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Share Your Crazy Conference Stories

Here at Speculative Faith, we’re reader-centric. But for those who have attended writers’ conferences such as ACFW, what crazy stories might you share?
| Sep 21, 2012 | No comments |

Here at Speculative Faith, we’re reader-centric. Yet many of our readers are also authors or aspiring authors. So you have attended a few writers’ conferences — perhaps conferences like the American Christian Fiction Writers conference that is ongoing this week.

Travel always creates new stories, but especially thanks to fiction writers’ conferences. And I don’t only mean coming home with new ideas for new novels (though this also happens).

If you’ve attended this conference, or any others, what crazy stories might you share?

For me, conferences are a mixed bag. Travel is thrilling. So is re-meeting or meeting friends. Learning new craft/promotion skills seems the most mixed of all, leading to my discontent with sitting there hearing about theory; I want to throw down the hood and drive the new author vehicle off the lot now. But perhaps anecdote potential is the best benefit of all.

My true fiction writers’ conference stories of whoa and woe:

  1. Five years ago, in 2007, I began driving to Dallas on Wednesday, Sept. 19 (Talk Like a Pirate Day) to attend half that year’s ACFW conference. Why half? Because Saturday morning, Sept. 22 — the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins — I drove four hours south to meet, in real life for the first time, a long-distance special friend. Lacy and I have now been married three years. Courtship is much easier close-range and married.
  2. I’ve attended 2.5 conferences far: the .5 comes from the 2007 one, and I’ve also gone to ACFW 2006, also in Dallas, and 2010, in Indianapolis.
  3. John Otte, now an author and SF contributor, is very easy to spot in a crowd. (This year I believe he is the only SF contributor attending the conference, once more in Dallas.)
  4. During ACFW 2006, the overwhelming amount of women was such that hotel staff turned the main hallway’s men’s restroom into a woman’s restroom. According to reliable rumor, one wacky cutup male author threatened to “go” on someone’s leg.
  5. During last year’s conference, I must admit I picked a favorite to win a Carol Award for best speculative novel. That night I watched the web feed with near-religious energy.
  6. If you’re worship-banding into the wee hours, hotel staff get annoyed. Just so you know.
  7. At a breakfast discussion featuring one publishing house’s editor, said editor, who was friendly and welcoming, asked the unpublished others what favorite novels they’d read this year. Most cited novels by authors who were published, not themselves personally. One person did not. Word to the wise: “No, don’t do that. No really, don’t. Really. Don’t.” (Addendum as of Thursday, Sept. 27: below, reader Shannon McNear offers a more-positive explanation, possibly for the same incident. What could seem like conceit on the surface could actually be honest response.)
  8. Author John Olson’s 2007 session opener, “God can’t spell and has bad grammar,” has ever since stuck in my mind and heart. This seeming heresy is an excellent antidote to potential author arrogance, and an infusion of more-Biblical writing “inspiration.”
  9. Somewhere in this 2006 photo at ACFW in Dallas are future Speculative Faith co-editors Rebecca LuElla Miller and E. Stephen Burnett.

    I’m still finding business cards, bookmarks, and other promotional paraphernalia that I had been given in 2010 and shoved hastily into my folders, pockets, sleeves, ears, etc.

  10. Future Speculative Faith co-editors Rebecca LuElla Miller and yours truly evidently met in person at least once, at ACFW 2006, and photo evidence proves this meeting. Neither of us, however, remember that meeting, leading to suspicion about alternate timelines.

What’s your writers’ conference story, wacky or otherwise?

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor (with Ted Turnau and Jared Moore) of The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ, which will release in spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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I’ve never been to a conference…but I want to!

Kessie Carroll

Never been to one, only actually learned of them in the past year. I suppose I’ll have to go to one eventually.

Morgan Busse

I was just at the ACFW conference this past week (first one for me). My crazy story? Playing Fiasco with John Otte and Jason Joyner in the hotel basement until 1am. Good times, and Mona lives on (inside joke ;))

Jason Joyner

Mona? There you are. You won’t get away from Frank Bazinga, ace reporter, forever! 😉

I second this story. Goofy looks from bystanders and all. 

C.L. Dyck

Just a point of clarification: Any “Amish cosplay” seen at the conference is not that at all. It’s Closed Brethren attendees, who are not in costume, they are honouring their denominational traditions.

I wasn’t at the banquet, so I can’t confirm or deny any of the rest. The banquet is semi-formal, so it may be that attire such as Renaissance is looked upon differently than something like Star Trek. 

Shannon McNear

Whoa, dude, that’s one ancient photo!

No comment on the “costuming” issue. Others have said it better.

I did, however, wish to comment on item #7, above. There is an explanation for what this person said that may–hopefully–alter opinions of what happened. At least soften them.

Said person (not me, but a good friend) had been observing a fiction fast for the past year–Spirit led, that’s between her and God, right? So when asked the question, she didn’t stop and think how the initial statement would sound–she fully intended to explain. And then wasn’t given a chance to.

Yes, I can totally see how blurting out “mine” to such a question would be construed as total conceit. A better answer might have been “none,” or just abstaining from a reply. But … sometimes there IS a reason, even when it looks like arrogance. One never knows.

To answer your original question about crazy conference stories, well … this year, mine is that I was awarded one of Barbour’s semi-famous first-time author contracts, for a historical romance novella. 🙂 Not at all what I would have envisioned five or so years ago, but you know what? This was a total gift from the Lord.

Of course, I’m chuckling over the irony that with 7 completed novel-length manuscripts, it’s a story I haven’t written that gets a contract! But I’m so excited to get to write this one! 😀


[…] I recognize these lines (adapted from this) from my own redeemed yet sin-struggling heart. But this week I also saw some of them even more glaringly, in response to a dustup at this year’s American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas. According to John Otte: […]