Friday, August 21, 2020

The ACFW Conference Meets the 2020 Pandemic


I will always remember my first national ACFW Conference—St. Louis, 2011.

I will never, ever forget my second national ACFW Conference—Indianapolis, 2013—where seven of the eight critique buddies/writing partners/dear friends that made up the Scriblerians shared time and space in-person for the very first time. One of the very best experiences of my life!

I had a great time when Linda Samaritoni and I trekked to Nashville in 2016 for my third national ACFW encounter.

I’ve said it a hundred times at least: there is nothing like spending time with other writers. Absolutely nothing inspires me and infuses my heart, mind, and soul with fresh enthusiasm for writing as does sharing time with people who are also passionate about writing.  

Well, 2020 has punched a huge hole in the opportunity for such encounters, now hasn’t it? Disappointment welled within me as one event after another suffered the hatchet’s blow due to COVID-19. Oh, how I missed my local writing buddies and mourned for the conference experiences that would not happen.

While nothing completely replaces those in-person connections, I’ve been very thankful for and have benefited from a number of virtual opportunities to connect with fellow authors. In fact, I may well have lost my mind if not for those online occasions to feed my need for writerly companionship.

Chalk up the 2020 ACFW Conference as another victim of the pandemic. I’m sure many tears were shed by faithful, longtime conference attendees as well as those hoping to soak up writerly vibes at their very first ACFW national event.

Thankfully, the conference will be virtually hosted next month, on September 18-19. Via Zoom meetings, conference workshops and virtual appointments will fill Friday and Saturday. The event will culminate with the Awards Gala.

Check out the conference schedule and registration details before September 1 to take advantage of this as-good-as-it-gets compilation of camaraderie, craft-sharpening, and writing business know-how.   

I’m pondering the idea of making my way to a safe location away from home and the dailiness of life, where I can immerse myself in the conference experience more fully. A sort of virtual conference meets personal retreat. Sounds like a good way to add the 2020 ACFW Conference to my list of memorable, beneficial learning experiences.

Comment below if you'll be "attending" the virtual conference. And please share any ideas you have for making the two-day event a more complete conference event. 

2020 Annual Conference

“The Premier Christian Fiction Conference”

via Zoom
September 18th & 19, 2020



Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Virus Vs. Our Vision, Vitality, and Victory

For the last eight months, we've been living in a war zone as we battle an invisible virus. We are filled with uncertainties, and no sure victory is in sight for the near future. We're weary. And with weariness come short tempers and defeatist attitudes. 

When the subject of our "_______________" times comes up, (you fill in the blank), every person who speaks of it to me, sighs or gets angry or confesses their depression. With the shutdown, writers confess they have more time than ever to write, but they suffer writer' s block or a lack creative energy.

I addressed a related topic last month, and today, I want us to move forward with a vision toward our future, with the vitality to progress toward our goals, and to win ultimate victory over the weariness that saps our strength.

How do we fight this war?

We start with prayer.

We know we need help, and where does our help come from? From the Lord. Ask Him to help you reach the finish line, to show you how to develop the ideas He's already given you, and ask what He envisions for your future work, rather than generating your own ideas. What does Jesus want you to write about? How does He want you to serve Him? He will give you the vision you need. 

We continue with prayer.

As I've prayed through the spring and summer, He has filled my head with so many story ideas, I'll need to live past the century mark to complete them. So now I'm working on the vitality portion of my prayers. I need the energy and drive to work efficiently, so I can get all these books written before I'm ninety! I need a sense of direction, a plan of action to get things done. 

We act on those prayers.

God answers our prayers for guidance and for vitality in our writing life with His plan, and we're obligated to follow it.  As we fight the malaise of "COVID Times," we feel weak and out of shape at the beginning, but like any other exercise, we'll get stronger as we work out. Besides, God is the Perfect Trainer. He'll strengthen us one step at a time. (And here's a side note for one possible step: our ACFW Indiana August 22 meeting!)

Like my writing sabbath last month, God sends us to places of refreshment--a book to study, an online conference, or a walk in the woods, and take the laptop along.

We finish with praise and thanksgiving! 

With the vision He gives, with the plan He creates, and with the vitality He provides, we can march a path to victory. We are soldiers for Christ. We've been given a mission to accomplish in His name. We live the words of Philippians 4:13 and  2 Timothy 1:7. No virus, no level of shutdowns, and no civil unrest can stop us from writing stories that offer Light to a hurting world.

Let the celebration of praise and thanksgiving begin!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

In Praise of Escapism

I well remember the first time I read a novel from Jan Karon’s “Mitford” series. I was working in a stressful church agency job and found myself in a long layover at the Atlanta airport. To fill the time, I bought a paperback edition of a “Mitford” book at a newsstand kiosk and immersed myself in the Piedmont town of Mitford.

Karon’s cozy story didn’t have a high-stakes premise, nor did it build toward a white-hot climax. It simmered like a pot of mulling spice, suffusing the atmosphere with warmth and gentle humor. I devoured the story, reading over a hundred pages by the time my connecting flight arrived and finishing the book by day’s end.

Jan Karon called me aside from my stressful routine with an entertaining story. I enjoyed my visit so thoroughly that I looked for the sequels, and I wasn’t disappointed. Karon gave me an easy escape from unrealistic deadlines and unreasonable customers.

Escapist fiction often gets a bad rap. Critics say that it merely gives us an excuse to avoid distasteful duties. (They might say my pleasant afternoon in Mitford was a prime example!) But I believe it can give us a needed respite from the stress of the moment, so we can return to our duties with a fresh perspective.

“In the midst of COVID-19 madness, we could all use a little break,” reviewer Alice Martin says. “As the days go by, the news gets crazier and the need for social distancing gets greater. While we all gather toilet paper and schedule regular phone calls with friends and family, it’s worth stockpiling some great reads to keep us company indoors.”[1]

All of us have times when, as the poet said, “The world is too much with us.” Then a little escapism can be therapeutic, and we value stories where kindness is still a virtue, communities face their problems together, and individuals draw their strength from the Lord.

[1]Alice Martin, “10 Escapist Fiction Books to Read When You Need a Break from Reality,”