My experience at #ACFW2015

Well, it’s over and I lived to tell about it.

Anybody whose been to a big conference knows what I’m talking about.

They told us 465 people paid to be at this year’s convention for writers who center God and Jesus in their reason for writing.

The American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference was held in the Hyatt Regency hotel at DFW Airport in 2015. Being about 24 miles from my apartment I commuted there for three days rather than invest a month’s rent to borrow a bed for a few nights.

2012 was the last time ACFW was in Dallas at the same venue. Perhaps it was because this wasn’t my first go-round at this, but this year’s event felt more laid back.

The meals were scrumptious, as usual. I don’t think I gained much weight though. Not that I checked.

I felt like God was preparing me for future stardom by a certain repeated event. Each of the first two days I had two different people ask me the exact same question from out of the blue: “Are you Wade?”

The first time was at a spotlight session for Bethany House Publishing. Right after I grabbed a seat in the back row a woman at the other end of the row leaned forward and asked me that. Before I thought to ask who was asking I responded with a coy. “Yeah.” I didn’t even have time to check the name tag holder dangling off my neck.

She introduced herself as Becky Wade. No, we’re not related as far as I know. In 2012 I won the silent auction for her critique of part of a manuscript. It took us quite a few attempts to get that accomplished, but we did. It was nice to meet her in person to thank her for her expertise. I didn’t confess that it still isn’t published. Fortunately she didn’t ask, either.

On Friday morning I arrived late for the start of breakfast. They served me anyway. Just as I sat down a gray-haired lady snuck up from behind me and asked the same question. I confessed to being said nefarious  individual. She introduced herself. Unfortunately her name didn’t stick in my head. According to her business card her name is Darlene Baker.

The reason she was interested in talking to me is because she, too, drives a truck for a living. The back of her card says, “18 Wheels in a Memoir.” She drives with her husband across the country. I told her my wife and I thought about doing that together. She said it was probably for the better we didn’t since you can’t slam the divider curtain shut to the sleeper berth to get away from each other. Point taken.

I volunteered to help out at the appointment area. I was given the first hour on Saturday morning as my assignment. I was one of the timekeepers for the 15 minute “speed dating” sessions with agents and editors. I was placed at the end of the hall of eight rooms.

I got to see some of the important folks as they walked in for the day.

Agent Steve Laube sauntered down the carpet–no, it wasn’t red–by his lonesome. The way the ceiling was lit in sections reminded me of an old-time TV show. I told him I pictured doors sliding shut behind him as he approached. He said he had to answer his shoe.

I got to talk to Brandilyn Collins–the MC for the festivities and board member–a bit. Rachel Hauck and I talked a little longer before her appointment. She led the worship times quite well.

Francine Rivers would later receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. I stood in the hallway with her for a time, too. No, I didn’t have any of her books for an autograph. I wasn’t THAT prepared.

I received three different responses at my appointments.

  1. No, we either don’t actually publish that, even though it’s on our website (frustrating)–or, I don’t handle that part of our company with no attempt to pass it along to who does (expected).

  2. I don’t handle that part of our operation, but I’ll make sure the person who does gets your one sheet. It may take a few weeks for them to get in touch (progress).

  3. That’s sounds interesting. Send me a proposal (internal happy dance).

I walked by Harvest House’s table a few times to see if the niggling feeling would go away. I eventually picked up one of their keyrings celebrating 40 years in business on Thursday. Kim was the editor who showed the most interest in what I have. I met her toward the end of Saturday. They publish gift books and middle grade books. Pray for wisdom on both sides of this transaction.

I’ve been through this stage too many times to get overly excited. Optimism still prevails. Eek may find a home yet.

Friends are the best part of a conference of this magnitude. I spent a lot of time with Steve Myers from Arlington. He had one appointment that went very well. That guy who never married may have some romance books with his name on the cover. God works through people’s weaknesses.

Some online friends become three-dimensional. When Sarah Hamaker won a Genesis Award I knew I had to introduce myself. She helped critique Eek a few years back on an ACFW loop. It was good to get to hug someone who was only virtual before then.

Santa Claus won a Genesis, too. Joe Courtemanche looks so much like the imaginary character that he dressed up as Santa for the first dinner. The meal was set aside for people to dress as the genre they write. I guess that’s the only thing he had because he won in the suspense category.

The C in ACFW was really on display this year for many of us. Bill Myers’s keynote addresses were a phenomenal lesson on God using the most unlikely person to get the job done. We discovered the McGee and Me success started out by him winging the ideas behind it during a contest he felt overly-under-qualified for. That’s what he gets for saying “Yes” to God to use him. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Any writers reading this take notice. If you ever see Allan Arnold’s course offered at a conference called “The Wildness of Writing WITH God” (capitalization mine) change whatever you need to and attend every minute of it. It will change your whole outlook, perspective and purpose for being in this crazy business we’ve been called into.

Allan took the time to pray for each of us in that course before the conference. He bought spiral notebooks for each individual and wrote a thoughtful message he felt God led him to write. The messages are designed to be read as if they’re straight from God. This guy who didn’t start writing until the age of 47 received the perfect message.

“You have what it takes to write the stories I’ve given you. Take heart and don’t give up. We’ll do it together.”

ACFW notebook

I’ve always known this whole writing gig was God’s idea. A little confirmation never hurts. Thanks Allan.

Writing conferences are a great way to breathe new life into what’s often a solitary endeavor. All in all this one was a keeper.

Thanks ACFW folks who put this together. You’re the bestest! (misspelling mine)

Keep smiling.   Wade

I’m a truck driver turned writer. My writing drives people to Jesus.
I love sunsets/sunrises, dark chocolate, coffee, cats and dogs (as long as their owners pick up after them) and solitude. My relationship with God through Jesus Christ is most important to me, not a religion. This writing gig is all God’s idea. I only wish to bring more attention to Jesus with it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “My experience at #ACFW2015

  1. Wade, I sure wish I could’ve been there. It just wasn’t in my budget this year. Next year, though, I think it’s going to be in Nashville and if that’s the case, I’ll be able to do what you did this year–commute 🙂 So happy you had a great time and best wishes on your ventures!

    • Hey Deirdre
      Yeah, our little friend may find a home yet. I have another conference in Michigan next month, so he may end up a northern mouse after all. It’s all up to God. I’m just stewarding this book as best I can.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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