Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Exploring the ACFW Merry-Go-Round

Raise your hand if you've logged in to the ACFW website lately. Daily? Once a week? Once a month? Until I became president of the Indiana chapter, I have to admit I rarely used acfw.com. Even now, I still don't avail myself of all its treasures.



Note to self: check what's new at ACFW on a regular basis. 

Meanwhile, I'll explore several options with you, kind of hopping on and off this merry-go-round called ACFW.

First, let's visit the CONFERENCE tab since it's just around the corner. Click on that and you'll find everything you need to know from registration instructions to the schedule, to hotel info, even who to contact if you want an author photo taken. My photo is now six or seven years old, so I signed up!

The CONTEST tab is one you'll want to study. Submissions open for First Impressions next month. Guidelines and rules for submission are available there. Some of you love entering contests; others find them discouraging--they're so subjective. Genesis and First Impressions are no different, but the feedback received from the wiser judges is priceless.

Moving? The CHAPTERS tab can show you the chapter nearest to your new home.

STORYFEST is a new tab. Geared more for readers than writers, anyone can register for this mini-conference side by side with the annual conference in St. Louis. ACFW has lined up several authors who will give readings from their books, then meet with their audience for some Q&A, and I assume book signing.


 All of the above is available for web browsing for the whole world, but wait until you log in as a member!



If you're published, you can ask for an interview or apply to have your novel accepted into the ACFW Book Club under AUTHOR OPPORTUNITIES. Any of us can join the book club and see the latest releases from ACFW authors, or we can join  a small group to read and discuss a selection.

CONNECTIONS means what it says. You can connect with email loops (plural) and critique groups. You can take online courses for free. Attend a webinar, also free. Do want to be held accountable for your writing progress? Join "Novel Tracks." You can listen to podcasts. The last time I checked, Brandilyn Collins was offering a booklet on personalizing your characters.Check it out near the bottom of the connections page.

Under MY MEMBERSHIP you can connect with anyone in the membership directory. (That's how I find some of your email addresses. 💁) This is where you'll also find opportunities to volunteer.

If you click on MEMBER RESOURCES, you'll find all kinds of help from research to marketing. Now that my web designer has retired, I'll be using the link on the right side of the page to interview other web design companies within ACFW.

Do you want to know who's operating this merry-go-round? Click on BOARD, STAFF, AND VOLUNTEERS, or check out the BY-LAWS.

As you get comfortable with ACFW, consider judging one of the contests.  First round is open for member volunteers, and information is available on the CONTEST JUDGES DASHBOARD. (If you haven't been a judge, I'm not sure that button shows up, but the email loop always puts out a general call for judges, which will get you started.)  Before you judge a contest though, enter one of them yourself. It will give you a much better idea of what it's like on the receiving side of comments. You'll know which criticisms to take to heart as well as which praises hold the most merit.



So, join me on the merry-go-round called ACFW.

You can take things slow, hopping on and off at will, or you can hang on for a wild ride of activity. If you're planning to be in St. Louis for the conference, please contact me, through this blog or ACFW Indiana's Facebook page, via my website or my email, and we can figure out a place to meet other than the Zone Breakfast. So far, I know five of us plan to attend. Are there more? Hop on and enjoy the ride!


Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She has completed a  middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister and is currently working on a women’s fiction series.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:





Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Seasons of Writing: Which Season Are You In?

Another summer is almost in the books. Local schools ring the opening bell for the 2022-23 school year tomorrow at 7:55 a.m. And as if to remind us that the fun-in-the-sun season is drawing to a close, the air here has had a decided fall feel this week, with temperatures noticeably cooler.

We're so thankful to have reveled in the kind of normal summer we used to take for granted, complete with an exciting, successful Minor League Baseball season, many days at the pool, and nurturing the love of libraries and reading with our grandson. 

Upper right: Reading "Mr. Popper's Penguins" on Gram's Kindle
 while swaying in the summer breeze.

