Connie’s ACFW Experience

Posted by on September 28, 2011

Two days after my wild flight home from the ACFW writer’s conference, I still need to sleep in. Now, if only my daughter’s school would comply and start an hour later, things would be A-OK. And what a wild ride it was, both literally and
figuratively.

You have to understand, I haven’t been on a plane since before 9-11. When I tell people this, they think my fear is being a victim of terrorists. Not so. I
mean, with all my research on defense moves for my character to use, I’m ready.
Just try me. Come near me with a box cutter, and you’re goin’ down!

My fear, on the other hand, is having my underwear strewn all over airport
security counters, because I didn’t pack in such a way that the x-ray machine
can see what it needs to. And that I’ll miss my flight looking for the
partner to my favorite sock that fell in the cracks during the search. I also
fear that I’ll go to the wrong gate and end up in another country where I don’t
speak the language. In other words, my fear is, I’ll do something stupid. But
yes, with God by my side, I made it to St. Louis with no embarrassing searches.

And did you know, God is Good! He placed so many wonderful authors all around me, from the woman I met on the shuttle drive to the airport, to the awesome duo I shared a room with. These were the ladies who gently informed me not to use the upturned glass by the water fountain, cause it had been used, and encouraged me to be myself during agent/editor appointments. These warm, fun-loving souls made me feel at-home in an environment that was far from every day for me. I thank them.

Then God spoke to me! He really did. And it was incredible. I had signed up to host a session with an author whose writing I love. Though I’ve done lots of public speaking in my life, this opportunity had me biting nails I didn’t have. I
chose to memorize the intro, word for word. Not good. I’m not a memorizer … and
I shouldn’t have tried to be something I wasn’t in a place in which I was unfamiliar.
So, I get up to do the intro, after the presenter had some technical
difficulties, feeling I needed to shorten my memorized speech–on the fly–so
as not to take any more time away from the workshop. I stood in front of the
room with the microphone at my lips and the projector lights in my eyes. Blinking,
I stepped out of the glare and almost tripped over the cord. I mixed up a few
words of my now truncated, memorized speech and did not give the speaker the
credit she so richly deserves. But … I survived! And I’ve discovered that this
is the most important thing to take from moments like these. I will live to
write a scene in a book about it one day.

And then, Beth Vogt spoke at one of the gatherings the next day. In her speech, she asked, “What is the word God is speaking to you right now?” I heard “Be yourself.” She said it again. I heard it again. “Be yourself.” No it wasn’t a
booming voice like Charlton Heston. I didn’t see a burning bush or an
apparition in the sky. But it was clear. Be yourself. Funny, cause that was the
advice my roommate kept giving me. And though I knew she was right, it wasn’t
until God wrote it on my heart that I could really live it.

So I went into the editor/agent appointments as myself. Go figure. I threw away my memorized pitch (since I’m not a memorizer) and came in with points of
conversation. I could communicate my love for this story, because I felt it,
not the fear of making sure I get the words right. And they were interested.
No, I did not get a contract on the spot. The editor wants me to get an agent
and the agent suggested I make some changes. But she said I could submit this
idea to her again once the changes were made. No snickering at my efforts. No
Simonesque sneers at my attempts. Real interest. Yes, I still have work to do,
and sometimes I’m exhausted from the journey, but other times, it’s an
extraordinary challenge to take a story in another direction and watch it grow
into something even better. It’s what I love about writing. It doesn’t have to
stand still. I can improve it.

So I thanked my roommates for being so wonderful. I mean they didn’t even snore. However, I have a feeling I did. No one suggested we room again next year.
Guess I’ll have to find someone who hasn’t heard me while asleep. I do hope to
keep in touch with these lovely ladies. We are now Facebook friends and I have
copied all their conference photos since I kept forgetting my camera.

So now that I was a more seasoned traveler, having flown on two whole planes to get to St. Louis, and did not have undergarments strewn over the TSA workspace, I rolled my suitcase into the airport with confidence. I knew I could endure the flight as long as Creator and I were in constant contact, while suspended high in the sky with no real means of support to keep us there, other than invisible air. I get on the plane and take my deep breath. I can do this …
until the pilot announced our plane would be in a holding pattern due to “some
weather” in Memphis. After being diverted a half hour later to Little Rock for refueling, and then flying over a harrowing dose of turbulence, I discovered “some weather” meant tornado warnings. My seatmate chose not to inform me of this until after we touched down in Memphis. Smart Cookie! My next flight was delayed, so I didn’t miss it, but it meant that I would be getting in to Baltimore after two in the morning. With this news, I told my husband he and the kids did not need to pick me up. I’d take a taxi home.

I must tell you, I found there were benefits to being an unseasoned traveler.
Like the fact that I hadn’t taken a taxi since in Europe decades ago. And I
hated the fact that Americans were so taken advantage of, because they had few
choices. So when I approached my first taxi driver, whose front seat was strewn
with trash, I was appalled when he told me his estimate of the fair. And even
worse, he couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t be much higher until we got there. He
acted like he had no means of figuring the distance, despite the GPS mounted on
his dash. I flinched at the price, pivoted, and stated I’d just wake my husband
to pick me up. Little thought went into the fact that it was the last flight at
BWI, and I probably would have been waiting alone, in the dark, by the time he
got there. But I was ticked, and don’t mess with me when I’m ticked. Funny
thing is, this gave me power. It was the last flight, and there were many cabbies still hoping for a last fare. A man with a clipboard approached me and asked me what I was willing to pay. I gave him a figure twenty dollars less than I’d been quoted by the messy taxi man, and he found me someone willing to take me. And his taxi was clean. Still, he seemed to not be able to get his GPS
functioning either, so I had to talk him to my house, as he expelled one
long-suffering sigh after another. Sorry to have imposed, Mr. Taxi-Man.

Now, I’m home. Glad to see my family, and sleep in my own bed, I will treasure my time in St. Louis and the extraordinary things I learned. Not just about
writing, but about travel and … most of all … about the people walking the same
journey I am. You guys are awesome. So glad God connected us.

3 Responses to Connie’s ACFW Experience

  1. Elaine Stock

    Connie, we’re soul sisters after all :) Since my husband does not fly, I hadn’t flown since before I was married and that was many moons ago. My 1st ACFW conference was in MN and I took Amtrak–and vowed never again. My 2nd ACFW conference was Indianapolis and I flew. By myself. I was nervous about possible terrorists–I think all flyers, everywhere, will always be on high alert since 9-11, but like you I was more nervous about the logistics of making it to one airport to another. Flying to & from St. Louis went a lot smoother this time (despite some weather turbulence–yours sounded worse) but I was still shaken up while I went through security. Maybe it’s an authority thing. I mean, upon any doubt of me, they have the ability to arrest me. To embarrass me. Is this a lesson . . . to give that kind of power only to Him?

  2. Beth K. Vogt

    Connie,
    I’m so humbled that God used my devotional at ACFW to encourage you. More importantly, I am thrilled that you listened … and not at all surprised that God spoke to you. (Don’t we always expect him to sound like Charlton Heston?)
    Keep listening … and following what he tells you to do. You’ll go far. And you’ll always go in the right direction too.

    (Loved the Taxi-Man story!)
    :)

  3. Becky Morton

    Connie,

    I am so thankful that God gifted you with this tremendous experience with memories that will last a lifetime.

    Becky