I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, September 30, 2011

Lessons from Caesar: Conquering the Writer's Life

In military dispatches home declaring victory in his 47 BC war in Pontus (Turkey), Julius Caesar wrote, "Veni, Vidi, Vici."
I came, I saw, I conquered.
I hope that is also our report for those of us who attended ACFW--and those who stayed home: setting goals and achieving them (or most of them) and writing victory messages.
A gifted strategist, Caesar didn't reach Rome's highest political pinnacle by military prowess alone. His crafted words to Rome's citizens were the "horse" carrying him to emperor-ship. Before he was well-known, Caesar became popular as his Gallic (French) Wars and other military dispatches won wide readership because of their hilarious, timeless tales. For example, since Hannibal conquered Rome using elephants and those beasts terrified Romans, Caesar reported that France had elephants too, that his soldiers cleverly defeated. They discovered elephants sleep upright leaning against trees, so using two-man, cross-cut saws, soldiers sawed in rhythm to elephant snores, until trees toppled and beasts fell on their sides, allowing soldiers to leap on board and dispatch them. Ridiculous? Yes. Unforgettable? Absolutely!
Similarly, before battles and after giving his men brilliant military strategy, Caesar's best joke writers delivered the funniest possible stories so troops ran into battle roaring with laughter. History reports that more than half of all enemies faced turned and fled before fighting.
Popular Caesar-crafted phrases stay with us such as "Divide and conquer," and "Crossing the Rubicon." Catchy phrases work for us too, producing God-inspired writing that delivers, motivates and produces change. At ACFW, some met with success while other heard no or not yet. Meanwhile, we continue honing skills, scrimmaging, i.e. practicing our pitches, and preparing for our next engagement--all with a dose of humor.

For me, being a Genesis finalist means more open doors to walk through. Though I didn't win, I won the fabulous wealth of great friendships and prayer support from those there and at home. God is in charge. His answers for all of us are yes, no or wait, but keep working.
May we write every day as pens held in His hand expressing Him, while encouraging one another.

Delores Topliff

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When the Voices Awaken

4:18 a.m.

Most people are asleep at that hour, unless they're third-shifters or my brother-in-law. My alarm wasn't set to go off for another hour and forty-two minutes. Too early to get up, so I pulled the sheet to my chin and rolled over to catch a few more minutes of sleep.

Uh, right...

As soon as my eyelids cracked to glance at the time, the voices in my head yawned and stretched and started their incessant chattering. They elbowed and pushed to be at the front of my consciousness. So while the roosters were still asleep, I lay in bed and listened to the house noises, Hubby's breathing, and my characters as they lounged in the creative corner of my brain to dissect a current plotting problem. By 5 a.m., I wasn't going back to sleep, so I slid out of bed and headed for my Mac to transcribe what played out in my head.

Like most of my writing friends, we talk to the voices in our heads. This career choice may excuse us from taking a walk with the men in white coats, but it does cause us to be on the receiving end of some pretty weird looks.

Case in point ... a while back, I had coffee (Chai for me) with three friends. I mentioned my current novel and the voices in my head. You would've thought I had just told them I was quitting my job to take up basket weaving in Papua New Guinea. They teased me good-naturally, but continue to support my heart's desire.

Non-writers are like Muggles--they don't "get it." I think Brandilyn Collins calls them "Normals."

I don't have Harry Potter’s magical abilities, but I can create a story idea from a headline, a snippet of a song, or even a scent that evokes a memory. Writers have a tendency to "what if" a situation in order to take an idea and spin it into a story.

Most people worry if they start hearing voices. I worry if I don't because that means my muse has gone AWOL.

Your Turn: Have you been awoken by the voices? Do you muzzle them and roll over to go to sleep? Have you been surprised by what they wanted to tell you? What inspires you to create a story?

Lisa Jordan

Monday, September 26, 2011



I’m in the midst of preparing to leave my family, job, and classes for the 2011ACFW conference this week in St. Louis. I’m feeling pretty inadequate.

See, up until a little while ago, I just loved to read. I read voraciously. I read on the elliptical, in the car, waiting in line, at the doctor's office. Anywhere I could get a few minutes in, I always had a book to read.

Then God gave me a vision to write books.

Writing, really?

I’m the chick that says, “Keep on walking if you’re looking for someone creative.”

You need me to prepare a spreadsheet? Got it.

Prepare projections based on the past year sales trends for our family business? No problem.

Cook for twenty women? I'm your go-to-gal.

Keep 12 kids for one week and volunteer at Vacation Bible School? Walk in the park.

Write books ... Hmmmm.

