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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Distilling my conference experience

Everyone is asking about the Genesis contest: I got runner-up! I'm so proud of the accomplishment. I admit, runner up was a little anti-climactic but after distilling it for a while, I'm thrilled. I didn't even think I'd make the first round cuts and I was runner up. Pretty cool.

I wish I had the energy to detail every single minute of my conference experience. But I'm exhausted. I drank adrenaline for four days and it leaves you groggy and cranky on the down side.

The ACFW conference changed my life as a writer. I'm a writer now. I've pitched my book. I've schmoozed with industry leaders. I've sat at the feet of master writers. I even placed runner up in big contest. Yeah. It was sweet!

Everyone bases their conference success on different things. Here were my goals: Place runner-up in the Genesis contest and have one agent or editor ask to see more of my work. GOAL ACHIEVED! The first time an agent asked to see more, I think I stared at him slack-jawed. Quickly coming to my senses, I wrote down his contact information and made a note in the journal of my life. I did it.
In my opinion, I was wildly successful in my pitching. I feel that I've gotten validation on the fresh feel of my plot and my ability to creatively communicate the rubber must meet the road.

They've asked to see I have what it takes?

I think of it this way, I'm a good interview. Can I perform at work? They took the bait but will they swallow it? Now the work begins and I'm a little nervous. I've got a lot of requests and they're all for different things. Proposals. Full manuscripts. First three and synopsis. I've SO got my work cut out for me. What seemed polished and ready now needs a face-lift, big time.

I'm a better writer, thanks to the classes I sat in on. Kristen Heitzmann taught a class on Point of View that totally changed everything for me. I get it. I can do it. My writing will be better. Thanks Kristen!
I took a class on Christian love scenes (not to be confused with non-Christian love scenes). I can't wait to take what I've learned to my characters. My, my that will be fun!

Two huge conference moments for me: Meeting my critique group friends. I've forged friendships that I'll take to heaven. These women were the biggest gift of the conference. Thanks for saving me a seat, I'll never forget that moment. I had a friend in a sea of seven hundred people. (Made more new friends than I can count, next year will be such a fun reunion)

Another big moment: Pitching. It was the most nerve wracking thing I've done but looking back, it rocked. I can't wait to do it again. I'm like a pitching thrill-seeker. Find me a scary agent or editor...and bring it on. Wait, I didn't have to hear rejections this weekend....never mind. I'm still a virgin pitcher who has yet to hear..."I'm not interested!" I'm sure that's coming after I send my requested stuff.

So, after conference my life is changed. I'm ready to forge a road into publishing. I learned that although writing is an exciting industry, I'm just a mom after all. That's the most exciting ending I could have imagined. Behind the high-heels and the glittering lip-gloss (TG4 girls-that's for you) I was so excited to come home and be me. Home-school mom, friend, wife and daughter. I think suspense writer is my alter-ego.

I'll let you know how the journey goes...rocky or sweet it may be.

How did conference go for you? Did we meet? Can't wait to solidify our friendships!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Get ready for ACFW conference!

A newbies guide for ACFW conference preparedness:

Getting ready for the ACFW conference in St. Louis? Me too. I'm excited, nervous and well-- excited. It's my first time to attend a writer's conference of any kind and besides having nothing to wear, not having a polished pitch, feeling like a rookie and eating too much chocolate, I'm ready to go. At least I've got a finished manuscript, right?
Am I qualified to write this article? Probably not if you're seeking expert advice. If you want to share the ups and downs of preparation, read on!

I can't tell you how long it took to admit to someone that I was a writer. What if they ask what I've published? "Oh, nothing but I'm attending the ACFW writers conference in September." Trust me, you're a writer!

ASK: There are brilliant writers in this biz and they are almost always willing to help or share with you. CBA authors will never cease to amaze you with their kindness. Email someone you'd like to emulate, even if you've never met, and ask the question. Want to know about pitching? Ask around until you find that brilliant pitcher... don't check the minor leagues... we're talking book pitch. I've learned more valuable information from asking the right person than I've ever read in a book. I'm pitch-ready because of an acquaintance thats helped me get through it.

PRAY: Duh, right? How many times do we endeavor something without praying? Isn't it cool to think of all these writers praying for basically the same thing? Forgive the tongue in cheek but can't you hear St. Peter: "It's a rush on aisle 7". We want an agent. A contract. A new craft tool. A practical marketing plan. Yeah, He knows and, like we've heard a million times: TRUST HIS TIMING! The Psalmist reminds us that "He seeks to bless you in even as you sleep." (What if we don't plan to sleep at conference?)
Um, I wrote this one for me. Anyone else have my problem? I eat, dream and gargle conference ideas with every thought these days. Will I be ready? What should I expect? Chill. (yes, Kelli-- Chill) There are approx 190 other newbies attending the conference this year. A good chunk of the whole burrito! If you're worried, remember this great little mantra: Go ahead and fail....everybody else has.

