Thursday, September 23, 2004

ACRW 2004 Conference highlights

9/23/04

The conference was a terrific time. I was especially relaxed because I already had an agent, and didn't feel the urge to take advantage of the opportunity to speak to agents and editors. I sauntered into mealtimes and just nabbed a seat wherever there was space, and ended up talking to neat people.

I finally met Pammer, Squirl, and Heatherdi from the Steeple Hill discussion boards. Pammer and I roomed together, and Squirl and Heather roomed together.

Pamela is a wonderful woman of God. We stayed up late talking about all kinds of things, and her spiritual insight into the things I shared with her really blessed me. She's been through so much in her life already, and has such a rich and scarred past. She was like the older sister I never had.

Cheryl Wyatt (Squirl) is cute and funny, and her brain is going a mile a minute. She was fun to talk to, and I hope I was able to encourage her in her writing, because she was feeling a bit discouraged by the end of the conference. There's just so much to absorb, and she seemed a bit overwhelmed. She made little personalized bags for everyone from the Steeple Hill boards, which was thoughtful and hilarious.

Because of her avatar, I thought Heather was blonde. :-) She's a smart, witty chick with a flavorful Texas accent. She is very affectionate and loving. In some ways, her humor reminds me of my brother a bit. I enjoyed hanging out with her, although we didn't have as much time as we'd have liked. Heather if you're reading this, remember that YOU ARE WORTHY!!! WOOHOO!!!

I also met everyone else from the boards: Dream, Ziongirl (Julia), Jaen (Janet Spaeth), Margaret Daley and Marta Perry. Lunch at the House of Windsor was a blast. They're all sweeties. Margaret especially has sooooo much energy! She's a hoot. And Jaen is terrific--I wanted to hug her every time I saw her. She received a contract from Heartsong that was presented at the conference, which is totally awesome!

I was a bit worried before the conference that I wouldn't get any nibbles, but I met with two editors (Sue Brower from Zondervan and Kris Bearss from Integrity) who both wanted to see the proposal. When I pitched, both editors said, "Asian Chicklit? I've never heard of Asian Chicklit." I took that as a good sign. In fact, Brandilynn Collins came up to me later (I'm so stoked she remembered me, even) to tell me that she'd heard Sue speak very highly of my proposal idea. She also said to let her know how it goes with Zondervan.

I also got a chance to meet Krista Stroever from Steeple Hill, and she recognized my name from the eHarlequin Steeple Hill discussion boards, can you believe that? I was freaking out because I didn't realize they followed the boards so closely, and I was wondering if I'd said anything I shouldn't have. :-) She also mentioned that she'd read my action/adventure short story, which I had posted a link to on the boards. She said she liked it, although it's not exactly what Steeple Hill publishes. I smiled and nodded. "Yes." Hopefully coming across as agreeable and professional, and not an unpubbed author desperate to get her attention and opinion, even though inside I was screaming, "SHE LIKED MY STORY!!!" She asked what I write, and I told her, "Asian Chicklit." And her eyes lit up and then my memory is a bit fuzzy but I remember her telling me to tell my agent to please keep Steeple Hill in mind. Now that's cool, isn't it?

Katrina Sapp (Poettiss) gave an absolutely incredible spoken word performance. Moving and colorful and inspiring. Lots of women were clamoring for her CD.

I met Linda Mae Baldwin and we happened to run into each other and chat a few times. She's warm and friendly and didn't mind my sauntering by and taking up her time.

I had an author appointment with Linda Windsor. She's a gas. I asked her how she decided to write for CBA versus ABA and she told me she was a bonafide Jonah "backstroking in the belly of the whale." But I'm glad she's writing romantic comedy for the CBA. I think she adds a very unique voice to the genre, and her characters all have "hormones," as she calls it, which makes me relate to them better and enjoy the story more. She probably thinks I was stalking her because the day I had the author appointment, I wandered into dinner late and ended up sitting at her table.

