I admit it. I’m star struck. Wouldn’t you be if you met your heroes?
Attending the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) writers conference was a game-changer for me. I met my author heroes and learned from them in workshops and conversations.
My fictional friends have taught me how to live and die, parent, be a spouse, restore my faith, make and restore friendships, and live triumphantly through serious trials. They help me empathize with situations I haven’t experienced, like divorce, infidelity, or losing a child. Fictional characters can help you relate better to real people.
Through fiction I escape and travel when I don’t have time, energy, or ability to do so in reality. I’ve outsmarted Nazis, homesteaded in North Dakota, and sailed across the Atlantic to the New World. I’ve had my heart broken and found true love in almost every state and time period.
There are many reasons we slip between the pages of a book.
With my author friend, Jan Cline.
At 18 I dreamed about writing a novel. Life happened. I attend writing conferences and study the craft of writing, but have much to learn. My skill set and my novel are nowhere near completion. Recent life changes took away my excuses. ACFW was the perfect jumpstart.
In junior high my son Daniel ran cross country. I witnessed the embodiment of encouragement at the first meet. The parents and fans didn’t huddle at the starting line, nor did they all sit on lawn chairs and wait at the finish line. They walked the course ahead of the runners and spread out along the trail. In the muddy middle, when the adrenalin rush from the starting gun had faded and the finish line wasn’t in sight, they weren’t alone. Parents and fans cheered, whistled, and rang cow bells.
In many companies you couldn’t ask the CEO or CFO and anybody with alphabets after their names to listen to you jabber about how much you love their work product or stalk them to have your picture taken with them. But most Christian authors, agents, and editors aren’t that way. They’re approachable, encouraging, and welcome newbies to the writing family with joy.
The staff was available during scheduled mentor appointments and workshops, meal times, and in the hallways. They also were accesible in the coffee shop/restaurant after hours.
I asked to have my picture taken with my weekend mentor, Bonnie Calhoun, then was photo bombed by Cynthia Ruchti. Another #fangirl moment.
Bonnie pours her life into writing and writers, so was my choice for a mentor appointment. I subscribe to her brainchild, Christian Fiction Online Magazine, CFOM. From her website, “The magazine is in its 7th year of monthly issues of columns by the best and brightest authors, publishers, and agents in our industry.” If you’re learning the craft of fiction, this is a valuable free resource.
In preparation I read two books in her Stone Braide Chronicles, Tremors and Thunder. Normally I don’t read speculative fiction, I was that girl who grew up devouring biographies, but reading her books was a labor of love. I was enthralled and will have to read the entire series. During our 15 minute appointment I asked one question, then took notes frantically. Bonnie provided great instruction on the topic of setting.
The workshop I was most excited about was Sarah Sundin’s “Historical Research without the Headaches.” My work in progress (WIP) is during first century Rome so requires much research. I read Sundin’s WWII novels from the Wings of the Nightingale series, With Every Letter (Kindle version currently free) and On Distant Shores to prepare. Now I think I can fly a B-17 and heal wounded patients, because she’s brilliant with historical and tactical detail without bogging down the story. Her characters are lovable and flawed. If you love WWII, she’s your next favorite author. My picture wasn’t in focus – disappointed #fangirl moment – so this is from her media kit. World War II history fact freaks will love her blog. She won a list of awards since being published in 2010.
Brandilyn Collins is ACFW’s beloved emcee and on the executive board. She welcomes first time registrants by spending hours on the email loop helping them prepare their pitches and answering questions. She spends a lot of time warmly visiting with writers despite her conference duties.
She makes me lose sleep because I have to read her addicting books in one sitting. Her brand is Seatbelt Suspense, as is hang on for your dear life, she’ll take you for a plot ride. I haven’t opened my hot tub without trepidation since discovering her writing.
Brandilyn is a master writing instructor. Her writing blog, Faith and Forensics, is no longer updated, but is a tremendous resource. She published Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors.
A #fangirl moment with Francine Rivers after I tried to stammer out how much my family and I loved her books and her faith. She stopped writing for awhile to dedicate more time to serving at her church. She’s a sweet, humble woman who wants all praise to go to Jesus.
Francine was awarded ACFW’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Who hasn’t been blessed by Redeeming Love? This novel, based on the book of Hosea and set in the 1850’s California gold rush, has sold over a million copies. Tony Collins, editor for two imprints at Lion Hudson, Monarch Books and Lion Fiction, said his company in the UK sells 1,000 copies of this book a month. That’s 33 copies a day, or roughly one every 44 minutes. Read her blog post about this tremendous honor.
These two amazing women are friends and their relationship is an inspiration.
Image publishing your first novel with a top company then winning many awards, including ACFW’s Carol Award for Debut Novel. This is the experience of author Kate Breslin and her debut novel For Such a Time published by Bethany House. On the right, Kate is dressed for Genre Night representing her second novel Not By Sight.
This was especially exciting because Kate is a member of my local writing group, the Northwest Christian Writers Association. We celebrated For Such a Time with a launch party during our May 2014 monthly meeting. NCWA members are so proud of her! I had the surprise opportunity to hear Kate’s agent, Linda S.Glaz describe the thrill of reading Kate’s manuscript for the first time.
