Tuesday, August 26, 2014

No Conference This Year?

ACFW 050a

A couple years ago, in August of 2012 to be exact, the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference was coming to Dallas and I had every intention of attending. Everything was ready. I had a flying partner going to conference with me, my one sheets printed, pitch memorized, even my critique partner had her long johns packed because I freeze her out when we room together. Everything was set, so I thought, until I felt the Lord leading me to stay home. Not long afterward, I canceled my plans.

Through this experience I wanted to know the reasons why other writers didn’t attend conferences. Was it because of the Lord’s nudging as in my case, or was it something else? I contacted my friend Alice Wisler to write a post about not being able to attend a conference and today I want to share that post with you she’d written in 2012.


When asked to write about not attending the ACFW Conference in Dallas this year, I thought that sounded like a unique slant for an article. Since it’s more interesting to read a variety of opinions, I sent out a request to my fellow writers to help me out.  I emailed a list of reasons for being unable to go to the conference and asked them to share benefits of not attending.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered what I had agreed to write. Why would anyone care about those of us not going to the conference?  We might come across as sticks in the mud. Who wants to read about our plights?

Maybe no one will respond, I thought, and I’ll ask if I can write about baking bread in a can instead.  But the responses did arrive.  I heard from nearly thirty ACFW members.  As I read over each email, I sensed a similar thread.  God.  Now since we are a Christian organization, I suppose focusing on God is to be expected, and yet, I was moved by the conclusion I came to (but you have to read this whole piece before I’ll share that).

Face it, not everyone gets to go to every conference.  There are many reasons why people don’t attend, some being:

  1. Lack of finances

  2. Illness

  3. Responsibilities at home

  4. Fear of travel

  5. Not my bag or cup of tea

Like Joanne Sher, Heather Ruppert, Sherri Wilson, Cynthia Lovely and Sherri Decker, the majority of people who replied said a lack of finances was one of the biggest reasons.

Diane Dean White cited health issues. She has severe back pain.

Many expanded on their responsibilities at home. Kathryn Bain is co-chairing the Ancient Romance Authors Boot Camp and needs to be available to prepare for this event. Thomas Smith of North Carolina writes, “A member of our extended family is ill and my wife and I are helping out financially.” Katie Clark will be taking care of her six-year-old who has cancer (having had my own young son die from cancer treatments, my eyes welled at her response.) Along with finances not being available, Joi Copeland said September is a busy month for her family.

And is there a fear of flying?  Yes!  Carolyn Boyles said, “I get terribly airsick and at security, I always have to explain the four titanium plates in my neck.”

Linda Samaritoni joined ACFW in June and is still on a steep learning curve.  Basically, she feels the need to figure this wonderful organization out, and by next year, hopes to be at the conference.

While most not going stressed they’d miss the fellowship with other authors, Julie Arduini voiced the introvert’s point of view.  She believes being part of the ACFW Conference is a serious commitment and she isn’t ready to delve into the social or business aspect of conference attendance just yet.

Joy Melville shared that the conference last year made her aware of God’s calling on her life to write, but this year she hasn’t felt the nudge from Him to attend.  Jan Warren hasn’t felt it either.  (I understand both completely; I have yet to feel a push to attend a conference and therefore, haven’t been to any writers conferences.)

This brings me to my last point:  God.  (I told you that I’d let you in on what I concluded.)  ACFW members are looking to God, believing that he will prompt them to go or provide financially if they are to go.  We are a group of writers seeking God not only in our writing, but also in the decisions surrounding conference attendance.

To sum it up, I want to quote Normandie Fischer, who put it so succinctly,

“As long as we try to be obedient, there’s peace in our decisions, isn’t there? It’s when we step out of time and try to grasp at the carrot that we become frantic and wonder if we’ve been left out, set aside, not part of the in-crowd.”

So are there benefits to staying at home, just as there are benefits to attending?  Writers plan to work on their manuscripts.  Cheryl Ekland stresses that her word this year is commit. That’s a great word for us all as we live out our writing journey.

