Thursday, September 22, 2005

ACFW Conference

Captain’s Log, Stardate 09.22.2005

Last weekend was an amazing conference for me.

I got in a day early for the conference so I could spend time with the Fab Four—Pamela James, Heather Tipton, Cheryl Wyatt and me. We had a great dinner together even though I was practically comatose from the motion sickness patch and lack of sleep.

I had missed them so much the past year. It was soothing and filling to talk with them again. I didn’t see them much during the conference, so I’m glad I had that first day. We fulfill each other in ways only God could have predicted.

On Thursday night, I was sitting at a table for the agent panel with a teenaged girl and boy, and another woman. Right after the panel ended, the girl turned to me and shrieked, “You’re Camy Tang! Your story was so funny!”

The older woman introduced herself as Linda, one of the women in my Fiction Mentoring Clinic, and her two children, Elena and Val. One day before the conference, Elena had demanded to know what her mom was reading because she was laughing so hard, and it was my Chick Lit manuscript for the Clinic. Elena raved about it, she liked it so much. She even made her brother read it. :) It was neat but also kind of weird (in a good way) to have my first “fans.”

I had opted for the Fiction Mentoring Clinic instead of the other continuing sessions because the rewriting sessions sounded like I already knew much about the topics discussed, whereas I didn’t feel qualified or ready to take the marketing sessions. Stuck in between, I thought that the Fiction Clinic would be a way for intermediate to advanced writers to learn something new.

The other women in the Clinic were incredibly loving, giving, and spiritually strong. Everyone was appreciative of each other. While my strength is structural, high-level editing, the women and the instructor had more detailed editing skills, which was great to tighten my prose.

Gayle Roper was a terrific instructor. She has an incredible eye for detail and knowledge about what to add or subtract to make the writing more vibrant. Gayle had made handouts with her suggested changes to each manuscript, detailing different techniques. I learned a lot from her comments.

Gayle said my writing was very good, and everyone loved the humor. That was good to know, since I think I’m funny, but that doesn’t mean other people will.

The manuscript I submitted for the Fiction Clinic is part of a connected Christmas idea with Mary Griffith. On Saturday I wanted to talk with Krista Stroever from Steeple Hill about it, but she’s always in high demand at ACFW conferences. Her table at mealtimes is usually full, but for Saturday dinner I thought I’d look and see, just in case.

God totally came through for me—even though I was late, there were 3 empty chairs. To top it off, Mary Griffith’s table was right next to hers, so I could grab Mary when I talked with Krista after the meal.

Dinner with Krista was fun because I got to know her better as a person and not an editor. It’s always hard to get to know editors and agents because they’re barraged with people pitching books or discussing contracted projects. Krista has always struck me as very straight-forward and efficient. I appreciate that, being that way myself, so I wanted to be organized and clear in the way I presented the Christmas project.

Mary and I pitched the idea, and Krista liked the Chick-Litty Christmas story premise. Mary will send her the proposals. Krista also specifically asked me to send her my other manuscript, the suspense.

Why? Because on Saturday during lunch, I won first place in the Suspense category of the Noble Theme contest for unpublished writers (which next year will be called the Genesis).

For each category, the contest coordinator, Greg, had the three finalists stand. Then he called the names of third and second place. As soon as I realized I wasn’t second place, I started hyperventilating (Luckily, an EMT—Evelyn from the Fiction Mentoring Clinic—sat next to me, so I was never in danger of dropping to the floor).

In front of the entire room, Greg called me “the loud Asian girl” since I had been joking with him earlier in the week about it. I heard a huge shout of applause. Shelley Bates came screaming over to hug me, and I started shaking like a 7.0 earthquake. Heather ran up to hug me and her teeth rattled in her head, but she says that was a highlight of her time at the conference. :)

After the meal, so many people came up to hug me—I felt overwhelmed and loved by these wonderful sisters (and a couple brothers) in Christ.

More great news is that one of the Fab Four, Cheryl Wyatt, won first place in the Short Contemporary Romance category. I’m so proud of her and hopeful that this will open doors for her writing.

All three finalists in each category got certificates and gifts that Levenger graciously donated for the contest—Page Points and a Book Bungee. I couldn’t believe Greg had pulled that off, but I was thrilled. I love anything from Levenger.

Kaye Dacus announced that for next year’s top 5 scores, the manuscripts would be sent straight to Pub Board committee at Warner Faith. Too bad it wasn’t this year, eh?

