Monday, June 30, 2008

Once Upon A Time...

in 1998 there was a semi-young woman. . .okay, a woman of 30. . .who had written a book. She knew other Christian writers existed, and even found some author web pages on the Internet. She had so many questions she wanted to ask them about writing. No one where she lived knew much about writing, unless they were a schoolteacher or a newspaper reporter. They couldn't help her. Sure, she had friends who liked to read as much as she did. But no novelists.

Then, she heard about a very tiny on-line e-mail list of writers. At first she wasn't sure about writing to strangers regularly, but figured it was better than no contact with writers at all. Through them, she heard of other writers. One of them was author Lynn Coleman, who hosted on-line chats. This opened up another avenue of learning.

Late in 1999, Lynn told some of the writers during one particular chat about a new group that she and a small group of other authors were forming, called American Christian Romance Writers. It was for those serious about pursuing the craft of fiction writing.

So this age 30ish writer said she would sign up, for sure! By that time, she'd written a second novel after the first one had been rejected (too similar to what was out there, she was told). But it was a positive rejection from one of the ACRW founding authors.

But it wasn't until 2005 that she received her first fiction contract. The rest of the story continues to be written.

Of course, yes, this was me. Until ACRW, now ACFW, my only contact with other writers was strictly on-line. The American Christian Fiction Writers conference has changed and morphed over the years to become THE premier fiction conference annually. For me, an old-timer, I get wistful for the old days. But what opportunities we have now! Amazing. So for that reason, I wouldn't go back to the old days.

NOTHING replaces the face-to-face contact with other writers. I can still remember walking into a Houston restaurant late in 2000 and seeing a table full of writers I'd only know from e-mails. I knew I had friends already. Since then, the only conference I've missed was 2006.

Lately I've been posting Money-Saving Monday tips. But today, I'm talking about investing.

I realize money is tighter for some. Gas costs more, food costs more, and unless you've gotten an awesome raise you've had to do some budget shifting.

I won't tell you to spend money you don't have or to go into debt to attend the conference. That would be irresponsible of me. But I can tell you this: every career requires investment. If you haven't saved money up for the conference yet, maybe it's too late for you to decide to go this year. And that's okay. I'll get to that later (see below). Back to investments.

Going to the ACFW conference showed me that I was serious about making writing a career. It's part-time, but most writers aren't the primary breadwinner in their family. I have a full-time job and consider myself doubly employed.

Going to the ACFW conference showed me I wanted to be a professional. Yes, I've had tearful moments, and times that I wish I could take back, but in spite of myself, I'm showing up with my game face on to learn and grow.

Going to the ACFW conference gives me the face-to-face time I need. I've met lifetime friends who are an IM or an e-mail away. While I do get nervous in certain social situations (I so wish I didn't!), I'd like to think I'm getting better and being less self-conscious.

Going to the ACFW conference gives me a glimpse of Heaven. We wear no denominational labels, and we sing the same song for our Creator in His Presence. You can't beat that!



Okay, so what if you know you can't go for 2008, that the money isn't there right now? Let's do our Money-Saving and crunch some numbers. Give or take a hundred bucks, totalling the conference fee, hotel, and transportation can run you about $1100. Since I have no idea how much or where the 2009 conference will be, this is an estimate.

WHERE can you find that $1100 in time for next year? Let's start now. Registration has just opened for the 2008 conference and you can sign up until August. So for 2009, you've got a year to save.

Do you go to McDonald's on the way to work in the morning to pick up breakfast, say twice a week? Put that $6 in a jar every week, and after 52 weeks you'll have $312 dollars.

Do you buy a 12-pack of soda/cola/pop every week? Put that $3 in a jar once a week instead of buying the soda, and you'll have $156 dollars after 52 weeks.

Do you bring the kids for haircuts every two months? Get a set of clippers if you're brave, and learn to trim hair yourself. For two kids at $25 (we're talking Procuts here, the cheapo kid cut) every 2 months, and that adds up to $150.

See, we're already over halfway to that $1100, just by cutting out McDonald's breakfast twice a week, one 12-pack of soda/cola/pop, and picking up a new skill by trimming your kids' hair (2 kids).

Get creative, and look at your lifestyle. What are you buying that you don't need to buy, even if it's $3 or $5 a week? What are you paying someone else to do that you can do yourself?--save that money and pay yourself to go to the conference. Remember, this is an investment. It ain't Wall Street, but you'll definitely see a payoff in time. There are no shortcuts, no matter what anyone tells you.

Lastly, why not clear your house of clutter, have a yard sale, and reward yourself by putting the money in a conference fund? -- and I'll see YOU in 2009!!

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