Needless to say I love the organization or I wouldn't be on the ACFW board. Let me share a bit about how ACFW has helped me as a Christian writer. First of all, I wrote my very first word towards a novel in August of 2003. So this August will be my fourth anniversary as I writer and I'll be starting my fifth year. I hope to have a contract by then, but my future is in God's hands and always has been. He is growing me as a writer and when I'm ready things will happen like God intended. Meanwhile, I write. So here is the history of my writing journey and conference attendance.
ACFW Conference - Denver - September 2004 was my first conference as a writer...ever. I'd been writing since August 2003 (an entire 13 months) and had three full novels written (no joke.) The one I was currently working on and had halfway completed was the one I pitched. Joan Shoup was my roommmate and we volunteered at the bookstore together. I also sang with the choir. I tried to think of a way to really get to know people. My recollection was that over 250 people attended the conference and I wanted to mingle. So I had my first ever chocolate party with about 40 attendees. We had fun, ate chocolate, mingled, and played The Ungame, Christian version (and tried to keep it a-hem, writing related.) I met all kinds of wonderful people and since I still know everyone I won't list names or this post would become quite dull and with my luck, I'd leave someone out. Anyway, I had my very first (and one and only) agent appointment with Tamela Hancock Murray. I must've made quite an impression (hehehe) because I signed on with Hartline in February of 2005. I also flew with Margo (who will never where another silk skirt while flying) and we became friends. Most people knew me as joyfulhutch.
ACFW Conference - Nashville - September 2005 was my second conference. I had the same roommate from the prior year. Yes, Joan Shoup AKA J.M. Hochstetler not only kept me as a roommate but we also went out to eat with Kristin Billerbeck (who is a fabulous person) at the Loveless Cafe. We didn't see anyone famous, but the food was awesome. I then stayed at Joan's house the night before conference and we had a blast and swapped books. Then I checked into the hotel and helped with Registration so I could tell as many people as possible where the second annual chocolate party would be. Most folks found us but the ones who checked in later missed getting the info. There were even more people attending the conference than the previous year (like 100, I think) and some of my friends I literally never ran into due to the crowds. I volunteered at the bookstore and for the choir again. The hotel was a bit small for us. But my chocolate party was packed and we ate lots of chocolate and played the same game, etc. By this conference I had written two more books and had a total of almost six written by conference. Most people knew me as joyfulhutch or my former pen name. I began writing book reviews this year just for fun whenever I was an influencer for an author.
ACFW Conference - Dallas - Sept 2006 was my third conference. I had changed my pen name over the past year to Michelle Sutton. This time I saw a lot of my friends and met a bunch of new ones. I started out spending the night at Margo's house. Jeri O'dell and I flew together and since Margo used to live in Tucson we had a little reunion at her house. I also ran into more friends. There was more room in the hotel for one thing. I volunteered for registration again, plus the bookstore and choir. I had two new roommates this year as Joan couldn't come. I bunked with Melanie Dobson and Malia Spencer. Both are great gals. We had another chocolate party, this time in two shifts and in my room. I had so much chocolate left over it covered two full tables and filled like four huge shopping bags, so I started passing out chocolate for the next two days so I wouldn't have to take it home. I had an editor appointment with one of the editors who had an emergency so I switched my appointment and enjoyed it. I met a lot of new friends, experienced my first Harp and Bowl, and had one of my book reviews displayed in the debut Afictionado ezine. I'd been writing reviews for official sites as a media reviewer and the influx of books delivered to my door was taking my breath away. I have a slide show posted of myself posing with many of my author buds and if you go to the archives on this blog you'll find it in September. I also have the slide show posted on my website http://www.michellesutton.net
ACFW Conference Dallas 2007 - it's not here yet, but some major things have changed. First of all, I'll be attending my first early bird session ever. Also, I'll be attending as an ACFW Board member and with all of the work involved with my new role I won't be doing registration, bookstore, or choir, but I will be meeting with all of the volunteers under me as Volunteer Officer (some of who I know will attend the chocolate party because they come every year.) My roommate will be Sara Mills. We met the previous year and really hit if off since we both write book reviews. I'll be having my fourth annual chocolate party but this year I hope to announce the room number by e-mail so no one is left out. I don't think I'll be seeing my agent (Tamela) again this year as she hasn't been able to come to conference since Denver. Sniffle. Hopefully I'll have a contract by September, but if not, I'm still plugging away and writing new stuff. One of my favorite things to do at conference is fellowship with other Christian writers and get my books autographed.