When I began to doubt myself, God sent me this Scripture. (Amazing how He does that, isn’t it?)

John 15:16 -- You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as [a]presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you. (Amplified)

This is why I chose the picture of the woman jumping for joy. Ecstatic. Happy. Exhilarated.

I, Alena Tauriainen was chosen by God. He has planted me here on this writing journey to go and bear and to keep bearing fruit.

And on those days the size of my writing efforts is grape-sized, then I stand on this Scripture:

Luke 8:15 -- But as for that [seed] in the good soil, these are [the people] who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in a just ([a]noble, virtuous) and worthy heart, and steadily bring forth fruit with patience. (Amplified)

I love the "steadily bringing forth fruit" part. Okay, so I’m not too crazy about the “with patience” part. Who is?

So how about you?

Do you know your Chosen? Appointed? Planted by God?

What can you do to get more watermelon-sized writing days?

Alena Tauriainen

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

C is for Cookies!

I should be sitting on a bed in a hotel room in St. Louis, shushing my crazy ACFW roomies so I can finish the blog I should’ve posted before flying out this morning. Sadly, I am sitting on my bed. In my bedroom. In Spokane, Washington. One thousand, eight hundred and nine miles away from my friends at the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis. (I know this because I mapquested it. Pathetic, I realize, but somewhat comforting to know if I accidentally got in my car and drove straight through, I could be there in just under 27 hours.)

Amy summed it up beautifully in her blog on Monday: my heart aches to be there. But I have decided to stop pouting, and actively search for the reason God has me at home. There’s nothing like a little perspective. And several dozen chocolate chip cookies.

Before my car accident (and subsequently God’s call to return to writing), I flirted with the idea of starting a catering company. My love of cooking sprouted when I was 16 and a local cookie shop owner gave me my first job.Ultimately I ended up catering weddings and teas and formal Christmas dinners. Over the years I discovered how much joy I find in feeding people. This, and the fact we don’t have cable TV, led me to an full-blown addiction to the PBS show America’s Test Kitchen, or ATK as I like to call it. 

The show, hosted by Cook’s Illustrated editor-in-chief Christopher Kimball, is a 30 minute cooking class demonstrating the “right” way to prepare classic recipes. Kimball and his army of chefs and interns determine this “right” way using a combination of trial-and-error, science, experience and the feedback of a truckload of unbiased tasters. The ATK staff prepare everything from scrambled eggs to Poulet en cocotte (à la Julia Child) all the wrong ways so we don’t have to.

Since I spent my high school years baking and selling the absolute best homemade cookies on the planet, (and receiving all the owner's amazing recipes as a graduation gift!) I was especially interested when a recent America’s Test Kitchen episode featured the right way to make chocolate chip cookies. I was surprised to find their final recipe could not be more different than mine. They even recommended completely different chocolate chips!

So today, needing a diversion and curious how this new recipe stacked up against my own, I decided to stage my own taste test. I carefully followed each formula, and at the end of the day my family “tested” the finished products. My taste-testers made every effort to be impartial, but considering how long they’ve been eating my cookies, they totally knew which batch was Mom’s recipe. Let’s face it. They love the comfort of what they know. They love the warm memories linked to familiar textures and flavors. They love me. It was nearly impossible for them to not choose my cookies.

The professional chefs of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine and America’s Test Kitchen deemed their final recipe to be the perfect chocolate chip cookie, but my sweet family believed mine were better. So who’s right? 

I believe they are both right. I think we will almost always choose that which is familiar. And this might seem like a stretch, but I think it’s the same way with writing conferences. There is no one “right” conference for every writer. ACFW is my favorite, and right now it is the only place I want to be. But just because it is familiar and comfortable and packed with fond memories, doesn’t mean it must remain my only choice.

Today, after nearly three decades of being completely loyal to one chocolate chip cookie recipe, I branched out and tried something new, something different.  I used methods I would have never thought to try, with a delightfully delicious outcome. And I will definitely make them again.

I think you see what I’m getting at. Googling “chocolate chip cookie recipe,” will get you at least 3 million results. And while there probably aren’t 3 million choices for continuing your writing education, there are definitely enough for you to find your right one. Check out the blog post I wrote (almost a year ago today!) for just a few links to writing books, retreats, and conferences. If you do a little research, you will find something in the right location, spanning the perfect number of days during the right time of year, and easily within your budget. You just have to be willing to try something new.

If you are blessed enough to be in St. Louis, please give each other BIG hugs on my behalf! But if you are like me and staying home this weekend, I encourage you to try the ATK “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.” Then eat them warm from the oven with a big glass of milk while you research your “Perfect Writing Retreat.”

