Conference Countdown: When Denial Kicks In

Conference, you say? What conference? I’m just too happy here snacking on the couch while the kids sleep – or maybe I know that, if I start to pack, it’ll make it REAL.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to it. To the point that I’m afraid of how much. I worry that if I process how excited I am about this conference, I’ll never sleep for the 5 days left until it comes.

But I guess that’s a good thing, right? Being too happy? I used to complain about how many long waiting periods we have as writers, when nothing seems to happen besides jotting our ideas on the computer. And now, that something is finally happening, I’m kind of in shock. Like I’m afraid that a wrong move will make it all go away.

That’s when, at least for me, denial kicks in. I start to avoid getting ready for it, afraid to let myself get too hopeful about what might happen there. But I’m trying to remember that great things have already happened – I finished a manuscript that I love, AND I’ll have the coveted “Genesis Finalist” ribbon on my name tag. I remember last year’s conference when I wished I had one so much. And now that I will, guess what – anxiety-driven denial still kicks in.

I’ll only believe the conference is here when I stand before the registration table and they hand me my package. I might have someone take a picture of that moment lol. When I won’t look back or dream of what could be, because I’ll be living it. And when I pray all I’ll be able to think of is Psalm 126, verses 1-3:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

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Conference Countdown: Do You Have All You Need?

Tam tam taaaam. Cue to scary music, with the fear that you MUST be forgetting something essential. And THAT would be the thing that would keep you from scoring a contract. Of course.

Doesn’t that sound irrational? And yet, somewhere inside of us, we think it makes sense. If I don’t pack the perfect pair of shoes, everything will be ruined… Or maybe that’s just me.

I guess what we’re the most afraid of messing up is the promotional material for our book. One-sheets, proposals, cards and the like. Cue to Avril Lavigne singing, “Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?” Oh why, oh why, publishing industry? Why can’t just our awesome ideas be enough?

Because every dream has a price. At every step, this business seems to test how much we REALLY want it. You’re the one who has to decide if your goal to be published is worth the effort and time (and occasional tears). If not, it’s okay. But if it is, well, then suck it up.

I’m saying these things to myself as my excitement about the conference often turns into anxiety. Showcasing our novel out there isn’t different than letting your baby go into the world. It will NEVER feel like we’re ready enough.

But then I’m reminded about the New Living Translation of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Could we really believe that? After we’ve done all we could do, that we don’t have to rely on our own preparedness for the future? Can we say, with honesty, that He is all we need? I’m doing my best to get there.

Countdown to ACFW Conference – Your Name Tag Awaits

Still better than Buttercup (from The Princess Bride)

In celebration that we’re officially a week away from the ACFW Conference in Dallas (wooohoooo!!), I decided to create a few posts on the subject until it finally arrives. Everyday, I’ll talk about an aspect of the conference that deserves prayer/preparation/meditation or just plain shouts of excitement.

So number 1 on our list is….drum rolls….NAME TAGS!! 🙂 Ha ha bet you thought I’d just say something deep like “elevator pitch” or “how not to hyperventilate when the agent/editor/author of your dreams makes eye contact.”

But right now, I want to talk about the very first thing you experience once you arrive at the conference. You’re given a little pouch on your neck that tells the other attendees your name, what you write, if you’re a first timer, if you’re a finalist, or if you’ve accumulated so many business cards that your little pouch is about to burst. And trust me, last year, being 5 and a half months pregnant, that was NOT a fun experience with my aching back.

My point with these ramblings is just to say that the very first thing you’ll have a chance to do during the conference is INTENSE socialization. I know, most of us writers aren’t super extroverts. I can talk a lot given the opportunity, but often, I need my space. By the end of the conference, I had a headache and feared the next time someone would ask me what I wrote. My preggo situation also made me prone to dizziness when having to focus at the dozen people sitting around me during a meal.

