I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Through The Eyes Of An ICRS Newbie

The American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference is coming up soon. (Insert squeal, jig, scream, and/or excited applause here.) I’d never heard of ACFW until author Donna Fleisher did a paid critique of my first manuscript. I found out about the organization through her website, and I attended my first conference that year. If you haven’t checked out ACFW already, I give you permission to go check it out right now, before you even read my blog. Ain’t I sweet?

Most of you have probably already attended at least one conference, however. You know how amazing it is—I don’t need to convince you. Maybe you’re looking at other events to see what you should add to your schedule…whenever you allow yourself out of your writing/editing cave, that is. Last month I attended the International Christian Retailers’ Show for the first time. I actually went to represent my day job, but I’m going to try to give a report through a writer’s eyes.

Welcome to Book Heaven.

If you’re a writer, you must be a reader. And ICRS is full of books: Free books. Autographed books. Books with pretty covers and that brand-new ink smell. More books. And did I mention they’re free? Some are Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), some are just sample chapters, but still. There are so many books, that a shipping center is set up on the show room floor for your convenience.

Hi, my name is Ted Dekker.

Okay, to tell you the honest truth, I waited in his huge line because I wanted to see his co-author—the gorgeous and funny and sweet and brilliant and talented Tosca Lee. She seems so perfect, you kinda want to hate her. But you can’t, because then she goes and makes fun of herself with her TMI posts on Facebook.

Anyway, back to the point—you get to meet authors. Debby Mayne, Brandilyn Collins, Karen Kingsbury, Liz Curtis Higgs, Max LucadoCynthia Ruchti, Colleen Coble, Susan May Warren, and many others were there, signing books. Of course, depending on the size of the line, you often only spoke to them long enough to say your name, where you’re from, and whether you want the book signed to you or not. But if you’re a fan boy/girl, this is a chance to meet a lot of amazing writers all in the same place. There are also a few more opportunities to see them, although these events come with an additional price, like the Christy Awards banquet and the Heart of the Author luncheon.

But, he seems so…normal.

I thought I’d see few—if any—editors at ICRS. I figured the marketing departments of the publishing houses would be the ones manning the booths—handling orders, pulling out boxes of books for their authors to sign, etc. I was wrong. I saw Allen Arnold from Thomas Nelson, David Long from Bethany House, Susan Downs from Summerside Press, and more. Uber-agents Steve Laube and Tamela Hancock Murray were there as well. But they all stayed busy behind the scenes and blended in so well that two attendees were debating whether a lady at a booth was an author about to sign books or just a salesperson. She happened to be Christina Whitaker from Whitaker House.

Where my peeps at?

Though the old-timers say ICRS is only a fraction of the size it used to be, it was a little overwhelming at first. So it was incredibly cool to find the ACFW booth, with familiar faces smiling back at me. I even got a famous Ane-Mulligan-hug! :-) They were there with great ideas for booksellers—at least one of which I’m itching to try out. And they also held a press conference, giving inspiring thoughts on Christian fiction, some insights about today’s market, and announcing the 2011 Carol Award finalists. The organization is working hard to promote Christian authors, and it was fun to see them at work. And, of course, to hang out a little bit with some of my writer friends.

Going once, going twice…

If you want to see a different side of the publishing world, hang out with some friends, meet some people, pick up some signed books, and have a nice time—Sure. Go to ICRS. You’ll enjoy it.

If you’re fairly new to the writing world and want to learn more about craft and make important publishing contacts—Skip it. For the most part, it’s not that kind of an event.

If you’re published and have the chance to sign books—Do it. You’ll have the chance to get your story into the hands of many new readers. And they just might go ahead and start reading your book while they wait in line for Ted Dekker.

~ Jenness Walker


  1. Jenness, it sounds like a great time! I appreciate your review of the ICRS conference. I've wondered about it. :)

  2. After chatting with you about ICRS upon your return and learning it was in Orlando, I told Hubby we need to plan next year's summer vacation around me spending a day at ICRS. He and the boys can come along or do something else. So for now, I'm planning to attend next year! Maybe I can drag Reebs and Rox along. :D

  3. I attended ICRS back before the name change ... and remember being overwhelmed (in a good way) with the people, the pace, and, yes, the books!! So much fun!!

  4. Sounds like a great conference to attend to learn the business end of writing. *Sigh* How I'd like to be on the "business" end. lol Great post, Jenness.

  5. Thanks, ladies. Yeah, it was definitely fun. But I did have to switch to flipflops a few hours into it. :-) My feet were killing me!

    LJ, I believe there's a charge for anyone who actually goes on the exhibit floor--where most of the action happens. So keep that in mind for your planning.

  6. Looking forward to attending in Orlando next year. And since I'll be driving, I won't have to worry about how to bring all those books home! ;-)

  7. Fun post, Jenness! I heard a lot of buzz about ICRS but didn't know all that much about it. Loved your fun take on the whole thing...hope I can go some year!

  8. Thanks, Jenness.
    I attended this once years ago but was such a newbie I hardly knew what to look for--got lots more out of it now through your eyes.
    Making me even more excited for ACFW!

  9. Awesome insight Jenness. And as one of those "Avoid big conventions at all costs" type of gals, you settled the butterflies in my belly that insist on taking flight each time I think of the big conference. :-)

  10. Jenness, You made ICRS sound fabulous. I wanna go!

    Lisa, You're welcome to "drag" me there! ;-)

  11. I love all the books you get at conferences. I usually go home with my suitcase marked "heavy". :-)

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.