Posts Tagged ‘ACFW Conference’
Posted on October 17, 2012 - by Brenda Anderson
Since the ACFW Conference, many authors are whipping out their editing tool kits so they can polish their requested manuscripts and proposals before sending them off. I’m no exception. My editing toolkit holds a variety of tools, but there are four that I can’t live without.
- Calendars – At this time of year many businesses are giving away calendars. My advice to you is accept any that are offered. I keep a stock of calendars for the sole purpose of recording my novels’ time lines. It’s a great way to visually see when events occur in your story.
- A laser printer – The best way for me to catch errors is to print out my book. Seeing the words on a medium besides the computer screen helps point out those mistakes that are otherwise overlooked. Using a laser printer is a cost-effective way to print your pages.
- 3M Post-It Products – As you can see by the picture (No, my kitty is not an editing tool, she just wanted to make another appearance on the blog), I make generous use of Post-It Products. When I’m reading through those newly printed pages, it’s so easy to mark my changes with highlighters and flags. Then I can quickly make the edits on the computer.
- eReader – Now that you’ve made all your changes in the computer, it’s an excellent idea to read your story again (even though you may be sick of it by now). An excellent way to “see” your story with fresh eyes is to send it to your eReader. Reading your story like you would any other book makes those last pesky errors stand out. Besides, it’s fun reading your own story on a Kindle–you almost feel published!
What are your can’t-live-without editing tools?
Posted on April 24, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
In twelve years of writing, I’ve come up with a list of must haves for the diligent writer:
1. A quiet house.
When I first started writing, my husband worked later in the evenings than I did. For about an hour and a half, the house was quiet. Me–home alone–writing. Once our son was born, a quiet house was impossible. I adapted. Before long, I realized I could write with the TV on in the same room as my desk. Three years of noisy writing. Then we decided to send him to preschool three days a week because he had no clue what to do with other kids. Miraculously, my house was quiet again. Since then, I once again require a quiet house. During the school year, I write during school hours. In the summer, when everyone else is in bed.
I don’t know how non-coffee drinkers write. When the story stalls, I go get a cup of coffee. When the edits come from the publisher, they make me so sleepy. In editing mode, I’m not into the story, just searching for things to fix. Coffee time and my eyes pop open. And lately, I’ve discovered something even more effective.
3. Chocolate covered coffee beans!
The chocolate is yummy. The bean is gritty, so make sure you have something to drink to chase it down with. Preferably coffee. These little jewels pack a powerful punch. I’m not a morning person, never have been. No matter how many hours of sleep I get–3 or 10, when I get up, I’m heavy-lidded and brain-stalled. No matter what time I get up–5 AM or noon (doesn’t happen often), I’m heavy-lidded and brain-stalled. I pop one bean and I’m awake and ready to write. But be careful, I ate 4 in one day once and the top of my head started tingling. I usually only have one in the morning except during edits. Then I allow 3.
4. Sunflower seeds.
The kind still in the hull, so you have to work to get them out. Another handy dandy trick for combatting sleepy eye when my edits come. They’re good for you and very filling, so you eat less for lunch and supper.
5. Things that inspire me.
I have framed covers of all my books in my office, along with poems and pictures, inspirational sayings, miniature high heel shoes, my name tags from all the ACFW conferences I’ve attended, writing awards (from the first one I won at a local writing contest to my IRCA), handmade gifts from my son, gifts from my husband, writing craft books, writers market guides, novels by other authors, seashells, and a cotton boll. Each of the items inspire me.
I’ve always loved seashells. To me, it’s proof of God’s hand. Such intricate shells where tiny creatures live. The cotton boll reminds me that my parents grew up picking cotton and I don’t have to. One gift from my husband dates back to our dating days. It’s a plaque with a silver platter and a red heart in the center. The poem says, ‘You’re the only who’ll ever matter, so here’s my heart on a silver platter.’ He dated it and signed it. This reminds me of our longevity. A gift from my son, a cardboard trinket box from Bible school. The box was already made, but he painted and decorated it in seashells because he knows I love them.
Each item has special meaning to me. Most people, including my husband, would say it’s clutter. But with all my special things around me, the words flow.
6. My idea book.
It’s really a journal. Hardback with spiral bound pages, but not your typical notebook. Sturdy, with lots of pages that don’t tear out unless you really work at it. I write all my ideas in it. One sentence. Partial sentences. Pages and pages on one story. Everything I think of that could go in a potential book goes in my idea book. Sometimes I get up in the middle of night and write things in it. Sometimes, I capture dreams in it. I also take it with me for notes on research trips. When I’m between projects, I flip through my idea book and see what grabs me. Whatever idea I think about most is the one I go with.
Anybody else have any of the items on my list in your survival kit?
Posted on January 17, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
Shannon here: This fall–in between deadlines–I set out to find an agent and my writing twin. When a writer sends proposals to agents or editors, we’re supposed to compare our books to published novels. I needed a published author who writes similar to me to compare myself to.
I’d heard of Denise Hunter, seen her at the American Christian Writers Conference, and knew she was a best-selling contemporary romance author. I bought The Convenient Groom and immediately wished I’d come up with such a great premise.
At ACFW this year, I introduced myself to Denise, told her why I bought her book and how much I loved it. She asked if I’d found my writing twin. Not by a longshot. Denise is a much better writer than me.
Since then I’ve read A Cowboy’s Touch, Driftwood Lane, The Accidental Bride, and Smitten. I read the last two in one weekend. Both of them.
I’ve discovered so many authors with a book I love, but then I’m often disappointed by at least one of their books or I don’t like the others as well as the first book I read by them. Not so with Denise Hunter. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Next on my list–Seaside Letters. So without further ado, here’s Denise:
- What is the biggest writing challenge you’ve encountered this past year – craft, career, writing life, etc? How did you solve it?
My biggest writing challenge is finding my way through the middle of my stories. It really is like driving at night, and you can only see as far as your headlights will shine. I get through it with lots of prayer and lots of forcing myself to sit and work when I’d rather be doing anything else (laundry, dusting, toilets, ANYTHING).
Shannon: Okay, maybe we are twins. The middle befuddles me too. But not enough to make me want to clean or do laundry.
- If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?
I enjoy design—actually started college as a commercial art major—so that’s what I’d do. Maybe even designing book covers to combine my interests.
- Where is the coziest spot in your home?
My spot on the sofa/recliner. That’s actually where I work.
- What is your favorite time of the day?
The evening, after dinner, when all the day’s work is done and the family is just hanging out.
- In what ways do you think your writing journey has benefited your family? How does your writing affect your family?
Great question! Besides the obvious financial benefits, my career has made me a happier more well-rounded individual. It has forced me out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. One of the best things about writing, though, is that it has allowed me to stay home with our kids.
- If you could pick a theme song to play every time you entered a room, what would it be?
LOL! “Move” by Mercy Me. Sometimes I need extra motivation.
Shannon: Mercy Me is my favorite group.
