Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Blessings Abound

The ACFW Conference of 2022 has come and gone. 

If you made it to St. Louis, congratulations! The atmosphere on the second and fourth floors of our hotel infused those who attended with love, laughter, and lifting of heart and soul toward heaven. As for the third floor...that's another story. (Inside joke. Ask me, John and Amy Walker, Joyce and Al Long, Mellisa and Bill Blackburn, Rebecca Reed, Cara Putman, or Ronda Wells for the explanation. 😁)

 As your president, I found this particular conference especially helpful. Joy Massenburge is new to the national board, and she's been assigned to connect with local chapters and help them be the best they can be. What a firecracker! When the chapter presidents met one evening, Joy was prepared with questions, madly took notes, and assured us of her support. I left that meeting so encouraged! BLESSING!

For the first time in my introverted writer's life, I dared to volunteer at the conference as a "hostess," which meant I would introduce one of the speakers at a workshop or a continuing education course and be the "go-fer" for that time period. I ended up as hostess for Beth Vogt, a romance novelist who now writes women's fiction. What a gracious lady! And she was absolutely thrilled for me when she found out her agent wanted to read more of my work. BLESSING!

Linda and Beth Vogt

Which leads me to the next blessing: appointments with editors and agents. I'm going to include Joyce's initiation along with my experiences to show how God uses appointments for both the newbies and those who have weathered other conferences. 

Keyword: RELAX.

After my introduction to pitching to an agent or editor ten years ago, I've learned to relax and enjoy the encounter. That attitude allowed me to garner a request for a proposal and three chapters to one editor and a full proposal to an agent. BLESSING. 

This was Joyce's first time to attend a national writers' conference and pitch to "big names." She decided to turn it around and ask questions of the editor or agent as to how she could improve her work. They were delighted to help out, and she returned home eager to follow their suggestions. BLESSING.

LESSON: Use the time at conference to learn about publishing from an expert. 

John, Linda, and Joyce
Of course, there were workshops and continuing education courses to help every writer improve their craft. But the biggest take-away was the overarching presence of the Holy Spirit. Rachel Hauck led the worship services. Her love for the Lord invited Jesus to join us when the entire group came together (about 500? of us) and during the optional Worship and Write hour on Friday night.

ACFW also maintains a prayer room throughout the conference for those who want to take a break from the overwhelming pressures of the conference and seek Jesus in the midst of their stress. Notice, I didn't say the conference puts pressure on its attendees. The attendees put pressure on themselves!

I fell victim to that early in the conference. Remember how you may have felt in high school? Everybody was better than you? That was me on Thursday. I knew this ridiculous feeling was from hell itself, but I couldn't shake it. On Thursday night I went to the prayer room in desperation.

The volunteer offered to pray with me if I wanted her to. I WANTED HER TO! I explained my problem, and she began to cry. "I just got off the phone with my husband," she said. "I was telling him how I felt here--exactly like you."

We prayed for each other. 

By Saturday night when I crossed paths with her again, we were gleeful. The cloud had lifted for both of us. We had relaxed and learned and taken in what God wanted us to gain from this weekend. BLESSING!

So. That was my experience this year.

Did anyone attend the at-home conference? What blessings abounded for you? 

For those who were in St. Louis--what blessings did you enjoy?

The more we share, the more we build each other up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

NEWSLETTERS: An author’s must-have marketing tool

 The evidence has been scrutinized and vetted and the votes tallied, declaring newsletters to be a must-have marketing tool for authors. And successful authors, both traditional and independently published, agree.

“In my opinion, newsletters are one of the most important marketing tools available to authors.” says Hallee Bridgeman the USA TODAY bestselling, award-winning author whose sold nearly one million books.

The key to newsletter-gleaned success is that authors own their mailing list. Their direct-email marketing efforts land in subscribers’ inboxes, completely unimpacted by the complicated, ever-changing algorithms that afflict social media. An author’s quarterly newsletter cannot be “locked down” by the whims of power-wielding social media police who, in one fell swoop, can dismantle years of audience building with a stint in Facebook “jail.”

But knowing and believing that newsletters have earned such deserved accolades in the author’s marketing toolbox doesn’t automatically make creating engaging content and establishing an effective routine a piece of cake. Another fact that both trad and indie published authors affirm.

