ACFW–Where All the Cool Folk Gather

Before I jump in, I wanted to let you know that Amazon is offering my first book, In Between, free in the Kindle format. But just until the 27th, so if you're a Kindle user, download In Between while you can. It's a great chance to read about Katie Parker, who is still my most asked about character.

Today I want to put in my plug for a little something called the American Christian Writer's conference. This year it is September 17-20 in Indianapolis. If you're interested in writing Christian fiction, you should definitely consider going. Honestly, when I think of the many great classes I've sat through, I think even secular writers would love this event. It's that beneficial.

I've told this story before, but I owe my career to ACFW. My road to publication is a short one, filled with a series of God moments and God “coincidences” that finally led me to ACFW. The bare bones of it include: I moved to teach at a new school. I didn't have a classroom. In constant bad mood as cart pusher. I taught in the room of a friend and my former mentoring teacher Erin (who I still acknowledge in every single book). Erin has library of Christian fiction. I see the cover of Billerbeck's What a Girl Wants. It's pink, therefore I must read. Love book. Go to Billerbeck's website. See logo for ACFW. I check out site. Decide to join. Decide I will go to their conference that next fall. Roap Erin into going. We almost die on plane. I exaggerate, but the Lord's Prayer was said. Aloud. There might've been some hand holding. Go to conference. Long story of more God moments…

And six months later I had a contract for In Between, my first book.

Here's what I want you to know.

1. ACFW is for writers of all level. When I went in '05, I had 2o pages of a book complete. I had never written/completed a book in my life. I sat down with an author for a paid critique (HIGHLY recommended–best 30 bucks I've ever spent), and she said, “You should query this. Get your proposal ready.” I'm not kidding, I asked her what a query was. What's a proposal?  So if your lack of experience or lack of writing progress is holding you back, don't let it. My main goal that week was just to scout out the scene so I would be prepared next year. God had other plans. But I will say, even as green as I was, I probably learned over half of what I know of writing now from all that I soaked up at that conference. Be prepared to come back with a brain over-filled and squishy.

2. If you like to write fiction, you need to be around other weirdos like yourself. There is nothing like sitting at a table of people who get you, even if they've never met you. You will feel right at home.

3. Don't be intimidated if you're an introvert. When we're talking groups larger than six, I am definitely an introvert. I do not enjoy crowds. The more people there are, the quieter I get. But yet I still enjoy ACFW. Yes, I come home completely drained–but in a good way! (My intake of M&Ms during this time could also be a contributing factor…)  But the cool thing is, I've found you can't go wrong with some safe conversation topics. Here are my stand-bys:

1. What do you write?

2. Where are you from? (You can also read this info on their name tag, but depending on where that thing sits on a chest…)

3. Are you pitching this week?

4. Have you had any appointments yet? How did it go?

5. What do you like to read?

6. Do you know what that green stuff was at lunch?


4. You will make life-long friends. Even if you're not Mr. or Ms. Outgoing, you will come back with friends. (In your heart. Not like in your suitcase.)  If you have any interest in a future in being published, writing friends are a must. I bonded with my good friend author Christa Allan at my second conference because we were both short. And teachers. And good Southern girls. Who occasionally needed muzzles for our wayward comments. Gina Conroy and I bonded over a lunch I was lucky enough to tag along for. We realized we only lived 2 hours apart. I sat in my friend Danica's tax class one year and was her roomie the next. When I saw her break out her tiara, I knew this was my type of friend.

5. Opportunities. At two meals a day you get the chance to sit with the editor or agent of your choice and talk to them about your book idea. If you are like me that first year (and actually every year since) and don't want to “pitch,” you can just listen (the pitches of others are fascinating to listen to. Some people have it down to an art. I am not one of these people) or just talk to the editor/agent about the business in general. Or be wild and crazy and just talk to the editor/agent about something NOT writing related. That's a welcome break for them. At dinner in '05 I remember Karen Ball (then at Zondervan, now at B&H) talking to all of us at her table about John Wayne movies. (All I had to contribute was, “Um…I like McLintock.”)