On Thursday night, Jeff Dunn from RiverOak gave me a hug and asked me to find time to talk with him this weekend. I was thrilled he remembered me so fondly, he’s become like a benevolent uncle. I made an appointment with Jeff for Saturday afternoon, looking forward to the time we could sit and shoot the breeze.

Jeff welcomed me with a bear hug and congratulations on the contest. I had arrived a little early, so he and I had half an hour to talk about everything from the CBA market to coffee (he’s a connoisseur). He’s such a fount of information, and he’s honest and open with me. It’s great to think that we’ve only known each other for a year and a half, but we’ve formed such an easy relationship. He’s like that as a person, warm and friendly.

It was wonderful to meet with Brandilyn Collins again. Her prayers over the Fab Four at the 2004 conference changed our lives, and she wanted to talk with us to hear how we were doing. Her prayer over me had prepared me for rejections (the ones for my first manuscript) but also encouraged me to keep writing about my Asian American culture.

I was lucky enough to be involved in a terrific practical joke on Randy Ingermanson. I won’t detail it here because he has promised to chronicle the momentous occasion on his website and I think he’ll do a better job than I. The roast was related to his prank against Steve Laube several years ago, which is already detailed on his website. This time, the joke involved a scarlet bra, falsies, and lace panties. :)

Keynote speaker Karen Ball was fabulously funny. The quote from the conference comes from the fact that goldfish are content with a glass bowl, a piece of kelp and a tiny castle because they have a five-second memory. “Oh, I have a castle! . . . Look! I have a castle! . . . Wow, I have a castle!” Everyone noticed their “goldfish moments” during the conference.

Karen also shared very powerful stories of her childhood and her marriage. The struggles and triumphs she and her husband have lived through are in her fiction novel, “Breaking Point.” I completely soaked my pink handkerchief.

Then Kim Sawyer gave her testimony about the healing she received when Brandilyn prayed over her at conference last year, and I started bawling all over again. Our Lord is so gracious, so powerful. Brandilyn gave a Spirit-led group prayer that had me crying like I do sometimes when I feel the Spirit, as if I’m pouring tears for those who can’t cry.

One thing ACFW conferences have taught me is the more spiritual aspect of my faith. During the weekend I prayed over a few people, but not audible prayers. I knew I was praying but no words came to my mind or my head. I guess that’s how it is when the Spirit inside me groans too deep for words. It’s an amazing, humble feeling to be used like that.

I have found a kinship with Meredith Efken, my roommate. She’s as much of a nightowl as myself and I don’t feel guilty for keeping her awake so late. We talked about so many things, we think alike in many ways, we sharpen each other.

I also got to know Randy Ingermanson better, which was inspiring. He has incredible integrity and authenticity (besides being quirky-funny and smarter than Einstein), and I’m so happy to be a friend.

Well, back to the real world. I’ve gotten more of the novella done, I’m shooting for finishing it this week and getting it revised next week. So all my crit partners who read my blog, be ready for it next week sometime. :)

7 comments :

  1. Camy,

    Congrats on your win. I'm sure soon you'll be posting about your first sale.

    Thanks so much for telling us about the conference. Sounds like it was wonderful.

    Hope to see you at the online conference.

    LaShaunda

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  2. Well, other than saying it's about time you updated your blog, I want to say it sounds like you really had a great conference. The workshop sounds awesome, I need something like that. :) I can't wait to see the great things that come from all this.

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  3. Since I never could find you to say it.....Congratulations on your win. I'm proud of you. You are on your way, girl.

    Love ya,
    Pammer

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  4. Yay on your win! I'm so proud of you!

    I loved that dinner Wed night even if we were all so tired. It was great to be with the whole fab four.

    And of course I had to hug you after your win!

    Oh... I think you have the wrong pub house up there. I think it's Warner Faith that is sponsering the NT next year,

    Love ya!

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  5. Heather, you're right! Oops. I've corrected it now.

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  6. Great blog, Camy! I am so happy for your win. That must feel very validating. I have a feeling you won't be eligible next year as you'll be under contract! Can't wait to read your stuff. Sounds great.

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  7. Camy! Congratulations again--! :) I enjoyed reading about your conference experience. I wish we could have hung out together a little more, but that's how conferences are--not enough time sometimes. :) ~Lynette

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