“I don’t know of one author who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with newsletters,” admits author Tari Faris who’s been writing fiction for fifteen years but has been creating fiction in her head for as long as she can remember. “We love to connect with our readers, but we hate actually doing newsletters. We hate trying to build our lists. We hate facing the what-am-I-going-to-write-this-time blank page,” laments the multi-year ACFW Genesis finalist (2014 & 2016) and winner (2017). 

Faris who confesses she loathed writing a newsletter because it practically gave her hives, has changed her tune. In three years, she grew her subscriber list from 300 to nearly 7000.

“What if you could remove all that hate and just move to a love relationship with your newsletters? Love writing a newsletter? A foreign concept, I know. But it can happen, because it happened for me.” 

Drumroll, please. This newsletter conqueror will be the featured guest at Indiana ACFW’s October 1 meeting via Zoom. 

Are we lucky or what? Indeed we ARE! 

Watch for more details on our Facebook page as well as an invite via email. 






Tuesday, September 6, 2022

New Books for Authors


September marks the beginning of the fall book season, a good time to identify new resources that can give us a fresh perspective on writing. (Besides, with Christmas just around the corner, it’s not too early to drop gift hints to family and friends!)

How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling, by Meg Bowles, Catherine Burns, Jenifer Hixson, Sarah Austin Jenness, and Kate Tellers (New York: Crown, 2022).

You may already be a fan of “The Moth,” NPR’s weekly program of true stories now in its twenty-sixth year. How to Tell a Story explains how their staff coach people to find memorable stories in their own life experience, then relate them in ways that make the deepest impression on the rest of us. Few of these storytellers are writers, but they harbor stories that give us life-changing Aha! moments. How to Tell a Story reminds us that if we identify our most significant stories and tell them in significant ways, we will earn the gratitude of people who live and work beside us.

The Book You Need to Read to Write the Book You Want to Write: A Handbook for Fiction Writers, by Sarah Burton and Jem Poster (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022).

Burton and Poster co-founded Cambridge University’s creative writing program, yet this book is not a desiccated text for college students to memorize for final exams. It’s a liberating journey of self-discovery. The authors say, “We don’t have a formula (because there isn’t one), and although we’ll be offering plenty of advice, we won’t be giving you rules, because unless we want all writers to be writing in the same way, rules are not going to be helpful. And although this book is written by writers, we don’t aim to make you write the way we write. We want to help you write the way you write, to develop your own unique voice.” The Book You Need to Read… is both inspirational and iconoclastic, likely to open the floodgates of your own creativity.

Writing Unforgettable Characters: How to Create Story People Who Jump Off the Page, by James Scott Bell (Woodland Hills, CA: Compendium Press, 2020).

James Scott Bell was a frustrated writer. Creative writing professors panned his first attempts, saying they were dull and lifeless. So he tried to get a law degree. He tried acting. Still no spark. Then he and his wife went to see the movie Moonstruck, starring Cher Bono. The movie bowled him over. On their way out of the theater, he told his wife, “I have to try writing again. I want to be able to make people feel the way I’m feeling now.” So he focused on creating one-of-a-kind characters like Cher, and his writing career took off.  Writing Unforgettable Characters explains why memorable characters are critical to memorable fiction, and teaches us how to create them. Another indispensable tool from James Scott Bell.

On Revision: The Only Writing That Counts, by William Germano (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021).

“Good writing has a convincing shape. But it doesn’t just look good on the page. It sounds good…,” William Germano writes. “So the best rule for revising your writing is the simplest: listen to it…Read it out loud.” Unlike the stiff, formal guide we might expect from a university press, On Revision is an intuitive book that encourages us to follow our hunches and keep revising a manuscript until its true vision emerges. Germano has written several books on scholarly publishing. He is dean of humanities at the Cooper Union in New York.

Write Your First Novel, by Gilbert Morris and Steve Laube (Phoenix, AZ: Christian Writers Institute, 2023).

To be released next March, this book caught my eye because of its authors. The late Gilbert Morris published more than 230 Christian novels with total sales of more than seven million copies, making him the undisputed pioneer in this field. Agent Steve Laube represents some of the leading Christian authors of both fiction and nonfiction, and now edits the annual Christian Writer’s Market Guide. With these reputations, Morris and Laube are sure to produce a book that aspiring authors will want, sight unseen.

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.