ACFW Conference in Review

We have our final cover for Save the Date. Cute, eh? Since the story involves a mega football star, we originally we had Tom Brady standing in the background, but when he refused to cut his Bieber hair, I demanded his removal. (And then he left the photo shoot crying. And singing One Less Lonely Girl.)

So a week and a half ago, I went to Indianapolis to the American Christian Fiction Writer's yearly conference. At first I was like Indiana? But my stepdad assured me I would be pleasantly surprised by their capital. He was so right. And we were smack dab in the heart of downtown where there's cool revamped old buildings (like the rep theater right outside my hotel window) and lots of things to see, such as the beautiful Soldiers and Sailors monument, which looks like it could've been imported from Paris. There was a mall attached to our hotel (score!). And restaurants all around, like the gluten-free friendly PF Chang. Downtown is really beautiful, and I wish I had gotten out to see it like I'd intended to. I also wish I had taken more pictures. Or any pictures. I think I took like 5. Instead of my usual 500. Further proof I was sick and not in my right mind.

Going to the conference is like a big family reunion. Except we don't wear matching T-shirts. Or see how long it takes for Uncle Vinnie's Polident to wear off. I always get there a day early, but every year there is still a group or two of writers, getting there even earlier, hanging out in the lobby or near the elevators having squeal and hug time. I was glad to see some familiar faces. I also saw a face or two that took me a while to recognize. I realized this year that I have a bad habit of introducing myself. To people I've met years in a row. It's not that I forget. It's that I don't assume they'd remember me out of the 620 other attendees. This is Sharon Lavy.P1070666

I think I've introduced myself to her every year. I have no idea why. This year she just looked at me like, “Tell me your name again, and I'm going to whack you over the head with my King James.”

My good friend, author Christa Allan, is an awesome roomie every year. I would show you a picture of her, but I didn't take one. (I bring shame to the Olympus camera.) We're both short. We both teach. At one point both of us taught English. We're both Southern, though one of us has a curious NYC accent, but swears on a Moonpie she's from Louisiana. We both cherish all things irreverent. And neither one of us can stay awake with the party crowd. Christa is a mom to five, and one of her daughters made this.


Sarah lives at The Mustard Seed, a community for mentally challenged adults, and they make all sorts of things for their gift shop. Sarah herself made my Christmas ornament, and I LOVE it. Every time I look at it, I think of all the stories Christa tells of Sarah and her funny sense of humor. That girl's a character. And a Saints fan. So Christa gave me a beautiful gift. And what did I share with her? Germs.

So I had two classes to teach, one on writing humor in fiction and one on YA. Being the neurotic I am, I had covered about all of my bases, so should a disaster strike, whether that be a lost file or a nuclear holocaust, I would still be prepared to give my presentations.  The one thing I didn't count on was that my new laptop would have a freakin' energy saving default setting that would totally jack up my completely awesome YouTube clips for my first class. There is little I'm a perfectionist about, but something like this is a definite exception. Apparently it wasn't the worst thing ever, but it involved something we teachers fear like death: down time. I kinda just rolled with it, but in my head I'm like, “Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh, omigosh, omigosh, omigosh, omigosh.” One ACFW member came up to me later and said she saw me morph right in front of the class from writer to teacher. Like the Hulk. And it was true. The teacher in me was not amused and had to modify quickly. And I kept thinking, “There's really nothing I can do about this. Think…think. What would I do if we were in my classroom?” But then I decided playing the game Big Booty might not be all that appropriate. You just never know how the Baptists will feel about that. ; )

We still had some fun in the humor class. But the Russian judge would definitely not have given it a perfect 10. The YA class was great. (Not my teaching, but just the conversation.) I could talk about that stuff all day long. And it made my heart glad to see people committed to writing for the millennial generation. I would love it if there were so many great Christian YA authors that ACFW struggled in narrowing it down to six for the yearly awards.

So fast-forward to Sunday night, and it's the award's ceremony for the newly renamed ACFW Book of the Year, now called the Carol, after the editor who fought hard to acquire and publish Janette Oke's first book. Janette Oke and Carol Johnson both appeared and spoke. (Side note: Janette totally has a sense of humor. Carol totally has foxy hair.)  It comes time for the YA award, and I don't exactly check my teeth for lipstick because I have analyzed the contenders and picked my winner. And it's not us.I mean, I wasn't even paying attention, that's how sure I was. Both So Not Happening and I'm So Sure were finalists, and I was so unplugged I caught myself clapping for myself. WHO DOES THAT? (In my defense, there was a ridiculous amount of clapping that was required that night, and I think I just got to the point where I went on auto-pilot and continued clapping until the awards were over and the janitors started vacuuming.)

When they announced I'm So Sure, I was truly surprised. I was also slightly jazzed because each winner got a huge spotlight on him/her for the duration of the walk to the stage. And I had a long walk. (It was also a packed room, and I know I got inappropriate close to some ACFW members. Sorry tables four and seven. Maybe next year I'll wear Spanx.)