- What is your most laughable dating story?
When I started dating Kevin (my husband) I turned into an instant klutz. I spilled, I dropped, I tripped. Only around him, mind you. I still do that.
- Which amusement park ride is your favorite and why?
Definitely roller coasters. But due to an old neck injury, I can’t ride them anymore. So I just live vicariously through my boys, who love them as much as I do.
Shannon: I grew up 5 miles from Six Flags over Georgia and never met a roller coaster I didn’t love.
- What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?
The internet. Research is SO much easier than it used to be. And communication! It has its negatives too, I know, but it’s so easy to keep in touch with family and friends now.
- Would you rather live a week in the past or a week in the future??
Interesting question! A week in the future. I prefer the unknown.
- How do you balance writing, exercise, home, etc.?
Not very well! The home and writing I’ve got down pretty well. The exercise, not so much. A couple months ago we even moved the treadmill into the living room so it would stand over our shoulders making us feel guilty. I’ve used it once since then. I do much better when it’s warm out though. I like to walk outside.
- Would you rather meet your great grandchildren or great grandparents?
Great grandchildren, just to be certain I’ll get to, and because I DID meet my great grandparents.
- Who is your biggest cheerleader?
My pal Colleen Coble. She’s everybody’s biggest cheerleader!
- What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why did you like it?
“Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers—although it wasn’t my first time reading it. The message of love and redemption is amazing.
- What or who makes you giggle and why?
Bffs Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, and Kristin Billerbeck. Because we know one another so well. Also my church small group, for the same reason.
- What is your favorite season and why?
Spring and fall. Because we only get about two seconds of each in Indiana!
Shannon: My favorite seasons too. I hate being hot or cold, so I love the in between.
- The biggest challenge in writing this book?
- What do the Post-Its around your computer/screen/ bulletin board say?
They’re my lists of what I need to buy, who I need to call, and what I need to get done.
- What is your favorite research or reference book or tool??
“Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass.
- What is the most unusual costume you ever wore at a Halloween party?
I was Gilligan one year. It seriously disturbed my husband.
- If you could have free unlimited service for one year from a cook, chauffer, personal secretary, housekeeper, or masseuse, which would you choose and why??
Oooh, I want one of each! Probably the cook. I love to bake—cooking, not so much.
- Which character in your books is the most like you? How?
Definitely Reese in “Smitten”. I wrote that one with my 3 friends Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, and Diann Hunt. In order to keep our characters consistent throughout, we gave each of our protagonists a healthy dose of ourselves.
Shannon: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Denise. I so thoroughly enjoyed it.
My take on Denise’s books: I hated for each book to end, but each gave me that satisfying ahh moment. I love the characters, fell in love with each hero, and marveled at each great, complicated story premise.
The Convenient Groom: She wrote the book–literally–on finding the right mate. But does she really understand what love’s about? Five hours before her Nantucket beach wedding–and on the eve of her big book launch–celebrity marriage counselor Kate Lawrence has everything in place.
Everything, that is, but the groom. She might not have a career, either, when her nationwide audience finds out their marriage guru has been left at the altar.
Enter Lucas Wright, who offers to stand in for the missing husband-to-be and marry her. Kate’s desperate enough to agree–although she’s sure this Mr. Wright is completely wrong for her. But can they pull it off? And why would Lucas marry her in the first place?
Could it be that “Dr. Kate” doesn’t know the first thing about love? An inspiring tale of enduring love set in romantic Nantucket.
Made me cry just reading how much the hero loved the heroine as he tried to win her heart. Such a great, complicated premise, I really wished I’d come up with it.
Abigail Jones intends to spend just one summer in middle-of-nowhere Montana with her Aunt Lucy. Time away from her job is just what Abigail needs to reassess her life. The slow pace has her breathing deeply for the first time in years. And the majestic scenery encourages her to get reacquainted with herself . . . and God.
What she didn’t count on was the handsome widowed cowboy who owns the ranch where her aunt lives. When the rancher loses his daughter’s nanny, Abigail decides to lend a hand for the summer.
Wade Ryan can’t help being attracted to Abigail. But he’s given up everything to protect his daughter, and he’s not about to risk it all on a pretty face.
Under Abigail’s care, Wade’s home and daughter thrive. And with Wade’s touch, Abigail’s heart feels at home at last. But Abigail knows this elusive rancher is hiding something. Will her own secrets separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?
I love the characters and ached for them. I truly couldn’t see how this story could end happily-ever-after. So many complications.
The Accidental Bride: Shay Brandenberger is raising her daughter in Moose Creek, Montana, on her childhood ranch, nestled against the Yellowstone River. Despite the hard work, she can’t seem to keep her head above water—and now the bank is threatening to foreclose. She prays for a miracle, but the answer she receives is anything but expected.
Having agreed to play the bride in the Founders’ Day wedding reenactment, Shay is mortified to be greeted at the end of the aisle by none other than Travis McCoy, her high-school sweetheart—the man who left her high and dry for fame and fortune on the Texas rodeo circuit.
Then the unthinkable happens. Thanks to a well-meaning busybody and an absentminded preacher, the make-believe vows result in a legal marriage. But before Shay can say annulment, Travis comes up with a crazy proposal. If she refuses his offer, she may lose her home. If she accepts, she may lose her heart.
Shay isn’t sure if the recent events are God’s will or just a preacher’s blunder. Will trusting her heart to the man who once shattered it be the worst mistake of her life? Or could their marriage be the best accident that ever happened?
I loved the hero, Travis. So tough, yet gentle. I loved Shay’s temper, yet Travis knew just how to settle her down.
Meridith Ward has crafted a carefully ordered life to make up for the chaos that plagued her childhood years. But one phone call upsets all that. Within the span of several minutes, Meredith learns that the father who abandoned her is dead and she’s been named the sole guardian of his other three children. She nervously heads to Nantucket to care for the siblings she’s never met with plans to stay until their uncle returns from his trip before relinquishing guardianship to him.
She arrives to find the children living in Summer House, a Bed & Breakfast that’s falling apart around them. Meridith wants to move on as soon as possible, but the inn will never sell in its dilapidated condition. Then an itinerant handyman, Jake, shows up with an offer she can’t refuse.
Much like the powerful ocean just a short walk from her deck, Jake appeals to Meridith. But she senses he is also capable of pulling her under in a heartbeat. What if the thing she fears the most is exactly what she needs? Can she trust God with the details and relish the adventure?
Besides the romance and the complicated premise, I loved the one upmanship basketball scenes between the hero and his best friend. And I was reminded that all I really need is a solid foundation through Christ. Everything else is just a bonus.
The proposed closing of the lumber mill comes as unwelcome news for the citizens of Smitten. How will the town survive without its main employer? A close-knit group of women think they’ve got just the plan to save Smitten. They’ll capitalize on its name and turn it into a tourist destination for lovers—complete with sweet shops, a high-end spa, romantic music on the square, and cabins outfitted with fireplaces and hot tubs.
