By Jeff Reynolds
Was 2012 a good year or a bad year? It depends what you're talking about, but if you're talking about the Indiana ACFW Chapter, I'd go with the good year part.
Being at the threshold of a new year, I have interviewed our chapter officers about what God has been doing through their lives and ways to make 2013 a better year for the chapter than this past year had been.
I took the liberty of color coding the officers, so it may be easier to see who's speaking. So without further ado, I'll start my interview with Rick Barry, Darren Kehrer, Dawn Crandall, and Sue Bixler.
Jeff Reynolds: Rick and Darren, thank you very much for your continued service (or for being gluttons for punishment, whichever you prefer). How are you two looking to build on what you've previously accomplished? Or is it more like a Toastmaster friend said in taking a second term for the office, to be able to do it right the second time (or in Rick's case the fourth time) around?
Rick Barry (President): How are we looking to build? First, let me say that, with the aid of our state chapter's board, I'm pleased with what we've built these past few years. Our chapter's newsletter is looking more attractive and with more content than when I took a turn producing it a few years back. Also, in 2012 we did an experiment and bumped up our number of author luncheons from three to four. Guest speakers were nationally known professionals in Christian publishing: Authors Travis Thrasher, Colleen Coble, Janet Dean, Bob Hostetler, and editor/author Holly Miller. Each of them made a good contribution to our Hoosier writers.
Concerning getting it right the second (or my fourth) time around, leadership is a learning experience in itself. After each event, I solicit suggestions for how to make the next one even better, and those who attend have offered excellent input. They might call me the chapter president, but good ideas from fellow writers help tremendously in my role.
Darren Kehrer (Vice-President): Jeff, thank you for allowing us to be interviewed. Well, I think our overall goal in the 2012 has been to organize, expand, and to grow our chapter membership and what we offer. We developed our website beyond what we thought it could do as well. Planning has been a large part of our mission as well. Our newsletter has grown by leaps and bounds in regards to design and content. That said, our focus for 2013 will be to expand on what we accomplished the prior year. I'm changing software (Apple Pages) in hopes of expanding what our newsletter has become.
JR: Dawn and Sue, I'm sure the Indiana Chapter appreciates you accepting the challenge of being officers. What inspired you to take the plunge, and what would you say to encourage those thinking of doing the same next year?
Dawn Crandall (Secretary): First of all, I heard about the need and knew in my heart that I was willing to fill it. I knew I would have the time in the coming year to dedicate to something like this and wanted a chance to make our Indiana Chapter everything it's able to be in the future. Being a member of the "Great Lakes Chapter" in Michigan as well as here, I have the opportunity to see firsthand what is happening within chapters around us. This also helps me get to know other writers. I've only been writing for about three years and feel very new to all this. I think being an officer for an ACFW chapter is a great idea for anyone who thinks they have the time and abilities to commit to it.
Sue Bixler (Treasurer): What inspired me to take the plunge? Someone telling me I was needed and then praying about it. Always pray and get a sense if this is what God wants you to do.
JR: How has God used your membership in the ACFW (nationally, the chapter, or both) in
your life, and through you into the life of others?
RB: Great question. For one thing, the ACFW national conferences have greatly increased my awareness of trends in the publishing biz, plus specific do's and don'ts. Being associated with such a community of authors provides not only answers to questions, but a network to tap for advice, endorsements, etc. I recently aided a fellow writer with her chapters that take place in Moscow (that novel is now published). Certainly, it doesn't hurt my query letters when I can add "President, ACFW-Indiana" beneath my signature, and it gives extra credibility in my byline for articles. ACFW has lifted me to a higher level of skill in writing, and I in turn want to do the same for newly emerging writers. It would have been tough for me to accomplish these things working solo at home, with no author connections.
DK: Seeing the Chapter from "the Board" side has really opened my eyes on what it takes to make such a thing work. For me the biggest outcome has been the networking with other Christian writers and the friendships that have resulted. My biggest involvement has been with the local chapter (as it was my first year on the board). Nationally, still pursing my function there.
DC: I became a member of ACFW in July of 2011 because my husband was intent on sending me to the national ACFW conference in Saint Louis that autumn. When I was about finished with "my first try at writing a novel" (after about a year of focusing upon it), he said he wanted me to find out what it would take to get it published. Ha ha – I know. The poor man had no clue how difficult an industry it is! But I wasn't about to say "no thanks" to going to conference! So I went knowing absolutely no one. However, I ended up receiving a mind-blowing paid-critique of my first 30 pages by a well-known published historical romance author and had meetings with two very reputable agents, both of which who offered me representation within a week of receiving my proposal. Essentially, I'd met and formed friendships with only about four other aspiring writers before getting an agent... and still didn't even have a critique partner. I have since found a critique partner through ACFW (and found that writing a book with one is SO MUCH easier than without!). But really, I still feel very disconnected. I don't think I've been around long enough so far that I've really been able to help anyone in reference to their writing or their career. I still feel like I'm more in need of such things than in a position to offer my own advice or knowledge to anyone else. But I do look forward to helping and encouraging other writers through our chapter meetings and gatherings in whatever way I can.
SB: How has God used my membership in the ACFW in the life of others? *smiles* Up until now, I've no idea. But hopefully as a member of the Indiana chapter board I'll be able to serve Him in a way that will be pleasing to Him and the chapter. On a personal note God has used the ACFW and my chance to work at the 2010 conference as a volunteer to meet other writers. God used the conference as a means for me to meet some of my Scribes Critique partners. It was extra special to put faces to names and get real live hugs at the conference. I think working with the Indiana chapter and getting to know the Indiana members will be the best.
JR: Scripture says that without vision people perish. What is your vision for the Indiana Chapter for 2013? Or, if you prefer, what would you like to see happen in the coming year?
RB: I'd like to continue last year's success in bringing in top-notch pros to speak to our writers to provide education, inspiration and motivation. I invite suggestions from our group on what they would like to see us try next. I also want to see more first-time novelists get contracts among our own ranks. (Incidentally, this happened again just recently. One of our ACFW-Indiana authors signed a first publishing contract with a major publisher in December. I won't steal that announcement here, but I'm so glad to see a dream come true!)
DK: 1.) Our membership to grow
2.) More members willing to blog on Hoosier Ink
3.) The possibility of doing a mini-conference (sponsored by the Indiana Chapter)
4.) To see more of our members get published.
5.) To get those interested in possibly holding an office asking questions now.
DC: I would like to see many more meetings, perhaps even a small day-long conference-type gathering in Indianapolis with our own published authors as speakers sharing from their good and bad experiences in the publishing industry. Perhaps we could offer a small number of agent and editor appointments at this gathering.
SB: I'd like to see our meeting attendance grow and also to see MORE meetings, especially a meeting in the southern part of the state.
JR: Thanks to each of you for your time, and I'm looking forward to seeing how God works in our chapter through the four of you.
AND DIRECTED TO THE REST OF YOU: I hope you didn't miss Darren's last item on the final question. I had the privilege of serving as secretary last year. Hopefully, this will encourage some of you to consider office. It would be great to see more people wanting to serve than there are offices next year. You can click on the board tab of this page (between membership and contact) to find out the responsibilities. And if you have any questions, I'm sure any of the officers would be glad to answer questions.
May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you this coming year.