Tuesday, July 8, 2008

American Christian Fiction Writers Conference

Way back in September 2002, long before my days as an acquisitions editor with Barbour Publishing, I traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the very first conference of what was then the American Christian Romance Writers organization--now known as American Christian Fiction Writers or ACFW. I've not missed an ACFW conference since.

At that inaugural conference, I met all four of my crit group partners AND my then-Russia-resident co-author face-to-face for the very first time. Susie Warren and I sat across the table from Editor Tracie Peterson and pitched our historial series proposal with all the accompanying nerves and jitters that characterize novice editor-appointment attendees. (Then, lo and behold, despite our stammering pitch, the project SOLD to Barbour before the next conference rolled around.) By the way, as one who has sat on BOTH sides of that editor/author table now, I know how daunting those appointments can be! Seek me out in Minneapolis if you're in need of a sympathetic ear.

I can mark the milestones in my publishing career by simply glimpsing at my office wall, where various awards and recognitions won at ACFW conferences hang. But by far the greatest ACFW conference take-away value has been the relationships built and strengthened and the memories of special times shared with those I now consider my bestest and closest friends. I can't bear the thought that the day may come when I won't be able to celebrate my September birthday with my ACFW pals.

Follow these links for more information on the American Christian Fiction Writers organization or this year's conference in Minneapolis:


Here's me at the very first ACF(R)W Conference in Kansas City 2002, practicing for my current role as Mystery Editor and choking the Brandilyn Collins' look-alike doll:


Jennifer Johnson said...

Hi Susan! I remember you were the final judge for the contemporary romance section of the Noble Theme Contest and that my story scored 2nd place!!! I was so unbelievably thrilled!

That first conference was so much fun, as has every one of them that I've been able to attend since. For anyone reading, if you can go, GO! It IS a bit overwhelming. It IS a bit scary, as there are so many people, and FAMOUS ones at that! (I was over-the-top at meeting so many "actually published" authors.) But, it IS so worth it!

Janet Spaeth said...

It's a great conference--can't wait to see you there!

Patti Jo Moore said...

I may need a sympathetic ear, or at least someone to reassure me if I am overwhelmed-LOL! This will be my very first conference and I am getting really excited, but also nervous about the flight (Atlanta to MN) since I haven't flown in 27 years! (thankfully my 23 year-old daughter is coming with me since I'll be under the effects of Dramamine on the plane!)

Susan Downs said...

Oh, Patti Jo, ACFW is like one big happy family reunion! But if you need a big sister to show you the ropes, look me up...and don't let those scary mystery authors that I hang around with frighten you off. Their bark is much worse than their bite. :-) The plane ride will undoubtedly be the most daunting part of the whole experience but you'll make it from Atlanta to Minneapolis just fine. SKD

Susan Downs said...

Jennifer, I remember the thrill of that Noble Theme announcement like it was yesterday. I do believe I was almost as excited as you were. Fun, fun memories! SKD

Mary Connealy said...

ACFW is where it really happened for me. I'm a big fan.
The Noble Theme Contest win.
the request from Jim Peterson for a whole manuscript.
The agent signing me...he was already talking with me...after that win and the requests.
The next ACFW conference, when Tracie Peterson offered me a contract.
All the people I've met through ACFW who have made my life so rich, and who have taught me so much.

Great organization.

Eileen said...

Bet we can dream up some fun! Look forward to seeing all of you.

Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Susan,
I remember meeting you for the first time that year at ACFW. What a lot of great memories! That's where Kristy Dykes and I brainstormed our first anthology project Wedded Bliss...and then you and Sally joined us. I am looking forward to seeing you and so many other good friends in September.

Kim S. said...

Susan, you just brought back a flood of memories! I remember sitting across the table from you the first evening (in that little "bar/restaurant" in the hotel) and thinking what a lovely, gracious-looking woman you were. And then I got to know and discovered my first impression was right-on. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Susan, I was there in Kansas City too for that first conference. Haven't missed one since either, and if I can help it, I won't.

I remember seeing you and Susie meet face to face and the joy of the reunion, though you'd only known each other online. Then, next year, you shared your excitement that your Russian series had sold. And what a great series it is!

Congrats on all you've accomplished in your career these past 6 years. The past 2 have been big ones for me! Looking forward to seeing you in September.

Martha W. Rogers said...

How well I remember that conference! What a great time we had meeting and eating. I, too, was a Noble Theme Finalist and met with you, Susan. You were so kind, and put me at ease right away.

I've learned so much at the conferences each year, but Kansas City will always be special to me as will Houston and so many of the board and conference committee members coming to my house for dinner. What a great family we have.

This will be my first year to miss an ACFW conference, but I'm still praying for a miracle. :) If it's God's will, He'll make a way.


Pam Hillman said...

Whoo-hoo! Lots of past Noble Theme finalists from that year are visiting today.

My romantic suspense, The Missionary and the Mercenary, took first place in the Contemporary category.

The 2002 conference was great, and they just keep getting better and better every year.