But is this manly town ready for an influx of romantically-minded guests?
Country music sensation Sawyer Smitten, the town’s hometown hero, wants to help by holding his own wedding there on Valentine’s Day. And little Mia’s lavender wreaths hang all over town as a reminder that faith can work miracles. Along the way, four women spearheading the town’s transformation—energetic Natalie, sophisticated Julia, graceful Shelby, and athletic Reese—get in the spirit by reviving their own love lives.
Join best-selling inspirational romance authors (and real-life BFFs) Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for an inspiring stay at the (soon-to-be) most romantic town on the eastern seaboard.
One visit . . . and you’ll be smitten too.
I laughed a lot while reading this book and enjoyed each story equally. Quite a feat. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novella collection by different authors and been unable to pick my favorite story.
About Denise: Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too! Learn more at www.denisehunterbooks.com.
Posted on October 25, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
GMC. The first time I heard of it, I’d signed with an agent. Back in 2002 with my original version of White Roses. She told me I should read GMC. I thought car. She patiently explained that it’s a book—GMC: Goals, Motivation, & Conflict by Debra Dixon. It was out of print, but I found a copy for $19.95. I was a stay at home mom and it wasn’t in our budget to pay that much for a used book.
Shortly afterward, the agent downsized her list and I was one of her clients that got cut. Looking back, I don’t know why she signed me. She’s a good agent, still in the business, and has sold a lot of books. All I can figure is that she saw promise, but soon realized she didn’t have enough time to polish a diamond in the rough. And I don’t blame her. I know now that my writing wasn’t anywhere near publishable then.
Fast forward to 2008. I went to the ACFW conference in Minneapolis, where I had a paid critique for Rodeo Dust with Margaret Daley. In my original version, my heroine is at the State Fair of Texas, touring livestock barns with a co-worker/date. Even though, she hates farm animals and she has a rule about not dating co-workers.
Margaret: “Why would the heroine go to place she doesn’t enjoy with a co-worker on a date when she has a rule not to date co-workers?”
Me: “So she can meet the hero there.”
Margaret: “You need to read GMC.”
Okay. I gave in. You don’t have to beat me over the head with it. When I got home, I ordered the book. By then, Debra Dixon had gotten the rights back and I got a new copy for $19.95.
I read it from cover to cover and discovered a whole new world. A world that makes everything your characters do—make sense. I changed it to where my Rodeo Dust heroine went with her brother to the fair because she wanted him to date her best friend. So she accompanied them, so it wouldn’t seem like a date and they could realize how much in common they had. See how much better that is?
I also worked out the GMC for White Roses and every other book I’d been reworking for years. Now, I carefully chart out my GMC before I start a book.
Most of the time anyway. I jumped into a story not too long ago, just because it had been bugging me for a long time. I wrote the first three chapters in a hurry, then had an editor express interest when I showed her the One Sheet. I sent it to my critters, Brenda, Lorna, and Jerri.
Brenda: “I don’t understand her goal.”
Me: “Oops. I just dashed it off and forgot to do the GMC.”
I worked out the GMC and made changes. Brenda liked it. And so did I
So for a short lesson:
G – Goal: This is what your character wants.
M – Motivation: This is why your character wants the goal.
C – Conflict: This is why your character can’t reach their goal.
My heroine wanted her brother to date her best friend because she wants them both to be happy, but they wouldn’t agree to go out on a date.
Thus my Rodeo Dust heroine tours the livestock barns, hating every minute of it. But her brother and best friend love it, proving that they should live happily ever after, just like she knew they should. It makes perfect sense for her to be there. And while she’s there, she meets the hero.
This is only the GMC for the first scene. Your GMC for the entire plot needs to have much more at stake. Something like, if the heroine doesn’t get her brother and best friend together, her brother will accept that job offer in China.
I could get into a lot more detail, but I believe that’s called plagiarism. In short, your story should have an over-arcing internal and external GMC. But each scene should have GMC also. If you work out the GMC for every scene, everything your character does will make perfect sense.
Maybe if I’d have gotten the book back in 2002, I’d have sold White Roses in 2003 instead of 2009.
To get into all the intricacies of internal and external GMC, I highly recommend the book. This is one of the few craft books that doesn’t make my brain glaze over. It’s all laid out in a simple, easy to understand format. Debra Dixon is now an acquisitions editor at a publishing house. And since 2008, I’ve had editors actually ask me about my characters’ GMC during pitch sessions.
Posted on October 7, 2011 - by Kav
Didn’t go to ACFW and everyone else diiiiiiid
Big fat juicy ones, tall thin slimy ones
Itsy bitsy, teeny weeny worms
Reading all the ACFW conference memories has put me into a bit of a funk so I had to resurrect my childhood pity party song. There’s nothing like wallowing in a wormy warble – especially since I despise those intolerable invertebrates. True they are a gardener’s best friend – fisherman’s too, but I can’t get past the memory of Robbie Gunn cutting one up in five squirmy pieces and throwing them all at me. I don’t know how many sections slithered down my back but I’ve held a grudge against worms – and Robbie Gunn – ever since.
So, what’s a girl to do when she’s left home alone fishing worms out of her shirt? Weeeelllll….first she has a pity party complete with theme song and chocolate and then she turns to her constant companion, Google, who is always able to get her in the back door of any function. After blog-hopping, I’ve narrowed down some of my favourite bits of conference wisdom to these three.
For some lovely post-conference advice:
Check out this blog post that highlights different authors’ favourite memories of conferences past. They’re brief and well worth the read – from funny to touching.
For a bitter-sweet reflection on what might have been but still can be, check out Mary Demuth’s post-conference thoughts.
Posted on October 5, 2011 - by Brenda Anderson
In the six plus years I’ve been writing, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know many an aspiring author. I’ve had a front row seat as many of these new friends have had their manuscripts requested, then signed with an agent, and finally earned their first publishing contract (not always in that order).
For me there’s no greater motivation to keep going, to keep learning, than through witnessing the success of others. If they can do it, so can I!
One of those friends is Stacy Monson. I met her a couple of years ago when she started our Minnesota chapter of ACFW, MN-NICE: Novelists Inspiring Christian Excellence. In the short period Stacy’s been writing seriously, she’s achieved phenomenal success, placing in a myriad of contests. Here’s a peek at the impressive list:
- 1st Place – 2010 Heart of the Rockies Contest
- 3rd Place – 2011 Great Expectations Contest
- Semi-Finalist – 2011 ACFW Genesis Contest
- 1st Place – 2010 Gotcha! Contest
- 1st Place – 2010 Duel on the Delta Contest
- 1st Place – 2010 Touched by Love Contest
- 3rd Place – 2010 TARA Contest
- 3rd Place – 2010 Dixie Kane Contest
- Bronze Finalist – 2010 Frasier Contest
With that kind of resume, I don’t expect it will be long before we see Stacy’s name on the front cover of a book.
