I had the best of plans to blog from the conference. Really I did. I just somehow ran out of time each day. The wireless situation didn’t help in that it wasn’t available from the rooms. The conference ended Sunday afternoon, but I stayed over until Monday morning before flying out. Arrived home late Monday afternoon.
It was a great conference. Ran very smoothly. We had over 400 attendees. Four morning tracks were offered for levels beginning, intermediate, advanced, and professional. And five workshops were offered, covering all those levels, for each workshop hour slot in the afternoons.
1. Liz Curtis Higgs’ speaking. Liz is always wonderful—both humorous and poignant. She spoke three times during the conference. She’s a very polished speaker, plus she’s a writer herself, so she knows the travails and dreams and frustrations of writing.
2. Saturday night awards banquet. It was gratifying to see how this special night was presented in honoring the Book of the Year and Genesis Awards winners. Each course of the dinner was beautifully presented, served by white-gloved waiters. Attendees really dressed up. Lots of gowns, men in suits and ties, and a high level of bling. Yowsa. It was great to see how beautiful everyone looked. The presentation of winners was well planned, with a Powerpoint presentation that featured the book covers of each finalist as he/she was announced, and the appropriate book covers shown again as winners were announced. It was also great to see editors receiving certificates along with the writers who won third, second and first place awards. Goodness knows, the editors deserve that! First place winners received plaques.
This was a wonderful launch for a night that will continue to be a highlight event of each year’s conference. And I predict the impact of winning one of these awards will grow, with the industry recognizing them more and more as beacons of success.
3. The prayer room. We started offering a room set aside for prayer three years ago. This is no small thing, as this room must be paid for like any other meeting room, and means that have one less room dedicated to classes/workshops. But what could be more important? Each year this room has been used by more and more attendees. This year the room seemed in continual use. It was large enough and chairs spread out enough that many small groups or individuals could pray privately at the same time.
In the weeks leading up to the conference, God impressed upon me that my main focus and area of service during the weekend would be praying with people. It’s true that I had many responsibilities as emcee, but that is not what God lead me to spend much time in prayer preparing for. As God would have it, I did end up spending a lot of hours in the prayer room each day. I was amazed to count them up later—they went by so fast. I had the honor of praying with many individuals and small groups of friends. And let me tell you—I saw God move. In most instances these were not easy prayer sessions. Faithful followers of God were dealing with deep emotional pain from terrible childhood abuse and other betrayals, and harsh physical illnesses. God gave special words on how to pray for each person. As often as I’ve experienced this, I’m always overwhelmed anew at the grace and mercy of God in directing prayer at the exact point of need—a point of cause that is sometimes far removed from the symptoms. When God directs prayer to the root cause—that’s when real healing can begin.
4. Worship times. These times of singing can’t be separated from the overall focus on prayer, Liz’s talks, and the genuine feeling of family and caring that permeated the conference. The result was an overall feeling of a “spiritual retreat.” These are the words I heard from numerous people. Returning conferees came to the conference knowing it would be a spiritual experience as much as a craft-learning one. New conferees came for the learning and were amazed at the impact on their spiritual lives.
I encourage all of you to pray for conferees as they get back into their schedules. Satan is no doubt already swooping in to spread his discouragement and lies, trying to snatch away the encouragement and growth they experienced. We need to pray against that.
5. The visible impact of ACFW teaching on the industry. The Barbour editors publicly offered two new contracts to two first-time authors. And when all those who have signed their first contract for a novel after joining ACFW were asked to stand, it was so gratifying to see how many people were in that category. Next year there will be even more.
Our conference is now one of the largest Christian writers conferences in the country—give it another year, and it will probably be THE largest. And our organization is growing so fast (we’re at 1200 members and adding about 50 a month). ACFW will continue to impact the industry in more and more ways, training many of the CBA novelists of tomorrow.
Today on Scenes and Beans
Sarah Wray: A Humbling Moment at the Salon
... I had tight spitball curls everywhere. I didn't even look like myself. What had I done?