Tuesday, September 4, 2012

For those not going to conference

Only two weeks until Dallas, and the biggest conference event of the year. The blogging community is buzzing. Online friends make plans to meet. Writers practise their pitches to the bathroom mirror, their pet canary and the Jehovah’s witnesses who knock at the door. Business cards arrive in the mail. One sheets are designed and agonized over. Everyone is caught up in a flurry of preparations, plans and adrenalin.

Everyone, it seems, except you.

This post is for you. The writer who is not attending ACFW conference this year. 

I understand and sympathize, because I’m not going either.

I know what it’s like to feel left out amid the buzz of excitement and anticipation. The wistful daydreaming about what it would be like to be there in the middle of all the action. The questions you ask yourself about the state of your writing career. Are you ever going to get your big break? Are you ever going to move forward, or will you still be stuck at the starting blocks while your conference-going friends have crossed the finishing line and are running a victory lap arm in arm?

There are lots of reasons you may not be able to make conference this year. You may have family commitments, work commitments, financial or health limitations. Perhaps you’re just at a stagnant place in your writing journey and questioning the validity of continuing to invest into your writing.

I live in Australia, so attending a writing conference in the States is a major deal for me. I’ve been to two in the past six years, including my first ACFW last year. Ten weeks ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, so I knew attending ACFW conference would not be an option for me this year, even if we could afford the international airfares.

Whatever your reason for not attending conference, I want to encourage you to lift your gaze. It’s so tempting to focus on what you’re missing out on instead of thanking God for how far you’ve already come.

With that in mind, here are some things you can do while your friends jet off to Dallas in a couple of weeks’ time.

1. Use the time to pray about your writing journey.

Nothing beats discouragement like giving thanks. Praise God for where he’s brought you thus far. Take the time to recount the ways God has helped you along the path, giving thanks for every blessing, no matter how small.

Then seek his face. Where would God have you step next? How can you best use your time and talents to honor him? Ask for God’s blessing on your writing, his daily help and guidance in shaping words that will bring him glory.

2. Have a mini retreat.

Why not invest in some teaching CDs from conference? You don’t have to miss out! If you can’t be there in person to hear from your favorite author or editor, invite them into your home instead, and listen at your leisure!

While conference is on, why not read a craft book you’ve been meaning to get to for some time? I’ve set myself the challenge of reading “The Fire in Fiction” by Donald Maas over the Dallas weekend. Who knows? It may stir up some fresh inspiration and reinvigorate my writing energies – and all without the jetlag.

3. Set some goals.

Just because you can’t pitch face-to-face to editors or agents in a couple of weeks’ time doesn’t mean you can’t make equally valid goals. Why not use the information about editors and agents on the ACFW website and tailor a query letter to send out to your dream team? Face-to-face meetings are wonderful, but they’re not everything. Stellar writing is what gets you noticed, above all else.

Perhaps your goal is to finish outlining your book by the end of September. Or finish writing it by Christmas. Or edit twenty pages by the end of this week. Or polish your proposal and query five agents. Whatever the case may be, breathe some life into your deflating dream by setting an achievable goal and then taking action to make it happen.

4. Be encouraged.

Your future writing success doesn’t hinge on this one conference. Your success is in God’s hands, not yours.

I love the dramatic way God teaches this truth to his people in Chronicles as they prepare to face a vast army. He tells them, “Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. …You will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory.” (2 Chronicles 20:15, 17)

The Israelites believed what God told them and sang praises all the way to the lookout, and when they looked down over the plain, the entire opposing army was already dead. They didn’t have to lift a finger to fight them.

It’s a concept that can seem foreign to us, used as we are to struggling and striving. But often it’s in the times of waiting and stillness that we’re reminded where our true strength lies.

“I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him… My salvation and my honor come from God alone.” Psalm 62:5,7

5. Know you are not forgotten.

Allegra Grace - my gorgeous little reason
for not attending conference.
God has a plan for your writing. Whether you are in America or Australia, Alaska or Afghanistan, if God has called you to write, he will make a way for you.

Whether you’re at conference wowing editors with your eloquence and wit, or stuck at home changing diapers and wiping snotty noses, God has a plan for this season of your life, and you haven’t been overlooked by him.

Whether you can afford the glossiest business cards and first-class plane tickets to get to Dallas, or whether you’re worrying about meeting the rent for next week, God is your provider, and he is more than able to be your abundance where there is lack.