For all who get to go to conference, know that many will be praying for you while you’re there, asking God to give you those divine appointments.

May God prepare our hearts for a beautiful experience this September, whether we’re at conference or at home in our various writing offices!

~ Alice J. Wisler, ACFW SE Zone Director. Written in August 2012


A few days ago I caught up with Katie Clark, Julie Arduini, and Joy Melville who were mentioned in the post and I asked them several questions about their writing journeys. Where are they now since Alice’s post? Did not attending the conference affect them as a writer? If so, how? Did God open the doors for their obedience? Here are their answers:

Katie Clark: I definitely feel God has blessed my writing. While I did not attend the conference that year, I was given the opportunity to go in with a few other writers and purchase the conference on CD. Listening to all of the sessions was a huge blessing. The next year, I was given the opportunity to attend conference, and what a great experience that was! However, this year I had to stick to smaller conferences once again. My writing has steadily improved regardless of conference attendance, though I hope to return to a bigger conference soon. It’s more in my willingness to learn, I believe. And as a side note, I had signed 10 book contracts before I attended my first conference.

Julie Arduini: I confess, I’m still holding out on attending conferences. It’s not because I think I’ve learned it all, because I’m absolutely a sponge when it comes to soaking up wisdom and resources from others ahead of me in the game. Like I wrote in 2012, I’m a classic introvert. Public speaking and connecting don’t bother me at all, but it’s very draining. Until I know God’s called me to attend and throws the door wide open, I’m still content reading all about it.

So far, I don’t feel penalized for making that choice. This year I signed with Chalfont House and Write Integrity Press for a total of four books. With traditional publishing evolving so quickly, I’m thrilled to be where I am and unagented. That’s not everyone’s plan, and I understand that. It’s God’s plan for me, and I’m more than content. Now, should a publisher ask me to attend, I would prayerfully consider it. It would be a step outside my comfort zone, but if I’m meant to go, I absolutely would. But, this introvert is staying home. Again. And I’m okay with that.

Joy Melville: I was going to pitch in Dallas in 2012, a story about a family in turmoil and a daughter who had been kidnapped, but God had put up a road block. He totally took away my desire to be at the 2012 ACFW Conference. He gave me other assignments, didn't provide the money, and literally gave me the opposite desire to stay at home. But in 2013, God told me to go. I pitched my WF story God nudged me to write in 2011, and came home with two requests for proposals. February of this year, GOD provided me with an agent, the right connections and resources to write book two of the trilogy, and then prompted me to register for 2014 conference in St Louis. Throughout the years when I’ve surrendered both my writing and conferences to His direction, God has provided.

Ladies, thank you for sharing your stories!

Isn’t it amazing how God works in each of our lives for His purpose and in His timing! Are you planning to attend the ACFW conference in September or another conference next year? Whether you are or have decided to wait, I want to leave you with a verse most of us are familiar with, but it is indeed life changing when we give our plans to the Lord.


~ Alice J. Wisler grew up in Japan as a missionary kid, graduated from a Mennonite college, traveled extensively, and finally settled in North Carolina.  She’s the author of Rain Song (Christy Finalist 2009), How Sweet It Is (Christy Finalist 2010), Hatteras Girl, A Wedding Invitation and Still Life in Shadows.   Under the Silk Hibiscus, a World War II novel, will release this November. Ever since the death of her son Daniel, she’s taught Writing the Heartache workshops and speaks at conferences on the value of writing through grief and loss. Visit her website: http://www.alicewisler.com and join her on her author page on Facebook where she’ll be giving away prizes: http://www.facebook.com/alice.j.wisler#!/pages/Alice-J-Wisler/333751835453

~ Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. Her novels are available on Amazon and other retailers. You can find her at http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/


  1. Awesome as always, Tanya! What encouragement for writer's not attending :)

  2. Thank you, Jennifer! These ladies have been such an encouragement to me, I'm thankful to share it with you.

  3. I enjoyed this, Tanya. I've attended ONE ACFW Conference, and several smaller venues. I always enjoy them, but I get to go far less than would probably be ideal. God has given me peace with that...whatever He wills, will be. The conferences are always a blessing. I have yet to attend one - even the small ones - where I don't take home at least one pure gold nugget of writerly wisdom. But, you know, when I don't get to attend, God always has something for me right where I am. He's so, SO good!

