Tuesday, August 26, 2014

No Conference This Year?

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A couple years ago, in August of 2012 to be exact, the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference was coming to Dallas and I had every intention of attending. Everything was ready. I had a flying partner going to conference with me, my one sheets printed, pitch memorized, even my critique partner had her long johns packed because I freeze her out when we room together. Everything was set, so I thought, until I felt the Lord leading me to stay home. Not long afterward, I canceled my plans.

Through this experience I wanted to know the reasons why other writers didn’t attend conferences. Was it because of the Lord’s nudging as in my case, or was it something else? I contacted my friend Alice Wisler to write a post about not being able to attend a conference and today I want to share that post with you she’d written in 2012.

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When asked to write about not attending the ACFW Conference in Dallas this year, I thought that sounded like a unique slant for an article. Since it’s more interesting to read a variety of opinions, I sent out a request to my fellow writers to help me out.  I emailed a list of reasons for being unable to go to the conference and asked them to share benefits of not attending.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered what I had agreed to write. Why would anyone care about those of us not going to the conference?  We might come across as sticks in the mud. Who wants to read about our plights?

Maybe no one will respond, I thought, and I’ll ask if I can write about baking bread in a can instead.  But the responses did arrive.  I heard from nearly thirty ACFW members.  As I read over each email, I sensed a similar thread.  God.  Now since we are a Christian organization, I suppose focusing on God is to be expected, and yet, I was moved by the conclusion I came to (but you have to read this whole piece before I’ll share that).

Face it, not everyone gets to go to every conference.  There are many reasons why people don’t attend, some being:

  1. Lack of finances

  2. Illness

  3. Responsibilities at home

  4. Fear of travel

  5. Not my bag or cup of tea


Like Joanne Sher, Heather Ruppert, Sherri Wilson, Cynthia Lovely and Sherri Decker, the majority of people who replied said a lack of finances was one of the biggest reasons.

Diane Dean White cited health issues. She has severe back pain.

Many expanded on their responsibilities at home. Kathryn Bain is co-chairing the Ancient Romance Authors Boot Camp and needs to be available to prepare for this event. Thomas Smith of North Carolina writes, “A member of our extended family is ill and my wife and I are helping out financially.” Katie Clark will be taking care of her six-year-old who has cancer (having had my own young son die from cancer treatments, my eyes welled at her response.) Along with finances not being available, Joi Copeland said September is a busy month for her family.

And is there a fear of flying?  Yes!  Carolyn Boyles said, “I get terribly airsick and at security, I always have to explain the four titanium plates in my neck.”

Linda Samaritoni joined ACFW in June and is still on a steep learning curve.  Basically, she feels the need to figure this wonderful organization out, and by next year, hopes to be at the conference.

While most not going stressed they’d miss the fellowship with other authors, Julie Arduini voiced the introvert’s point of view.  She believes being part of the ACFW Conference is a serious commitment and she isn’t ready to delve into the social or business aspect of conference attendance just yet.

Joy Melville shared that the conference last year made her aware of God’s calling on her life to write, but this year she hasn’t felt the nudge from Him to attend.  Jan Warren hasn’t felt it either.  (I understand both completely; I have yet to feel a push to attend a conference and therefore, haven’t been to any writers conferences.)

This brings me to my last point:  God.  (I told you that I’d let you in on what I concluded.)  ACFW members are looking to God, believing that he will prompt them to go or provide financially if they are to go.  We are a group of writers seeking God not only in our writing, but also in the decisions surrounding conference attendance.

To sum it up, I want to quote Normandie Fischer, who put it so succinctly,

“As long as we try to be obedient, there’s peace in our decisions, isn’t there? It’s when we step out of time and try to grasp at the carrot that we become frantic and wonder if we’ve been left out, set aside, not part of the in-crowd.”

So are there benefits to staying at home, just as there are benefits to attending?  Writers plan to work on their manuscripts.  Cheryl Ekland stresses that her word this year is commit. That’s a great word for us all as we live out our writing journey.

For all who get to go to conference, know that many will be praying for you while you’re there, asking God to give you those divine appointments.

May God prepare our hearts for a beautiful experience this September, whether we’re at conference or at home in our various writing offices!

~ Alice J. Wisler, ACFW SE Zone Director. Written in August 2012

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A few days ago I caught up with Katie Clark, Julie Arduini, and Joy Melville who were mentioned in the post and I asked them several questions about their writing journeys. Where are they now since Alice’s post? Did not attending the conference affect them as a writer? If so, how? Did God open the doors for their obedience? Here are their answers:

Katie Clark: I definitely feel God has blessed my writing. While I did not attend the conference that year, I was given the opportunity to go in with a few other writers and purchase the conference on CD. Listening to all of the sessions was a huge blessing. The next year, I was given the opportunity to attend conference, and what a great experience that was! However, this year I had to stick to smaller conferences once again. My writing has steadily improved regardless of conference attendance, though I hope to return to a bigger conference soon. It’s more in my willingness to learn, I believe. And as a side note, I had signed 10 book contracts before I attended my first conference.

Julie Arduini: I confess, I’m still holding out on attending conferences. It’s not because I think I’ve learned it all, because I’m absolutely a sponge when it comes to soaking up wisdom and resources from others ahead of me in the game. Like I wrote in 2012, I’m a classic introvert. Public speaking and connecting don’t bother me at all, but it’s very draining. Until I know God’s called me to attend and throws the door wide open, I’m still content reading all about it.

