Hey, guess what? I’m alive! I missed last Thursday’s post due to some personal problems (aka Caitlyn being a drama queen and wallowing in self pity), and the website has also gone under a major re-vamp… again. Trying to establish my brand here, and it’s easier said than done for someone who loves too many things to narrow it all down. Anyways, on to this entry!
Two weekends ago, I had the amazing opportunity to go to the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference in Nashville. It was the single best decision I made in regards to my writing since investing in a computer. Not only were the tracks and workshops super informative, but the community is absolutely priceless. When you sit down at a table for lunch, you don’t really know who you’re going to sit beside. I would never know that I sat beside an author who has 30+ published books had she not told me. The playing field was completely level and not separated by class or position in the writing journey. It was refreshing to be able to talk about the craft for hours and no one got annoyed/confused/bored. On top of that, there was a mutual love for Jesus that influenced the entire event. Each morning, there was a worship time that kicked the day’s events off and got everyone in the right mindset. Rachel Hauck was the worship leader, and boy can she SING. I’ve just purchased one of her books, and I can’t wait to dig into it. Overall, morning worship was one of the highlights of the event.
My favorite part, however, was that the conference was saturated in prayer. There was a prayer room, which I visited just before my first agent appointment to calm my nerves. There was a sweetheart of a lady there ready to pray with anyone who came through, and after her sweet prayer over me, I was able to get through the interview confidently and didn’t burst into tears until AFTERWARDS. (Those second-day conference nerves are REAL.)
The first picture of the conference was with Jenna, the girl I found in the lobby with her nose in a book. I marched right up to her and practically forced her to be my friend, but she was surprisingly compliant. This girl was my lifeline for this entire event. We fangirled over one another’s favorite authors, cheered each other on, and it was super hard to tell her goodbye at the end of everything. Jenna, if you’re reading this, you’re the MVP! She even took notes for me when I had to step out of Angie Hunt’s workshop for an appointment.
The inside of the Gaylord Hotel was absolutely stunning. It’s like an entire town within the building. What little time Jenna and I had to spare, we went exploring and located the essential coffee shops for future reference. Priorities.
The Agent Panel on the first night was a huge lifesaver. It eased my nerves about pitching to the two on the far left, and also gave me wonderful insights into the industry. It definitely kept me from making a fool out of myself in the future.
LOOK WHO I RAN INTO! Mary Connealy is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I love how she weaves humor and romance together so seamlessly. She was so gracious to stop and talk to me for a moment, in spite of the hectic schedule of the conference. I thoroughly embarrassed myself at dinner by running up to her table like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert. “I LOVE YOUR WORK!” I said. Classy, Caity. Real classy.
That’s a wrap for Day 1!
Brandilyn Collins was the emcee of the event, and she did a wonderful job! Here she is introducing the band on Day 2 at breakfast.
Dan Walsh speaking to us about “the struggle” in the Newbie Track.
Debbie Macomber (you can’t really see her, but she’s there) was our Keynote Speaker. We laughed and laughed at her stories and our hearts strengthened under her encouragement. She was wonderful!
My reminder before my first agent appointment to keep things in perspective. “Lord, this was Your story before it was ever mine. Do with it what You will”. The appointment was very fruitful, complete with some hard-to-take advice that strengthened my confidence once I was through being overwhelmed with a reality shock.
I had to miss some of Angie Hunt talking about story and structure, but Jenna hooked me up with the notes. Sitting under her was like sitting under a waterfall of knowledge. She is a genius. Emilie Hendryx taught on platform and branding, hence the website update. Go follow her on Instagram @createexploreread!!
Then, I went to my hotel and slept and slept and slept.
When I walked into the Historical Fiction workshop on the final day, I saw Karen Witemeyer and just about had a come-apart. Since I was 13 or 14 years old, this lady’s books have kept me writing. I emailed her when I was 15, talking about my dreams to pubish. She responded with a truck load of kindness, taking me seriously and telling me to join the ACFW. Well, here we are 5 years later and I finally took you up on that, Mrs. Karen! She was so sweet and kind. She even let me take a video of her waving to send to my friend. I’m telling you, these people are the absolute best.
Remember that meltdown I kind of had on the second day? This sweet lady, hyped up on Benadryl, sat with me and talked everything out with me until I was able to go back to my workshop and not be completely overwhelmed. She was so kind to me through the whole ordeal, and never once told me I was being ridiculous. (Special thanks to Camille, who is not pictured, who also sat with me until I wasn’t such a wreck!)The Romance Panel was a huge help (I had another agent appointment in the middle of it, but what I got to hear was so helpful!) Pretty much all of these workshops were top-notch and I could have learned something from any and all of them. Seeing as to how I’m always a little embarrassed to admit that I write romance novels, this workshop was the companionship I needed and made me realize that I had nothing to be ashamed of. It was such a blessing! The Plotter vs. Pantser workshop was hilarious with Lynette Eason and Carrie Stuart Parks. I’m a pantser through-and-though, but was able to glean some good info from both sides. (Can I just say how I love Joy Massenburge as well? Her happiness is so infectious.) I learned a bit about writing suspense as well, which was much needed for this girl.
The last workshop, Engaging the Culture through Fiction, was like meeting with Jesus. Rachel Hauck, Colleen Coble, and Liz Curtis Higgs led this workshop and spoke about how we represent our Savior through our writing and how He can infiltrate every single aspect of the process. They talked about Jesus’ story structure, how we approach the deep and dark subjects, and basically lit a fire under us to DIG DEEPER. This was my favorite workshop of them all, and I left with a full notebook and an even fuller heart.
The following are some photos from the Awards Gala later that night.
The best part was that there was coffee after every meal. I mean, this is a professional event and that coffee was a lifesaver. “OH HEY MRS CONNEALY CAN WE GET ANOTHER PICTURE?!?!”
Honestly, this conference was a priceless blessing. I am so thankful for this opportunity to met so many amazing people. It was super hard to leave, but that’s the thing about authors. You never really tell them goodbye, you just go home and revisit them in their books!
Before heading home Sunday morning, we roamed around a rainy downtown Nashville and did some sightseeing.
The exhaustion is real in this face.
Ya know, when in Nashville, you HAVE to eat barbecue. It was perfection, and I would almost make the 3 hour drive just to go back.
Thank you for joining me in revisiting this wonderful event! Now, I have to get back to writing. Lots of edits to make for this girl!