Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So, How Was It?

I have to post a stock photograph of the Arch in St. Louis, because...well...I never actually saw it! I saw it from behind the glass of the hotel windows, but that's about it.
Some people are very good about carving out time to go sightseeing when they attend conferences. I'm not one of them. I always find there is far too much to do within the conference walls and I don't want to miss a thing.
As expected, the conference was huge. Was I intimidated? Maybe a little.
I got off to a bit of a rough start with a late arrival - I couldn't figure out where the shuttle was but I actually walked right by the desk - I really don't do well traveling at night, so this was a good lesson for me. I'll be booking all daytime flights next time, when possible. By the time I got to the hotel due to construction, it was about 10pm. And then they very kindly put me in the wrong room. A room that had a very lovely queen bed, not the two doubles I was expecting. A room that had a couple of cards addressed to someone else sitting on the dresser.
Yes, I admit, I had a moment of "Hey, I'm exhausted, I'm already unpacking, let's just pretend I didn't see the cards..." But then I had visions of someone trying to get into my room at some ungodly hour and I thought the better of it.
An hour later, the lovely hotel lady discovers the hotel is completely booked and they have nowhere to put me. Ya think? Well, you can be proud. I kept my mouth shut. I have learned, in certain situations, facial expression often speaks louder than words.
I don't know where Miss Whatsherface VIP person ended up, but I got her room. Booyah.
Of course by that point I hadn't eaten since the dry sandwich at the airport in Bermuda and by this time it was 3:30am Bermuda time, and a migraine was tapping on my forehead. I ignored it and went to bed.
It was still there in the morning. So, sad to say, I bagged the Early Bird. I actually did get up for it, all ready to go, but as soon as I began walking around there was no way I was going to make it. It was either force myself and be sick the rest of the day, or go back to bed. I'm glad I went back to bed, because I was fine by lunchtime and could fully engage in the pleasure of seeing old friends and making new ones.

A big highlight for me was seeing my book in the conference bookstore for the first time!! And it sold out!
Yes, it does actually feel a little weird having the "Author" nametag on your badge. And I did have a random person ask to take my picture while I was signing books. Maybe they liked what I was wearing that day...

Everyone comes to conference with different expectations. Usually I go to learn, to soak up the incredible wealth of knowledge that surrounds me, and come away knowing I'm in the process of improving my craft. That wasn't the case this year. For whatever reason, I quickly ascertained that this year, I was here for the fellowship.
It's been a weird year for me. There have been spiritually dry seasons. Times I felt totally alone in a sanctuary full of people. Maybe you've been there too. I so needed to be with friends that know my heart, know my thought process, my struggles, my fears...and they get it. They get it because they are navigating the very same waters. I can't tell you what it means to pray with someone who truly understands the place you're standing in at that moment.

God showed up big time. Questions I had, and I had a lot of them, about what I should be doing with my writing and who I should be writing for, were answered. I received a lot of confirmation and affirmation. While I don't know what the future will bring, I do know with certainty, that I am following His will. And that feels pretty good.

I had a few appointments. One was a little unnerving while the other was like sitting down with an old friend. But both editors were interested in my project, so that was very encouraging. My agent, (Agent of the Year!!!) Rachelle, was running on rocket fuel the whole weekend on behalf of her clients. Literally every editor I spoke to about my new book said, "Oh, yes, I've talked about this with Rachelle!" Unbelievable support, and I'm so blessed to have someone like Rachelle Gardner believe in me and my work.

Other highlights included hearing Allen Arnold from Thomas Nelson talk about the need for reality in Christian Fiction. Honestly, I wanted to get up and cheer, but I didn't think that would be appropriate. On the other hand, he'd probably remember my name. In any event, I was literally blown away by what he had to say, and I came away filled with new hope and encouragement. I'm thinking there might actually be a place for me in CBA after all.
Ami McConnell, also from Thomas Nelson, talked about loving your reader. That was an amazing session. I love Ami's heart.
And then there were the dancing elephants...
I really can't explain this unless you were there. But believe me when I say no alcohol was involved. Which was definitely a good thing.
Suffice to say the image of two large elephants simply suspended in midair and spinning in circles was enough to put certain people over the edge of insanity and bust out into hysterical laughter. Except we were in the middle of an awards ceremony, so it needed to be extremely subdued hysterical laughter. Watching the table in front of us try to contain their mirth was more than I could take. They were not succeeding. I will never again sit behind Susan May Warren or Liz Curtis Higgs at an awards ceremony.

Well, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. I'm home again, but I feel energized. Refreshed. Ready to continue on along the path God is leading me. I am just so grateful to know that I'm not traveling it alone.

A Big "FIRST" for me!!

Some of The WordServe Crew out for dinner - what an amazing bunch of authors!

Beautiful Beth Vogt and great to meet her in person!

My lifelong friend and critique partner, Jenness Walker - loved hanging out with her!

"Agent of the Year!" And crowned Fairy Agent Godmother by her clients! So well deserved.

Were you in St.Louis? How was your conference experience??


Loree Huebner said...

Looks like you had a great time! Thanks for sharing.

Keli Gwyn said...

It was great to see you, Cathy. I got excited when I saw your book in the conference bookstore. Glad you got a pic before they were all gone.

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Catherine. I wanted to go to the conference, but couldn't this year. I am planning for next year, and I hope to see you then! :-)

Jennifer K. Hale said...

So glad I got to know you this year! :) Thanks for keeping me sane on the roller-coaster plane ride to ATL.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

Yay! I made it to your blog, Cathy! Loved seeing you again. ♥

Tracy Krauss said...

Sounds like you had a great time.

Catherine West said...

Thanks everyone! It was fun hanging out with you too! Tracy you will have to go, it's a great conference!!

Beth K. Vogt said...

I am over-the-moon thrilled that we connected at ACFW. And that we didn't settle for that wave-and-walk-by experience. I loved meeting you, talking with you (even standing by the hotel elevator and chatting), and hearing your heart for Christian fiction. You are going places, friend--and I'll be following behind you asking, "Will you please sign my copy of your book?"

Misha said...

Sounds so exciting! I'm glad things went so well for you. :-)