Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Worst Conference Mistake by Heidi Chiavaroli

This is Heidi's last post with us as a regular contributor on Seriously Write. I'm going to miss her posts and I'm going to miss working with such a wonderful individual. I look forward to having her as a guest on Seriously Write as often as she is able to visit. So long Heidi, we know God has a wonderful plan in store for you!
- Terri

As you read this, I’m no doubt excitedly preparing for the ACFW Conference in Nashville next week. While I’m not a stranger to both local and national conferences, I  do still get those butterflies. 

I’m certain you can find a multitude of blog posts on how to prepare for a conference, so I won’t outline that here. I’ll just give you one tip of advice—and it’s one that I struggle with myself.
Relax. Be yourself.
That’s it. Sounds easy, right? But it just isn’t, at least for me. So when I start getting wound up, I remember my first national conference six years ago. I was far from relaxed. Prepared, yes. Organized? Of course. I had all my appointment times carefully written down, and I thought, memorized. I’d remembered a whole pitch after all. Certainly I could memorize an appointment time.
Or so I thought.
You know that appointment that you really want? The one that you practically came to conference for? Yeah, that one. I was late for it. Ten minutes late. And as many of you experienced conference attendees know, ten minutes in Pitchland is like an hour in the real world. It’s bad. Really bad.
To this day, I still don’t know how I got the times mixed up. I’d been ready. Prepared. Maybe far from relaxed, but I had that pitch down.
And I blew it. While the agent did graciously squeeze me in, I could tell I’d already made my not-so-good impression.
I’d been so busy rushing around, trying to gather extra appointment slots, that I’d missed the appointment I wanted most.
I’m convinced if I had just taken a breath and relaxed, maybe even tried to enjoy the conference a bit, I wouldn’t have been late for that appointment. Maybe if I had went out of my way to bless another writer instead of racking up unneeded appointments, I wouldn’t have made such a na├»ve mistake.
Yet even so, God is full of grace. One busted appointment wasn’t the end of my writing career. Far from it. And that conference wasn’t totally ruined. I met some amazing women who are still very much a part of my writing life.
So yes, do relax. But even if you fail at that, if you make a mistake like I did, give yourself grace. Look around, find another writer who might need someone to talk to. In this business you are never alone.

Heidi Chiavaroli is an author, runner, wife, mother, and grace-clinger—not necessarily in that order. Ever since taking her first trip to Plimoth Plantation with her sister, mother, and grandmother at the age of nine, she has been fascinated with history and its significance to today’s people and culture. Heidi is the winner of ACFW’s 2014 Genesis Contest, Historical Category. Her debut novel will release next year from Tyndale Publishers. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle. Learn more about Heidi on her website: www.heidichiavaroli.com.