Stacy gives much of the credit for her successes to attending conferences so I’ve asked her to fill in for me today and share what she’s learned. You can also learn more about her at: http://stacymonson.com/
An Introvert’s View of the ACFW National Conference
by Stacy Monson
St. Louis was my third ACFW national conference. The first, in Denver three years ago, was almost a bust from the start. I very nearly flew back to Minneapolis that very first evening. Conferences are not really my “thing,” but I’m glad I hung in there.
But let’s back up a moment. I’m one of those writers who has written literally “all of my life.” In high school (back in the roaring ‘70’s), I started
a story and spent most of my senior year passing it around to friends to tell me where the story should go next. It was a blast.
Fast forward several decades. I continued writing secretly over the years but never let anyone see what I was working on. I dreamed of being published but didn’t dare consider my work “good enough,” so I kept it to myself.
Then at age 49 (a few years ago), I happened upon an Oprah segment dealing with midlife opportunities (which is a much better way of looking at this time of life!). Women on her show had chucked what they’d been doing in exchange for what they really wanted to do. Writing, painting, opening a chocolate store (LOVED that idea), being a DJ, singing… By the end of the show, I knew I was being called to do something with my writing.
To say I was scared going alone to Denver would be a major understatement. The evening before the Early Bird session was my paid critique. Honestly? It was dreadful and I was sure I’d misheard the call to write. Obviously I wasn’t any good at it. My two roommates (whom I’d met just that afternoon) were gifts from God. They talked me off the ledge and convinced me to try to enjoy the workshops and learn as much as I could. By the time the conference was over, I’d learned a ton and agreed to start an ACFW chapter in Minnesota. Go figure.
Traveling to Indy the next year was a much better experience, starting with a 10-hour car ride with my new chapter-mate (and roommate), Brenda Anderson. I’d spent the year entering contests (and received wonderful feedback), and started up the new chapter. This time I even pitched to an agent and editor. The editor appointment again went woefully awry, but I was learning to laugh at the things that didn’t work and rejoice over what did. The appointment with the agent eventually led to my signing with her this past spring.
This year I traveled to St. Louis feeling much braver and better prepared. Growth is a wonderful thing! I met friends I’d only chatted with online, talked with friendly people over meals, learned tons of great info from workshops, and boogied with a wild crowd at the Pizza Party. I pitched to an editor who asked for proposals for both books. Wonderful news, to be sure, but it was only part of the experience. She may or may not like my proposals. But the people I met, the experience of being part of such a varied crowd wanting to serve God with their stories, the things I learned, the hugs I gave and received were the best and most lasting part.
Some people come away from the conference saying it was the BEST experience of their life. For me, it’s more like taking a college class. There are things to learn, notes to take, people to meet along the way. It’s an opportunity to stretch and grow as a writer and a woman of God. It’s a chance to push (or be pushed!) outside my comfort zone and strike up a conversation with a stranger at the lunch table. It’s a place to be re-energized, encouraged, and held accountable.
I’m so different from the woman who nearly bolted from Denver three years ago. I’m already wondering who I’ll be when I roll into Texas next September.
Posted on September 27, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
I sing ACFW praises every chance I get. What an awesome organization. What an awesome conference. Put together by an awesome God. This year, I met Lynn Coleman, founder of ACFW. We chatted about how she wanted to start a Christian writing group to support and uplift one another, with no competition or jealousy. Like most things, ACFW started small as American Christian Romance Writers.
I discovered it by google in 2004. By 2005 when I attended the conference in Nashville, the name had changed to American Christian Fiction Writers. Though I’d been to numerous local conferences, writers’ group meetings, and workshops, ACFW made me realize I only knew the basics about writing.
ACFW goes deep in helping writers improve their craft. So deep, it boggles. I always get brain freeze and have to sort through what I learned when I get home. And yes, even though I’m published and an old hand at working with editors, I still learn from ACFW.
I had so many appointments, interviews, and meetings, I only got to go to four workshops this year. But I still learned. I’m not sure what yet, haven’t had time to sort it out. Oh, I did learn that the voice that tells me I’ll never get another book published when I don’t have a current contract or deadline, that’s the enemy and he tells all writers that. Now I know to ignore him and press on.
ACFW is also about having friends along for what can be a very solitary journey. I took the solo route until 2008. Though I’d been to the conference for 3 years, I stood on the fringes and wished I had someone to hug and cry over like all those other writers. In 2008, I met Linda from my local zone and rode with her to Minneapolis. I met my critique partners face to face, met their friends and Linda’s friends. We all went out to dinner together and had so much fun. The next year when I met them, I hugged and cried over them.
Lorna is my designated shoulder for phone calls or in person. Lorna and I have traversed our getting published journey together. When my husband is at work—I call Lorna and blubber over disappointments or triumphs in writing. When my husband isn’t at ACFW—he hasn’t been able to come since 2007—I blubber on Lorna over disappointments and triumphs. Lorna is getting soggy.
Linda is my designated roomie. We often dance in our room over triumphs. Dawn is my designated can’t find her writing friend. I once called her husband at home in Iowa trying to find her in the hotel so I could get the pie I left in her room. This time, I called a friend at home also named Dawn in my quest for Dawn’s room and went to the wrong room looking for Dawn.
Brenda, my other critter, is much better in person than in bobble-head form. We’ll look forward to seeing her in Dallas. Maybe we can wish her there. Kim and her sweet southern accent were missed this year, but Regina brought her husband. I wonder how many times did I say, “I love to hear him talk.” I also got to connect with Shari again. The only problem is there’s never enough time to spend with my writer friends.
ACFW is the highlight of my year. The knowledge to gain, the friends to hug, the contacts to be made. The kind of place where I can walk up to the keynote speaker–who is always way above the realm I live in–and thank them for what they said to inspire or encourage me. Knowing that all those writers sleep-walking through the conference totally get me. They hear voices too—not only their characters’, but God’s.
Posted on August 30, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
Shannon here: I sat across from Jennifer Rogers Spinola at the Barbour Author Reception in Indianapolis last year at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. The first thing I noticed was how much she enjoyed the food. With each bite, her eyes closed as she savored the tastes exploding on her palate. After striking up a conversation with her, I noticed she’s just as pretty inside as outside. I learned she’s from South Carolina/Virginia, a former missionary who married a Brazilian she met in Japan, and she currently lives in Brazil, where there aren’t as many food choices. I featured her on my real life romance blog in February and she’ll back again in October to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Southern Fried Sushi. I haven’t gotten to read it yet, but my copy is coming as soon as it releases. Jennifer charmed me again with this interview. Some of her lyrical answers made me teary-eyed. She’s promised to pop in from Brazil today, so feel free to ask her questions. Without further ado, prepare to be charmed by Jennifer Rogers Spinola:
Q: What’s it like living in Brazil? What’s a typical day like?
