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  • Writer's pictureMegan DiMaria

Pros, cons, and review of the 2021 ACFW conference AND great book suggestions

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

The winner of last week's giveaway, a copy of Jen Turano's book, To Write a Wrong, is Rachel Phillips. Congrats, Rachel!

Like last year, the 2021 ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) annual conference was presented virtually due to Covid. We had hoped to meet in person, in New Orleans, but that didn't happen. Better to be safe than sorry.

Since I attended (virtually) last year, I was confident that ACFW would deliver another quality conference. They did. I enjoyed two days of fantastic workshops.

I think I chose well on the sessions. This was my workshop schedule for Friday's workshops:

  • Jennifer Crosswhite presented a great one, How to write deep characters and compelling plot lines. Great session, great notes, great ideas.

  • Five Marketing Mindset Shifts: How to Break Out and Find New Readers was hosted by Amy Green Lokkesmoe, author and fiction publicist at Bethany House Publishers. It was amazing.

  • Top Social Media Best Practices and New Platforms provided TONS of info. Kerri Potts, Harper Collins Christian Publishing did a fabulous job.

  • Brainstorming Your Character’s Journey hosted by Patricia Bradley was informative as well as encouraging.

Below are screenshots of the workshops I attended on Saturday.

Layers: The Secret That Takes Your Book to the Bestseller List Level, hosted by Colleen Coble. It was great! My mind was whirring the whole time she was teaching.

New School Marketing for Old School Authors, hosted by Michelle Stimpson was so very helpful. Michelle is a world-class encourager! See? She gave some great marketing and writing tips. A fun fact, many of the ladies in the session remarked about her blue earrings. Aren't they pretty?

I enjoyed Karen Witemeyer's session, Deep POV: Increasing the Intimacy Between Your Characters and Your Readers Level.

Karen really made me think about ways to improve my writing. She also shared great examples, which had everyone nodding.

Some online conference pluses:

  • The sessions flowed easier than last year because the attendees were pre-muted on the Zoom call, and there weren't all those folks who hadn't muted their computer, speaking to their dogs/cats/kids/spouses.

  • During the sessions, the teachers shared their screens. That worked well because it was so easy to see the info on your computer. Also, there wasn't anyone tall in front of you obstructing the view.

  • You could adjust the volume, so you didn't miss a word.

  • There were no lines for the restrooms. :)

  • Some of the instructors shared PDF files of their content, which were easy to download because the link was in the chat bar.

  • If there wasn't a handout, and you wanted a reminder of the lesson, you could do a screenshot of the info presented.

  • You could use the Zoom chat feature during sessions to ask questions or talk with other attendees and share tips and info.

  • Attendees will receive links to recordings of all the sessions, at no additional cost. That means the sessions you missed because of scheduling conflicts are still available.

  • You didn't have to deal with the stress and expense of travel.

Some online conference negatives:

  • You weren't able to visit with friends and make new friends.

  • There were some folks eating during presentations. Could be just me, but that felt rude. If you need to eat, blow your nose, etc., go off-camera, please.

  • You weren't able to visit in person with your agent or editors.

  • The highlight of the conference, the gala, was nonexistent. The winners of the awards were announced in a Zoom session, so the info was there, just not the fun of a live event.

  • Depending on where you live, you might have to get up early or stay up late to participate in live sessions. There were some international attendees.

My head is full of ideas, similar to the in-person conferences I've attended. The cost was significantly less than usual because it was virtual, and I really got my money's worth.

For the second year, the Carol Awards were announced in a Zoom call. The Carol Awards are ACFW’s recognition for the best Christian fiction published in the previous calendar year. Congratulations to this year's winners! If you're looking for a good Christian book to read, check out this year's winning novels.

Write on, friends. Hopefully, we'll be in person in St. Lewis, Missouri for next year's ACFW conference.

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Rachel Phillips
Rachel Phillips
Sep 14, 2021

Thank you for the win! I'm so excited!! That's a shame you couldn't go to the conference in person, but it seems like you still learned a lot and enjoyed it which is great! Oooh, I see some books I'll need to add to my reading list. ;) lol

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