I flew back from the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Minneapolis last night and am currently experiencing a jumble of emotions. Which has me alternately: hugging hubby over and over (I'm pretty sure he's guessed I missed him), delighted by the comfort of my own pillow, the shape of my favorite coffee mug . . . and also experiencing sad little waves of conference withdrawal. Because, face it, it is a rare and wonderful thing to be in a group of 500-plus people who can talk 24/7 about writing and never get bored. Folks who will discuss semi-colons at the drop of a hat, point-of-view endlessly--people who think that hearing voices in your head is . . . well, normal. People (unlike many neighbors, co-workers and even some family members) who are truly interested in this zany world that is the writing life. It occurred to me, that writers at conference--not unlike hopeful singles in a speed-dating venue--even have our own "pick up line." You'll hear it over and over:
"So . . . what do you write?" Ask it and you'll hear a wide variety of answers. Because though these particular writers have in common a desire to write stories that inspire and uplift, there is a wide variety of sub-genres. Including: Historical (from Medieval to Western to Civil and World Wars), Romance (both contemporary and historical), Suspense, Mystery, Legal thrillers, Lits (chick, hen, Mom), Women's Fiction, Young Adult, Children's, and Speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy,supernatural) . . . and more. Trust me, a room full of 500 writers brainstorming ideas is like that scene in Star Wars when the Millenium Falcon makes the leap to hyperspace--hang on!
As an ACFW conference "first-timer," I was blown away by the experience. And though its almost impossible to relate, I did promise to share some highlights. So here are a few:
1) Having a long, leisurely lunch with my agent Natasha Kern. She's an amazing woman.
2) Lunching/chatting with Tyndale editors Karen Watson (who initially read Critical Care back when it was titled The Healer's Heart) and Stephanie Broene--both of whom were fabulous.
3) An array of top-notch workshops with titles like: Survival of the Fittest, No Cookie Cutters!, You Write Like a Girl--handling the male point of view, Multiple Deadlines: Blessing or Bane, Colonel Mustard in the Library, and Let's Talk Dialogue.
4) The opportunity to see several first book contracts awarded by editors to surprised and tearful contest winners--made me cry too!
5) The leadership, humor, and heart of author Brandilyn Collins. And awesome addresses (humorous, touching and inspiring) by keynote speaker and best-selling author Angela Hunt.
6) Gathering with 500 fellow authors for daily Worship--contemporary music and inspiring Personal devotions.
7) The glittery (ala Hollywood red carpet) awards ceremony to announce winners of the Book of the Year, unpublished book of the year (Genesis) Mentor of the Year, Agent of the Year and Editor of the Year. Where I had the opportunity to giggle, laugh and share with authors Leanna Ellis and Julie Lessman, Tamera Alexander--and applaud Mary Conneally's Book of the Year win--all of us clients of Natasha Kern. A family of sorts, for sure.
8) Literary agent Chip MacGregor . . . in a kilt.
But perhaps best of all was the chance to meet new writers, all at different stages of the journey . . . from brand new, to multi-published best selling authors. And to see the encouragement and genuine fellowship warmly shared, regardless of where the writer's feet fell along that path. Hugs, tears, sharing of triumphs, empathy for rejections . . . writers understanding writers. Very cool indeed. Hopeful and excited faces, so many smiles . . . Mary, Deb, Rose, Ginny, Phyllis, Donna, Laurie, Carrie, Elaine, Sarah, Diego, Lynne, Patricia, Gin. And many, many more, from all across the US and Canada. From Hollywood to New York, to rural Midwest farms. Several arriving from the chaos and destruction of Hurricane Ike. Shared passions, shared dreams. Incredible talent, big hearts, good people . . . all asking:
"So, what do you write?"