6. I'll be teaching! This is my first year to teach, and I'm a little nervous already! (Um…I like McLintock) I'll be teaching a class on using humor in fiction and a session on YA and the Millennials. Both are topics I feel very strongly about. My big fear (other than speaking with my pants unknowingly unzipped) is that I'll be speaking to an empty room, so just another reason why I would love to see you there. (Otherwise, I'm totally paying some maids to come sit in on my sessions. “I'll clean those last five rooms for you if you just want to stop in that conference room on your left. No, I scrub a really mean toilet. It's cool.”) I'm still trying to decide if I want to just straight teach OR if I will present my information in an interpretive ribbon dance to the tune of old Michael Bolton hits.  (Probably depends if I can squeeze into the spandex unitard this year or not. I swear that thing shrinks every year…)

Registration is open. Pray about it. Consider it. And pack those bags! If you have any questions about the conference or ACFW, feel free to leave a comment, and I'll get back with you! I LOVE to tell people about ACFW the organization AND the conference.

See you soon!


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 14 comments
Christa Allan - June 21, 2010

So looking forward to September…I mean, really, it’s the only time I get to spend face-to-face with my short snarky teacher writer friend!

tammy - June 21, 2010

Hi Jenny, I this is totally off topic but I have a major pray request, My grandma (my moms, mom) is in hospital and is not doing very well at all…the problem is im from South Africa and now live in the states and she is still in south africa so we cant be there with her, so my mom is trying to get to SA, so I have basically 2 pray requests 1) that my grandma is healed! and 2) that we will be able to come up with the money to send my mom to SA.
Anyways thank you so much 🙂

Jenny B Jones - June 21, 2010

Christa, hanging out with you is definitely the highlight of my trip.

Tammy, I sent you an email, but I wanted to let you know I’m praying for you, your grandma, and your family. I’m so sorry. Will continue praying.

Tammy - June 21, 2010

Thank you so much Jenny! Everyones prayers mean the world to me and my family! Will keep you updated 🙂

Jennifer King - June 21, 2010

Thanks, Jenny– for the laughs! 🙂
I look forward to seeing you at ACFW. Just, if we sit at the same table together, remind me not to drink liquid of any sort–I wouldn’t want to laugh and have that awful sensation of laughing while swallowing. It’ll be worth it, though … can’t wait.
See you there,

Nikki - June 21, 2010

Hmmm…Kindle says its still $7.99…any ideas on this?

SavannahB - June 22, 2010

It sounds superfab…. but far away. I’m rocking the stay-at-home mom/starving-writer’s bank account these days.
Do you know if there are ANY kinds of writing workshops in the AR? I can hoof it up to NWA, but Indianapolis, not so much.
Also, congrats on teaching this year!

Erin McFarland - June 23, 2010

i wanna go! I wanna go! {jumping up and down like a five year old}. Seriously though, sounds so amazing. And you’re teaching! My money is on a packed out room… especially once word gets out about the ribbon dance. God is going to have to come through in a big way for me to go this year, but He is a big God, so nothing’s impossible. If nothing else, I’m signing up to become a member 🙂 I may show up with about 5 pages of writing, a deer in the head-lights look, a pocket recorder and “newbie” stamped on my forehead… won’t be able to miss me!

Leigh Moore - June 23, 2010

want to attend so badly. I believe you when you say this is an awesome educational & networking event. Can you believe I’m booked already to be in Chicago the following week??? I’m trying to figure out a way to go a week early (used to live in Indy/have lotsa friends still there). If I make it, I want to meet you! (in a friendly professional, not terrifying-stalker way. ;o)

Jenny B Jones - June 23, 2010

Jennifer, we’ll definitely have to run into each other at ACFW.
Leigh, would love to meet you. What’s another week tacked onto your week in Chicago? ; )

Erin, God is a big God. I’m gonna plan on seeing you there. 🙂 (And I had a pocket recorder with me that first year too.)

Savannah, there is a branch of ACFW that meets (maybe?) once a month in Little Rock. I”m not sure what you’re writing, but even if it’s not Christian fiction, I think they stick pretty close to topics that apply to any writer–plot, characterization, etc. Is Tulsa a million miles from you? They have a 1x a month meeting too.

Nikki and all–The publisher is having a little communication issue with Amazon at the moment. Not sure why it isn’t free yet, but keep checking. It will be.

Jodie - June 27, 2010

Hi it sounds really great!! How old do you have to be?

Jenny B. Jones - June 28, 2010

Jodie, I don’t think there’s a minimum age. We’ve had teenagers there before. (But with a parent, as far as i know.)

Leigh Moore - June 30, 2010

argh! it’s a money + childcare thang, gurl~ but I’m working on it. Will keep you updated if it comes together! ;p

ugg classicol - August 2, 2010

Ugh, I liked! So clear and positively.
Have a nice day


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