Funny how ten people can attend the same conference and come away with ten different opinions of just how good that conference was. A little like contest judges, heh? What it boils down to is this: a conference is what you make it. If you're attending with a chip on your shoulder, angry because you've received nothing but rejections since the last conference, then I venture to say you'll leave with a chip on your shoulder unless God knocks it off with a blessing or some insight. If you're attending to network, make friends, learn and share time with your crit partners, then I promise you'll have a great time.
I learned much at this 2007 ACFW conference. As I examined my WIP with colored markers, I learned to recognize missed opportunities where I can/should show intense fear, sorrow, anger (and other emotions). This is the second time I've taken Margie Lawson's class and I will be taking it again. That Early Bird session was worth the price of the conference for me.
Here are a few things I learned this year:
1) Get there early so you can visit, wind down, have a little fun before the work begins.
2) If you have more than two roomies, take your wash cloth to bed with you. Hide it under your pillow. This ensures that you'll have one the next morning. :)
3) Prepare one-sheets before you get to conference.
4) It's not a catastrophe if you don't have a one-sheet or business cards.
5) Take snacks.
6) Diet cokes are at the Marriott, you just have to know who to ask for one. :)
7) Buy all the extra stuff.
8) Pick up all the free stuff.
9) Hang out in the bookstore.
10)Hang out at the autograph party.
11)Don't hang out in your room.
12)Introduce yourself to strangers.
13)We all know each other from the loop; we just need to connect face to face.
14)Talk to the male writers; they aren't that scary.
15)Give hugs and tell those people who help you online how special they are. It's a blessings to get hugs back.
Okay, so I'm being a little funny, but I can't begin to tell you how much I learned from Deb Raney and Gayle Roper. I suppose the most important thing I learned from Deb is that out of all my wips, only one is women's fiction. Finally, the definition of Women's Fiction clicked inside my brain. From Gayle I learned that I'm learning in layers. I wish I'd hurry and get to where I need to be. :(
Thank God for my crit partners. Being the observer that I am, I never fail to learn more about them, notice funny little traits they have that make them who they are. Being with them over and over again a few times each year is akin to getting to know my fictional characters: Not in one big characterization dump, but in layers. Here's a picture of us at the banquet. Don't we look fine? :)
Standing from left to right: Marcia Gruver, Elizabeth Ludwig, Virginia Smith (she used to crit with us). Seated from left to right: me, Sandra Robbins and Janelle Mowery.
I also learned that dreams do come true. What a thrill to see Marcia receive a three-book contract from Barbour. Here's what she looked like when she realized the editors were talking about her book series: Texas Fortunes. Janelle snapped this pic at just the right moment. ;)
God has blessed me with these special ladies. I learn a lot from them. Hopefully, I'm able to share and teach them a little something too. We're each so very different, yet we have much in common: we love our families, writing, books, other writers and Jesus--not necessarily in that order. That's enough to keep us together for a very long time.