As you hear all the exciting stories filtering back from conference – of friendships made and rekindled, divine appointments, God moments and blessings – rejoice with your friends and be glad for what God is doing in their lives. He’s at work in yours too.

You’re not forgotten. Not left behind. Not disadvantaged or limited.

Remember – you serve a God without limits. A God who is able. A God who will fight for you even when you can’t.

A God who has called you, and placed his hand upon your life, and won’t ever, ever let you go.

Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Karen Schravemade lives in Australia. When she's not chasing after two small boys or gazing at her brand-new baby girl, she spends her spare minutes daydreaming about the intricate lives of characters who don't actually exist. Find her on her website, on Twitter or getting creative over at her mummy blog.


Wendy Paine Miller said...


I'm not going either this year. Will miss it, but I appreciate your ideas to pray and set goals.

Congrats again on baby Allegra! Sweetie pie!
~ Wendy

Jeanne T said...

Karen, wonderful ideas. :) Your Allegra Grace is precious! This is my first year tooo go, and I'm excited, but also remember the past couple of years when I wanted to, but couldn't go. Great words of encouragement here.

Lindsay Harrel said...

What a sweet baby! I remember last year when I was just getting into the blogging world, and so many people went. I wondered, will I ever fit in? They all know each other already...

But this year, I'm going, and I have been so blessed to get to know plenty of people online, some who will be there, some who won't. I'm excited, but remember that feeling you talked about.

Loree Huebner said...

Great post!

It's still up in the air for me, it's going to be a last minute call, but it's looking more and more like not going.

Jenn said...

Awww, what a cutie! I took recently had a baby and am just getting back into the writing swing of things. Thanks for all these beautiful reminders in this lovely post! :)

Jenn said...

*also recently. Crazy typos. ;)

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Enjoyed this post, as this is actually the first year I feel that horrid sinking feeling that I can't go.

I've had a year of meeting all SORTS of awesome writers I would just love to meet, and I'd also love a chance to pitch my book that's out on submission to the editors. But this year is just out of the question financially, since my hubby is still job-hunting and we just moved!

Great suggestion to query-ers to look up the agent/editor info on the ACFW site--I was amazed at the details over there.

THANK YOU for this post. I HAD thought about doing a video post of my elevator pitch, so editors could always see "me" on my blog! But do you give away the ending in your elevator pitch? More like a synopsis or a query? Gotta think about that one...

Susan Anne Mason said...


What a beautiful post! So inspiring and thank you for writing it. I'm sure many of us received great comfort from your words!

Last year was my first time at ACFW too, and I hope to attend in 2013. Your suggestions for what to do in the meantime are awesome! I'm printing this off to keep!

Loved this part: "..rejoice with your friends and be glad for what God is doing in their lives. He’s at work in yours too.

You’re not forgotten. Not left behind. Not disadvantaged or limited."

And your little girl is gorgeous with an equally beautiful name!

Sue (in Canada - not quite so far as Australia!)

Joanne Sher said...

Thanks so VERY much, Karen. I needed this post. And your little girl is WAY too cute :)

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Wendy - has it really been a whole year since we met?? Here's to another year and another ACFW where we get to meet again! It'll happen, I just know it!

Jeanne, so exciting that this will be your first time! You will LOVE it!!

Lindsay, yes, isn't it the best feeling when you begin to feel a part of the writing community? I wondered if that would ever happen for me, living all the way over here. I'm so thankful for the connections that happen online. And even more special when you get to meet those people face to face.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Loree, I hope you're able to go, but if you can't, I give you my commiserations. I pray you don't feel like you're missing out. There'll be other wonderful opportunities for you.

Jenn, big congrats! If you're getting back Into the swing of things, you're doing better than me. ;) any tips??

Heather, I know the feeling! I love your idea of vlogging your pitch! What a great idea. My understanding of an elevator pitch is that it's too short to include specifics of an ending, but nor do you want to end with a question. It's enough to hint at the character arc or mention the takeaway from the story in order to give the suggestion of a resolution. But hey - I'm pretty rusty. My fellow alley cats are in the thick of preparing pitches this year, so maybe one of them could weigh in with a better answer.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Susan Anne, thanks so much for your encouraging words!!

Joanne, I'm so glad it was helpful to you. And thank you - we think she's pretty adorable, but of course we're way biased. ;)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

This was perfect, Karen. Thank you!!!