  4. I especially liked that you did the follow-up. It is encouraging to see Katie Clark's responses. Thanks for a great post!

  5. Reading this has brought a good deal of peace to my heart, again. It's funny how we always get to thinking that it's "just me" when a dilemma pops up. I'm unable to attend ACFW this year, and had really wanted to go. I tried a few different angles in getting me there, but none worked. At first I was bummed and blue. Then God's peace washed over me: He wanted me to stay put and learn the hard lesson of gratitude for what I do have and not fret over what I don't have. And, He wants me to learn how to trust Him even more than I thought possible.

    This post is a nice refresher on letting Him bring me peace rather than trying to accomplish it all by my too human I-can-it-myself hands.

  6. Just a reminder... Those of us who can't attend the ACFW conference still have the option of participating in the At-Home Conference. Here's the blog with details of the 2014 event: http://www.theathomeconference.blogspot.com/

  7. From every conference I've attended, I've grown as a writer, but I believe the same is true when I haven't attended. In both instances, knowing where I am in that moment is exactly where God would have me to be. As you said Delia, it's His peace that is our assurance in helping us to know His will. Yes, God is good! All the time! =)

  8. I'm so thrilled you liked the follow-up, Suzy. It's wonderful to see God working through each one of our lives. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  9. I'm so glad, Elaine. I admit, I try to help God along sometimes. I don't know why I do it, but He continually reminds me He is in control and it's His timing. And I'm not the only one who does this. We aren't the only ones and neither are others who are reading this post. So the Lord brings us together to encourage each other, to pray, and continue His call even if we can't see where we're going. I'm just thankful we have each other to walk this path together.

  10. Great reminder, Delia! Karin Beery does such a wonderful job! Last year I won a book from attending so this year I've donated two copies of Unconditional. Fun times!

  11. I really appreciate this post. The last two years I wanted to go so bad but finances were the issue both times. I'm hoping next year God will open the door for me.

  12. Thank you, Erin. I was thinking, have you ever heard of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference? I attended two years ago and loved it. The cost is less, smaller classes, more one-on-one time with agents and publishers. Just a thought, but you can't go wrong with either conference, and these are only two out of so many wonderful conferences. I'll be praying that God will open the doors. Have a lovely week and thanks for stopping by!

  13. I went for the first time this spring and had an amazing experience. I got a lot of good feedback from the agents I saw and learned a lot in the classes. I plan on attending every year as God sees fit.

  14. Erin, that's great! So glad you had an amazing time! I hope to attend next year if all goes well. Looking forward to seeing you there! =)

  15. What an awesome post. I never stopped to think of 'missing a conference' in this way. I've attended small, local conferences, but in 2012 I attended my very first Christian writers conference (Write to Publish). It had been highly recommended to me in 2009. Then, in April of this year, I attended the Mt Hermon conference.

    I can travel for free with a reward program we have in Canada and depending how quickly I can collect the points, this year I get to travel twice. I'm going to ACFW in MO next month. This said, I know if this wasn't meant to be, God would have closed the door, whether I had enough points or not.

    These Christian writers conferences are as important to me, as a beach resort may be to those who like to get away for a week every winter. I'm not a beach person. I'm a writer who loves to absorb every thing I learn about writing. Looking forward to meeting those of you who will be in MO next month. Until then, blessings! Renee-Ann <

  16. Thank you, Renee-Ann! I just came from your blog and you have a great post as well about conferences. I love how God provides and I'm so glad you'll be attending the ACFW conference for the first time this year. You will have a wonderful time! Thank you so much for visiting and saying hello!

  17. Thanks for including my article here, Tanya! ;-)

  18. Welcome, Alice! It was a great article then as it is now! I love how we've been able to encourage others through our words. Thanks, again!

  19. You're most welcome. Can't wait... countdown is on.... :D