Posted at Sep 24, 2012 6:45 am
I had a great time at ACFW last week. How could I not? I roomed with Amy Clipston, one of my tour buddies, saw quite a few of my author friends, visited with my agent, and was graciously included in the Zondervan dinner on Friday night.
We had a super book signing in Hurst at the Lifeway Christian bookstore, and I visited with two reader friends who had taken the day off work, just to drive down from Oklahoma to say hello. I cheered for Vannetta Chapman and Suzanne Woods Fisher when they won their Carol Awards, and cried when Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Literary Agency was awarded the prestigious Agent of the Year award.
But my favorite part was when I volunteered to help in the editor and agent appointment area.
For those of you who’ve never done this, I should probably explain the process. Most agents and editors take about 20-30 appointments during the week. Writers who are interested in being agented or published sign up before the conference for a 15 minute slot. Given that there are several hundred writers, getting these coveted appointments is a pretty big deal.
There’s a big receiving area where you go when it’s almost your appointment time. The person in charge calls out ’10:00 am appointments’, and then everyone trots down to their appointed rooms. It’s nerve-wracking and exciting, and there is more nervous energy in that big room than anywhere I’ve ever been-except maybe a wedding.
In the middle of all this was a line where there a writer could try to ‘pick up’ an appointment. If there are cancellations, they go on the dry-erase board, and people wait in line to sign up for one of the slots. My ‘job’ on Saturday morning was to man the white board. When a cancellation was available, I wrote down the agent or editor’s name, and the available timeslot. When it was taken, I erased it.
Sounds easy, right? It was! But it was also exciting. I had more fun chatting with everyone in line about their appointments, their careers, and their books. There was also a sign on the board that pretty much said only authorized people can touch that white board, so there was a lot of ribbing about My 90 Minutes Of Power.
During this time, I watched several groups gather for their appointed time, make that long walk down the hall, and ten minutes or so later, walk back to the main room where we were all gathered. Some men and women were smiling so bright, I just knew they’d gotten great news. Others looked worried, a few a little depressed, and my heart went out to them. Years ago, I made that long walk more times than I can count!
But the best part was when the folks who’d told me about their books took the time to let me know how their appointment went. We hugged! We high-fived! We commiserated. And for just a little bit, I was a part of their lives. It was awesome.
Ninety minutes had never gone by so fast. Truthfully, I was a little bummed when my time was up and I had to leave my white board and all the excitement.
Shortly afterward, I walked outside and saw one of the ladies I had been chatting with crying on the phone with her husband. She’d gotten good news, and she was practically shaking as she told her husband all about her experience. I smiled at her, and then walked quickly away so she could have her privacy. But inside, I was grinning like a fool. I did practically the same thing years ago after a particularly good appointment at a conference in New Jersey.
The road to publication is a terribly exciting time. It’s hard and it’s scary, and it’s filled with happy tears, and sad ones, too. And though I’ve been so blessed in my career, I have to say that there’s nothing like that first awkward, shaky step forward…when someone in the industry gives you an encouraging word and you know deep inside that you made the right choice to take a chance.
I’m so excited for all those writers I met who are just a few steps away from getting that first contract with an agent or editor. And I’m so grateful that I was able to share their excitement, even if it was only just for a little while.
It was a privilege to be in their midst.
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