So far, I don’t feel penalized for making that choice. This year I signed with Chalfont House and Write Integrity Press for a total of four books. With traditional publishing evolving so quickly, I’m thrilled to be where I am and unagented. That’s not everyone’s plan, and I understand that. It’s God’s plan for me, and I’m more than content. Now, should a publisher ask me to attend, I would prayerfully consider it. It would be a step outside my comfort zone, but if I’m meant to go, I absolutely would. But, this introvert is staying home. Again. And I’m okay with that.

Joy Melville: I was going to pitch in Dallas in 2012, a story about a family in turmoil and a daughter who had been kidnapped, but God had put up a road block. He totally took away my desire to be at the 2012 ACFW Conference. He gave me other assignments, didn't provide the money, and literally gave me the opposite desire to stay at home. But in 2013, God told me to go. I pitched my WF story God nudged me to write in 2011, and came home with two requests for proposals. February of this year, GOD provided me with an agent, the right connections and resources to write book two of the trilogy, and then prompted me to register for 2014 conference in St Louis. Throughout the years when I’ve surrendered both my writing and conferences to His direction, God has provided.

Ladies, thank you for sharing your stories!

Isn’t it amazing how God works in each of our lives for His purpose and in His timing! Are you planning to attend the ACFW conference in September or another conference next year? Whether you are or have decided to wait, I want to leave you with a verse most of us are familiar with, but it is indeed life changing when we give our plans to the Lord.

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~ Alice J. Wisler grew up in Japan as a missionary kid, graduated from a Mennonite college, traveled extensively, and finally settled in North Carolina.  She’s the author of Rain Song (Christy Finalist 2009), How Sweet It Is (Christy Finalist 2010), Hatteras Girl, A Wedding Invitation and Still Life in Shadows.   Under the Silk Hibiscus, a World War II novel, will release this November. Ever since the death of her son Daniel, she’s taught Writing the Heartache workshops and speaks at conferences on the value of writing through grief and loss. Visit her website: http://www.alicewisler.com and join her on her author page on Facebook where she’ll be giving away prizes: http://www.facebook.com/alice.j.wisler#!/pages/Alice-J-Wisler/333751835453

~ Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. Her novels are available on Amazon and other retailers. You can find her at http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Redeeming--Reclaiming--the Romance Genre

ID-100160826Culture wars will always abound, and with them, false assumptions, misinterpretations, and confusion.

Add to this the fact that Christian fiction is still very much an emerging (and growing. Yay!) genre, and one would expect falsities and misconceptions to arise.

This is the case any time we make generalities, but as one of my wise crit partners once reminded me, one must be careful not to state absolutes that can't be verified. Or those that in fact can be falsified, if we'd but take the time to look past the stereotypes to the components within.

In other words, just because a chunk of romance novels on today's market would make your grandmother turn a deep shade of tomato doesn't mean ALL romances would. In truth, ID-10085912a large number of them quite likely would turn her heart to her husband and her Savior, reinforcing the biblical definitions of true love, as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Ephesians 5:22-25, and Genesis 2:18-24.

True romance--the committed, holy, and pure love between a husband and wife--reveals, in a tangible, miraculous, and mysterious way, the love Christ has for the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)

Considering the great emphasis Scripture places on this most intimate of all human relationships, should we as Christians not write about it?

These were questions I wrestled with when I first became a novelist. Though I must say, I didn't wrestle with the questions so much as other's perception of them. Yes, I strive to please God above all else, but sometimes it's hard to drown out the opinions others throw one's way.

BeyondIDocoverI had recently finished my debut, a missional romance centered on Genesis 2:18-19, (Read the first few chapters free here. Buy it for under $8 here.) when influential evangelistic leaders began saturating the web with articles condemning ALL romance novels, making no distinction between the secular and their Christian counter-parts.

And those who hadn't read the works of Francine Rivers or Mary Connealy or ...

the book of Ruth?

And Hosea (the book Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love is based on)?

And... (insert a slight chuckle, for I'm certain you caught my point)

heartily agreed!

And so, I grew quiet, convinced in my call but concerned regarding the opinion of others. Some of whom I greatly respected.

But God continued to unfold beautiful stories within me, stories that reminded me of my MenStevesweet, strong, Christ-focused husband.

Stories of men and women seeking to find that most sacred of human relationships, the one that would "complete" them, that would bring strength to their weaknesses and who, united in mission and ministry, would help them discover, embrace, and live out what God created them to do.

Which is, I believe, the deeper meaning behind Genesis 2:18:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

A helper/helpmate, who brings out the very best in their spouse, not so they can achieve great wealth or worldly esteem but rather, so they, together, can fulfill that which they were created to do.

In essence, I write about what I know, for I would be nowhere near the woman I am now--nowhere near the friend, the wife, the mother, the Christ-follower--if not for my real-life hero. (Incidentally, the picture of me and my handsome railroader above was taken a couple weeks after my husband donated a kidney. Talk about a real-life hero!)

IDOTo my love, my warrior, and closest friend, thank you for showing me, daily, what biblical romance looks like. Thank you for standing behind me as I seek to live out that which Christ called me to--writing stories that reveal the depth and power of His love and grace. Thank you for holding me through my darkest moments, carrying me through my greatest struggles, and walking beside me through the immeasurable joys that can only be experienced in the context of "till death do we part."

And thanks to the Savior that melded our hearts together and showed us true romance--the kind only Christ can birth and sustain--is something to be celebrated.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Are you an inspirational (the official term for Christian fiction) romance lover? What do you enjoy most about the novels you read? Who's your favorite author? What are some qualities you feel make up a great hero, in life and in fiction?

Share your thoughts with us!