Many of you know that registration for the ACFW Annual Conference is now underway. Numerous bloggers are posting about the conference during this month. First, let's get the basics: the conference takes place September 20-23 in Dallas. For a list of faculty and general what's what, do visit the web site, linked above.
ACFW is "The Premier Fiction Conference" because it's only about fiction. Editors and agents know that to find the best undiscovered new talent in Christian fiction, they need to come to the ACFW Conference. Christian novelists of all skill levels know that for the best teaching in fiction, and all-around comraderie with other novelists, they need to come.
This year the main morning sessions center around genres. Do you write suspense, women's fiction, historicals, etc.? There's a session for you. Plus, Randy Ingermanson is leading a session on marketing. We'll have main sessions in the morning, workshops in the afternoon, even late-night chats--all centered around writing Christian fiction. This year James Scott Bell will be the keynote. He'll be great. He's funny, wise, and a wonderful author. (Next year the keynote will be Angela Hunt--worth mentioning a year in advance.)
And of course there are meetings and meals with agents and editors. In fact, there's enough on-the-surface, up-front stuff that your head will spin. Just the hanging out with other novelists is worth its weight in gold. (And we do know how to hang out at ACFW.)
But let me tell you the most important part. Underneath all this is what God does in people's lives behind the scenes. The God-stories from attendees are what make the ACFW Conference great. If there's one thing I've seen, it's how present God is at each ACFW annual gathering. God knows this conference. I'm convinced He's always the most excited to come. I have seen Him meet people's needs every year. They may have come to the conference primarily to learn about writing, but God turned the time into a major spiritual victory.
The God stories have started already this year. I know of a woman on a very fixed income who signed up to go to the conference, but then found herself a little short on money to pay for it. You see, she'd obeyed God's call and given away $20,000 she hadn't expected to give. She never asked God for anything back. But within one week after giving away that money, she received in the mail three separate checks representing money she didn't know she had. (An insurance company, giving a rebate?) Those checks added up to almost exactly her price to attend the conference, air fare included.
In the second (or was it the third?) year of the conference, Robin Lee Hatcher served as keynote speaker. At the end of her first talk, she invited people to come down to the front if they wanted others to pray with them about dedicating their writing to God. Prayer counselors stood ready--and wow, were they needed! Many people came down for prayer.
I was one of those prayer counselors. There were so many people that we couldn't take a long time with each person. It was a rather quick blessing for everyone who'd lined up for prayer. I approached a young woman I did not know, expecting to pray with her about her writing. God had other plans. The minute I walked up to her, my hand came up and pressed hard against her chest. The words that blurted from my mouth were, "Oh, Lord, heal her heart!"
The young woman gave me a look I'll never forget. At the time I figured she thought I was nuts. (How many strangers walk up to you and put their hand on your chest?) I thought I was nuts.
The next day she approached me. Turns out she was so shocked by that prayer, she couldn't even talk about it to me that night. But this gal had been carrying around some terrible baggage from her childhood. She went up front expecting to talk to God about her writing. But God knew what she really needed. She needed healing from that pain. And no doubt through that healing, God could then better use her as a writer. God met this young woman at her point of need--by spewing the words out of the mouth of a pray-er who had no idea what they meant.
Two years ago I saw numerous physical, emotional and spiritual healings at the conference. Same with last year. Sometimes the answers to prayer aren't obvious until later. And sometimes they are about writing. Two years ago in the prayer room I was praying with someone who asked, "Just please pray for me whatever God tells you." God said something which seemed to me quite strange. He told her that she should "write her heritage." This made no sense to me because the only writing I'd ever seen from her was a suspense manuscript. However, before the conference she'd begun thinking that maybe she should take a chick-lit-type manuscript of hers and change the characters to Asian--her cultural heritage. She'd asked God to show her what to do. He answered that prayer in that session. Within a year, maybe a little longer, this gal had signed a three-book contract for an Asian series with a major publisher.
I could write post after post of similar stories about God meeting people at the ACFW Conference in amazing and often unexpected ways. Some of these folks prayed to Him by themselves in the corner of the dedicated prayer room. Or a friend prayed with them. Or they heard a word from a speaker that was just for them--a straight message from God.
A lot of the blog posts on the conference this month will talk about the teaching, the networking, the does and don'ts of attending a conference. How great the faculty and attendees are. How warm and friendly and caring everyone is. All this is true. But underneath, above, before, and behind all of this--God. He is the MVP at the ACFW Conference every year. And it shows.
This week on blog tour: As I Have Loved You, by Nikki Arana