EMBODY KINDNESS: It might be your year to land that big contract, it might not. Wouldn't it be nice to have a smile along the way? To tell you the truth, unless they masquerade as grocery attendants and newspaper boys, I've never met and agent or an editor. But I have met doctors, teachers, professors and lawyers. Engineers, preachers, dancers and day-care providers. Want to know what I've noticed? They're all people. They have good days and bad days...just like us. I might be going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing they don't really want us to be afraid of them...without writers...they join the unemployed. Be kind. Embody it. Share it.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED: If you're like me, I've been on the "loop" for a while now. Are you hanging on every email? Me too. I don't want to be guilty of a conference faux pas~!  But here's what I've noticed: person A says this...person B says this and person C contradicts them all. How to pitch, how to plot, what to wear? I've never seen such great advice on how to be prepared from our great conference volunteers. But basically, be yourself and expect the unexpected! We're all striving for that creative pitch; don't you think God throws one of His own now and then? Your conference experience could be that God curve-ball. Heck, look at the platypus.

Best advice for marriage and conference attendees:  TLYE (someone text me that a few times on Thursday, OK?) Temporarily Lower Your Expectations. I'm not sure what's going to happen at conference, but I know God's going to bless it. So you don't get that contract. You aren't the big Genesis winner. If your expectations are a little lower, maybe the "thud" won't be so bad. If I understand it, conference is run by volunteers. I'm sure they could use a break. What if your schedule is wrong or difficult? TLYE. What if you don't get the meeting with your dream agent? TLYE. God's driving this ship. Be ready for that gift.

Here's my request to YOU: I will know 4 people at conference and of those 4, I've met ZERO in person. Will you find me at conference? Introduce yourself to the brunette from Colorado. Share a table with me? A coffee? I'm nervous but also vibrating with impatience to get to St. Louis. I can't wait to meet you! If nothing else, we'll have each other!

Are you feeling prepared? Don't answer that! ASK, PRAY, CHILL, EMBODY KINDNESS, EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED and TLYE. Smile, and meet me in St. Louis! 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The end is only the beginning

Many of you have asked, where are your blog posts? Since I was chosen as a Genesis Finalist in the premier contest for new writers sponsored by ACFW, I couldn't release the title of my book until now. I'm vibrating with excitement: I wrote THE END today! Two beautiful words. Fresh Hope is finally finished. Whew. It comes in at 91,706 words.

I cruised through all the tension spots, (it's a suspense after all) but I got hung up on the end. It was hard to take everything and wrap it up. I forgive you. I'll get over it. Kiss. Kiss. The end. Sounds easy? I think it was the hardest part of the book!

Try this on for size:
Love becomes the enemy in Fresh Hope. Eliza Booker thinks her life is perfect-- That is, until her fiance threatens to kill her. Now she's running for her life. Visa-smuggling. Human-trafficking. Can she decipher the clues before she's silenced?

In ten days, I leave for the ACFW annual conference in St. Louis where the winner of the Genesis contest will be announced. My competition has a lot more experience than I do. One of the women won the contest back in 2009. Can I win it? We shall see. I will be so blessed with Runner-up! (all but first place are runner-up)

Since I've never attended a conference before, I'm experiencing the jitters. But if you know me, that's probably a good thing. I perform best under pressure as my husband reminded me today. He said if I didn't have a deadline, I probably wouldn't write a book at all. Not quite true but he knows me better than I know myself sometimes. :)

I've got ten days to perfect a pitch sheet that we ACFW writers call a One-sheet, develop a short elevator pitch and a long 15 minute presentation. I told my husband: It's like fishing. I'm not going to land the fish, just get them to take the bait! I will have satisfied every expectation if I've gotten some "bites" on Fresh Hope. Maybe it's too soon for publication, but I'd like to think my hard work will pay off.

Truly, I'm excited to meet agents and editors that know the business. Someone asked me why I felt I needed an agent. My answer: I need a compass. A finger pointing North in the publishing world. That's worth more than 15%!

It will also be fun to meet my critique group friends in person. I have a wonderful network of brilliant writers who comb through the sludge I send them...they must be great...I'm a Genesis finalist! :) Conference is a great chance to meet other crazies who think writing is the best hobby ever!

Could I have more fun? Agents, editors, writers, friends..we're all just people. I hope I can bring a smile to someone while I'm there. A little light from Colorado!

Thanks for praying for my success. It's totally in God's hands. I can't plant a seed and pull the plant up from the ground. He gives the growth. I may have written THE END today, but it's only the beginning!

Fresh Hope meets St. Louis in 10 days! I'll keep you posted!