(For other Carol Award winners click here.)
I loved seeing dreams in action. Each Carol Award winner shared the Cinderella story that brought them to the ball. Eager new writers shared their call or introduced me to the characters in their heads. Inspiration ignited in conversations, quite moments of contemplation, and in our times of praise and worship.
My biggest #fangirl moment came when I sat in the presence of 500 writers and my spirit felt the combined weight of their heartache and brokenness. Many writers have suffered abuse, abandonment, losses, and physical suffering, but they’ve found restoration and purpose in the Lord Jesus and His precious Word. They declare Him to a hurting world with words that are beauty from ashes.
It was often declared and demonstrated that faith comes before our writing. We weren’t a gathering of writers who were Christians, we were a gathering of Christians who were writers.
I cherish my #fangirl memories, but ACFW renewed my heart to be a #girl who is first a #fan of Jesus.
Have you met any of your heroes? Did they have an impact on your faith or ministry? I’d love to hear your #fangirl or #fanboy moments!
Kristen Joy Wilks says
Love it Mindy! Thanks so much for helping to bring the trip alive for the rest of us who had to stay home. Wonderful!
Mindy Peltier says
Kristen, I hope you make it some year, if you haven’t already. Of course, I’m a total fan of our Renewal, but ACFW meets a specific need for fiction writers. SO looking forward to having you at the Story Vision Fiction Retreat with Mick Silva this weekend. Will be great catching up and learning together. See you soon, my friend!
Margaret Lalich says
Thanks so much for sharing your impressions and memories. Newbies (such as I) truly feed on shared experiences. I am now imagining myself progressing enough (and saving enough) to make it to Nashville next year to attend my first ACFW conference too !
Blessings, Love and laughter to you
Mindy Peltier says
Marge, it would be so fun to have you there! You would so enjoy it. I love our conferences in WA, but to be around ONLY fiction writers and have the whole conference focused on that was amazing. When you are a newbie, you really get special attention. They make sure you have a good conference experience. Hope you make it next year, if not, that you could make it up north to one of ours, again. Also, check out Oregon Christian Writers. They are having Cynthia Ruchti come Oct. 17th. http://oregonchristianwriters.org/fall-2015-schedule/
Blessings to you, as well, dear friend.
I got to stay in the home of one of the people I most look up to…she even let me cook for her daughter, and my oldest and her youngest really hit it off 😉
Mindy Peltier says
Aw, Kendra, that is so sweet! But for us, it’s more like #mutualadmirationsociety because I look up to you just as much. You amaze me! Love that we have traveled through the past three years or more of trials together. It was too ugly for both of us to be alone. I love you, friend!
Hannah Duggan says
Mindy, what a beautiful post! You captured what all of us felt at ACFW so well! It was for so many of us, as you said, a game-changer. What a joy it was to meet so many kindred spirits such as yourself. Looking so forward to conferences in the future!
Mindy Peltier says
I think all newbies felt the warmth, even though it was a bit overwhelming. Even registration was a huge task. 🙂 Yet, we all received what we needed as far as instruction, fellowship, and encouragement.
I absolutely loved meeting you and thank the Lord for crossing our paths, knowing we both love the same very special couple. Here is the first blog post where I wrote about my high school friend who would have been your cousin’s mother-in-law, had she lived.
It will help you understand her daughter’s tender heart. She is so much like her mom. I look forward to staying in touch. I feel like we’re family.
Bonnie S. Calhoun says
You’ve chronicled the conference beautifully. I am so honored to be one of your high points. You were a delight to talk with. I sometimes wish we were all closer together so we could do it more often but we’d probably wind up too exhausted to write! LOL…
See you next year in Nashville! And I hope you enjoy the next two stories in the series!
Be blessed and a blessing!
Mindy Peltier says
Bonnie, thank you for your kind compliment. Our time was short, but so valuable. I downloaded book three, “Aftershock”, (thanks for giving it away for free!) and am now carrying Selah’s adventures with me on my phone. Reading your books is like discovering new territory and I feel them opening up my mind in new ways, especially pertaining to the craft of writing. Thank you for your dedicated service to writers. I know you invested a lot of time at ACFW meeting one-on-one with writers. So thankful for your influence in my life. Yes, Lord-willing, I’ll see you in Nashville!
Sarah Sundin says
Mindy – what a delight! It was an honor for me to meet you too! Authors have fangirl moments too – I feel like squealing when someone who isn’t related to me says they’ve read and enjoyed my books!
Mindy Peltier says
Sarah, thank you so much for your visit and kind comment today. It means a lot to me. Your workshop gave me much needed affirmation, direction, and instruction. In fact, when you first started talking I got tears in my eyes knowing I was in a room filled with people who understand a very strange obsession to recreate history for readers. We all identified with you and it was a wonderful experience for us all. You also gave me the courage to ask the impossible when researching. I loved hearing about the v-mails that were mailed to you and the ride you had in a B-17. I don’t think a chariot ride will be in my near future, but I’m going to dare seek out the information I need. May the Lord continue to bless you as you share your gifts with readers and writers.