I've been a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) for many years. RWA membership offers opportunities for regional and national conferences, local chapters for networking, learning and support, dozens of annual chapter-sponsored contests (great for receiving feedback on your work, honing your craft, and getting your work seen by the editors and agents who may be final round judges) and a monthly magazine offering articles on craft and the industry. This summer, I'll be attending my fourteenth national conference, where there will be many dozens of workshops to choose from, opportunities to meet editors and agents, great networking. The benefits of attending far outweigh the cost.
RWA is excellent, and I recommend it highly. But, if you are wanting to write inspirational fiction, there's an even better option!
I moved into writing inspirational fiction in 2007 and until then had never heard of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW.) I was positively stunned when I discovered the wealth of information and opportunities available to ACFW members!. Free online classes every month. A highly active e-mail loop. A website with an incredible amount of information for every level of writer, plus free promotional opportunities for those who are published. For a very low membership fee, one can tap into a world of support, and information, just like RWA, but geared for the inspirational genre.
But what I'd really like to tell you about today is the annual ACFW conference, which is coming up September 17-20th in Indianapolis, because registration is opening soon!
How do the ACFW and RWA conferences compare? Well, as much as I love RWA, I'd have to say this: if you are an inspirational writer (aspiring or published), could only choose one, and
wanted the most benefit for your money, I'd recommend ACFW, hands down.
After attending all of those RWA conferences, I'll admit---I didn't have high expectations when I attended my first ACFW conference. I figured it would be much smaller and offer less. Was I ever in for a surprise! If not for the ACFW logo, I would not have seen one bit of difference in quality between the two. And honestly, the ACFW conference offered much more of exactly what I was looking for--a chance to learn, and grow, and network within the Christian writers' community. I can only imagine the endless hours and hard work that go into putting one of these ACFW conferences on, but the results were seamless and highly professional. And the opportunities---oh, my!
RWA offers a big line-up of workshops geared to every level of writer. So does ACFW---a wonderful array of workshops for every level of writer, every aspect of the business. The added benefit at ACFW is that the workshops are all geared to the inspirational genre--you'll have a chance to listen to editors, agents, and successful authors from every aspect of the genre. The workshops are carefully vetted and extremely well done. I know about the vetting part first hand.
What about opportunities to network with editors and agents? Here, there's a world of difference, and ACFW wins again. At RWA, you may be able to get an appointment. Editors and agents have tight schedules. If not working through their heavy schedule of appointments or giving a workshop. they mostly disappear, because they have hectic schedules for meeting with their authors in groups and individually, taking authors out to luncheons and dinners, and so on. I cannot image how exhausted they must be on the plane trip home!
At ACFW, you have a much better chance of getting the appointments you hope for. Even better, the editors and agents are highly visible at breakfast, lunch and dinner--sitting at prescribed tables, where conference attendees can join them for a meal. It's not a place to make a harried pitch. But, it's a chance to chat, get to know each other, and ask questions. To me, that alone was worth every penny spent on the conference, hotel and plane tickets! Not that any one person should dominate an editor/agent's attention in that setting, but by just listening in on the table conversation, you can learn so much about the industry, publishing houses, and even that editor/agent's "wish list" of what they would like to see.
I love the camaraderie at RWA. With every year you attend, you know more people, see more old friends, have a more wonderful time. At ACFW you'll have that same warm, welcoming experience --but with something extra--an indescribable, uplifting atmosphere of faith and joy and support. If I could only attend one big conference this year, it would be ACFW.
Finally, on a practical note, you will see that ACFW costs a little more. However, far more meals are covered--and again, those meals were wonderful networking opportunities. I hope to see you in Indianapolis this fall!! Here's a link for it:
June 2010: END GAME, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense
(PS: if you are reading this on Facebook, it has originated at the All Creatures Great and Small Blog, at http://roxannerustand.blogspot.com. Come on over and say "Hi!"