In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In My Words: When Packing for ACFW, Don't Bring Along Too Many Expectations

Last week, the Alley Cats over at The Writers Alley interviewed Chip MacGregor. I consider Chip the go-to-guy for all things publishing. The founder  MacGregor Literary, Chip knows writing and editing and marketing and agenting like no one else. And, yeah, I like his sense of humor, snark and all.
Chip listed five excellent reasons to attend a writers conference. One sentence stood out to me like a flare shot off into the night sky: The value of a conference depends on your expectations.
A bit of brilliance in nine words.
We haul a lot of stuff with us when we travel to a writers conference. Clothes. Pitch sheets. Book proposals. Business cards.
When you're packing for the conference, do you ever wonder if the hidden load of expectations will push you  over your allowed weight limit?
Just what are your expectations for a writers conference? Specifically, if you're going to ACFW, what are your expectations?
As Chip pointed out in his blog post, it's not about not having expectations. Rather, it's about evaluating your expectations. Hoping an editor will read your manuscript during a 15 minute appointment?  Well . . . expect to be disappointed. That's not what those appointments are for.
So what are some reasonable expectations for ACFW?

  • Expect to be tired--but in a good way and for good reason. Going to bed early and sleeping in late is not the reason we attend writers conferences. I mean, go ahead if you want to. If you need to. But realize that most people toss away their notion of time for the duration of the conference.
  • Expect to learn. A lot. Oh. My. Word. How do you ever choose between continuing education sessions and workshops and appointments? DiAnn Mills. Randy Ingermanson. Susan May Warren. Jenny B. Jones.
  • Expect to be disappointed. (I'm sorry. Somebody had to say it.) It happens. An appointment bombs. You forget your pitch. Or an agent says, "No thanks." Or you don't win the Genesis award. Part of being a writer is learning to deal with the disappointments. To not let them derail you from pursuing your dreams.
  • Expect to make friends. You're with other writers. They get you. They speak your language. They want to hear about your story. Does it get any better than this?
  • Expect to want to come back next year. Yep, writers conferences are addicting. You're gonna want to do it again. And again. So start saving those pennies and those frequent flier miles. 

 In Your Words: What expectations are you packing for ACFW? What expectations are you making sure don't sneak into your carry-on bag?

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At 9:13 AM, Blogger Jeanne T said...

This is such a great post, Beth. It seems expectations can be built up for any big event in life. And, most of the time, some of mine go unmet. I especially appreciated your point about expecting to be disappointed. It is a part of life and a good reality point to remember. I also like the idea of making new friends! :)
Though I'm not going this year, I fully expect to become addicted to conferences at next year's ACFW. :)

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Melissa Tagg said...

I am expecting hugs from writer friends! I am not expecting hugs from editors who want to be my BFF after hearing my pitch. Hehehe...though, I'd definitely accept one if offered. :)

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Stacy S. Jensen said...

Before my last conference, I overheard a woman say she was out of work, put the conference on her credit card, and her hubby said "You had better find an agent." I cringed. I hope she found all she expected and wasn't disappointed and learned a lot. Great tips.

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Keli Gwyn said...

Expectations can be dangerous. Unrealistic ones can set us up for disappointment. Overly ambitious ones can lead to discouragement.

In spring 2009 I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and left my expectations at home, which was not an easy task for a take-charge person like me. I didn't prepare a one sheet or plan to pitch. I went to listen and learn. And I did.

I also received unexpected blessings. At that conference an agent I ate lunch with asked me to send my story when I was done rewriting it, an agent who'd rejected my work in the past! I felt the Lord leading me back to my beloved historical romances after a less than successful side trip to contemporary.

Armed with the knowledge that publishing pros do give second chances and the certainty that I was to write the stories of my heart, I returned home renewed. A week later I embarked on a rewrite that led to eight contest wins, a Golden Heart final, and an offer of representation from my Dream Agent, who sold that story a year later--after another rewrite.

I firmly believe that the reason I received those blessings is that I let go of expectations and listened to the messages the Lord had for me.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Julia M. Reffner said...

I love these thoughts! I struggle with expectations often in life and these are great reminders.


(And thanks for linking to The Writer's Alley. We are blessed to have wonderful readers ;)

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

I consider The Writers Alley a must-read blog.


At 6:46 PM, Blogger Casey said...

Thanks for the great post, Beth (and thanks for the shout-out!)

I honestly don't know what to expect and yet... I do. I expect to have a really good time and meet so many people I'm dying to connect with and I expect I won't want it to end and I expect to hit a major 'low' after getting home. Need to start praying about that one now. :)

As for agents/ editors, I DON'T expect to really hold out for anything positive, since I want to meet them to bounce ideas off them as for my story idea and if they think it holds promise. I just really, really, really hope they say it stinks. Expectations?? I seem to remember that comment made in your post. Sigh.

I expect to learn and laugh and be way overwhelmned after the early bird.

I just really hope it's everything that has been said and more. Which I think is one expectation I'm not worried about in the least. :)

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Casey said...

Oops that they DON'T think my idea stinks. Will they now since it's in writing?? Oy.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Mary Vee said...

I'm so glad you corrected that, Casey.
My expectations are to learn, meet new people, be wowed by a unique spirit found at Christian writing conferences, to help and be helped, and to envelope an aura of enthusiasm likened only to northern lights.
Thanks Beth for linking to my guest, Chip MacGregor's post today. His words are well worth reading.

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Casey, I really wondered what you thought of editors with that, "I hope they tell me my writing stinks" line.
I mean, girlfriend, I was planning some sort of intervention at the conference. Your expectations, as well as your view of editors, were way-too-low.
Thank you for clarifying.
And, Mary, I couldn't not link to your excellent blog post. It got me thinking and blogging . . .

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Casey said...

I know, I know, isn't that terrible?? No, no, I want them to say they LOVE it! That it's the next BEST SELLER and will hit the NYT list the first week it's released-6 months after the conference.

LOL! Now THAT is UNrealistic. :)


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