This week I've been busy making plans to attend the 2011 ACFW conference in St. Louis this September. This will be my third ACFW conference and I'm super excited. I was thinking how different this year will be for me. To understand how vastly different let me tell you about my first conference.
It was 2005. The conference was in Nashville. Money was tight so I eagerly accepted a ride with fellow hoosier, Cara Putman. In fact we roomed together that year. We didn't know each other much other than having a mutual friendship with Colleen Coble. I was very nervous to ride 5 hours in a car with someone I barely knew, let alone sleep in the same room with her. LOL. My husband was a little nervous for me too. I mean, what if she was a nut case or something. She wasn't. Now I consider her one of my dearest friends.
The weeks prior to the conference the loop was busy with all kinds of talk about the clothing I'd need and I panicked. I didn't have anything special. Just everyday work/church clothes. I went out and bought several outfits just so I wouldn't be out of place.
There was also all kinds of talk on the loop about what I'd need to bring and have ready. I worked like a feign to get my one page and my business cards spiffied up.
Oh and all the talk bout how important the editor and agent meetings were about made me hyperventilate.
On the ride down Cara and I talked and talked all the way to Nashville. It would seem I'd made my first writer friend. Then the rooming together went fine. In fact we roomed together again in 2007 so it must not have been too bad. :)
Once we got there I realized I'd forgotten my make up bag and we arrived in a torrential downpour. We had to walk into the hotel looking like drowned rats. But we made it. I was stewing about the make up when one of my favorite writers, Kristin Billerbeck, offered to loan me some of hers. Are you kidding me? I was overwhelmed with her kindness. We ended up driving to a drugstore and buying a few things but I was still in awe of the fact she'd do that for me. A total stranger. Then I was standing in the foyer and realized I was standing next to Deb Raney. DEB RANEY. I nearly squealed in excitement. Diann Hunt took pity on me and introduced me to Deb. Who turned out to be a very gracious lady.
Once the conference was underway I looked around and realized I was surrounded by people just like me. Average people following the elusive dream of writing for publication. It wasn't until Saturday that I started to relax and enjoy the experience.
On the ride home I realized most of the panic and stress I'd been under was pointless. I didn't need to buy a bunch of new stuff or get myself in a tizzy about what I was going to say to the agents and editors. I just needed to be myself and make sure I was prepared for my meetings.
I'm not saying you don't need to work hard and get your stuff polished. I'm just saying don't get too worked up over all the little stuff. Khakis or Capri's and a nice shirt will suffice for most everything other than the banquet. And for that, yes, some dress to the nines, but don't get stressed out if you can't afford a new cocktail dress. Sunday dress is okay if that's all you have. Don't let the little stuff take away from the real reason we're there. To learn and make industry connections. And if you're lucky, you'll come away with a head full of knowledge and a whole lot of new friends.