Then they get to the Contemporary Romance. And I hadn't even bothered to check out the finalists because I had yet to buy into the fact that Just Between You and Me had somehow made the short list.  So as they're reading the list of finalists, I'm seeing the covers on the big screen for the first time, and I'm just like, omg, it's Sesame Street: Which one does not belong. And I'm really wishing I had given into my earlier thought and gone back to my room with my Sudafed, Dasani, and People.
And then they call my name.
And thanks to thirty years of listening to music at concert-level decibels, I don't exactly have the best hearing. And I think, huh. That sounded like my last name. And I glance at the screen then back to my lap.
Wait a minute.
I look at the screen again. And there's our book cover. And I think, “That's odd.” And then people around me are clapping. And so I sit there some more, giving them time to gracefully correct themselves. But the clapping continues (and I'm proud to say I had stopped clapping for myself at this point) and no one says, “Never mind!” So then I hesitantly stand up. And just wait a few seconds. Still time to pick another winner. I felt like the Justin Bieber autobiography in a sea of Jane Austens. And then deciding these people are all on crack, but who am I to judge, I finally make my way back up to the stage with that purple spotlight on me again, thinking it sure would be nice if I could take that thing back to school.

I have no idea what I said. Something like thank you or God bless America or does anyone want to trade me for their dessert or please don't wear fur. No clue what came out. Total rambling. It was very unexpected. And very cool. And I'm very grateful.

And then after the ceremony, mega-author Tracie Peterson comes up to me and says nice things about Just Between You and Me and tells me her book club read it for their selection. And I'm shocked again. And speechless. And I think I said something intelligent like, “DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE??!!”  And then I checked out her name tag just to make sure I wasn't disillusion and it was her. And then I got paranoid she'd think I was talking to her chest. And then I got on the elevator. And went to bed. Where I stayed awake the whole night. Mentally writing the best blog ever. Eloquently thanking everyone I'd ever met.
Yet forgetting it all by breakfast.

But just to bring it all back down, I have to quickly share that days before, when I'd arrived at the conference hotel, I was intercepted by a fellow writer. “I have to tell you I LOVED your last book.”
“Wow . . thank you,” I said. 
“It was so good. I mean I don't usually like heavy stuff–“
“Wait. . .”
“I don't read literary fiction, but even I couldn't put this one down. Just beautifully written.”
“Um. . .I think you have the wrong author.”
“No! It was your book. And I don't even like literary fiction!”
“I don't write literary fiction.” I smile. “Sorry, it sounds like a good one, but definitely not my book.”

After the awards ceremony, I run into the same writer.
“I'm so sorry I got you confused with another author.”
“It's totally okay. That didn't bother me a bit.”
“I don't know what I was thinking. It's just your hair. I confused you with Lisa Samson's hair from a few years ago. I'm so sorry.”
“Seriously, don't give it another thought.”
“I mean, I know better. You don't write literary fiction.” She laughs and gives me a hug. “But I do love your historicals.
And I just smile. “Thank you.”


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 12 comments
Ronie - September 27, 2010

Girl, you’re hilarious. Isn’t your book that spec one that’s been getting a lot of attention? *grins*

Since you can’t remember what you said, you might check out the ACFW Live Blog transcript. Hehe. I captured (or maybe ad-libbed) some of what you said. 😀

Julie Garmon - September 27, 2010

And funny is so easy for you. Love this blog, your books, your teaching. Even laughing with you in the lobby was fun.

You make people smile. What a gift!

Cara Putman - September 27, 2010

Jenny, still so thrilled for you. I knew Just Between You and Me could be a contender. Glad you know it now, too. And if you’re reading this and haven’t read that book, hie thee to Amazon, CBD, or your local bookstore and buy it. It is a beautiful mix of humor and amazing depth.

Kristin - September 27, 2010

Congrats! You really do deserve it…your books are amazing! 🙂 It sounds like you had a good time at the conference.

And now I really want to go reread “Just Between You and Me.”


Jenny B Jones - September 27, 2010

Ronie, I think you have my book confused with your diary. We were passing it around at the conference. I thought you knew. . .

Thanks, Kristin!

Cara, I will NEVER forget sharing that moment with you at the awards. You. Are. Awesome.

Julie, it was great to see you. Though I missed your cowboy boots from last year.

Darria - September 27, 2010

Oh. My. Gosh! Three cheers for big booty!!!!!!!! My Sunday School teacher taught me how to play!!!! Woot!

Nicole O'Dell - September 27, 2010

LOL @ historicals! 🙂

Amy De Trempe - September 27, 2010

Congrats on the win. I’ve read so many posts about the ACFW conference and I really hope I can make it there one of these years.

Courtney Walsh - September 28, 2010


I cannot wait to read your book. It just looks awesome! Love your recap here, and wish I could’ve stayed for the awards to add my clapping to yours. 🙂


Mattie - September 28, 2010

The cover for the new book looks ah-mazing! I can’t wait to read it! 🙂 I am oober doober happy that your books won! I absoultely love them!

Paula - September 29, 2010

Seriously??? You met Tracie Peterson???? I think she is one of the best writers EVER…um…besides you, of course…second only to you, my friend, Jenny! Love her work, oh and your too…but really, Tracie Peterson? I am officially in awe!

Cathy West - October 4, 2010

Yeah, I heard you were sick so I avoided you the whole weekend. Actually, that’s not true. I never saw you. Which is a shame because I would like to meet you in person. Maybe next year.
Congratulations on your wonderful wins!


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