Tuesday, September 25, 2018

That's a Wrap - ACFW 2018

Another great ACFW conference is in the books. I will try to hit the highlights like I do every year post-conference (see 2015 and 2017), though I am not sure I can do them justice this year.

1. Debbie Macomber delivered our keynote sessions, and y’all she is as cute as her Hallmark movies. While I’ve read a few of her series, I did not know much about her personally, and I so enjoyed her transparency and humor and heart for the Lord.

2. Liz Curtis Higgs received the Lifetime Achievement Award and led part of the workshop track I attended on Friday AND showed up at our Hartline Literary Agency dinner on Friday night (her hubs is represented by Hartline). I tamed my fangirl feels (I think), but I did manage to sneak not one but two pictures with her! Ha!

3. As always, I learned A TON! But my two favorite sessions: getting to hear from the editors at three different publishing houses talk candidly about expectations and preferences and attending Julie Gwin’s session on proposals. I still have much to apply, but I’m grateful for the knowledge!

4. Every year, I make new friends, and this year was no exception. I’m grateful for the catch-up time with my critique partner and the new friendships formed—some of which were social media friends I finally got to meet in person.

5. The Gala must be mentioned because it was so fun! My agent won Agent of the Year, and the shock on his face was priceless. He is a humble man, but so very deserving! Tamera Alexander sat at our same table, and I got to see her win not one but two Carol awards. And I’m still pinching myself two days later that I won the Genesis for the Short Novel category. What a dream come true!

My hubs went with me to Nashville, and even before we left, he kept asking if I was going to prepare an acceptance speech. I dismissed the idea, thinking there’s no way I actually will win. I was pleased to just be a finalist this year. But he continued to say, I really think you should write something down.

When I went to the rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, I was chatting with a fellow finalist, who had won Genesis in a previous year, and she asked if I’d written anything down. When I said no, she said, you really ought to because when I won, I hadn’t prepared anything, and once I got up on stage, in front of all those people, I wished I had.

So, you know, an hour before the Gala, I’m getting ready and jotting down some notes. No time like the last minute, right?!

When the announcer called my name, Howell leans over to whisper “I knew it!” in my ear. He captured the entire speech and had texted it out to everyone we know before I could even get back to my seat. I sure love him and love his support for me. (If you want to see the video, it's on Facebook here).

I’ve been overwhelmed by the congratulations I’ve received, the videos and text messages and social media comments. God really does get 100% of the credit in my mind. It’s His gift and all for His glory!

If you attended this year, what are your favorite moments? 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Complementary Strengths

As I write this, the ACFW conference is only a few days away, and Laura is preparing pitches and finalizing one sheets. This is always an exciting time of year for us, with optimism and anticipation abounding. It also reminds me of our differences, though. I am not a brilliant writer, and frankly, I don’t want to be. But I’m so glad she has found this thing that she is both passionate about and very talented at. As her husband, I get to use my business and management talents and have the chance to help her network and make career turning decisions. That is very exciting for me! I’m thankful that we have different strengths and weaknesses so we can complement each other.

I can’t think of a single couple whose strengths and weaknesses even come close to aligning. We all have different things we are good and not good at. For a big part of our dating and then early marriage relationship, these opposing strengths and weaknesses really seemed to make our lives more difficult. We each had expectations of the other to do and think like we did. Guess what, folks?! We didn’t. I see this all the time in other relationships, and sometimes it evens tears them apart.

If you are reading this, have you recently thought this about your spouse: “Why would he/she say/do that?! It’s infuriating and makes no sense!” Well, your spouse is different from you. They see things differently, and they may just not be as good as you at certain things. For example, I have a terrible memory. If I’m going to remember something, I have to write it down. Laura remembers just about everything. It was really hard for her, for a long time, to understand how I could forget that we had this or that event coming up or that I needed to take care of this or that. Once she realized that remembering wasn’t my strength, and I realized that I needed to try to write things down more, we rarely argue about that issue. I have other strengths that she finds really helpful, and we balance each other out.

Looping back to ACFW, we are a team. Each of us has different talents and strengths that offset one another, and hopefully, someday, we'll get to see Laura share her incredible stories with the world. As her husband, that teamwork makes me very happy. So, if you find yourself bothered by your spouse’s differences, try teaming up by aligning your complementary strengths. I think you’ll like it much better.



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Any #ACFW2018 First Timers?