A: Well, for starters, it’s really HOT! We live in Brasilia, which is a raised plateau with elevation of over a thousand feet, so it gets a bit cool in the evenings and sometimes the days, too, during winter—sort of like a desert. But during the days it regularly gets up into the 90s and higher. I’d say 85-90 is probably a good average. In Brasilia the air is extremely dry, so during the dry season (winter) it can go a hundred days without rain. Which means gorgeous blue skies, but also dry, brown grass, withered plants, and lots of blowing red dust. When rainy season begins, it’ll rain almost every day, scattered showers, or sometimes harder downpours.
Brazil is a hard country to capture in a description, but one that gets in your blood and stays there, for better or for worse. When I visited Brazil in the year 2000 as a writer/reporter for the International Mission Board, I immediately fell in love with its beautiful brown-skinned people, the warmth of the air and of the smiles and kisses, the dusty roads and simple family gatherings, and the passion for God and Brazilian soccer. I was so captured by Brazil that I couldn’t wait to come back. And then when I met a handsome young Brazilian exchange student in Japan… well, I did!
Now my image has changed a little after seeing what it’s like to really live here. I mean, the country is the same as it was on my first visit, but digging in over time has opened my eyes to things I didn’t notice back then: crime (lots of crime), poverty (LOTS of poverty), the huge gap between the elite rich and the millions of shockingly poor, the huge amounts of political corruption, and the immense difficulty for a person of even modest well-to-do means to accomplish things that are simple in the U.S., like buying a car (they cost 3-4 times our amounts here), buying a house, or even renting an apartment. I have been insulted and shunned for being an American, had two cell phones and my wallet stolen out of my backpack, taken my life in my hands by getting on buses driven by speed-breaking maniacs, taxis driven by “pirate” (i.e. fake) taxi drivers, and public vans that swerve up onto the sidewalk and around the stoplight fixture to avoid waiting at the light. It has not been easy! But I have never been mugged or “lightning-kidnapped,” as is common here, so I can count my blessings! And our little miracle baby, Ethan, is so much worth it!
A typical day for me is to get up and help my husband and son get ready for the day, all the while enjoying the beautiful Brazilian blue sky and breeze, early morning sunshine. We eat tropical fruits like papaya and pineapple for breakfast often, sometimes with coffee or tea and cereal, and I love this! :) Then I take care of Ethan for the day in our little rented apartment: wash the dishes, make lunch (usually typical Brazilian rice and beans, salad, and a fried egg or some chicken/beef), make dinner, clean the floor from tracked-in dust, do laundry and hang the clothes to dry (dryers aren’t common here), take Ethan out to play, teach him Bible stories and letters, write, teach an ESL class in the evenings, catch up on my blog, clean the floor after potty-training accidents, give him a bath, and so forth. I have no car during the day (my husband has it) so Ethan and I can’t go anywhere (a big frustration of mine), and I don’t even have a driver’s license because the process is so involved to get mine translated, and for five years out of seven we didn’t even have a car yet.
Apartments/houses run only cold water except in the shower, and we drink bottled water. When it runs out we either pick up fresh bottles at the store or have it delivered. Water pressure in the showers is weaker than in the U.S., and electrical outlets have poorer contact, so we have to jiggle things in plugs multiple times or hold the cords a certain way to get them to work. Power outages are fairly common—about once every two weeks or so, recently. I sometimes get tired of re-setting the microwave clock. :)
On weekends we visit my in-laws’ farm on the outer edge of town, which has horses, a crop plantation, pigs, and lots and lots of red dust. Athos’ parents have a house there with hammocks, and we enjoy letting Ethan ride his tricycle in the yard while we talk and enjoy the breeze. One of my favorite perks of Brazilian life: housekeepers. Athos’ mom pays a sweet Christian lady to come and do basic housecleaning/cooking every day, and she “lends” her to me twice a week if she doesn’t have guests or visits. What a blessing! If it weren’t for her coming, I’d get almost no writing done!
Q: What is the biggest writing challenge you’ve encountered this past year – craft, career, writing life, etc? How did you solve it?
A: I think my biggest challenge this past year was simply trying to write in the midst of life: computer viruses, a nearly destroyed laptop that Best Buy was SO incredibly gracious to fix FOR FREE, financial issues here in Brazil, learning how to juggle potty training and two-year-old needs with my wish for unbroken hours of time to concentrate and write. But it’s been wonderful, and God is good!
Q: What is the one thing you’d like to share with other writers?
A: I wish I could let unpublished writers know that just because their books aren’t published doesn’t mean their writing isn’t as good—or better—than many published authors. It’s all a question of God’s timing and everything coming together at the right moment—sort of like a woman waiting an extra-long while (like I did) to get married. And it isn’t about us—it’s about God and His plans for our life. He knows when the right time is, and when it comes, everything will fit together like pieces of a puzzle.
Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?
A: Definitely a landscape designer. I love plants and flowers! It was always the second thing on my list after writing, and something (I hope) one day can be a second career. I’ve collected seed and plant catalogs since my childhood, planning the colors and species and layout of gardens I’d like to plant. If not a landscape designer, then I’d choose something like a forest ranger – like my dad – or a park service worker. I love the outdoors!
Q: Where is the coziest spot in your home?
A: I’d have to say our bedroom. It’s small, but gorgeous – lots of paneled cabinets and a roomy bedside table. My favorite part: the plant-filled, glassed-in veranda that runs along the side wall, closed by a sliding glass door and floor-length curtains. When I open the veranda window, air billows out the curtains. Lots of natural light! I love it.
Q: What is your favorite time of the day?
A: MORNING! I love anything in the morning – the earlier, the better. I used to get up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to write, and I miss seeing the sky turn from black to blue to gray to glorious gold. Everything smells so fresh, so clean. The streets are silent. Beautiful! I like to run while the air is still fresh and cool.
Q: In what ways do you think your writing journey has benefited your family? How does your writing affect your family?
A: Well, it affects my family in the sense that I’m not always as “accessible” every single second as I used to be, because sometimes during the day I’m either writing or editing, building up my website or doing a guest post, or critiquing one of my crit partners’ chapters. However, it’s been a tremendous blessing because I’ve been able to STAY home with my son rather than go out and work—all because of this unexpected gift of a three-book contract (and a fourth since that series). Here in Brasilia (which is currently more expensive than New York City) we feel a lot of financial strain, so it’s a big deal that I’m able to stay at home and write—especially since my husband’s parents both work full-time, which means I don’t have access to family babysitting. I don’t know a single other mom who works exclusively from home in Brasilia.
Q: If you could pick a theme song to play every time you entered a room, what would it be?
A: Well, this might be weird, but I really like Handel’s Messiah—the END part, with all the “Amens.” There’s this gorgeous piece right before the end called, “Worthy Is The Lamb,” almost all of which is taken straight from the book of Revelation, and it has all these fabulous crescendos. Put together with the gorgeous “Amen” chorus that comes next, which builds to this momentous climax, it just makes me feel like angels are falling in worship, the heavens are opening, and I’m stepping through the door to heaven. The conductor’s wand poised in mid-air. Goosebumps on my arms. Dirty laundry forgotten in a breathless hush. I guess that’s not a bad feeling for stepping into a room.
