My ACFW Conference Take

By Elizabeth Ludwig

I was privileged to attend the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference recently in Dallas, Texas. This is an event that I’ve attended before. In fact, I’ve only missed a couple of conferences since I started writing for publication back in 2002. The math on this one is pretty simple…that’s fourteen conferences over a span of an equal number of years (give or take a year when life got in the way). 
On paper, the conference hasn’t changed much. The focus has always been directed toward teaching aspiring authors the craft of writing and inducting them in the intricate, and often treacherous, world of publishing. To accomplish this, the staff at ACFW do quite a remarkable job of scheduling informative workshops and speakers with a heart for authors. They also put together an impressive list of industry professionals—editors, agents, book reviewers, and media—for authors to meet and talk to about their respective writing projects. 
At one time, this was a very valuable experience. In 2002, as an unpublished, un-agented author with a dozen different writing projects and no clear sense of direction, what ACFW provided was instruction and guidance. Several years later, with thirteen book titles to my name, including a Carol Award Finalist, an ECPA bestseller/SELAH Award Finalist, and a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist, I have to admit that the conference no longer holds the same allure. In addition, I honored to say that I am represented by one of the most respected agents in the business. 

ACFW 2015: Beth Adams, Elizabeth Ludwig, Susan Downs
So what is the takeaway for an author in my position? Why would I bother spending the money to go to a conference that I’ve attended at least twelve times before? 

If I’m honest, I struggled to answer that question before arriving in Dallas. I justified the expense with some inane excuses that sounded good but held very little validity. And then, I looked over my schedule. Along with the appointments I remembered, I had signed up to serve as an appointment monitor.

For two hours!

Two hours of doing nothing more than standing outside a door and holding up my hand to signal when the time on a fifteen-minute appointment expired (insert whine here). Two hours of pacing in bored stupor while the workshop I really wanted to attend went on without me and other people went in to speak with people I hoped to meet but now would not be able to…or so I thought. 
What really happened was that I stood outside the door and chatted with a representative from RT Book Reviews for almost all of those two hours. Shortly thereafter, we were joined by a representative from Library Journal who asked about my books, my career, and eventually my publishing history. Please understand…I have never, ever had the chance to rub elbows with such prestigious industry professionals for such an extended length of time. With my very best efforts, I could not have coordinated such an opportunity! 

In addition, I renewed old contacts as I walked editors and agents to their seats, introduced them to their respective appointments, and volunteered my services as timekeeper, hostess, and overall gopher. 
That, my friends, is the takeaway from a conference such as ACFW. It’s not always about the scheduled appointments. Sometimes, it’s about the chance meetings that only God can orchestrate. It’s about the friendships that happen over coffee, and the kinship that comes with shared prayers in crowded hallways. Finally, it’s about stepping out in faith, without an organized agenda but with a heart for service—even if that heart started out whining, and ended up being incredibly and unbelievably blessed. 

Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, books one and two in the popular EDGE OF FREEDOM series. Book three in the series, Tide and Tempest, was recently named a finalist for the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Elizabeth was also named a finalist in the 2015 Selah Awards for her novella “One Holy Night”, part of the bestselling anthology collection, Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine. She is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit ElizabethLudwig.com.

Sticks And Stones? They Hurt. Words? They Can Kill Me

by James L. Rubart

Remember being told to memorize this classic line when you were a kid? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

What a crock. 

Anyone who’s been alive for more than three years know that bruises and breaks to our bodies can heal much faster than the ones to our hearts and minds. In truth, countless word attacks are still not close to being healed; at least that’s the case with me. You too?

Two Quick Stories

Back in the late 90s, when I was still extremely nervous about my writing, I took a chance and asked an acquaintance (who shot TV commercials for my ad agency) to read a short story I’d written. At that point, I’d never shown any of my fiction to anyone but my wife so it wasn’t easy for me to take the risk. 

But since my  acquaintance was a director, I had this ill informed and ignorant idea that if he liked it, he could get it into the hands of people who knew about a thing or two about publishing. He didn’t read it, but  did give it to his camera man who my acquaintance said knew what made up a good story.   

His camera man read it. Said he didn’t get it, that it didn’t make sense. Disjointed. I took that to heart. The words went deep. Killed me. I shut down and buried my writing dream and didn’t risk again till years later. When I finally did, I showed the short story to four friends who all said it was one of the more powerful stories they’d ever read.