Photo courtesy of America's Test Kitchen
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
  1. With oven rack in the middle position, heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted (about 2 minutes.) Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma (1 to 3 minutes.) Remove skillet from heat  and with a heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
  4. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth w/no sugar lumps (about 30 seconds.)Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Stir in flour mixture until just combined (about 1 minute.) Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
  5.  Divide dough into 16 portions (about 3 tablespoons or a #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
  6. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.
 TIPS: Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. 

Wherever you are today, be sure to look for why God has you there!! And be encouraged that you are right where you HE wants you!!   ~Heidi

P.S. NaNoWriMo starts in  FORTY DAYS (and nineteen hours)!!  Don't miss it! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Precious Moments

Last year I didn’t go to ACFW. As the conference approached, people kept telling me God’s timing is perfect. He has a plan. This just isn’t the year for you.

Yeah, tell that to my heart. It ached. I wanted to go.

With everything going on in our family, I needed something more than a familiar cyber-hug from my Ponderers. You see, last August my father-in-law was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. There was nothing they could do. He had a year to live, at most. Our family was devastated. We decided to get a second opinion at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. And there, we got a miracle. Mayo was willing to operate and on September 13, 2010, my father-in-law had surgery that they predicted would give him twenty more good years if he completed his radiation treatment. The only residual damage—an injured vocal cord that made Denny reluctant to speak in the weeks following his surgery.

Hope swelled. After the emotionally draining month, selfishly, perhaps, I longed to recharge at ACFW with the Ponderers who had walked this road with me. They even offered to fly me out for the weekend, just for a real hug.

Giddy with excitement, I told my husband I could make it work. His lack of enthusiasm surprised me. Not only that, he asked me to stay home. Even though I was crushed, I’ve learned to trust his discernment.

I’m ashamed to say my heart pouted a little that weekend, even as I tried to hide it. We did what we usually do with my husband’s parents, hang out, watch football. Nothing special, really. But during one of those average moments, when it was just my father-in-law and I alone, he rasped, “I know you wanted to be at your conference. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you’re here instead.”

That moment is forever etched in my memory. Denny came down with what we thought was pneumonia, but turned out to be more cancer. He died exactly two months from the date of his surgery on November 13, 2010.

I needed to be home that weekend. And God knew that.

This year I won’t be at ACFW, again. I won’t be getting Ponderer hugs, but I will be having an ultrasound with my hubby, finding out if we are having our first little girl or boy in February.

If you are staying home from the conference this year, I challenge you to be looking for why God has you where you are. Appreciate each moment, because each moment, wherever we are, is precious.



Cross photo

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rejections, Re-directions & Timing

"Rejections slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil--but there is no way around them." --Isaac Asimov


I am fascinated by Kathryn Stockett's writing journey. Her first novel, The Help, is a New York Times bestseller and has been adapted as a movie. That alone is noteworthy. But the story behind the story is just as compelling because Stockett sold after receiving 60 rejections for her manuscript. You can read how she never gave up here .

Another author who wouldn't quit is Julie Lessman, a Ponderer guest, who received more than 40 rejections for her first manuscript. She's not sure of the actual number, since she received rejections even after she'd sold her novel, A Passion Most Pure, which won the American Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Book of the Year.
Yet, Stockett's and Lessman's rejections are small potatoes compared to those of Literary Giants Agatha Christie and Jack London. In a span of four years, Christie, received 500 rejections before landing a publishing deal, and London collected over 600 rejections before selling a single story.


Those authors wouldn't quit and went on to achieve great success. However, sometimes an author must put a manuscript aside in order to become published. Acting on advice gleaned from 76 rejections, Jasper Fforde abandoned his previous works and wrote
The Eyre Affair, which immediately became a New York Times bestseller.

Robin Miller, who writes as Robin Caroll, had to put aside the manuscript she calls "the story of her heart," the story her critique group and agent loved, in order to become a selling author.
Timing. (Anyone know a synonym for timing beginning with an "r?")

Prolific author Kim Vogel Sawyer couldn't sell her
"Gentle Stories of Hope." But God continued to inspire her with ideas, so she kept writing. Suddenly, bonnet stories were in demand and Sawyer was ready to ride the wave to the top with her manuscripts. Now, the award-winning author has sold more than 21 and contributed to other works.

On rejections, Sawyer says, "One quote that seems to resonate with me comes from Comte de Buffon: 'Never think that God's delays are God's denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius.' If God calls us to write, there's a reason, so keep plowing forward--write, write, write, and wait for His doors to open."

