my upcoming travels. I have only flown once since 9/11/01 and it was just a short little ride upstate. I’ve never even been to North Carolina before.

Do you have any tips for navigating the airport? Any strategies for making the most of my luggage space? Any travel tips at all, throw them at me! I’m all ears eyes !!

La Jolla Writer’s Conference 2016

Grace Doyle & Andrew Peterson giving their enlightening Keynote Conversation during lunch Saturday. Photo by Kathleen Denly
Grace Doyle & Andrew Peterson giving their enlightening Keynote Conversation during lunch Saturday.

Wow. What a weekend! It was wonderful seeing so many familiar faces from last year’s La Jolla Writer’s Conference and getting to know some new ones. Even the faculty are always so personable, several remembered me from last year and asked about my writing. I learned so much I think my head might explode. I am not sure how long it will take to recover my energy after that marathon of learning and inspiring conversation, but I am definitely a better writer today than I was on Friday morning, so it’s all worth it.

My thanks to Antoinette Kuritz and her son Jared Kuritz, Hunter (So sorry I didn’t catch your last name),  Kimberly Unger, Mysterious Galaxy Books, and all those who work to put this conference together and keep the technology cooperative. Your efforts are so appreciated.

Also, I want to thank:  Deeanne Gist, Marni Freedman, Lissa Price, Jeniffer Thompson, Brennan Harvey, Jonathan Maberry, Eldon Thompson, Grace Doyle, Andrew Peterson, Annie Bomke, Mark Clements, Martha Lawrence, Mimi Lee, Warren Lewis, Jill Marr, Brian Jud, Tinker Lindsay, Patti Callahan Henry, W. Craig Reed, Laura Taylor, and who all volunteered their time (and for those not local even flew themselves in on their own dime) to come and share what they have learned with the rest of us.

Not once this weekend did I feel a sense of the pros vs the newbies or the published vs the unpublished. Everyone seemed so approachable and happy to help. One of my favorite moments was seeing Brennan Harvey sitting in on a class I was taking, writing notes and asking questions just like the rest of us. It shows that no matter how successful anyone is, there is always more to learn and epitomizes what makes this conference so special.