Monday, September 22, 2008


Since my first ACFW conference in 2002, the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference always qualifies as one of the bright spots in my year. This year proved no exception. (Here's a pic of me with Dana Mentink, Candice Speare, and Ellen Tarver at the awards banquet on Saturday night.)

I'm still dragging with exhaustion. (I fell asleep at my desk and woke myself up snoring just a few minutes ago! No kidding.) But I'm confident I crammed as much fun and writerly fellowship into the week as I possibly could.

One of my MOST favorite moments of the conference each year is the SURPRISE contract presentation to an unpublished author. This year's presentation proved even more special as I had to work extra hard, starting months in advance, to make it happen. First, I had to finagle a way to insure the author would be in attendance. While she had been a member of ACFW for a number of years, she had never attended an annual conference. Thanks to her super critique partners and writer friends, I felt rather confident that she would finally be in attendance. However, just two or three weeks before the conference, I heard through the grapevine that another editor--from another publisher--was interested in contracting MY author. After a quick round of e-mails with the author's agent, I learned that the agent had mistakenly submitted the proposal for my author's 2nd book in her cozy mystery series. On the sly, he explained the situation to the other editor and withdrew the project, promising an equally super proposal submission after the conference.

When I arrived in Minneapolis on Wednesday evening and studied my author/editor appointment schedule, I saw that I was scheduled to meet with my new author BEFORE the contract presentation. I panicked at the thought of having to keep a surprise and lie my way through the appointment. I knew the author was already worried about not having heard back from me for several months after receiving a positive review of her initial proposal submission. She would surely ask for a progress report, and I wasn't prepared to deceive her or risk hurting her feelings even for a day. So, I begged Wanda Dyson to rearrange my appointment schedule until after the contract presentation.

As soon as that item of business was accomplished, I set out for supper at TGIFridays. And guess who happened to be sitting at a table with one of my other mystery authors as we walked past? Yep, my surprise-contract author! I could tell she was nervous to meet me, but I used those moments of getting-acquainted chitchat to gain info for my presentation lead-in.

All the finagling paid off as I stood at the podium on Friday afternoon and presented first nebulus hints and then specific details as to my new author's identity. I don't think Susan Sleeman's feet have yet to touch the ground.

Although Susan Sleeman's cozy mystery title is NIPPED IN THE BUD, my enthusiasm for this new author certainly hasn't been.
Giving HOPE to all those yet-to-publish authors in the audience.Being the true murder-mystery author she is, Susan is actually whispering something like in my ear: "I'm going to kill you, my agent, and my writer friends for surprising me like this."By the end of the session, Susan has warmed up to the idea of being our newest contracted mystery author.Author Sleeman with the other newly contracted authors. I'll let Becky and JoAnne introduce their new authors when they have time.


Lynette Sowell said...

I love the concept of Susan's garden series. Yippee and congratulations! :)

Debby Mayne said...

Congrats to all the new Barbour authors!

Sandra Robbins said...

What a thrill it was to be there and see Susan accept her first contract! I'm thrilled that she's joining the HPM author list. I've read Nipped in the Bud, and I know everyone's going to love it.

Sandra Robbins

Mary Connealy said...

I received my first contract from BArbour at the conference...what is it now? not THREE YEARS AGO???

Wow, I think it was 2005.

Great, sweet, wonderful moment. You ladies are the greatest to do this every year, even if you have to lie and sneak. :)

Okay just sneak so you don't HAVE to lie.

Susan Sleeman said...

Susan is right. My feet still haven't hit the ground. I feel so honored to have received this contract and I know from all the congratulations at the conference that giving out contracts this way does give hope to unpublished authors. Thanks to all the SNEAKS who made this surprise possible.

Rhonda said...

Congratulations to all the new Barbour authors. I was the first author to recieve a contract at an ACFW conference, I still have the smile lines on my face from the experience. I know you all will have yours for years to come, too.

Cara Putman said...

I love this part of conference. It may be my favorite part -- I will never forget watching Mary get her contract in 2005 and thinking it was possible. Then in 2006 it was my turn :-) It is such a gift of hope to those who are waiting.

Joanne said...

What a beautiful way to change someone's life. Kudos to all involved at the ACFW and congrats to Susan Sleeman!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Oooooo, I wanna be her! Love your blog. (I followed Terri Tiffany's blog post here.)