But now, I’m happy to say there’s no baby in my belly, forcing me to take potty breaks at the most inappropriate times, or munch on a bag of cookies mid-workshop (sorry fellow attendees – I was faint with hunger, and would NOT miss that class!). No, this time, I’ll go just me and my beloved novel to pitch.

I mean, just me and my husband, almost 3-year-old daughter, almost 8-month-old son and in-laws LOL. But they’ll be sight seeing around Dallas while I enjoy the conference. I wanted hubby to be with me at the awards dinner, and we’d need help with the kids, so this turned out to be family trip fast. And I love that it did – they’ll be great reminders for me at the end of the day of who I am besides an author.

I mention all of this to say, besides appointments, and classes and etc, one thing you can count on doing at the conference is meeting people. Don’t even worry if you’re shy, tongue-tied, or whatever. You’ll have no choice lol. There’s something about realizing you’re not the only nervous person in the room that helps us forget such nervousness in the first place :). My prayer is that we don’t get intimidated by the crowds but actually feel energized by them. And that Proverbs 27:17 (“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”) will come true for us in those days, no matter what our name tags say.

Out of the Writing/Reality TV Closet

Friends and family, I have something to confess… I’m a writer, AND consume an embarrassing amount of reality TV.

How do the 2 connect, you may ask? Well, the second is kind of research for the first. You see, I’m addicted to people watching. When I’m tuned into a latest Real Housewife episode, I’m not looking for drama. I’m actually searching for sanity, in the midst of those crazy relationships. It fascinates me when someone in that environment, with that much incentive to do the wrong thing, still chooses the right one.

As Christians, we’re taught to pray for the poor and needy. But what about the rich and, well, still needy? They’ve got messed up lives too. Yet somehow we tend to separate them in a different category – the “too crazy to even pray about” group, or “too priviledged/spoiled/out of reality to even need God.”

But this doesn’t make sense. Who’s going to teach them the truth? If you were born in a world where money means everything, and appearance equals self-worth, how would you know any different? How can we point our fingers and say that we’re holier than them if we haven’t even tried to see where they’re coming from?

That’s what my novel is about. My main character Nicole Phillips is a 27-year-old with celebrity parents, famous for not much besides her own beauty. Somehow, she becomes a Christian, and has to navigate through that attention-seeking culture she was born into while trying to figure out what it means to die to herself and follow God’s plan.

To make this even more difficult, Nicole’s mom and manager have the brilliant idea to pair her up with a new actor – Eric Matthews – who needs publicity. Together, they’re supposed to be a couple for the cameras. Despite Eric’s good looks and claims of also being a new Christian, Nicole’s not happy to be pushed towards a fake love life. The other person who’s not happy is so-called best friend and supermodel Cassandra, who wastes no time making up a story of herself with Eric to the press.

While magazines call Nicole a backstabber and unstable heiress, she leans on her only “normal” friend Julie, who’s lead her to Christ before being fired as her mom’s assistant. A talented baker and writer, Julie’s no-non sense advice inspires Nicole to seek her own life’s calling.

It’s been beyond fun to “record” Nicole’s journey (because, you know, in my mind, she really exists :)). What I loved to do was including things from Nicole’s world – magazine articles, voice mails, emails. The impression I wanted to create was as if you were peeking into this girl’s life, like reading a tabloid magazine or reading her messages.

I can’t wait for everyone to see the result! As of right now, my novel’s a finalist on the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Genesis Contest, for unpublished writers. That’s the reason why I’m hesitant to say the title just yet, ’cause I don’t know if I’m allowed. The winner will be announced on their next conference, this September 22nd. Please send your prayers my way!

To say that I’m excited is an understatement. But what excites me the most is to think of pitching my “baby” to some of the most awesome people in this industry. I’m a tad nervous but mostly just bursting out of my seams. They say you should write the book that you’d like to read, and that’s what I did. This novel has been crafted with lots of prayer and laughter! I enjoy it so much that I look forward to seeing others enjoy it too.

Meanwhile, an award-dinner dress shopping trip is in order… And maybe some reality TV in between :).