Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Wordcount" Wednesday

Or "What I did at the ACFW National Conference."

I flew in to Denver mid-Thursday and rode over to the hotel in the back of a SuperShuttle van. I think I may have freaked out a first time conference goer in the process. I was waiting for the van when someone walked up wearing a shirt that said something like, "Careful, I May Put You In My Novel." So naturally, I did my best to make her comfortable. I demanded to know what her pitch was.

She froze up and said she had been trying to memorize it during the flight. Whoops. To whoever that was, I apologize!

On the way to the hotel, I was pontificating about speculative fiction and the market in general with another first-timer. That's when we learned that the person sitting next to us was a senior editor with Tyndale. I promptly shut up and listened to what she had to say and felt pretty stupid.

When I reached the hotel, I spotted my roomie, Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press, working in the lobby. I figured I should pitch Numb to him right away, to get it out of the way and so I wouldn't be tempted to bug him in the room. It went well; he liked it and asked me to send him a full manuscript when it's ready. He also told me about Marcher Lord Select, a sort of literary version of American Idol that he's planning. Sounds intriguing.

I met a bunch of new writers, many of them first timers, and had a blast getting to know them. Avily, Ben, Ashley, Jenness (not a first timer, but I met her on Thursday), et al, it was a pleasure to get to know all of you!

Debbie Macomber, the keynote speaker, was fabulous. My mother-in-law is a huge fan and I knew I'd have to listen to everything Debbie said so I could repeat it back at some point.

Thursday night I attended the Zondervan Late Night Chat. Interesting stuff, especially what one editor had to say about the direction she wants to take the YA line.

This is where I (re-)learned a valuable lesson: always listen to your wife. Those of you who frequent the Least Read Blog know that I've been working on a fantasy novel called Return of the Mourning Dove. At least, I think I've mentioned that before. Anyway, I realized that the genre in which it would fit best is young adult fantasy. But it's not a Christian fantasy novel.

Anyway, my wife suggested I should bring info on it. I said no, why would I bring a not-Christian book to a Christian writing conference? Turns out, I should have. Gents, always listen to your wife.

Friday morning, I attended a continuing ed workshop led by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. Good, good stuff. They covered a lot of character-building stuff, and that's something I need help with. I'm more of a plot-first kind of guy, so they gave me some good ammunition to work with.

I also had my agent appointment on Friday morning. Said agent quizzed me for ten minutes on Numb, asking about spiritual themes, how much sci fi we're talking about here, that sort of thing. In the end, she let me down easily because she said she didn't handle spec fic, but she said I was "really close."

Friday at lunch, I managed to pitch Return of the Mourning Dove to the aforementioned editor and I was asked to send in three chapters and a synopsis.

Friday afternoon, I got to witness a God-appointment between a writer and an agent.

Friday night, Jeff Gerke, another writer (whose name escapes me), and I went out to eat at a nearby Mexican restaurant. And then I spent the night reading A Storm of Swords rather than going to an agent late night chat. Whoops!

Saturday wasn't a good day for me. I can't go into all the reasons why, but I was getting into something of a funk. A jealous funk. I won't go into grisly details here, but the day wasn't all that great.

The evening was a blast at the awards ceremony. It was a great night for speculative fiction. We cleaned up: John Olson got two awards, Donita K. Paul was named Mentor of the Year, and Steve Laube won Agent of the Year. I tried to get our table to chant "One of Us!" for each of those, but nobody took me seriously. Good thing too.

I was also very excited for Sharon Hinck for her two Book of the Year wins. I jumped the gun when they announced Symphony of Secrets won for Long Contemporary, but when I heard mention of "Minneapolis," I knew it was her.

Sunday morning found me in the grip of the same silly, jealous funk. But thankfully, Debbie Macomber's talk really picked me up and helped bring me out of it.

So all in all, it was a positive year. A full manuscript request plus another three chapters for a different book. Yeah, some of the conference wasn't all that stellar for me, but all in all, it was good.

But now I have to get cracking. Mourning Dove's synopsis won't write itself!


Lisa Lickel said...

I think Dove is going places, John. I still think about it.

Shannon said...

Glad you were able to go, John! I so understand that jealous funk ... it's hard learning to trust God's timing ...

jenness said...

Oh, come on. You got to laugh at me! Should have been your best year ever! :-) It was a pleasure meeting you. Best wishes with your mss submissions!