September 27, 2011

ACFW Conference: Moses Moments & Can I Get Used To A Built-In Starbucks?

I attended the 2011 American Christian Writer’s Conference in St. Louis, MO last week and experienced five full days of workshops, appointments with publishers, worship & keynote sessions, friends, and the faithfulness of Jesus. I will list the highlights in a sec, and there were s-e-v-e-r-a-l, but topping this trip was a Moses-style reminder that I serve a faithful God who has a perfect plan and is in complete control of our lives, our futures, and our heart’s desires.

I had a Moses epiphany. Not a splitting the Red Sea or a talking, burning bush, but a moment much like when Moses questioned the Lord about choosing a d-d-d-dork like him to be His spokesman. Moses knew his own weaknesses, his limitations. Now, this knowledge may have come from listening to the negative whisperings of an enemy trying to thwart the mighty work God wanted to do through Moses—makes sense, I guess—or it could have been simply his self-depreciating honesty. Or a combo of both (which can be a bit tricky to decipher, trust me). Did God choose Moses because of his velvety-smooth radio voice and Justin Bieber charisma? Or did God have a plan that included using a weak vessel in order to show His people His provision, power and glory?

(Still working on that one? Hint: they didn’t actually have radios in ancient Egypt.)

If I were as polished and articulate on the spot as I’d like to be, I might quickly forget how utterly wretched and lost we truly are on our own, how completely we depend on the Spirit of God at work in us to do anything. Not just do it right, but great. For Him. Not just when we can’t quite handle the situation without some help, but every moment. He’s the Vine, I am the branch. Apart from Him I can do nothing. So it’s probably a good thing I’m not super cool and charismatic under pressure, because the Lord came through faithfully and answered many prayers to give me confidence and clarity of thought when I needed it most. I was reminded again that when He plants a vision in our heart and soul, He provides the strength, the means, and the ability to carry it out. Brandilyn encouraged me to lay it all down and tell the Lord: I am Yours. This was a priceless lesson reaffirmed, worth the entire trip if I took NOTHING else away from the conference.

And yet I took home so much more.

In spite of the full schedule, I connected with friends from all over the world (waving to my super sweet friend Karen in Australia), and made a few new ones. I was encouraged and prayed over (and I am very grateful to Brandilyn Collins for her prayers and wise words even though she totally screwed up my makeup before an editor appointment by making me cry—what is she, the Barbara Walters of Christendom?? Thanks to this challenging/freeing prayer session, I was so plumfuzzled I couldn't get my room key to let me in so I could fix my makeup until I finally figured out with the help of another writer lady that I'd actually gotten off the elevator on the wrong FLOOR.)

I was also able to encourage and pray for others. I shared my most recent book-in-progress with strangers and saw the spark of recognition in eyes and hands on hearts telling me they were touched by what they heard. I spent time talking with an editor who has read some of my work and who went to astonishing lengths to make sure I knew how exceptional she thinks it is. I gave her a hug for that, but I really wanted to put her in my pocket and take her home with me. That was one of those air-stealing compliments you can’t discount or dismiss as merely gracious courtesy no matter how hard you try.

I had a full-blown blast with my dearest (and farthest!) friends at a cute little New Orleans style seafood place in St Louis. What a rare treat! I am reminded that life may not offer us another chance like that for a long time . . . if ever . . . and am grateful for the time spent in the company of such good friends.

My flight to and from St Louis coincided, coincidentally, with my agent’s flight, allowing me to spend some extra quality time with the amazing, rockin Rachelle Gardner, who was named ACFW’s 2011 Agent of the Year at the conference. Hanging out with her was an unexpected bonus! It gave me a chance to be even more honored and inspired by knowing I have someone of Rachelle’s caliber in my corner.

I was also able to get books signed by two of my fav Christian authors whose stories and styles both entertain and inspire me, another sweet deal of a treat.

You’d think I had my fill of treats after all this, but I was also extremely blessed and honored to come to the conference as a Genesis finalist. One of the many benefits of being a finalist, for me, was the chance to make two new friends and prayer partners, my co-finalists Sally Bradley and Karen Shravemade. Sally was not able to attend, but she continued to serve the conference with her faithful prayers. I was thrilled when I learned Karen could attend all the way from Australia. She was just as lovely, kind-hearted and fun as I’d expected. We were both stunned and pleased to find that being a finalist at the conference increased our opportunities to discuss our work with publishers and we were both invited to submit our entries for a look at possible publication.
This contest taught me to hope someone might actually like my work. I came grateful for that and continued to pray my daily prayer that the final win would go to the finalist who needed it the most. I trust the Lord to know what’s best, to see farther down the road than we can, and to know which of His kids needs a little extra favor in their corner.

That kid, this time, was me. I am honored to have won the 2011 Genesis Award for Women’s Fiction, (I'm right about the 32 minute mark on this video) especially knowing the gracious, talented company I shared. I believe God knows best and sees all the bumps and turns in the publishing roads ahead for me, Sally, and Karen. He gave each of us the heart’s desire to write and get our words out there for others, words to bring glory and honor to Jesus. He will make a way for each of us to fulfill those dreams, I have no doubt.

Now, to finish the book so we can send it to the houses who said they’d like to see it. Prayers much appreciated!



I've published three novels and a novella (more about those on my website.) I've been writing all my life, but decided in 2007 to get serious about being published.

I love action movies and Jane Austen. (she’s dead, I know. I found that out when I tried to get her to endorse my novel)

They let me play Bass guitar and sing in a worship band.

I can produce 4 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls in a flash for a crowd of drooling young adults. Or publishing house editors.

I used to have a Harley. Now we have twenty-something kids. Decent trade, really. The window-rattling grumble isn't quite the same, but we are still enjoying the ride.

I am a proud Grammy. Don't even think about taking candy from my babies.

I hate shopping (Yes, I'm aware that I'm a girl)

I've lived in Oregon all my life, spent time in Eugene (Go DUCKS!), Springfield, Reedsport, and Smith River. Which is not really a town, but a river, about 70 miles long, a tributary of the Umpqua River in southwest Oregon.

Although it's not a town, it is a community with a strong sense of pioneer history. It's cool to say you've lived there, especially if you lived there during the days when you had to take a boat to school. No joke! The old farmhouse my grandfather and my mother grew up in still stands, nestled into a narrow, pasture carpeted valley, complete with a swimmin' hole and its own 'crick'. It may turn up in one of my novels.

There's a rumor that my ancestors had a connection with the Mafia back in Sicily. I used to fantasize as a kid about a big black limo with tinted windows pulling up and whisking me away from school. Ahhh. So THAT'S why I'm having so much trouble conjugating my dangling participles now.

NOT RANDOM: I am challenged by the truth and amazed by the grace of God. And it's either in spite of or because of that grace that I hold a PhD in Learning Stuff the Hard Way.