My first experience with the ACFW conference could best be described as 90% terror and maybe 10% excitement. I’ll never forget when Howell dropped me off at the airport. Maybe because it was some ungodly hour in the morning or maybe because he wasn’t going to be with me for the first two days of the conference (and he is my security blanket!)—it’s hard to say. All I know is when I made it through security, I stopped to set my stuff down in a chair and re-group. And then out of nowhere, my eyes filled with tears, and I couldn’t stop crying.

I won’t call it a full-blown panic attack—that might be a bit overdramatic, and I know those are a real thing for some people—but let’s just say, my breath was caught in my chest. Here I am, in front of God and everyone, bawling my eyes out. I fumbled my phone before typing in Howell’s number. He hadn’t even left the parking lot, and already, I’m telling him I can’t do this. It’s too hard. Too scary. Too much.

Meet with agents and editors?

Show my work that has been only closely shared with friends and family?

Small talk with strangers?

Step into massive rooms with large crowds?

Blend in and stand out among a thousand other conference-goers?

No. Nope. Not me.

I will be FOREVER grateful that my sweet hubs talked me off the ledge. I boarded the plane. I took great, huge gulps of breath. And I attended my first ACFW conference.

The relationships I formed that year cannot be measured. I made great friends, some who were exactly where I was at that stage and others who were ahead of me in the game. Both sets of contacts have become invaluable to me.

Because of ACFW, I have learned more than I could have without their resources. The conference workshops and sessions have taught me so much about the craft of writing and the publishing process.  I’ve been in critique groups, met my WONDERFUL critique partner, and found an agent. And I've discovered mentors and friends I might not have met otherwise. 

This year I feel so honored and humbled to be a Genesis finalist, and I know that while God gets 100% of the credit for anything good I write, ACFW gets a smidge on top of that too.

If you’re new to ACFW this year, what are you most afraid of?

If you’re a veteran member, what was your first experience like?

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Power of Two

In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon writes,

Two are better than one,

because they have a good reward for their labor.

For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.

But woe to him who is alone when he falls,

for he has no one to help him up.

Again, if two lie down together,

they will keep warm;

but how can one be warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered by another,

two can withstand him.

A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

I have long believed that the enemy attacks marriages because he knows the power of two.

Two have a good reward for their labor.

Two can lift each other up.

Two can keep warm together.

Two can withstand the enemy.

You put God in the center of that marriage, and you’ve got a threefold cord—the kind that ties down massive ships or anchors airplanes. Solid. Sturdy. Strong. 

My favorite part of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 is the verse that if one falls, the other is there to lift him up. What a beautiful picture. I can look back at seasons of my life where Howell has stood in the gap for me spiritually, and I thank God I didn’t have to fall by myself or stay down with no one to lift me up and point me back to Jesus.

The enemy is no dummy. He knows how powerful a couple can be in His kingdom, which is why he works so hard to destroy our marriages.

So this is what’s on my heart, married friends:

1. Be grateful for two. You’re not alone. God has given you a partner in life—and if, for whatever reason, there’s a tear in your rope, do all that’s in your power to mend it. You need each other. God designed us this way. Your spouse is a gift. So if you feel alone, if you’re feel like you’re doing it all by yourself, ask God to change your hearts and to restore the relationship so that you can work together.

2. Protect the cord. Whether we’re talking about a big expense or a parenting decision, you've got to be on the same page. Don’t let something or someone wedge itself between you and your spouse. Be a team. The enemy wants to divide. Don’t give him the victory in your marriage—whether it’s a small skirmish or a giant battle. Pray for God to give you a unified heart and vision because you’re stronger together.

3. Fight the enemy. The beauty of two is they can withstand the enemy. One alone may be overpowered, but not two. Be proactive in spiritual warfare. Pray over your husband or wife on a daily basis. It’s hard to have unforgiveness or bitterness in your heart when you’re lifting your spouse up in prayer. We need to be aware and alert to guard our marriages by being actively engaged in resisting the enemy. He only has the authority we give over to him. Ours is the victory.

I pray you’ll be encouraged to appreciate the value of two—and if you’re struggling to see that value, reach out to someone and be honest. Don’t stay in the dark. Seek wise counsel. The enemy wants to keep us silent about marriage struggles, but sometimes you have to verbalize them to bring about freedom. Decide today that you’ll fight for your marriage.