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Conference Countdown–T-minus 24 Hours

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Of course, the countdown in the title is the countdown to the official start of the conference. I’m actually leaving in six hours to check in to the hotel. And shortly after that, I’ll be meeting my critique partners in person for the very first time!

What is it about going to what’s basically a “business” conference that has all of us so excited? (Just check out any of the blogs we all link to.)

The fellowship, naturally. Seeing people we’ve built relationships with online, whether over years or just a few weeks. I will never forget the feeling of a family reunion at the first national conference in 2002 (back when we were American Christian Romance Writers). The organization was much smaller then and most members were active on the e-mail loop, so there was really a feeling of “knowing” just about everyone who was there (a little over one hundred, if I remember correctly). As time went on and the organization grew, we each knew that there would be no way we’d know everyone at conference—nor even meet everyone—but we have each developed our own circle of close friends, buddies, and networking acquaintances in the organization that keeps us excited about going. Even though I’ve never been to a school reunion (and wouldn’t know anyone if I went—all of my friends graduated the year before me), I’ve always associated going to conference with what it must feel like to go to a class reunion. And we get the opportunity to do it every year.

The networking opportunities. I’ve blogged about this at length in the last couple of weeks (as well as last year). I really do look forward to the opportunity to renew contacts with editors and agents I’ve met in the past, especially those I worked with when I was Vice President and recruited seven or eight to judge the Genesis contest. The editors and agents who come to the ACFW conferences are always generous with their time and their willingness to give feedback on what works and doesn’t work, what they liked and didn’t like about the contest and the contest entries. This year, it looks like there will be a lot of editors at conference I haven’t met before, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet them too.

The chance to learn more about writing and the writing industry. Should this be the first one listed? For me, no. After two years of graduate school, there’s only so much that can be taught at a general-fiction conference like this that I haven’t already learned. That’s not saying I don’t try to glean as much as I can, whether for me or to share here or to tuck away for whenever I do finally start teaching Creative Writing. It’s just to say that getting to go to the workshops and seminars is an added benefit to going to conference.

There is something to be said about spending three or four days solely in the company of other writers. For the most part, many of us are very isolated when it comes to our writing. I am blessed in having a large local group, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, that meets once a month so that I can get my “fix” of talking about writing, brainstorming ideas, learning what’s going on in the industry. So many people don’t have that outlet, though, so breaking out of their comfort zones, flying for the first time, forcing their introverted selves out amongst five-hundred other people for four days is worth it. There is just something hardwired in us humans that wants to seek out the similar in others, and when it’s a passion like writing, we get excited about it.

Changing the subject, now that I’m going to be offline until next Monday, I wanted to let y’all know that I may have some news to report mid-week next week about a project I’ve been working on. Once I know what’s going on with it, I’ll fill you in on all the details.

Until then, I’ll miss blogging every day and reading your comments—so even though I’m not here, if you are, please leave some comments so I’ll feel like I’ve been missed while I’m away. 🙂

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