My Time at ICRS and the Christy Awards

Left to right: Jessica Dotta,
Gina Holmes, Ane Mulligan

The Christy’s were great this year. It was my second time coming and I have to be in honest in saying, I had a lot more fun as an interviewer than I did as a finalist.

It was an incredible honor, don’t get me wrong, and I did have a good time, but there’s something about interviewing folks, just sitting there laughing and asking questions and not really being the focus of the hoopla that’s just easy-peazy.

Anyway, so the speaker, Randall Wallace, (screen writer of Brave Heart, We Were Soldiers, Man in the Iron Mask), was AMAZING. He told the all-too familiar, (but always inspiring), story of how he got the call  that Brave Heart sold at a hopeless moment. I LOVE those stories. Maybe because it was my story in a way too. It was/is a lot of ours.

He was a sweet, humble, funny and motivating speaker and since he’s now writing for my publisher, (Tyndale House), maybe I’ll get to run into him again.

So, I didn’t take home the Christy but I wasn’t even a little bit sad, (honest). I was just kind of dumbfounded to have finaled. The whole experience surrounding Crossing Oceans has been surreal. I mean I finaled in the Christy’s, Gold Medallion and Carol Awards and won RWA’s Reader’s Choice and an Inspy. I’m not saying that to brag but to shake my head in wonder and maybe some confusion.

Anyway, so when they announce the finalist we go on stage and they put this BEAUTIFUL medal around our necks. Purple ribbon, big, heavy silver medallion. I felt like I’d won the Olympics. Very cool! Heartless, a YA novel took my category. The author was very sweet and gracious and you couldn’t help but smile for her.

The funny thing is before they announce the winners, the ribbon and medal around your neck gets congratulations and kudos, afterward it gets you, “I’m so sorry,” or “You were robbed.”

Note to self: Never do that to someone. I kept saying, “Really, it’s cool. I’m just glad to be here.” One famous writer told me to buck up and “Keep on writing.” Um… I guess I will then. Ehem.

Okay, so that was the Christy’s, On to ICRS…

I had a book signing this year just as I had last, but this time we weren’t having to yank people into the booth quite so hard and there were quite a few folks who actually heard of me, or rather my book. Woot!

Here’s a little secret to those of you who haven’t published yet or are getting ready to: People don’t really care about the author. They care about the book. As it should be.

So, I had a good signing I think. Met some nice folks. Gave out so many compliments I began to feel like Eddie Haskel. I meant every one of them though. I like to point out good stuff, what can I say. It may not always come out as sincere, but it truly is. (If I compliment your ankles though, I’m searching.)

The show was smaller than the year before, but then we all have heard every year it shrinks a little more. **Afterword here. The CBA reports that in actuality, attendance was up this year, according to Eric Grimm, CBA Manager of Strategic Partnerships.** I saw some author kid who I thought was doing a signing. He was sitting in the booth with books beside him, his big author signing picture which matched his face, so the assumption wasn’t totally crazy, but when I went to get a book for my son, the PR(?) guy said, “Come back in an hour and he’ll be glad to sign one.”

From a PR perspective that might not have been the smartest move for several reasons. I didn’t get back due to commitments and I don’t remember the kid’s name. Just sharing a little thought to ponder as you will. I bet they had books left over and you never know who’s who. Not that I’m a who… you know what I mean.

Tuesday afternoon ACFW’s Carol Awards were announced. That was cool though Ane got mad at me for not telling her I’d finaled. Finalists got calls the night before and were sworn to secrecy.

Ironic and very tell-tale of the publishing industry that Crossing Oceans didn’t final in the Genesis Awards (ACFW’s contest for unpubbed writers) but then finals in the Carol’s. I only bring that up to hit home the point that this business is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO subjective. Take it all, good and bad, with a grain of salt. Half a grain.

During the ACFW press conference we got to listen to a panel of Christian writers: Randy Alcorn (one of my favorites…have you read Safely Home??!!) He talked about the recent trend of Christian fiction writers not using conversion scenes in their books and how his novel Deadline was, in his opinion, poorly written, but led many to Christ. He said we can be “explicit” with our faith so long as it’s artfully done, but even when it’s not artfully done, fiction can be a powerful tool.

I think since it was a press conference he might have been trying to convince those that don’t feel it’s right or a worthy use of time that fiction is of value. He was definitely preaching to the choir as far as attendants went, but the Christian media  in attendance was probably another story. I like him and just about everything he has to say.

Christy winner, (two years in a row…oink-oink), DiAnn Mills said we write Christian Fiction to: encourage, inspire, teach and entertain, and that her characters react, respond, and solve their problems according to a Christian worldview. I think that’s a pretty good description of Christian fiction or a lot of it.  We also learned Miss Mills is a church librarian. Huh.

Bestseller Terri Blackstock said no time suffering was wasted–that it served a purpose to pass lessons on to readers. She talked about her daughter who suffered from addiction and how her Vicious Cycle series was giving hope to families of addicts. In my opinion, THAT’S what good books do more than entertain or astound us with their beauty–they change us.

I was really glad I went just to hear from others doing what I do why they write and see that it lines up pretty good with why I write. Even with differences here and there, we’re all in this together serving the same greater good, humanity, and hopefully-God.

The final thing I’ll leave you with is some interesting statistics provided by David Campbell of Pubtrack:

Religion accounts for 10% of total book sales in the U.S, 7% digital.
Active Christians, (church attenders, etc.), represent more than half of Christian fiction readers, 60% of book consumers say they use facebook but only 10% Twitter.

Whew… I thought I was the only one not quite getting the Twitter bug. I tweet, but I know not why.

THIS was my favorite part of the awards: my four very best friends were all there. That in itself was a small miracle!
Right to left: Jessica Dotta, Ane Mulligan, moi, Cindy Sproles (of Christian Devotions)