Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

Conference Reflections


Becky Yauger and I got to be Munchkins at the My Book Therapy Pizza Party

Munchkins Becky Yauger and Marji Laine

Last year at the ACFW Conference here in Dallas, I was a newbie. I had this lovely little brown flag hanging off of my name tag that said First time attendee. It was like a free pass proclaiming, “Gotta love me, cause I don’t know any better.”

I loved that little brown flag, and missed having one this year in Indianapolis. It’s absence meant I had no more excuses.

Other than that little tidbit, this conference was so much better this year than last. No wait a minute. The conference wasn’t better; I was more in tune! Yes, that was it. The real difference happened inside me.

Lena Nelson Dooley and her agent, Joyce Hart

Lena Nelson Dooley and her agent, Joyce Hart

Last year, I dwelt in a fog of newbie-ness. I choked in every detail through a funnel—lessons, people, the publishing process altogether. This year, I got to build relationships out of the connections I’d made last year. My classes consisted of pertinent note-taking instead of madly writing down every word I heard. And when I spoke to industry professionals, I actually had a clue about what they talked about and asked pertinent questions.

Industry Professionals

These editors and agents were amazing. I so enjoyed just getting to chat with a few of them. But I expect the weekend had to be a difficult one requiring formal appointments with hopefuls who want to promote their babies, and also making connections with other editors and agents to place those pieces entrusted to them. So the few, informal moments shared with me became all the more valuable!

Marji Laine and Lisa Harris at Buca de Beppo

Marji Laine and Lisa Harris at Buca de Beppo

And I had some great formal interviews as well. That process can be such a huge terror. (I remember last year. Red-faced, I stuttered through my pitches. I swear, I have no idea how the sweet editors that I spoke with understood anything about my story beyond my own enthusiasm.) But this year, I had very few nerves at all. In fact, I had a lovely time talking with all three editors about my writing, also about our dogs, kids, and jobs. Extremely enjoyable in every way.

Conference Attendees

Such an amazing blessing! I got to spend time with some amazing authors like Elizabeth Goddard, Dani Pettrey, Lisa Harris, Katie Ganshert, and Jennifer Fromke. Then there was my roommate, Lena Nelson Dooley; she knows EVERYONE! I also had fun reconnecting with some online friends like Jessica Patch, Jill Kemerer, Michelle Massaro, and agency buddies as well as those from Write Integrity Press.

My online buds!Talking and laughing with these ladies and others, praying with them, and sharing joys and matters that touch the heart, made this conference extra special. Even with my lousy memory, these folks made such an impression and I hope that we can keep in touch.

Classes and Events

Best-seller James Scott Bell tutored me in plot and structure, characters, setting, and creating the perfect story. Jealous? Then Karen Witemeyer taught me about finding my voice, and Beth Vogt defined and detailed what made a High Concept story.

All of them – solid gold!

Susan May Warren as Dorothy and Jim Rubart as the Cowardly Lion

Susan May Warren as Dorothy and Jim Rubart as the Cowardly Lion

My weekend started with a lovely dinner at Buca de Beppo with the Joyce Hart and the Hartline clients. I kept seeing the gals I sat with all weekend and delighted in getting to know them. At a breakfast, I got the opportunity to mix and mingle with folks I didn’t know from the Southwest Zone of ACFW. I enjoyed a “genre” dinner with online friends where half of the guests dressed in character costumes – some gorgeous ones! Then I got to meet with some of my agent’s other clients, Katie Clark and the incomparable Bonnie Calhoun. Oh, and then there was the Gala where I had my picture taken with Frank Peretti! Woohoo.

Add to that worship with Rachel Hauck, inspiration from Brandilyn Collins, a pizza party with Susan May Warren, and keynote speeches from an expert storyteller, Robin Jones Gunn (made sure I had my tissues for that one!) and you can see why I’m still debriefing from this amazing conference!

Don’t worry, You’ll be hearing more about this over the next few posts!

Your Turn: What was the last conference, convention, or retreat that you went on? What was the best take away?

Author: Marji Laine

Marji is a recently "graduated" homeschooling mom whose twin girls have blessed her by sticking around the nest for a little longer. She spends her days directing the children’s music program at her church and working with the authors of Write Integrity Press to put out the best possible version of their books. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

4 thoughts on “Conference Reflections

  1. Fun post, Marji. I heard Robin J. G. at a different conference and I remember crying and laughing. Really like her. 🙂


  2. Is it weird that I think you and Becky could be sisters? It’s the great smiles!