Monday, September 19, 2011

Conferences: What Can You Offer?

Many of my friends are traveling to St. Louis for the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference. I think it's safe to say many are beyond excited at the chance to meet friends, rub elbows with industry publishers, take workshops from esteemed authors, and hopefully pitch their books.

Emotions are high during these times. We're nervous--what if I don't have anyone to sit with at lunch? We're hopeful--maybe my dream agent will request my book. We're afraid we're forgetting something--did I remember my business cards, my business casual (whatever that means!) outfits, and my toothbrush? And we can't help but wonder if this trip will change our lives.

I will not be attending the ACFW conference this year, but many of my friends will. First, I'm praying you all have a safe trip and that the Lord blesses you deeply. Do not worry if you aren't super excited every minute. Our feelings can't take non-stop giddiness. It's normal to have periods of tiredness and confusion. But also, please take a minute to consider the following.

What can you bring to the conference?

No, I don't mean for you to bring an outfit, nail polish, or cool writing gadget. I mean, what do you have to offer to others? How can you give of yourself during these days?

We all have gifts to share with the world. After my first conference, I learned my motivations had been focused on me--how I could  make a good impression during my pitches, what information I could glean from the workshops, and how could I get another helping of that fabulous dessert??--but I walked away with an even better output. God used me to meet His needs.

I love meeting and talking to other writers. Introducing myself to strangers comes naturally to me. If I see someone with that helpless, lost, "I don't know anyone" stare, I have no problem merging them into the group I'm hanging out with. This is not something I am bragging about--it's just a trait God blessed me with.

Long after the conference, I realized I had never been there to promote myself and my book. I had been there to spread the writerly spirit, the support we all desperately need. Again, I can't take the credit. I'm just thankful God had His own plans for me.

So remember that, yes, you're there to promote yourself, to meet your friends, to pitch to agents and editors, maybe to sell your published books, but you're also there for another reason, one only you and God know.

Let your light shine.
Okay, the big day has arrived--the winner of a copy of Jody Hedlund's magnificent book, The Doctor's Lady, is... Julie Lippo!! Congratulations, Julie! My daughter originally picked Michelle Fayard as the winner, but when I e-mailed her with the news, she graciously urged me to pick another winner. Apparantly she couldn't wait and already has a copy! Wasn't that generous of her to pass the book on to someone else? If you get a chance, stop by her lovely blog, Bird's Eye View. And thank you, thank you to everyone who entered!
I finally broke down and published an author page on Facebook. Some of you have received invitations on Facebook to "Like" it. Thank you, in advance, for supporting me! Facebook is a fun place to mingle, so expect random observations about my day, my latest blog posts, and pictures (mostly of my mini-dachshund Sophie--that dog cracks me up!). There is a permanent link to "Like" my author page in the sidebar of this blog, or simply head to Thanks again!

What's your best conference tip?

Have an amazing Monday!


  1. Always have that quick pitch ready to go! You never know.

  2. I like you. I like you!

    And I must say, I think half the reason I beam the whole time is the little vaca from all my parenting duties. :D

    ~ Wendy

  3. Great post, Jill! I think you're right, our 'purpose' may not be that pitch but putting another writer at ease, listening and putting good advice into action or to 're-learn' something we thought we knew.

  4. Great advice Jill! I can't wait to meet you (and I know it won't be at ACFW, but you know what I'm talking about!)

  5. I'm looking forward to the conference. I'm not pitching, which makes me happy because that takes the focus off me. I'm eager to spend time with others and get to know them better. Like you, I like to find those lost-looking souls who could use a word of encouragement and offer one.

  6. Jill, your post really spoke to me! I have no plans to pitch either, but plan to avail myself to the Holy Spirit's leading. I'm still super-nervous/excited, but it does take some of the pressure off and I'm ready to enjoy the conference.

  7. Good morning!

    Laura: So true! Even a 20 word, one-sentence pitch memorized can be a lifesaver!

    Wendy: I "Like" you too! And I am SO WITH you on this! Just to have meals cooked and quiet time is a vacation in itself!

    Kristina: Absolutely. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves at conferences, probably because they're expensive and we have the opportunity to meet publishing professionals. Sometimes it's nice to remind ourselves that's not all--that's not the only reason we're there.

    Katie: I can't wait to meet you either! Hoping to stretch the budget next year and finally get to ACFW!

    Em: Thanks!

    Keli: Oh, definitely. And I know you bless many, many people at conferences. God is using you!

    Cynthia: You have such a kind spirit--everyone who crosses your path will be blessed! Enjoy yourself!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. Very good tips. It's always good to get your mind off of yourself, even when you want to make a good impression. You are very blessed to have the knack of bringing others into your circle. I often do that one on one if I can.

  9. I like the idea of going into a conference with this mindset. It seems a great way to really connect with the other writers there.

  10. Jill, I can relate to those anxieties, for sure. In fact, I put together a blog post about it when I was getting reading to go to a cozy mystery fans' conference, Malice Domestic. (If you're interested, here's the link: ).

    I found that it was very important to attend everything I possibly could, even though it was very tempting to hide out in my room sometimes. I also found that asking people questions about themselves was the easiest way to start: "Where are you from?" or "What's your series/book about?" People really respond to that, and then usually ask about you in return.

    Just my two cents! Good luck to everyone attending the conference!

  11. I love your perspective, Jill -- not what we can get out of the conference experience, but what we can contribute to it. I'm a serious introvert, but it helps me recognize that deer-in-the-headlights look and empathize with others similarly afflicted. When we put God in charge of the experience who knows what the outcome will be? :)

  12. A great reminder, Jill! I'm nervous as all-get-out at the idea of pitching, but I've adopted the attitude that God's gonna do what he's gonna do with or without me. So my job is to meet and befriend as many people as I can so that we can all support each other on this journey.

    I can't wait until we can meet at a conference!! :)

  13. Great tips, Jill! I feel much more calm this time around, and I think some of it is just getting over the first-timers syndrome. :) I'm really trying to lay it all in God's hands and asking Him to show me not only when to speak for "my" sake but also for the sake of others. :)

  14. Nancy: In new situations, it's so hard to get our minds off ourselves--but so worth it!

    Joanne: I find my friendships with other writers has gotten me through tough times with my writing. We can't underestimate friendship!

    Kathy: I remember that post--it was excellent! And you're right, it IS tempting to hide out in our rooms. But we get more out of life when we take chances, right? :)

    Carol: I think we all can relate to that. I consider myself a socially successful introvert. I need a LOT of time alone!

    Jennifer: I hear you! But you have nothing to worry about. You're warm and friendly--they'll love you!

    Sarah: Yes! First time syndrome--funny! I do think it's easier when we "know the ropes" so to speak. Also, not having the pressure of trying to get an agent helps a lot!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. Hi Jill -

    Home run, my friend! When we reach out to others, God has a way of taking care of us as well.

    Susan :)


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