Story Number Two

In the summer of ’12 I taught a class on fiction at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. During the class I asked the students to give me their pitch. I gave a quick response to each. A year later, one of the students came up to me and said, “You told me my idea wouldn’t work. You were flippant. You didn’t give me any reasons why it wouldn’t succeed and it really, really hurt.”

I was stunned. I didn’t remember saying that, and it’s not my nature to react that way. But it doesn’t matter. That’s what she heard. (Are you impressed that she had the guts to confront me about it? I was. Highly. We talked it out and are now good friends–and she is a talented writer.)

The Moral of the Story(s)

Be careful. Of who you listen to. Of what you allow inside. Some people (like my director/camera man acquaintances) don’t know what they’re talking about. Talk to people who do know. Guard our hearts above all else, yes?

And realize that you might be saying things to writers a few paces behind you on the publishing path that will have a significant impact. For good. Or for pain. 
I don’t think we realize what an impact our words can make. Actually yeah, I guess I do. 

I remember vividly when I first jumped into the publishing world in ’06 and the offhand encouragement I received from a number of people I admired. They probably wouldn’t recall saying anything to me, but I remember. Their words gave me hope. Helped me persevere. Kept me on the path. I bet someone has done the same for you.

Yes, the words we write are powerful. We craft them to be that way. Just don’t forget how powerful the ones we speak can be and how we need to craft them with just as much wisdom.

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman, and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s the best-selling, Christy award winning author of seven novels as well as a professional speaker. During the day he runs his marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at www.jameslrubart.com

Comparing ~ We All Do It

Don’t forget to leave a comment, because every day you leave one this week, you’ll be entered in the drawing for this week’s books. It’s our final week of birthday bash giveaways! Here’s this week’s nooks:

Borrowed with permission from The Write Conversation
by Vonda Skelton @VondaSkelton

No matter where we are on this writing
journey, we tend to compare.
Beginning
in 2003 and continuing through 2011, Edie and I led yearly NCompass Writing
Retreats. The goal of each retreat was to offer a time of refreshing,
refueling, and of course, writing and rewriting. But in our last year of
retreats, we realized that year’s focus was on another re: releasing.
Let’s
face it, no matter where we are on this writing journey, we tend to compare. We
compare our words to other writers and determine our worth. We compare their
publications to our rejections. We long for their successes and see ourselves
as failures.

Even
multi-published mega-authors can succumb to comparison. Why did her book do so well when mine is obviously
better? How could the movie producer choose his memoir over mine?
Comparison is a trap
Comparison is trap that can lead to anger, frustration, jealousy, and resentment. It can lead to
quitting when God says to keep going.
But
the correct response to comparison is simple: release it. Release the
responsibility to succeed. Release the motivation to beat out others. Release
the drive for big sales, major contracts, and movie deals.
That’s
not to say that we shouldn’t do our best to learn and grow as writers and to
seek to get our work out–we should! His Word says to do everything with
excellence. But it does mean the motivation must be more than simply money and
recognition.
God is ultimately the one who determines our paths.
As
followers of Christ, our motivation must be to please Him by developing the
gift He’s given us, and then accept the truth that He is in control.
We
can work hard and work smart and do everything we’re taught as writers…and
still receive rejections.
Because
we’re not in control.
We
can take classes and rewrite till our fingers bleed…and never see our names on
the cover of a book.
Because
we’re not in control.
God
can choose to bless a less-than-perfect book…while letting a well-written one
sit on the shelf. And whether we agree or not, we must release it to Him.
It’s
through the release that we truly become successful Christian writers. Because
then He can use our words to change hearts for eternity…regardless of how we
compare to others.
How do you find release from comparisons? Be sure to leave your tips in the comments section below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Vonda
Vonda Skelton is a speaker and the author of four books: Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe and the 3-book Bitsy Burroughs mysteries for children 8-12 yo. She’s the founder and co-director of Christian Communicators Conference, offering speakers’ training and community for Christian women called to ministry. Vonda is a frequent instructor at writer’s conferences and keynotes at business, women’s, and associational events. You can find out more about Vonda, as well as writing opportunities and instruction at her writer’s blog, The Christian Writer’s Den at VondaSkelton.com.