Deep Thoughts on #ACFW2014

My favorite four or five days a year is the annual conference put on by American Christian Fiction Writers. It’s somewhere between 550 and 700 people who understand the voices in my head don’t mean I’m crazy ;).

Mentor of the Year Julie Klassen and my roomie, Jen Cvelbar who may have been fangirling ;)

Mentor of the Year Julie Klassen and my roomie, Jen Cvelbar who may have been fangirling 😉

People who get it. Who understand the craziness that is the life of a writer. Who talk about characters like they’re real people and don’t look at you like you’re nutso for doing the same. It’s like a giant family reunion filled with hugs long enough to last all year, squees and squeals, and fangirling over favorite authors – who you’re also blessed enough to call “friend.” Most years are filled with high-highs and low-lows. Ups and downs. Hellos and goodbyes. But overall, the experience is always, always positive. This year, though… I can’t put my finger on it. It was a study in internal contrasts. I spent the whole time happy and unsettled at the same time. So very glad to see old friends, make new ones, and upgrade acquaintances to friends. Last year, my biggest unexpected blessing was about an hour long convo with Sarah Ladd and upgraded that relationship. The year before that, a chance meeting in an elevator*.

Jen, Kristy, me, Joanna, Stacey

Jen, Kristy, me, Joanna, Stacey

It didn’t all qualify as “good.” I didn’t spend nearly enough time with my crit group – Kristy Cambron, Joanna Politano, Stacey Zink (Jen Cvelbar was my roomie! Jessica Koschnitzky couldn’t come :() – or several other friends. I’m pretty sure there’s a few people I never even saw.  But I also got to spend time with people I barely knew before – Janice Boekhoff, Marissa Deshais, Kimberly Rae Jordan, Traci Hilton, among others. And met people whose faces I only knew – like Allison Pittman and Cynthia Hickey. I missed a mentor appointment with the fabulous Cara Putman. I spent Jordyn Redwood, Candace Calvert, and Doc Mabry’s class on medicine in fiction because I was crying from overwhelmedness and then napping.

With Cheryl Wyatt, late Saturday night, as I left her room

With Cheryl Wyatt, late Saturday night, as I left her room

But this year that blessing was a very unscheduled skipping of the awards portion of the gala. I wanted to be there  – to see Laurie Tomlinson win the Genesis. To see Becky Wade win a Carol**. And Katherine Reay. And Jody Hedlund. And Melissa Jagears. And Tina Radcliffe. Instead, I headed up to the room of Cheryl Wyatt – a dear friend and mentor. We spent quite a long time together, talking, laughing a bit, and well, mentoring. Cheryl mentoring me, that is. I love that woman. She came into the meeting asking God to help me make the right decisions- and convinced the ones she was pretty sure I was making weren’t necessarily the right ones. By the time I left, she was convinced I’m making those decisions for the right reasons. They’re well-researched, well-thought out, and after discussing rationale, the right ones. For the right reasons. And she’s supporting me whole-heartedly. As bummed as I am I didn’t get to see those friends win awards or get a picture with my whole crit group, I was exactly where I needed to be. I left there with a peace that everyone I had talked with over the weekend (at least on the mentor-y scale and friend scale, not just randoms) were on board. What’s the decision? Well, that’s going to be announced on InspyRomance on Friday. Maybe it’s because of some big changes are coming. Big decisions have been made. Lots of upheaval in my writing world. But whatever the reason, I spent this weekend with undercurrents of disquiet. Not discontent, not really. But definitely something.

Newly contracted Pepper Basham

Newly contracted Pepper Basham

Even as I hugged dear friend Pepper Basham who, five minutes before, had signed her very first book deal (and, oh my stars, that book is so good!) or grinning and hugging with friends who’ve obtained a coveted full request from that dream editor or agent. Even as I worshiped with nearly 600 people who get me. As I soaked up information on marketing from mentors Janice Thompson and Kathleen Y’Barbo Turner and (new-to-me) author Anita Higman. Or had a very productive meeting with Tamela Hancock Murray, my wonderful agent. Or had a random encounter with an editor that could, someday, turn into something. Or sat in the lobby being mentored by Janice. Or in a Starbucks with Jeane Wynn. Or absorbed more than most people ever want to know about indie publishing from Randy Ingermanson. Or talked late-night with my roomie, Jen Cvelbar. Underscoring all of it was this… sense of… upheaval? Of change? Stirring inside. You know how it is. When your heart just isn’t settled.

I may have fangirled when I saw the amazing Sarah Ladd...

I may have fangirled when I saw the amazing Sarah Ladd…

So I come away from conference with mixed feelings. Confirmation of big decisions. Unexpected blessing time with mentors. But still this remaining sense of… something. Maybe it’s not disquiet. Maybe it’s… anticipation? Stirrings of change? Like when you’re riding the first part of the roller coaster and you know the slow, clankety ride to the top is nearly over. I’m not sure what it is, but I do know that I opened the “Days Until” app on my phone Monday morning and plugged in the next two conferences. I cannot wait. I’m excited about the changes coming. I’m anticipating what God’s going to do. It could be great. It could be good enough.  It will be good enough. It will be great. What the definition of “good enough” or “great” is remains to be seen. But as I’ve told others and as I’m struggling to know deep down inside, God’s got this. I’ve had so much confirmation that God had His fingers in all these pies before I even knew there were pies. God’s got it. Katie Ganshert posted this on her blog today: Trust is simple. Not easy. But simple. Now, her situation is much more… real? Eternal? Than mine. She’s trying to bring her legally adopted daughter home from Congo. But if God’s got her situation under control, I know He’s got mine, too. It ain’t easy. But it is simple.*** I’m working on it.

*I was in an elevator, she walked in. We greeted each other – each of us believing the other person was someone else. To this day, I can’t tell you who I thought she was, or vice-versa. About halfway through the elevator ride, we realized it, but neither one would admit it out loud. Not for several days. Now, we are critique partners and roommates this year with plans for next.
**named after Carol Johnson, former editor for Bethany House, not yours truly ;).
***Stolen from said blog post by the fabulous Katie

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