Posted on September 27, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
I sing ACFW praises every chance I get. What an awesome organization. What an awesome conference. Put together by an awesome God. This year, I met Lynn Coleman, founder of ACFW. We chatted about how she wanted to start a Christian writing group to support and uplift one another, with no competition or jealousy. Like most things, ACFW started small as American Christian Romance Writers.
I discovered it by google in 2004. By 2005 when I attended the conference in Nashville, the name had changed to American Christian Fiction Writers. Though I’d been to numerous local conferences, writers’ group meetings, and workshops, ACFW made me realize I only knew the basics about writing.
ACFW goes deep in helping writers improve their craft. So deep, it boggles. I always get brain freeze and have to sort through what I learned when I get home. And yes, even though I’m published and an old hand at working with editors, I still learn from ACFW.
I had so many appointments, interviews, and meetings, I only got to go to four workshops this year. But I still learned. I’m not sure what yet, haven’t had time to sort it out. Oh, I did learn that the voice that tells me I’ll never get another book published when I don’t have a current contract or deadline, that’s the enemy and he tells all writers that. Now I know to ignore him and press on.
ACFW is also about having friends along for what can be a very solitary journey. I took the solo route until 2008. Though I’d been to the conference for 3 years, I stood on the fringes and wished I had someone to hug and cry over like all those other writers. In 2008, I met Linda from my local zone and rode with her to Minneapolis. I met my critique partners face to face, met their friends and Linda’s friends. We all went out to dinner together and had so much fun. The next year when I met them, I hugged and cried over them.
Lorna is my designated shoulder for phone calls or in person. Lorna and I have traversed our getting published journey together. When my husband is at work—I call Lorna and blubber over disappointments or triumphs in writing. When my husband isn’t at ACFW—he hasn’t been able to come since 2007—I blubber on Lorna over disappointments and triumphs. Lorna is getting soggy.
Linda is my designated roomie. We often dance in our room over triumphs. Dawn is my designated can’t find her writing friend. I once called her husband at home in Iowa trying to find her in the hotel so I could get the pie I left in her room. This time, I called a friend at home also named Dawn in my quest for Dawn’s room and went to the wrong room looking for Dawn.
Brenda, my other critter, is much better in person than in bobble-head form. We’ll look forward to seeing her in Dallas. Maybe we can wish her there. Kim and her sweet southern accent were missed this year, but Regina brought her husband. I wonder how many times did I say, “I love to hear him talk.” I also got to connect with Shari again. The only problem is there’s never enough time to spend with my writer friends.
ACFW is the highlight of my year. The knowledge to gain, the friends to hug, the contacts to be made. The kind of place where I can walk up to the keynote speaker–who is always way above the realm I live in–and thank them for what they said to inspire or encourage me. Knowing that all those writers sleep-walking through the conference totally get me. They hear voices too—not only their characters’, but God’s.