Krista Stroever and Joan Golan from Steeple Hill gave a very informative workshop on Editor/Author relations, and what happens once your manuscript gets to the publishing house. It was full of practical info, tips and suggestions for what to do and not to do.

I again ran into Debbie Clopton, whom I'd met at Mt. Hermon in the Fiction 101 track. She's really nice, and has the most terrific Texas accent I've ever heard. I had lunch with Cheryl, Heather, Debbie and Angie Poole on Sunday after the conference ended, and the three Texans at the table made for an entertaining meal.

I got to hang out quite a bit with Mary Griffith again (www.marilynngriffith.com). I love talking to her--she's one of the funniest women I know. We spent an afternoon just shootin' the breeze in her hotel room. She also gave me a lot of great advice. One was that I don't need to work on the second book in my Single Sushi series right now, unless I'm going to market it as a single title, because if a publisher buys the series, they'll give me time to finish the next books. I hadn't even thought of that, and it was kind of a relief because I've been having so much trouble with the manuscript. She also heard that Krista is buying up romantic suspense stories, and suggested that I take my action/adventure and make it into a suspense/pseudo-Bombshell storyline with a Lorena-like heroine. I thought that was a great idea, and I already have a few story ideas I'm flirting with. Mary also had an idea for a multicultural chicklit anthology--Gigi's Place or something like that--with three multicultural protagonists. She wanted to suggest the idea to our chica Mir (from the Steeple Hill boards and ACRW/ACFW), and we three would each do a novella. I thought the idea was kickin'. I haven't heard from her since, but if God wants it to happen, I'm sure He'll nudge her about it again.

Meredith Efken was my conference mentor (again, actually, since she'd also filled that role for me at Mt. Hermon) and it was terrific to run into her the very Thursday afternoon that I arrived at the hotel. Later that evening, I was chatting and had questions about agent/author etiquette, and she introduced me to her agent, Andrea Boeshaar from Hartline. I also met Joyce and Tamela from Hartline--both very nice ladies. Andrea was incredibly warm and friendly, and I kept running into her during the conference. I went to her novella late-night chat on Saturday night, which had a lot of good information, and chatted with her a bit. I mentioned Mary's idea for a multicultural chicklit anthology and she thought it was a great idea, and encouraged me to talk to Kristin Billerbeck.

One very interesting late night chat I attended was Branding taught by Lee Hough from Alive Communications. He compared it to Nike's "Just Do It" and the swoop symbol. Each author needs to find her niche, something that sets her apart, something that targets a certain readership or genre or subject matter. Publishers like leaders, trendsetters, new ideas. To boldly go where no man has gone before... ;-) He suggests authors decide their passion and then write it. There is a downside--once you brand yourself, you're kind of stuck writing that at least until you're established enough to branch out. It's a matter of promising something to the readership and then delivering on that promise. People picking up Kristin Billerbeck's books expect Christian Chicklit, not murder suspense. If she branched into another genre too soon, she'd be failing and disappointing her readership. So if you pick a branding, pick one you can stick with for a while. I took this as good news, since I write Asian Chicklit/Romance. Most people I talked to had never heard of it before, so that means I'm a trendsetter, right?

I also met Marilyn Hilton (www.marilynhilton.com), who just happens to live close by me in San Jose. So I fly miles away to meet someone who lives about 15 minutes away from me. It was nice, because we had the same flight home, which was really late--around 8:30pm--so we kept each other company at the airport. I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with her. Her agent is Janet Grant so I'm sure she'll be published soon.

My highlight was when Brandilynn Collins prayed over Squirl, Pammer, Heather and myself on Sunday after the conference had ended. It was a time of true anointing. I got (I think) affirmation that Asian fiction is what I should be writing, but I need to wait and trust. Since I got back, I've felt God's peace inside me--a well of something deep and cool and refreshing and calm, that certainly isn't ME! So it must be God's Spirit nestled there, cupping my heart. Thank You, Lord, You're so gracious and good to me. My days have been calmer and filled to the brim with God's grace to me and His peace in me.

Whew, that's a lot. Time for bed.


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