Q: What is your most laughable dating story?
A: Well, it’s kind of funny since Athos and I actually weren’t allowed to “date,” per se, when we met. I was a missionary in a program for young people, and one of the rules is that we refrain from dating while we’re on the field. So when I met Athos, I was so confused at what God was doing because while HE was all right, the timing was ALL wrong! Or so I thought. In fact, it turned out to be the most amazing thing ever because, without “dating” and cordoning ourselves off as a couple before we were ready, we got to know each other as friends—without all the pretension and attempts to impress. He helped our mission team often as a volunteer (he was a foreign exchange student at a nearby university) and attended mission church services, so we got to see each other under those circumstances, and occasionally a walk around town or a coffee in Starbucks. We were never, ever alone in either of our apartments, for example—even for five minutes.
So we did everything in reverse: became friends, felt seriously about each other, decided to marry—and then dated. Ha ha! We had our first “date” in the pouring rain at a dinky Tastee-Freez restaurant in my redneck small town after I’d just said “yes” and accepted his ring, and our first kiss was in front of the church on our wedding day.
Q: What woman in your life has had the greatest impact on you?
A: I’d have to say my mom. She passed away when she was 43 (I was nineteen) but I learned so much from her. I knew her life wasn’t perfect, and neither was she, but the one thing I really admire about her is that she loved God so deeply—and she loved my sister and me as well. I remember clearly one conversation we had when I was a child, where she told me she’d always love me no matter what I did. “What if I killed somebody?” I asked her. And her response was so perfect: “I’d be really sad if you did that,” she said. “But I’d still love you anyway.” That boggled my mind and stuck with me forever.
Q: Which TV family is most like your own?
A: I don’t really know because I’m so out of TV these days, especially American TV… Maybe “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is sort of like us, since I’m from a relatively quiet Southern family married to a Brazilian with a big, loud, partying, laughing, fighting, hugging, kissing Brazilian family—all thrown together with a gorgeous adopted child of a noticeably different and beautiful color, a first for both of our families.
Q: Which amusement park ride is your favorite and why?
A: I like roller coasters, but I love the Ferris wheel the most. I love sitting in that bucket, suspended over people like ants below, the golden rays of summer evening shining out their last bursts over the dusty ground. Higher and higher, up and over, against breathless blue twilight, and then down again. Slow enough that you can hear your thoughts, smell the cotton candy, but fast enough that your stomach jitters just a touch.
Q: What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?
A: Easy – the disposable diaper. I do cloth diaper as well, but oh, how I’d like to shake the person’s hand who invented disposables.
Q: Would you rather live a week in the past or a week in the future?
A: Definitely the past. I’m always so curious about how people lived in the past—what they ate, what they wore, how they experienced hopes and failures and births and deaths with the inventions and realities they knew at the time. I’m grateful that our modern progress in medicine, technology, and education has come so far, but at the same time I think we miss out on some of the beautiful simplicity, clean and unpolluted air, and less harried lifestyles that our ancestors of the past enjoyed.
Q: How do you balance writing, exercise, home, etc.?
A: My family comes first in everything. That’s the only way I can do it. Because if they don’t come first, then I think I’ve missed my purpose as a wife and mom. But they don’t need me 24-7, and there are lots of creative ways I can incorporate other aspects of my life into my family. I write when my son sleeps and when my husband gets home from work and spends time with him, and before my husband and I go to bed. If I’m on tight deadline I’ll get up early. I also take my laptop to my in-laws’ house so that when my brain’s tired of Portuguese, I can work (with other eyes helping me watch Ethan). Exercise – I run every other morning while my husband watches Ethan, and I take Ethan outside twice a day (at least) to play and swing and run. Which, with him being such an energetic kiddo, gives me pleeeenty of exercise.
Q: What’s your favorite family tradition?
A: My dad started ordering cheeses, sausages, and other goodies from a special holiday catalog at Christmas when I was a teenager. My mom didn’t slave all day cooking Christmas dinner—we just nibbled Swiss cheese and crackers, fancy mustards, and put a salad or fruit on the table and spent Christmas relaxing. But when my mom passed away in 1996, nobody felt like having Christmas anymore. My dad, however, still ordered the cheese and sausage, and we sat around the uncomfortably empty table, eating and remembering how much we’d enjoyed those days together. And year after year, as our hearts warmed again to holidays, we’d always order something from the catalog for Christmas.
This tradition has continued, nearly unbroken, for almost fifteen years now since my mom’s death. When I moved to Brazil with my husband, my dad still shipped—at great expense, sometimes totaling nearly a hundred dollars—a heavy box of the same special cheeses, mustards, sausages, and peppermint-chocolate layer cakes we’d enjoyed with my mom. And instead I ate it with my husband and then my beautiful Brazilian son, remembering and creating new memories. My husband loved the idea so much that he said we’ll continue it always—and I’ll never have to cook a Christmas dinner.
Q: Would you rather meet your great grandchildren or great grandparents?
A: Now in this question I might answer differently from the one about the week in the past versus the week in the future. Why? Because I want so much to know how my son’s life will be used for God’s glory. Every single dirty diaper, missed night of sleep, and day of tears and frustration will be worth to know that Ethan will have spent his life following the Lord, changed the world through Christ, and either been a single man who honored God with his life or raised a godly family that will continue spreading the message of grace and salvation. All of this, and I will die a happy woman.
Q: What role have your friends played in your success as a writer?
A: I am absolutely indebted to several people: Roger and Kathleen Bruner, who first encouraged my “Sushi” manuscript, edited it, and showed it to Barbour; my police-officer cousin, Lessa, who’s been my writing partner and endless idea machine ever since our first crazy childhood days together; and my four amazing crit partners who make my jaw drop with their talent and editoral suggestions. They are ALL incredible. I would never, EVER be where I am today without them.
Q: Who is your biggest cheerleader?
A: My husband first, who gives me time to work because he believes in what I’m doing (and tells me so). Even Ethan, who tries hard to be patient while I’m working, and often prays for “Mama’s books” at breakfast. And then definitely the friends I’ve listed above. I couldn’t do it without any of them.
Q: If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
A: I think my question would be, “Why me?” And I don’t mean, “A tree fell in the parking lot and smashed my car. Why me?” Although I do feel that way quite often. What I mean is, “Why would You choose me, Lord?” Why would He leave His home in glory and die for me, a sinner, who the Bible says “was His enemy”? There are so many people in the world who have never heard of God’s grace and forgiveness—who not only die without Him, but live their lives without the compassion, peace, strength, and joy He gives for daily living. Why was I allowed to grow up in Sunday school, reading His Word? Why did I get to meet Him early in life and change my sinful, self-centered life accordingly? Why eternal life instead of hell? Why me?
Q: If you could make up a holiday, what would it be and how would you celebrate it?
