By now you are either wound up by the hype of conference preparation or praying for a last minute miracle that would allow you to attend. Even those who’ve decided long ago that this was not a conference year may be experiencing closet wishes. I know I am.
I’m not going to expound on how to put a one sheet together or practice elevator pitches. There are plenty of resources for those. Instead, I want to suggest you go to conference with specific goals. I don’t mean “to get published”. Sure, that’s the destination, but looking to the specifics will affect your ETA at that goal.
1. Evaluate where you are. Are you at the beginning of the journey? One characteristic of the beginner is to worry about needs that are beyond their current position. If you’re unpublished, creating a network of friends, recognizing established faces, learning your craft is critical. Focus on those things. If you’re published and have an online presence, finding critique partners or getting to know personally those on your on-line critique groups, talking with agents and publishers moves to the forefront.
2. Think through what you require. You may see the big picture and believe you need to know it all now, but truthfully, you can’t take it all in. Focus on what you need right now. Think about a survivor show or Ninja warriors where contestants climb a wall or swing themselves over some goop. They focus on searching out the next hand hold. That’s what you need to do. Rather than trying to convince everyone you are ready, humble yourself to say, “This is where I’m weak. I need this information.” I think this is an important time to listen to those next to you at meal times and do a little learning outside the classroom. Other people’s experiences are invaluable.
3. Arrange your priorities. As you listen to others, your idea of what you need may shift. True, writing is a lonely one-man task, but it will pay to remember that the publishing community is made up of people. This is the perfect time to put “be sociable” at the top of the list. You don’t need to be an extrovert to make use of conference to practice friendly exchanges. If speaking to strangers scares you out of your mind, at least take the time to speak to your teachers. Tell them you appreciate their class. Mention one thing they taught that has helped you. Think of it as a challenge or as a necessary accomplishment to receive a high grade, whatever works for you.
ACFW conference is a fantastic event. It will hold many opportunities for you. Most of them will not be what you expect. So, watch for the opportunities God brings your way. He’s the Creator, and I can guarantee that he has created something special for you if you will open your hands to receive it.
God bless each of you and may this year’s conference be one you will remember always.
Mary Allen lives in the Midwest. She was La Porte County Poet Laureate from 2010-2011 and took third in this year's competition. She serves as Arts in the Park Poetry Chair. Mary can be found on The Barn Door.net, has published numerous articles, and has two real-life inspirational stories in "Kernels of Hope" by Majesty House. She has released a book of poetry, "Journey to Christmas", about thoughts and feelings of those involved in the first Christmas.