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

Monday, September 12, 2011

They're Leaving On A Jet Plane

Last year close to this time, I checked my Facebook homepage and read: “About to leave for my roadtrip to ACFW.” “WHAT DO I PACK!!!” “Can’t wait to see all my friends. Flying out in the morning.” “ACFW conference rocks!”

My status update...well, I could have put: “I’m going to Walmart today to pick up some cereal. Maybe I’ll clean my bathroom.” Riveting, huh? I’d attended the ACFW conference four years in a row, but in 2010, I didn’t get to go. It felt weird not to be freaking out about pitching, shopping for the banquet, worrying about if those darling wedge espadrilles would put my luggage over the weight limit. I missed the conference, and it was a hard decision. But it was the right thing for me at the time, and this year I’ll be there with bells on. Or not, because, you know, the whole luggage weight thing.

So what about you? Are you packing or doing a Walmart run? Are you excited or maybe a little depressed? My fellow Ponderers have already given a lot of tips so far to those who are preparing to go this year, and we’re super-excited to see you! But for those of you who are staying home, here are some ideas from someone who’s been where you are right now.

Take some time to dig into some articles/books on the craft. There are a lot of great teachers out there—some of them who will be teaching at the conference this year—who post a lot of free info to help writers. Check out the My Book Therapy blog, Jeff Gerke’s long list of tips for writers on Where the Map Ends, thoughts from Randy Ingermanson the Snowflake Guy, Brandilyn Collins’ site for writers, blogs by respected agents Steve Laube and Rachelle Gardner, and so many more! Read books on writing by Noah Lukeman, Donald Maass, the My Book Therapy workbooks, A Novel Idea by some of your favorite Christian authors, etc. Or maybe pull out a favorite novel and dissect it, then send a note to encourage the author.

Got too much to do to sit down and read? Fine. Buy the mp3s of past conferences or find audibooks about writing. Then listen while you clean your house or cook supper or whatever busywork it is that you have to do.

Get involved
Going to miss out on the social aspect? Tune in to the ACFW loop—make it a point to keep discussions going or start new ones. Encourage others who have to stay home, too. As for those who get to go…why not pray for them. For traveling mercies, for divine appointments, for a spirit of unity, for health and healing and…well, the list could go on. As we take the focus off of ourselves, we’ll be blessed along with the ones we are praying for. Get in touch with author friends also sitting it out this time. And you can join the conference virtually on Saturday night by following the live blog. Since I was a finalist last year, my husband and I made a fun meal and dressed up for the awards banquet. Fun stuff!

Decide on a personal writing challenge. A certain word count you must reach by the end of the conference. A certain number of blogs you have to have written. (Um, yeah. Maybe I should do this one anyway.) Blow the dust off an old manuscript and see if you can brainstorm ways to breathe new life into it.

Whether you’re going or staying, remember this—God has a plan. A plan to prosper, not to harm. A plan to give you a future and a hope. His timing is perfect. He will make those divine appointments for you, whether it’s this year at the conference or if He’s telling you to wait. Rest. Trust. There. Now doesn’t that just take the pressure right off? Rather than fret that you’re missing your ONE CHANCE to connect with the editor of your dreams, you’ve got better things to do.

So...what are you going to be doing next week?  

~ Jenness Walker


  1. Jenness, what a great blog post. Last year was my first time at ACFW and I had a great time (missed you). But I can remember years past when I so wanted to go, and I felt like I was missing out on so much.

    Love your suggestions...and if you don't mind, I'm going to use them even though I'm attending ACFW this year.

  2. Jenness, what a great post! I love all the links you provided, and I plan to read them in the next weekend, while you all are at ACFW. :) Thanks for your great suggestions!

  3. Next week I will be celebrating my "baby's" 18th birthday--where has the time gone--and heading to St. Louis. I missed one ACFW conference in 2007 when funds were not available to go. Oh, how I hated that! I totally understand how writers who can't attend will feel.