Hours spent planting and tending to flowers and feasting on garden produce - strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries, green peppers, tomatoes. Tending and feasting that will stretch well into fall, weather permitting.  

Our last big adventure of the summer begins two weeks from today when we land on the sunny shores of Kailua Kona, Hawaii, for a long-awaited, twice-postponed exotic vacation. When we return, the calendar will have flipped to September, and I will welcome the transition to my favorite season.

It seems fitting that my writing life will be experiencing its own season of transition this fall. As some doors open and others close, I look forward to expanding a new-to-me opportunity to bring awareness to a life-impacting ministry and also to have more time to devote to the personal projects that have languished for far too long, trumped by other deadlines. 

I've learned to appreciate the value of every opportunity to write, to view each as a chance to improve my craft. Whether it be writing an email appeal, sharing the story of a life transformed, penning the next novel chapter, crafting an engaging invitation to the annual family reunion, or creating a blog post furthering the business concerns of a client, putting words to paper or screen, in any form, sharpens my skills. 

Maybe you're not in the writing season that you'd like to be in. Maybe writing has been pushed so far back that you must admit it's not even on the "back burner." Maybe you're not content with the time you have to invest in writing pursuits. Maybe the effort via time and energy spent are spot on but the "fruit" is slow to come. I encourage you to hang in there and to embrace every writing opportunity no matter how small or insignificant or boring it might be. 

While I have high hopes for the new season I see looming on the near horizon, I know that life and stuff and distractions will continue to present challenges because that's what they do. So, I'm trying to maintain realistic expectations and choosing to welcome all forms of writing. Hey, even a grocery/errands list can be full of lyrical descriptions and strong verbs. Right? 

Happy end-of-summer and cheers to each and every writing encounter. May you never miss a chance to make the words sing! 

Beth’s combined experiences teaching the high school Sunday School class, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claimed a “back booth office” helped inspire her young adult “Choices Matter” fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage while her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life.

  As a genetic genealogy enthusiast and "search angel," she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” She also serves on the executive board of the National Association of Adoptees and Parents. All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website, https://bethsteury.com


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Open a Vein Lately?

Many of us have enjoyed writing workshops led by best-selling author and Christy Award winner Angela Elwell Hunt. She has been featured at various ACFW events for the past 15 years. She is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and a source of inspiration for other Christian authors.

While Angela is best known for her novels based on biblical characters, don’t overlook her 2006 book, The Novelist (Nashville, TN: WestBow Press). It tells the story of a successful novelist of action-adventure books who teaches a course in novel writing at her local community college. She shares practical tips about writing that are basically lifted from Angela’s own workshops. Nothing remarkable about that. But when a student challenges her, the story becomes really interesting—and challenging to each of us.

A young fellow reminds the lecturer of sportswriter Red Smith's statement that writing is easy: Simply sit down at the typewriter and open a vein. “No offense, Ms. Casey,” he says, “but I don’t think you open any veins as you write your books.”

Taken aback, she says, “I don’t think you can judge how much of myself I put into my books.…Years ago I chose to write action novels. I could write something more personal if I wanted to.”

“Could you?”

“Of course.”

“Then why don’t you?”

His question pricks her conscience. She and her husband are drifting apart while her son is drifting into drug addiction, so she writes a book that deals with these problems. She bares the convictions of her soul and the anxieties of her heart through her fictional protagonist.

This prompts me to ask, how much of ourselves do we reveal through the books we write? Not every novel should be autobiographical, but when it deals with our own problems, it’s more likely to express the genuine feelings and motivations of someone in the midst of those problems. That kind of book is well worth writing.

What is your greatest fear? What gives you the deepest pain? Have you written a novel that deals with those issues? While that kind of transparency is intimidating, it's likely to speak most meaningfully to your readers. You may also find that your protagonist deals with your fear, your pain more effectively than you have. Wouldn't that be a marvelous bonus?

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. His most recent book is Hard Times (Warner Press: 2019). He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth.