Conference Countdown | Tips and Advice | 26 Days to go

If you have not registered and you do want to go to the 2014 ACFW conference…





Registration gets more expensive as we get closer to the big event! And spots in hotels close by are filling up FAST! So you don’t want to wait too long!

Obviously if you have to wait, to be sure you actually can go, that’s smart because the cutoff date for getting any money back if you have to cancel has already passed!


But make sure you register as soon as you possibly can! And make sure you get your hotel the same time!

You can do this online or over the phone and a reputable hotel will never charge your card until you actually check in. Actually, most of them don’t charge your card until you check out!


Yes that’s really all you have to read today. Don’t worry! I’ll be back tomorrow with more!


Conference Countdown | Tips and Advice | 28 Days to go

What to bring?



This is a BIG question – huge really, even more important than what to wear when thinking about attending the ACFW 2014 Conference (or any conference really)


Why you may ask…


Well there are a couple of reasons


1) ACFW is a very big organization! This is considered the most important conference to attend – if you write Inspirational fiction or non-fiction anyway. 

And being the important organization it is, it encompasses so much more than the small local conferences we all attend.

There are more authors to connect with – simply because there are three or four times the attendees. There are more editors – because they know that this conference is an excellent way to discover new talent. And there are more agents there – for the same reason – they know this conference is an excellent place to find new talent and there is no lack of potential new clients!


2) Going along with the reasoning above, this is your BEST opportunity all year to make connections! If you’re unpublished, this is THE PLACE to be!

Not only could you meet your agent, publisher, editor or even all three! You could also meet your next critique partner, prayer partner, best friend, mentor or even a collaborator!



So knowing what to bring is important – very important!


There has been a lot of information and a lot of suggestions flying around the ACFW loops and I thought I would share a bit of it here with you.


Business Cards – The general consensus is that you need A LOT of business cards to hand out. Some say you should have your photo on it so that anyone who you hand it to will remember you better. Some say you should make sure your phone number is on it so that agents or editors or friends can get in touch with you. Some say you should NOT put your phone number on it to be safe in this crazy world we live in.

I actually have two business cards – 1 with my phone # and 1 without…NEITHER has my picture though. I got them from Vistaprint for a FABULOUS price and YOU can too! They have some wonderful deals! They even offer some FREE designs – all you pay is shipping!

The bottom line is this – be happy with your design. If you don’t like it, you won’t want to hand it to anyone! But don’t spend so much $$ that you are hesitant to let go of any of them.


Proposals –  Many editors and agents are going paperless and even those that aren’t, might not want to drag home reams and reams of paper. So you might want to leave the full proposal to an E-mail for the conference.

My suggestion is to go with a One-Sheet instead.


One-Sheet – This is the new, most popular pitch tool it seems!

The typical one-sheet has your contact information, the book cover if you have one, a blurb for your book – what you might expect to find on the back cover, a brief bio and your head-shot.

Obviously you don’t have to have every single one of these. Not all of us are digital artists or are able to afford cover art before we’re published. And, while the head-shot is very important, I don’t think an agent would toss it back at you if you don’t have one on it.

But you MUST have your contact info and a blurb on the book!

I actually came up with a half one-sheet that I plan to hand out. It’s kind of like a big business card. It has the short blurb (sometimes called an elevator pitch), my head-shot and contact info. It won’t take up as much room as a full sheet and perhaps the unique size of it will help grab their attention – I’m willing to try just about anything


Laptop – While you may not want to drag your laptop everywhere with you during the conference, it would be a good idea to at least bring it with you and leave it in your hotel room.

You never know when someone will ask you to e-mail your first three chapter or a proposal or even the whole book to them.

And while some people might prefer to wait until they’re home or at least back in the office on Monday, some of them just might want to take a look at it while they’re there and won’t you feel silly if you can’t send it to them?


OK. SO we’ve already talked about what to wear. No we’ve talked a bit about what to bring. I’m sure we will re-visit this subject again because there has to be more.But you have enough to get started with.


YES! There is still time to order business cards! GO find some you like and order them. They’ll usually get to you within a week or ten days.


Good Day and GOD Bless!

~ Rachel

Conference Countdown | Tips and Advice | 30 Days to go


There are several things to consider when packing what you plan to wear for the ACFW 2014 Conference (or any conference really)


1) Consider the time of year – Check the weather forecast where you will be before you pack. The weather where you live might not be a big help…

You wouldn’t want to get there and discover you’ve got three days of rain to deal with an no umbrella. Or a scorching heat wave and you packed sweaters and boots.

Having said that…

2) Even if the weather is going to be hot where you are, think about other contributing factors… If you are staying in the same hotel where the conference is being held, you may not go outside much during the actual sessions – and meeting rooms often over air-condition so bring a light sweater or jacket… just in case.

Think about how often you will be in the hotel though. Don’t count on being inside the whole time and only pack warm clothes. You will have some free time and you’ll want to go out and explore!

If Cindy Woodsmall invites you out of the hotel  for coffee (make note that there is a Starbucks right there in the hotel – smart on ACFW’s part I think!), you don’t want to say no because you know you’ll be a puddle before you finish the first cup.



3) Think about the events of the conference. For example: the ACFW conference kicks off on Thursday evening with a Genre dinner. This is where attendees can dress according to their genre if they wish. It’s fun but the business-casual attire you bring for the regular sessions may or may not fit into your particular theme… Also, the business-casual attire you would want to wear for the rest of the conference might be a little too casual for the big awards dinner on Saturday night so keep that in mind as well.

On this note, I will say that it is clearly stated in the conference general info that dressing up for your genre is 100% optional. And if you choose not to dress up, don’t skip the dinner – there will be plenty of other authors who choose not to dress in costume or whose genre doesn’t really lend itself to a costume.

Also I should note that, while the Gala dinner is a fancy affair, ACFW has specified that they do not want ANYONE to miss it because they don’t have a fancy evening gown or tux so the dress code is anything from Sunday dressy – Evening wear.

I’m thinking that means no jeans, no shorts, no flip-flops but a nice dress or blouse and skirt (or a nice polo and khakis for the guys) should be good enough.

Also, there is A LOT you can do to dress up an outfit. Wear a sparkly scarf or a bedazzled belt (sorry guys – no idea how to suggest you dress up your outfits but then…guys usually look pretty dressy if they wear loafers – penny or no – so go with that).


4) Be kind to your feet. Other than the Awards Gala – where you will want to dress to impress, you are probably looking at quite a bit of walking. You want to give your feet as much of a break as you can because you can’t listen effectively to Steve Laube tell you about how to get past the slush pile if your arches are screaming at you…

So bring the fancy heels but save them for the Awards Gala and wear the comfy shoes to your sessions!

Last but not least…

5) Remember where you are! Yes, quite a few of the authors in ACFW write Amish fiction. No, we don’t expect you to show up in Plain dress.

But… everyone should keep in mind that this is the American Christian Writers of America and dress accordingly. Plus it’s just good business sense to look smart… not slouchy or inappropriate. Might want to nix the skinny jeans…

And you know… even if you’re applying this information to a future conference you attend, it’s never a good idea to show up to a meeting with an agent sporting a plunging neckline – you’re trying to sell a book after all and if the agent is distracted by your charms, how can you dazzle him with your fabulous book idea? 


There they are. I hope these tips help with your packing. No excuses like “I have nothing to wear…” will do. You have a month to shop. Get to it!


Good Day and GOD Bless!

~ Rachel

Countdown to conference…

 Today marks the start of my countdown to the 2014 ACFW conference.

Exactly one month from today, we newbies will be walking into the special session for first-time attendees! Thank you so much for knowing how much we need that – ACFW! Only an organization started and run by Authors can know how terrifying it is to walk into your first conference and have no idea what you are supposed to do.

What if I missed something?
What if I’m dressed wrong?
What if I don’t know where to go?

All of these things and thousands more are running through your mind (because we’re writers, we can do that) and you’re terrified one of your heroes is going to walk by any moment and you will trip and fall on your face right there in front of them – at which point they will rush quickly and quietly in the opposite direction. Or if they’re not easily embarrassed, you might actually succeed in getting their attention that way

Yes these are just a few of the nightmares that plague me. I have been to several small conferences but absolutely nothing on the scale of ACFW and nothing where I actually had the opportunity to walk by or sit next to any one of absolutely dozens of authors I simply adore at every single session/ meal (unless you count the AWESOME Melanie Dickerson – who sat next to me at several sessions and meals at the small conference I went to in Mississippi last month… but, to be fair, she kind of knew me already and she didn’t know anyone else so that was just a huge blessing!). As a matter of fact, there were a couple of big names at my first conference – just not dozens of them everywhere I turned.


At any rate, we will be posting regularly over the next month with tips and ideas for anyone attending the 2014 ACFW conference. And anyone who isn’t attending can always use the tips for future conferences they do attend.




~ Rachel

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Beckstrand


Today we welcome Bestselling Author:

Flower Wreath Flat Oval


 She has come to share with us – a little of her own writing journey
and some of that much-needed encouragement.

Thank You Jennifer!

God Bless You!


OK, first – questions:

– Many authors say their first novel will never see the light of day. Was that the case with you… is there a “first” book you’ve written but not published?

My first book was a Western historical romance that hasn’t been published yet. I would really like to publish it because I think it’s really good! However, knowing what I know now – especially about the craft of writing – I can see that the book would need extensive rewrites before I would even consider sending it to someone.


– What major differences could you tell us about in regards to Kensington and Summerside Press?

Kensington is a lot bigger publisher so they have a very specific and time-tested process to get from first edits to publication. Every editor is different. My editor at Kensington believes in less editing, more letting the author tell the story the way she wants to. My editor at Summerside was more hands-on, which was a very good thing because my first book needed a lot of rewriting!


– Would you mind sharing with us how many rounds of querying you went through before getting that all-important “YES!”?

I probably queried 15 agents about my Western historical and got rejections from all of them. I connected with my agent through another agent at a writers conference. It was a serendipitous match.


– How much (if any) of your second book did you have completed before you signed a contract for the first?

My agent, Mary Sue Seymour, asked me to write an Amish book. A few weeks after I had finished it, she sold it to Summerside. So my second Amish book wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. 🙂


– Do you have any special tips or hints you would like to share with struggling or novice authors out there?

The biggest mistake I see new authors make is not learning their craft. You must learn how to write well or it doesn’t matter how many Facebook likes you have. Learn your craft. Read with the intent to study how good writers write. Practice your writing every day. And don’t give up!


Please join me in thanking Jennifer for taking time
out of a very busy schedule to answer these questions for us.

 And I hope all of you have found this as inspiring as I have!



Now for some other info about Jennifer and her wonderful books


And you can find more on her WEBSITE.

I grew up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. After all that literary immersion, I naturally decided to get a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of my six children needed help with homework. After my fourth daughter was born, I started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, I finished my first manuscript—a Western—in just under fourteen years.

I have always been fascinated by the Amish way of life and now write Inspirational Amish Romance. I am drawn to the strong faith of the Plain people and admire the importance they put on enduring family ties. I have visited and studied Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where I met with a bishop and a minister as well as several Amish mamms, dats, and children. It has always impressed me at what salt-of-the-earth people they are. My interactions with these kind people have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have a dear Amish friend with whom I correspond in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She helps me keep my facts straight and gives me inspiration for my stories.

My goal is to write uplifting, inspiring stories with happy endings and hopeful messages. If my books make readers want to give themselves a big hug or jump up and down for joy, I’ve done my job. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency.

There are three Amish romances in the Forever After in Apple Lake Series (Summerside/Guideposts). Kate’s Song, Rebecca’s Rose, and Miriam’s Quilt are all now available.

I have six Amish Romances in the works with Kensington Books. The first and second books, Huckleberry Hill and HuckleberrySummer, are now available in stores and online. The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill is set in northern Wisconsin Amish country.

The series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, is about an elderly Amish couple who try to find suitable mates for their grandchildren. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite? No one would ever suspect two octogenarian Amish folks of mischief.

Romantic Times gave Huckleberry Hill 4 1/2 stars and chose Huckleberry Summer as a TOP PICK.


And now about her books:


Huckleberry Christmas

Second in the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series


Huckleberry Christmas CoverYoung widow Beth Hostetler has come to Huckleberry Hill to start afresh and make her own way without the interference of her late husband’s family. In addition to a feisty toddler, Beth has dresses to sew, cows to milk, and great-grandparents to care for. She doesn’t have the time or the inclination to entertain thoughts of a husband, even if every widower and bachelor in Wisconsin seeks her hand. Her first marriage to a harsh, demanding man was hard enough. She is perfectly happy being alone, not answering to anyone but God. Tyler Yoder is no different than the rest. With his infuriating sense of duty, he sees Beth as a woman in need of rescuing. His offer of marriage doesn’t tempt her in the least, but his handsome face and kind heart just might. Will this be the Christmas that she finally finds love?

After having been burned by love once, Tyler Yoder has given up on the whole idea of romance. He simply wants a godly wife with whom he can share companionship and the load of daily living. Beth Hostetler comes along at just the right time. She’s a hard worker, an excellent mother, and a beauty, to boot. And, with a son to raise, she needs a man’s protection. But when Beth spurns Tyler’s marriage proposal and offers to help him find a proper Amish wife, Tyler realizes where his affections really lie. Will he be able to convince Beth that love is at the heart of his persistence? And will she accept his heart for Christmas?

Don’t miss the first two books in this series: Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Summer!

And watch for Huckleberry Spring and Huckleberry Harvest – COMING SOON!



Kate’s Song

The first book in Jennifer’s Forever After in Apple Lake Series


The expected course of Kate Weaver’s life is baptism into the Amish church and strict observance of the Ordnung. But Kate is blessed with a beautiful singing voice, and when another path leads her to the academy for vocal training, she struggles to understand God’s will for her life. She returns home after a violent encounter with a fellow student, and though she is drawn to the peace and devotion of the Amish lifestyle, could her calling forever separate her from the people and the way of life she holds so dear?