    When I couldn't go, I asked God to give me peace and help me to use that time wisely. Yeah, it does ache not to hang out with friends and attend workshops, but God can still use you to encourage someone else. Get together with other writers in your area to have a mini conference. You may be surprised with what blessings come your way!

    Great post, JP!!

  4. Awesome tips, Jenness. Like Pat said, these are good even for those who are going. We'll all miss out on something someday one way or another. And these are great tips for avoiding the pity-party and instead finding opportunity even in the "waahh" times.

    Oh, and good luck with that baggage weight. True story: Once I was checking in at the airport and my luggage was a bit over the limit. The airline attendant gave me a big grin, then tipped my suitcase so the wall beside the scale took some of the weight off. Sneaky...she instantly became my favorite-ever airline attendant! :)

  5. We're all going to be in the "left behind" category at one time or another. (With apologies to Jerry B. Jenkins.) I mean, we just can't go to every writers conference. Wait ... maybe I can. Somehow. Someway.
    So your ideas are great. It's OK to pout for a little bit (loved the photo) but then your suggestions are perfect!

  6. Ok, I'm getting ready to get ready to maybe get into packing stage so I need to know:
    What exactly is an espadrille? Is it something I'll be arrested for if I try to get it into my carry on luggage? Or if I eat it, will I get a sugar rush?
    Seriously, great post. Sometimes when I'm not going to get to go where I know all my friends will be, humor heals my soul.

  7. I'll be taking your place at Walmart...and waiting to hear all about it when you return!

  8. Reebs, toooo funny! Guffawing and no one can hear me. :)

  9. Thank God for Wikipedia! Who knew espadrilles are a soft drink! Perhaps in the sasparilla family?

  10. You know, Reba, it's a shame ACFW doesn't offer a CE course on Shopping for Today's Savvy Author... I've volunteered to run this course, and of course it would be hands-on, taking place at the nearest largest mall to the hotel, but so far no bites. Shame. You'd definitely know that an espadrille is not a soft drink. ;0))

    I'm SO EXCITED for next week I can hardly stand it. And it's great because if I didn't have the conference to look forward to, I'd really be depressed. My youngest left for college this fall, and my house is empty. And quiet.
    But I'm going to leave my hubby to enjoy all this peace and wing my way to St. Louis!! I'm looking forward to seeing you all!!

  11. Jenness~

    GREAT POST!! I'll admit, I tend to avoid the world wide web during ACFW conference time. It's so hard to see all those posts knowing I will be at Walmart buying cereal. Last year I had to stay home, too. I tried to make light of being left behind, even naming my blog post "Left Behind" (http://mbtponderers.blogspot.com/2010/09/left-behind.html)and including a top 10 list of things while everyone else was at the conference.

    I do know that God has a plan. I have peace that if He wanted me there, I would be there. Does anyone remember how much whining I did this past February when I found out I couldn't go to Deep Thinkers? And then about a week before I would've been getting on a plane for Florida, my mom found out she needed surgery to remove a mass in her abdomen. That surgery was scheduled for Day One of DT. God knew I needed to be home so I know I can always trust Him to get me where He wants me in His perfect time.

  12. Oh, one more thing. I'm pretty sure the main reason I am so mopey about NOT getting on a jet plane for St. Louis is that the majority of my bwffs (best writer friends forever) will be there. Unfortunately, listening to a hundred conference CD's or reading a hundred writing books is no substitution for the fun and fellowship and hugs and laughs between friends. A reunion between sisters. That precious camaraderie.

    So this, then, is where I have to choose to stop wallowing in my own self-centered pity and find joy in knowing many of my bwffs are blessed with the opportunity to learn and celebrate and grow. Together.

    I will miss you all so much, but you can bet I will be sending all my love via the world wide web!!

  13. Great, funny, helpfull post, Jenness, and love the photo!

    Heidi, you're right about the books, DVDs, etc. not quite making up for the in-person part between friens. We'll believe God for other times.

  14. Jenness, One of the best things about the conference is meeting other people who hear voices. Great post!