Friday, June 18, 2010

2010 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis

[This article is being posted simultaneously on the ACFW blog.]
It’s easy to get discouraged in this business, and success seldom happens quickly.
Two reasons why it’s important to go to the ACFW Conference with realistic goals and a fierce determination to stick it out, no matter what.

I attended the ACFW Conference in 2005 in Nashville. I had just completed my first novel and was very excited about attending my first writers conference. In the months leading up to the conference, my daughters and I discovered a new favorite movie—National Velvet. We watched it over and over. I loved Elizabeth Taylor’s character, Velvet Brown, a young pre-teen in love with horses, and one horse in particular, and determined to race him in the greatest and most grueling race of all—the Grand National.

It had never been done before. A girl had never entered a horse in this prestigious race, and certainly no girl had ever ridden in the race. Her horse, The Pi, was wild and undisciplined, with no credentials; he’d never raced before. But he and Velvet adored each other, and she just KNEW he could win.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Velvet and The Pi do win the race. You also know that Velvet has a quirk—she faints. A lot. She faints when she realizes she’s won The Pi in a lottery. She faints when she and The Pi win the Grand National, falling off her horse after crossing the finish line.

Well, I decided I was just like Velvet and The Pi. I was an underdog. I was a complete nobody. There was no reason why my book should get published. I didn’t have a degree in English or Novel Writing. I didn’t have family members in the industry. I hadn’t even been writing long. But I believed I WAS Velvet Brown. I was going to win the Grand National of writing. I was going to go to that conference and somehow win a publisher for my book.

You can probably guess what I’m about to say. I did NOT win a book contract. In fact, no one I spoke to was particularly interested in my book. I went to appointments with editors and agents, but I was told that they weren’t looking for stories like mine.

But as it turned out, I actually HAD been preparing myself for the conference by watching National Velvet, and I WAS like Velvet, but not in the way I had expected.

While at the conference, I was so keyed up I couldn’t sleep. So on the second night, I took an over-the-counter sleeping pill to help me sleep. The next morning I felt very strange and swimmy-headed. I thought maybe I just needed to eat. So I ate breakfast, but then I felt stranger than ever. I put my head on the table, and while the beautiful and talented Brandilyn Collins was making announcements, people around me realized I had fainted.

An ambulance was called. I was half-conscious by the time they arrived and was able to appreciate the fact that I was being wheeled out on a stretcher in front of almost four hundred people—everyone at the ACFW Conference. Thankfully, they didn’t announce the name of the person who fainted, so it wasn’t as embarrassing as it could have been!

The point is … be careful who you aspire to be like! No, the point is to be realistic about your goals at the conference, and to realize you need to develop a fierce determination and tenacious perseverance to make it in this business, because it’s easy to get discouraged, and success may not happen quickly.

Make the most of your time at the conference, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t immediately see any tangible results. The friendships and connections you make at the conference, the things you learn, will bless you in many ways that you might not be able to see right away. So I hope you will attend the ACFW Conference if at all possible!


Sherrinda said...

Oh my goodness! I cannot imagine fainting and getting carted off to the hospital. You are a brave soul, Melanie! I wish I could go this year, but maybe next year! I'm really not ready, writing-wise, but I hope to have more writing under my belt by the time I go. I would LOVE to meet you in person!

Melanie Dickerson said...

LOL! I don't think fainting makes me brave! :-) I didn't have any choice in the matter! I was just upset that I was missing my appointment with the Tyndale editor! LOL

I would LOVE to meet you too, Sherrinda! Next year! You have to make it your goal. Start saving now!

Kathleen L. Maher said...

This was hysterical, Melanie. You certainly know how to bring a crowd to its feet!
I was horse-crazy as a kid, too, and National Velvet was one of my reads back in the day. Great analogies to writing. But it's so easy to put one's faith in a noble beast like The Pi, or The Black Stallion, to carry us to victory. To believe in oneself--ah, that's a challenge. Maybe God will have to carry me across that finished line. Especially if I faint under the strain. ;D

Debra E Marvin said...

I think I was sitting next to you last year in Denver when a woman fainted in the dining room. Maybe it's an annual thing?

Melanie, I'm trying not to be too disappointed but I won't be able to go this year. And I know you are going to have your booksigning! Wish I could be there, so I want everyone to post photos when they get back!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Kathy, thank you so much for saying my story was hilarious and not just pathetic!!! And National Velvet is still one of my very favorite movies. I still haven't read the book.

Deb, I am so sad you won't be at the conference this year. But I know you're having a good year anyway with the new grandbaby! I will look forward to seeing you next year!!! You're so sweet. I'll miss you, and I will definitely post some pictures on facebook, and probably here on my blog, too.

lauradroege said...

But Melanie, if they had announced your name when you fainted, you would have gotten a lot of publicity...people might've remembered recognition is always good when building a platform, right?

Oddly enough, I recently attended a fiction marketing seminar in Nashville. The second morning of the seminar, I went downstairs for breakfast and I almost passed out. I was so keyed-up, stressed out and emotional the night before that I skipped dinner--all the feelings of "oh my goodness, I'm never going to be able to get this book published" played a role in that, too.

So how many novels did you write before you got a contract for your "first" one?

Hope the conference goes well.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Laura, you sound like you have the same curse I have--too high strung and emotional. (Bless you. You have my empathy.) I'm able to hide it from most people--probably everyone except my husband and kids!

Laura, The Healer's Apprentice was my second book, and definitely the book of my heart. I was O-b-s-e-s-s-e-d with getting it published, but in the meantime I wrote two more books before getting The Call that Zondervan was publishing it. I wasn't giving up no matter what!

Kav said...

LOL. Melanie, that is such a funny story and a wonderful thing to be able to share now as a soon to be published author!!!! Do you remember who you were sitting next to? Do they remember you? I think you were terribly brave to go at all. I'm almost glad that attending a conference is finanically out of the question for me because I think I'd be hyperventilating in a bag the whole time. So not the way to make a good first impression

Oh -- and do you have an exact date for your book release???? I CAN'T WAIT!!!! And I want to make sure my bookstore gets it in right away.

Melanie Dickerson said...

It comes out September 3rd, Kav! Thanks for being so excited about it!
I'm editing the next book in the "series" which is a Beauty and the Beast story. It has nothing to do with The Healer's Apprentice except that they're both medievals and they're both based on fairy tales. Say a prayer that my publisher wants to publish it too!