I recently celebrated my first anniversary as a member of ACFW. During my first year I was privileged to go to my first conference, the ACFW National Conference in Denver last September.

As a new writer, I went with the desire to learn and experience as much as I could. To accomplish this, I volunteered to be a part of the choir, picked up people at the airport and helped at the registration desk, where my first “experience” took place. Does anyone else think they would fail to recognize Chip MacGregor because he didn’t look like the picture on his blog? Not to mention by trying to follow the rules, I almost refused a request from our president (again because I didn’t recognize her) when she told me it was okay to break the rules for something. They were probably glad when my stint at the registration desk was over. I had better luck picking up people at the airport since I had prepared signs with their name and ACFW on them. I even did okay in the choir although I could have used a little more practice time before the conference.

I must say that one of the things I loved most was meeting fellow writers. It was fun to sit down next to someone and start asking them where they were from and what they were writing, etc. Everyone had a unique story to tell. I think I met more people from Colorado than anywhere else and they were all writers that I hadn’t met at any of the local chapter meetings.

If you struggle with the cost vs. benefit of going to a conference, I encourage you to try it at least once. Yes, there are ways to get the workshops on tape and save on the other expenses of going, but there is something about meeting others who share your calling. It’s an opportunity for you to share in the successes of others as well as their disappointments. It’s a way to connect with the outside world and see that you aren’t alone in your dreams and fears. Those are some of the benefits. So how do you manage the cost? There are ways to cut the costs. Find someone to room with. Find a conference closer to where you live. Forgo your Starbucks (insert weekly/daily) habit and put that money towards a future conference. Hold a garage sale. Look for a one-day conference if a multi-day is out of reach at this season of your life. Look for conferences that a local chapter is hosting.

This week is CCWC in Estes Park. You can go for a day or more. Next month there are a couple of opportunities; one at Glen Eyrie and one with The Masters Seminars with Susan May Warren and Chip MacGregor. Those are just the ones in Colorado coming up. If these are out of reach, start planning for next year. You too can have a conference “experience”. And it doesn’t have to come from volunteering although that is a good way to force yourself to participate and not sit in a corner soaking it in.

I’d love to hear one of your memorable conference experiences. To conference we will go!

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Elaine Clampitt is serving as Secretary/Treasurer of Mile High Scribes, the ACFW South Denver chapter which meets at the Barnes & Noble in Lone Tree on the first Monday of each month. Come hear Jeff Gerke speak on Trends in Publishing on June 7th. Visit www.MileHighScribes.blogspot.com for more information.

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