Nathaniel King has never wavered in his commitment to the community and the Old Order Amish Church into which he is baptized. Secretly in love with Kate, he is devastated when she leaves the community to attend the academy. When Kate returns, will she finally make his most profound hopes a reality, or will she break his heart all over again?

Now available from Summerside Press

Book 2: Rebecca’s Rose

Book 3: Miriam’s Quilt



And DON’T MISS this wonderful collection of stories from our favorite authors!

An Amish Christmas Quilt




A collection of short novellas from three of your favorite Amish authors to get you in the Christmas spirit. Available in October!


A bit about Jennifer’s contribution:

Anna and Felty Helmuth’s grandson, Gideon, plans to spend Christmas on a beach in sunny Mexico. But Anna is quite sure he’d rather be with them, snowshoeing, ice fishing—falling in love. And she knows the perfect girl. Not only is Dottie Schrock an excellent quilter and baker, she’s having a party. There’s just one complication—Gideon is not invited. Dottie has her reasons, but Anna trusts that the spirit of Christmas—and true love-will change her mind, and her future …






Jennifer Beckstrand is a true inspiration to me and I consider her a valued mentor!

She could have balked when her agent presented the idea of writing Amish fiction but she didn’t. She dug in her heels and got started! I admire her so much for that!

GOD BLESS YOU JENNIFER! And may you continue writing for years and years to come!


 God Bless You all and Have a GREAT week!

Ask An Author Part 1 | Answers from Jennifer Beckstrand & Vannetta Chapman!

For this part of “Ask An Author”, I asked 5 questions to different authors.

Here are their answers:


Answers from Jennifer Beckstrand:
(You can read more about Jennifer on her website: HERE or by clicking on her picture > > >)

On your business cards (if you have them), do you put your phone # or just e-mail, Facebook, twitter, etc…?

Just email and Facebook. I still have some older ones left, but my next business cards will include my Twitter account.

If you have another “business” – such as editing services or book reviewing, do you have separate cards for that or list everything on one card?

I don’t have another business, except for mom and grandma.

When preparing for a conference, what do you typically take with you as far as your current WIP (work-in-progress) – just a proposal, a one sheet, the first 3 chapters printed, the full MS, synopsis, etc…? All of the above?

Just a proposal.

How important do you think it is to have an agent? Do you consider them to be more a representative of you… or your work?

I think it’s extremely important to have an agent. She represents me and my work equally.

With social media taking over so much of promotion, how much of your appearances or book-signings are done through your publisher and how much is completely on your own?

Book signings are on my own. My publisher arranges guest posts on blogs. I will occasionally arrange to do a post on a blog on my own.

Be sure to watch NEXT Saturday for Jennifer’s Author Spotlight
– where she will answer even more questions for us.





Answers from Vannetta Chapman:
(You can read more about Vannetta on her website: HERE or by clicking on her picture >>>)

On your business cards (if you have them), do you put your phone # or just e-mail, Facebook, twitter, etc…?

My business cards list my webpage, Facebook, twitter and pinterest on the BACK.

On the front is a small picture I had designed which also has my webpage, and what types of books I write. I never put my phone number or physical address on a business card.

If you have another “business” – such as editing services or book reviewing, do you have separate cards for that or list everything on one card?


When preparing for a conference, what do you typically take with you as far as your current WIP – just a proposal, a one sheet, the first 3 chapters printed, the full MS, synopsis, etc…? All of the above?

If it’s a Christian conference (like ACFW), then the one sheet will do just fine. If they want more, they’ll ask you to mail it to them.

How important do you think it is to have an agent? Do you consider them to be more a representative of you… or your work?

I think it’s very important. I write in several genres and for several publishers, so it has been very helpful for me.

With social media taking over so much of promotion, how much of your appearances or book-signings are done through your publisher and how much is completely on your own?

Very few of my book signings are done through my publisher. They take care of store placement, ads, etc. But anything I set up with libraries, reading groups, etc. I do myself. I have done book-signing tours through my publisher, and also have gone to ALA through my publisher.



to both of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to answer questions for us!

And may God Bless You Both!

I hope you have all found this as helpful as I have!

WE HAVE A WINNER! | Who has won “A Mother’s Secret” by Amy Clipston? | COME SEE!



Carolyn Lewis

You have won a copy of “A Mother’s Secret” by Amy Clipston!

I will be contacting you by e-mail with instructions on how to claim your prize!

God Bless!


And thank you all for making the giveaway such a wonderful success!

Watch for more in the days to come!