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ACFW conference

I’ve been procrastinating about this post because I don’t know where to start. Also because I’ve been busy polishing a manuscript and rewriting the ending three times. (Yes, I’ve just about got it now, thanks for asking.)

I went to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville with two of my Atlanta-area friends (waving here to Missy and Amy). I expected good workshops, appointments with editors and agents, late nights catching up with friends. And I had the added fun of being a finalist in ACFW’s annual contest with the first chapter of the book I just finished.

Earlier that week, I’d had a serious talk with the Lord about my writing. I felt I was getting somewhere. I had new confidence in my voice and in my ability to take a story from an idea to a finished book with something valuable to say. But I also had new willingness to let God take it all away if He wanted to. That wasn’t from some twisted, illogical bargaining standpoint, either. (i.e., I’ll lay it down so You’ll be impressed with me and hand it right back.) It was real.

The Lord had already started taking things away. My roommate, for instance. She had to cancel because of illness in her family. I was terribly disappointed that I couldn’t spend time with Dee although some other friends graciously let me share their room. Then my favorite editor canceled because of illness. (I don’t really know the guy, but I feel like I do, and I’d been looking forward to chatting.)

But I had walked into the conference asking God to do whatever He wanted. To set up appointments for me. To open my eyes to the people I needed to meet. And He did. Thursday afternoon, I recognized Mike Snyder from his blog picture and introduced myself. I think maybe Jeanne Damoff was there, too–it’s all foggy now, but that was just one of several great conversations with people I “met” online through the Faith*in*Fiction blog and forum, including Katy, Dan, Sally, Janice, Suzan… I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out. It was like a bunch of long-lost sibs.

This conference is cool because the editors and agents mingle with the peons, I mean writers. At lunch and dinner, there’s an editor or agent at just about every table. First come, first served. I wasn’t deliberately stalking any particular editors, but I kept finding myself in interesting conversations with them. I didn’t even have to take one of the slots allotted for “official” appointments. The Lord was arranging them for me.

Then came Saturday, and the awards lunch. Suzan Robertson and I were finalists in the same category, but it didn’t feel like competition. It was friendship and camaraderie. We didn’t care who won. As it turned out, I won, and I’d no sooner started wrapping my mind around that shock than somebody called my name again, and I’d won the Janet Grant Award for Outstanding New Writer of the Year, as it says on my plaque, or Best Overall Entry, as it says on the ACFW website, or the Best Writer in the Civilized World, as Mike Snyder called it. (Thanks, Mike, I like that version.) And then an editor was throwing his card at me across the table, and another editor was emailing me, and Janet Grant was sending a very nice emissary my way, and I found myself with a fantastic literary agent. Which is a very important relationship–and that’s what it’s all about. Relationships.

The awards stuff was wonderful, but it would have been empty and hollow without the relationships, starting with the Lord. And then my husband and kids, who put up with an awful lot of crap so I can play tortured genius and spend hours communing with my imaginary friends. And my critique partners, local and long-distance.

I didn’t know where to start this post, and now I don’t know where to end it. So I’ll just end it. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll tell you about the coyotes out back. Or the way my husband just mentioned motorcycles and jet fuel in the same sentence. Hmmm… must be time to get off the computer and see what he’s up to.

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