A: I think I’d create a holiday called “Really Cool Single People’s Day.” I know so many awesome singles who want to be moms and dads, and would make great ones, but they never get to celebrate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. And while all the other couples are making out over chocolate and fondue for Valentine’s Day, or kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas, these people are patiently and reverently waiting for God’s timing. So I’d give them the works: chocolate (lots of chocolate!), fireworks, a day off, flowers, a parade, an amazing dinner.
Q: What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why did you like it?
A: I really love “Just Do Something.” It’s a quirky little fast-reading book about the will of God. The main message of the book is that we don’t have to agonize over finding (or missing, more specifically) the will of God and His plan for our life. Instead of wringing our hands and paralyzing ourselves over which direction to take or which decision to make, the author says, in essence, “Just do something!” It was a refreshing, liberating book for me after so many years of doing exactly that – agonizing, wrestling, worrying. The very things we’re called NOT to do.
Q: What or who makes you giggle and why?
A: Two things come to mind: Ethan’s funny comments, and my cousin Lessa’s hilarious sense of humor. Cases in point: A few days ago Ethan picked up a shelled walnut half, and gasped in joy. “A pterodactyl!” he said, enraptured. This was right around the time he said, “Bye, poop! I love you!” while flushing, asked for ketchup on his apple, and called a buffalo a “dinosaur.”
As for Lessa, one of her most recent posts on my Facebook page said this (quoting): “Saw some roadkill. Thought of you. It was a skunk.” For somebody to think of me while seeing roadkill, it has to be good.
Q: What is your favorite season and why?
A: I used to always say spring and summer growing up, but since moving to Brazil I say fall. Why? Because I live in eternal summer, and I miss the change in seasons. I miss the hint of longing and sorrow that comes with the falling leaves, the bittersweet glory in bright fall colors, the apples and pumpkins, the chill, the frost, the glow. I miss it all.
Q: If you made a list of ten things you’d like to do yet with your life, what would be on it?
A: Oh, my… plant a garden, write more books, lead more people to Christ, have/adopt more children, buy a house, become a part-time landscape designer, learn to play the violin better…
Q: Besides writing, what are you passionate about?
A: Easy—adoption. Adopting Ethan has changed our lives forever. Actually I’ve wanted to adopt since I was a child, and my husband decided he’d like to adopt when he was a college student and went on a mission trip to Cambodia, where they worked with an orphanage. We talked about adopting when we talked about marriage—as well as having birth children. In our case Ethan came before our birth children, and since I’m past 35 now, I’m starting to wonder if he might be our only child…? Unless we’re able to adopt again in the future?
My reasons for wanting to adopt have nothing whatsoever to do with infertility, though. To me it’s simple: James says that caring for the widow and orphan is “pure religion” – and yet so few ever do it! As Christians we should fiercely guard the sanctity of life and oppose abortion, yet not many people seem to think about what happens next. Sure, those unborn children should be given life… but then what? I say they’re our responsibility—we who have argued (and rightly so) for their lives. We should give of our time, our families, our very lives to see that those precious souls, created in the image of God, might find love, hope, a chance at new life with a God-fearing family.
I wish so many more Christian families would adopt!
Q: The biggest challenge in writing this book?
A: Whew… there were a lot! I had a computer virus that set me back a while, and then I spilled water (seriously) on my brand-new laptop. It’s a sheer miracle of God that Best Buy was able to repair it since it was still under warranty, and my friend Vanessa offered to take it back to the U.S. during her summer vacation. In the meantime I used a borrowed laptop from my sweet brother-in-law, Kyle, but it was an older one that doesn’t run quite as smoothly as mine, so it took extra time to work with (as well as understand the Portuguese operating system). I was so grateful to have anything at all to use while I waited for mine to be fixed… and unspeakably glad to have mine back!
Q: What do the Post-Its around your computer/screen/ bulletin board say?
A: Grocery lists, the water delivery number (drinking water must be bottled), notes on Japanese fans and colors for the third book in my series, and editing notes as I work on finalizing that manuscript in (eek) just two weeks!
Q: What is your favorite research or reference book or tool?
A: The net! I’m an addict! I use it for everything—online dictionaries and good thesauruses, the Bible online, Bible commentaries, Google for Japanese culture questions, cowboy boot brands, types of pasture fencing, and so forth. I look up everything!
Q: When you were a child, what did you dream of growing up to be?
A: A writer! Really! I’ve wanted to write since I was about 4 or 5 years old, making little books out of paper and stapling them together (with illustrations). I’ve written my whole life—just gobs and gobs of stuff. Notebooks stuffed with novels and poems. Stories. So publishing this series with Barbour is a dream come true!
Q: If you were given $10,000 to give away, how would you spend it?
A: If using it to adopt an international child counts, I’d do that. If not, I’d break it up into little parcels here and there and surprise people anonymously: medical treatments for one friend, a trip home for another with her family, a new car for someone else.
Q: What is the most unusual costume you ever wore at a Halloween party?
A: I never did Halloween much. I vaguely remember dressing as a ghost when I was five or six years old, and then neighbor kids started throwing eggs at tricker-treaters, so we decided not to trick or treat after that.
Q: If you could have free unlimited service for one year from a cook, chauffer, personal secretary, housekeeper, or masseuse, which would you choose and why?
A: MASSEUSE!!! Why? Because every single thing on the list besides “masseuse” I can do myself! I can cook and drive myself, and so forth. And while it would be a great benefit to have a housekeeper, for example, I can do it. However, I physically can’t massage my own back, and I get very stiff shoulders. Ahhh… just thinking about a masseuse is making me sleepy…
Q: Which character in your books is the most like you? How?
A: Actually none of them, so much. The main character in the series is Shiloh, a fashionable journalist go-getter stuck in Redneckville. She’s got a biting wit, a touch of snobbiness, and sort of tough outer shell. I’m like her in the journalist sense (I used to be one) but my personality is much less acerbic. And I’m not nearly as fashionable. I liked Adam’s character a lot because, with him being a landscaper, I got to live out my second dream by writing about his work.
Q: What jobs have you had in your life? Which did you like most? Least?
A: Oh, soooo many… waitress and bookseller (like Shiloh in the series), shelver of government documents, secretarial/typing work, assistant copyeditor in a major TV and satellite guide, missionary, tutor, ESL teacher, middle school and high school teacher, coffee server, barista, restaurant hostess, hotel front desk clerk, computer lab monitor, journalist/staff writer, and… I’m sure I’ve forgotten some.
My favorites: The staff writer for the International Mission Board, the Southern Baptist mission-sending agency. I absolutely LOVED this job. Writing has always been my thing, but writing about mission work around the world—something supremely positive and exciting and international—was just amazing. I enjoyed being a missionary, too, but it was really difficult because you “are” your work—you’re never off-duty, and you have to start all over from scratch with languages and everything, as if you know nothing. A surprising like: waitressing. I worked for a little place where everyone was friends and absolutely loved it. And the front-desk clerk position at the hotel was really neat, too.
