The Things that Happen At Writers Conferences

Most authors you talk to will tell you writing conferences are important. I leave for the 2017 ACFW Writing Conference this week. Tomorrow actually. In, like, 28 hours. Wow…and I just realized I haven’t packed. *panic*

Annnnyway, I was reflecting on all the conferences I’ve attended and all the things that have happened during them. Pretty much every amazing thing that sent my writing career zooming forward happened at a conference. So I thought I’d share…not to brag, but to show you what can happen and why you should keep writing conferences on your radar. And to also encourage you by sharing bits of my story.

(If you’re here looking for tips on attending a writer’s conference, you’ve come to the wrong post. But I do have an entire post on that. See link above.)

1. I met my future publisher.

I met Jeff Gerke at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference back when I was still working on The Novel That Must Not Be Named. (Aka. a novel that has been put inside of a box inside of a box and then smashed with a hammer.)

 

Conference #1 – I attended his class and my little writerly mind was blown. So I stalked him at lunches.

Conference #2 – I got an edit from him and it shredded me and also blew my mind (seeing a trend?) so I stalked him at lunch.

Conference #3 – I showed him my new stuff (A Time to Die) and he loved it and said to send it to him.

One year later, I had a contract offer to Marcher Lord Press, which is now Enclave Publishing.

I’m Parvin & he’s Sherlock Holmes.

Now, I know that this seems like a bit much (“I need to attend conferences for three years before anything will happen?”) but I was also a tiny little teenager at the time, so I was learning and growing a lot as a person and a writer.

But my point is…I built a relationship with him and he remembered me and eventually picked up my novel.

2. I met my agent

Before my first book released, I was such a newbie to the publishing world–and I still feel like a newbie in a lot of ways. But I attended the ACFW Conference, not even knowing what an agent did or why I would want one.

Thankfully, I knew an agent–Karen Ball–who is also an editor. She’d edited A Time to Die (expertly, by the way. I recommend her 1000%!!) and I thought, “I’ll ask her what an agent does!”

Not only did she explain it to me, but she became my agent! For the next several years, she coached me through writing and sticking to God’s calling. She became a dear friend and now that she’s no longer in the business of agenting, she is still someone I go to for advice, encouragement, and give-it-to-me-straight talk. 😀

3. I met other publishers.

Conferences are fantastic places to meet publishers who then ask for proposals. There is something powerful and memorable about one-on-ones. At one conference, I had a one-on-one meeting with the vice president of Thomas Nelson at the time and we just chatted about the industry and writing. I didn’t pitch, I just wanted to talk and get advice. It was really casual and relaxed. We shook hands and went our separate ways. Next thing I know, I’m getting a call a couple days later that TN wants to see my next idea.

And, in case you’re wondering how that worked out…I’m now under contract with them (and still dancing.)

4. I met friends who are now publishing sisters.

“Look, Mom, I made friends!”

I met and then became roomies-for-life with Sara Ella (author of Unblemished) and Mary Weber (author of The Storm Siren trilogy) at the ACFW Conference. It started with me seeing an email intro from Sara saying she wrote YA and we decided to meet up at our first ever ACFW Conference. At that time, none of us knew each other and had just started publishing journeys. One year later, Mary & I were both up for The Carol Award, Sara was contracted with Thomas Nelson, and now we’re all pub sisters.

Funny how much things can change so quickly. 🙂

5. I met famous authors

Francine Rivers, Ted Dekker, James L. Rubart, Tosca Lee, Bill Meyers etc. You get the picture? Those “big, untouchable, successful authors” that you admire are often at conferences. And I’ve been amazed to look back and realize I’m currently friends with some authors I once fangirled over. I discovered they’re real people and they still get nervous about writerly things.

I’ve gotten to hear them speak and shake their hands and get my books signed and go home on cloud nine.


Perhaps you noticed a trend in the events listed above: I met. I met this person, I met that agent, I met this author, I met that publisher. And the only way I could have met them was by interacting with them in person. This post is not for bragging because, as you can see by reading above, most of that was completely out of my control. The only thing I did was attend.

So I’m sharing this post to encourage those of you who are possibly attending a conference this fall (or even the ACFW Conference tomorrow! Come find me! *waves*). I want it to be an encouragement:

1) Conferences don’t have to be terrifying.

I know that they are…and nerves can pass over time. But it’s just about meeting and talking and being you. Make those memories. Be open to the unexpected. Go there willing to learn.

2) It’s about all the moments.

It can be easy to go with your brain fixated on “the pitch”–that one moment when you’re hopefully going to get to pitch to that one person. But there’s so much more to it than just that moment. There are hundreds of moments just waiting for you.

3) It’s about people

As with all things writing, when you break it down it’s about people. Interacting with readers, chatting with authors, shaking hands with agents, talking coherently (if at all possible) with editors & publishers. 😉 Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, know that we all attend conferences with the same nerves and same doubts. So breathe deep. God got you there for a reason–for growth.

Grow. Stretch. Mingle. And let yourself be excited and encouraged.


If you haven’t attended a writer’s conference or are interested in attending one, a great resource that lists CBA agents, publishers, and conferences–and what they’re looking for (updated every month) is the Christian Writer’s Market Guide. No, I don’t get any commission for sharing this. I just believe in helping my fellow author. 😛

But, for some quick links, some of my favorite conferences I’ve attended are:

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What is one exciting or growing thing that happened to you at a writing conference? (share below to help encourage other writers! 🙂  Let’s share our stories!)

What is one thing that makes you nervous at conferences?

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*please note that I use affiliate links on this website & post.

About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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13 Comments

  1. We might actually be able to attend Realm Makers next year. o.o Still working out the details, but their 2018 location isn’t enormously far away, sooo…

  2. I actually met my best friend at a writer’s conference! We started talking because we recognized each other from goodreads, and then ended up exchanging contact info. The rest, as they say, is history. Even though we’ve only met once face to face, I feel like we’re still really close!

  3. Hey Nadine! I’ve been following your work for a few years now, and gleam inspiration from you all the time! I, too, am a writer, but my writing journey feels more like an exhausting marathon at times–I’ve been working on a dystopian trilogy for about three years now. I live in Dallas and really wanted to attend this conference, but lo and behold, God had a different plan for me–a one-month old baby! So, I won’t be staying in that super swanky hotel, but keep a lookout for ladies by the name of Laurie Germaine and Janice Olson. They’re excellent writers and even more incredible women of God. Enjoy the conference! Prayers for all of you!

    • Hi Kelsey! The journey of a writer feels like an exhausting marathon more times than it doesn’t.
      Congrats on your sweet baby! What a blessing and surprise! I know God will grow you (and your writing) through this in many many ways! I still hope that we’ll be able to connect at a future writing conference though. 🙂

  4. I love writing conferences! I always feel rested, challenged and encouraged after attending one! They are a great chance to make new friends, network, and get input from people all over the various stages of writing. I’m not able to attend any this year because of time and money, but I am really hoping to be able to go to Realm Makers next year! 🙂

  5. Ack I really, really want to go to a writing conference one day. There just doesn’t seem to be any good ones in Australia…

  6. I’m dying to go to a writing conference. I’m just not sure if I can afford it, and not sure if my health will allow me to travel (I live near ATL and I haven’t found any closer than about Orlando). But hopefully in the next few years!!

    • Oh I’ll be praying for you and for your health and finances! That can be so hard. <3 But whether you can or can't, keep writing and persevering! I also know that The Christian Writer's Institute is a great way to take similar classes and learn many of the things that would have been taught at writing conferences. (https://christianwritersinstitute.com/)

I love hearing from you!