Writers from across the Christian fiction spectrum attended workshops, lectures, and meetings over three days during the American Christian Fiction Writers conference (ACFW) held in Grapevine, Tex., from Sept. 21-24.

Focused on the craft as well as the business of publishing, industry favorites like James Rubart and Susan May Warren provided guidance and support for emerging writers during the event. Some of the classes offered this year included Everyone Can Spot a Fake: How to Build Compelling Clues Convincing Evidence and What Can a Freelance Editor Do for Me.

While the conference is tailored more for novice writers, published authors are also in attendance. During one session, six writers rose when longtime emcee Brandilyn Collins asked any author who had secured a book deal since the previous year’s conference to stand. Collins is a jovial, passionate host who provides a warm welcome to the new attendees (75 this year) and keeps the conference moving with some interesting rhetorical hook she’s thought up. This year, she began the conference by reading scathing reviews of beloved books to show how unfair criticism can be.

Keynote speaker Randy Alcorn delivered an enthusiastic sermon on the book of Revelation that he pinned to a quote by long distance swimmer Florence Chadwick: “If I had seen the shore, I would have made it.” Alcorn implored writers to consider their role as people of faith and encouraged everyone to unveil the shore for others. If you have faith in your end destination, he said, the journey becomes less difficult.

The closing gala of the annual conference on September 23 saw top Christian authors, editors, and agents receive honors in 26 different categories with Carol Awards (named after Christian fiction editor Carol Johnson). Novelist and biographer Jerry Jenkins received the lifetime achievement award and spoke briefly about his “only talent,” which is to tell stories, before reminiscing about the first encounter with his co-author of the hugely successful Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye. Reverence for Jenkins was palpable during a standing ovation.

A full list of the winners can be found here.