My least favorites: I worked for a year at an American-based school here in Brazil, and I was so exhausted I’d often skip dinner and sleep at 7 p.m.—and still not get all my grading, correcting, test-prep, class-prep, and lesson planning done. I liked the actual teaching, but not the strenuous pace. Teaching at an English school in Brazil was only slightly less stressful because they kept Brazil work laws regarding breaks and other requirements for teachers.
About Jenny: Jennifer Rogers Spinola, Virginia/South Carolina native and graduate of Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, now lives in the capital city of Brasilia, Brazil, with her husband, Athos, and their son, Ethan. Jennifer and Athos met while she was serving as a missionary in Sapporo, Japan. When she’s not writing, Jennifer teaches English to ESL students in Brasilia. Find out more about Jenny at www.jenniferrogersspinola.com.
About Southern Fried Sushi: Ride the rollercoaster of Shiloh Jacobs’s life as her dreams derail, sending her on a downward spiral from the heights of an AP job in Tokyo to penniless in rural Virginia. Trapped in a world so foreign to her sensibilities and surrounded by a quirky group of friends, will she break through her hardened prejudices before she loses those who want to help her? Can she find the key to what changed her estranged mother’s life so powerfully before her death that she became a different woman—and can it help Shiloh too?
Giveaway: For those of you who stop by to chat, you’ll have an opportunity to win books by a couple of our guests: Deep Cover by Sandra Orchard, Love Remains by Kaye Dacus, and The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz. PLUS, we’re throwing in two additional books from the Love Inspired line: Marrying Miss Marshall by Lacy Williams and Hearts in Flight by Patty Smith Hall.
Now, there are a few small rules you need to follow if you want a chance to win the books, but no worries, they’re not too difficult:
Comment on our “Company’s Coming” topic dated August 29, 2011 through September 9, 2011. Every time you comment, your name will go into a drawing for the books. Contest closes Saturday, September 10, 2011 at midnight. The winner will be posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011. Winner must provide a mailing address in an email to Brenda AT brendaandersonbooks DOT com. Do not post your address anywhere on this blog.
Posted on June 30, 2011 - by Regina
The 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Indianapolis was my first experience in attending a writing conference of any type.
It was big.
It was a little scary.
It was a little strange.
I didn’t KNOW any of these people.
But I went anyway. I caught a ride in Louisville with two total strangers. OK, they were strange (pun intended ), but I knew them as my fellow Inkspirational Message bloggers, and we had emailed extensively. And the strange part was that we picked up as if we’d known one another all our lives.
I roomed with three total strangers. Again, strange, but not. Two of my roomies were old friends from a fanfiction site that brought me on board their writers’ group. The other roomie was a dear Inksper, too. We hit it off immediately. You’d think four women sharing a bathroom and two beds, all their luggage stacked at the foot of those beds, would get a little crazy. Oddly enough, it didn’t. It was fun. It was edifying, and it was like coming home after a long, stressful day. And I think I only tripped over suitcases one time.
Other strange facts about attending ACFW: People you’ve “seen” on other blogs, thanks to name tags, rush up to you and hug you. Agents and editors that you imagine will totally intimidate are friendly and pleasant. Authors that you consider the “big names” in Christian Fiction chat with you about their kids on the elevator.
And something that I didn’t take advantage of, that I know I will if I’m blessed to go this year, is the Prayer Room – there are people praying for God to speak to us at this conference. I know that doesn’t happen at your normal, everyday conference.
I loved the sessions, I loved the worship times, the meals were fantastic (can anyone say ASPARAGUS?), and the company? Priceless. My first lunch I was blessed to sit between two published authors, Kaye Dacus and Martha Rogers. Unlike meals at other conferences I’ve attended where you tend to just seek out your own group, I didn’t feel the urge to seek out my roomies necessarily, but simply soaked in the essence of fellow writers from all over the world. Yes, a gentleman next to me at the Awards Banquet was from outside the US.
One of the goals I had before attending, last year, was a completed manuscript. I knew there was no sense in pitching a story if it were not finished and I was determined to get every bit of my money’s worth out of this conference. So I finished my first manuscript. I pitched. I had my manuscript requested.
This year? My goal is to relax and wait for God to work. I can’t make it happen, only God can. He gave me a storyline and characters that could last through two more books. He’s made me love the publishing industry. Maybe my job, in the world of writing , is to encourage other writers. I can do that. I love writers. I love the angst they go through, and the process that the brain goes through to develop a story.
Most of all, I like to pray for those who are writing stories that lift up my Lord. Will you pray with me, for those attending, or who WANT to attend ACFW, and maybe can’t?
ACFW is a revival for writers. Some people would think it strange. But really, can it get any better than that?
Posted on June 29, 2011 - by Brenda Anderson
As a mom with three teens, one thing I’m very cognizant of is my children’s grades. I know very well the excellence my kids are capable of, and their grades are one indicator of how hard they work.
Plus, those grades give me a reason to give my children a well deserved, “Great Job!”
Which is exactly what I want to say about the ACFW Conference and to all those involved: “Well done!” And for your superb efforts, I reward you with the grade of …
Oh wait! Please! You’re looking at this from the wrong perspective (and we writers know all about perspective, don’t we?) Honestly, F is the best grade possible. F stands for many wonderful things, not just the fluffy adjectives fabulous and fantastic. Just read on, you’ll see …
FICTION - While there are several excellent conferences around the country, ACFW is unique for its focus on fiction. Other conferences’ loyalties are split with poetry and memoirs and how-to books; ACFW is fully fiction.
FOOD - Oh my! Just the thought of the scrumptious appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts makes my mouth water. The entire dining experience makes you feel like royalty.
FAITH - The most important and binding reason for us joining together. How many conferences–writing or otherwise–begin and end with prayer?
FRIENDS - The friends I’ve made through ACFW aren’t just “writer” friends, they’re lifelong friends. They’re the ones who will be with me in all my joys and pains. What a blessing!
FELLOWSHIP - Perhaps what I look forward to the most is gathering with attendees to fellowship with the Lord. People from many denominations, and authors who write in varying genres, stand together singing, worshiping the one true God, praising Him with one heart, reminding us He is the reason we write.
FAILURE - Oh, there I’ve upset you again, but failure is to be celebrated. Really. Don’t believe me? Then read my blog post, Famous Failures, from a few weeks back. Chances are most of us will experience failures at the conference. The question is, what will you do with that failure? It’s okay, normal, and very human to feel bad about it. But then take that failure and celebrate it and use it as a stepping stone for improving.
That’s called learning.
Have I convinced you that the ACFW Conference earned the grade of F? Whew. I’m glad. I was a little nervous there, but I knew you’d appreciate seeing it from a unique perspective. Maybe you even have your own word to add to the list.
So, go the ACFW Conference this September in St. Louis. You’re sure to have a fun, fantastic, and fabulous time!