Though I've wanted to be a selling author for years, I didn't know the tragedies and heartaches I'd have to endure. I don't think I could have handled the stress of a writing career, while I was widowed and raising a family, especially with a special-needs child. But God knew my circumstances, so I trust His timing for my career.

Where are you on the writing spectrum? Should you keep plugging away on your manuscript? When should you abandon one project to concentrate on a different one? Should you keep honing your craft and wait patiently for God's doors to open for a writing contract?

~Roxanne Sherwood

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Never, Never, Never Give Up!

While watching a special on 9/11 I learned that Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York City, went home that night and read the words of Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill, one of the world’s greatest wartime leaders, was known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II.

Churchill penned many an inspiring speech. Each motivated the British troops to push forward even in the face of adversity -- even when their homeland, bombed repeatedly by the Germans, lay in ruins.

As writers we don’t necessarily face war-time hardships, but it is easy to get disheartened. As writing conferences come and go and we pitch our stories, it is easy to fall victim to discouragement when we aren’t received well by an editor or agent. Or we have the roller coaster ride of emotions when we are asked to send our full manuscript only to have it rejected a few months later.

For those of you I give you Churchill’s words of wisdom:
• “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
• “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”
• “I never worry about action, but only about inaction.”
• “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”
• “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
• “I am easily satisfied with the very best.”

Finally, the one quote that many of us have heard a number of times: “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to conviction of honor and good sense.”

So my fellow authors, if I may change his words slightly, I’d like to say “Never give up, never give up, never; never; never; never give up.” You have a story -- an idea that God planted in your heart and mind. Never doubt that, push forward, strive for excellence, and never give up.

Blessings to you all.

Jennie Atkins

Monday, September 12, 2011

They're Leaving On A Jet Plane

Last year close to this time, I checked my Facebook homepage and read: “About to leave for my roadtrip to ACFW.” “WHAT DO I PACK!!!” “Can’t wait to see all my friends. Flying out in the morning.” “ACFW conference rocks!”

My status update...well, I could have put: “I’m going to Walmart today to pick up some cereal. Maybe I’ll clean my bathroom.” Riveting, huh? I’d attended the ACFW conference four years in a row, but in 2010, I didn’t get to go. It felt weird not to be freaking out about pitching, shopping for the banquet, worrying about if those darling wedge espadrilles would put my luggage over the weight limit. I missed the conference, and it was a hard decision. But it was the right thing for me at the time, and this year I’ll be there with bells on. Or not, because, you know, the whole luggage weight thing.

So what about you? Are you packing or doing a Walmart run? Are you excited or maybe a little depressed? My fellow Ponderers have already given a lot of tips so far to those who are preparing to go this year, and we’re super-excited to see you! But for those of you who are staying home, here are some ideas from someone who’s been where you are right now.

Take some time to dig into some articles/books on the craft. There are a lot of great teachers out there—some of them who will be teaching at the conference this year—who post a lot of free info to help writers. Check out the My Book Therapy blog, Jeff Gerke’s long list of tips for writers on Where the Map Ends, thoughts from Randy Ingermanson the Snowflake Guy, Brandilyn Collins’ site for writers, blogs by respected agents Steve Laube and Rachelle Gardner, and so many more! Read books on writing by Noah Lukeman, Donald Maass, the My Book Therapy workbooks, A Novel Idea by some of your favorite Christian authors, etc. Or maybe pull out a favorite novel and dissect it, then send a note to encourage the author.

Got too much to do to sit down and read? Fine. Buy the mp3s of past conferences or find audibooks about writing. Then listen while you clean your house or cook supper or whatever busywork it is that you have to do.

Get involved
Going to miss out on the social aspect? Tune in to the ACFW loop—make it a point to keep discussions going or start new ones. Encourage others who have to stay home, too. As for those who get to go…why not pray for them. For traveling mercies, for divine appointments, for a spirit of unity, for health and healing and…well, the list could go on. As we take the focus off of ourselves, we’ll be blessed along with the ones we are praying for. Get in touch with author friends also sitting it out this time. And you can join the conference virtually on Saturday night by following the live blog. Since I was a finalist last year, my husband and I made a fun meal and dressed up for the awards banquet. Fun stuff!

Decide on a personal writing challenge. A certain word count you must reach by the end of the conference. A certain number of blogs you have to have written. (Um, yeah. Maybe I should do this one anyway.) Blow the dust off an old manuscript and see if you can brainstorm ways to breathe new life into it.

Whether you’re going or staying, remember this—God has a plan. A plan to prosper, not to harm. A plan to give you a future and a hope. His timing is perfect. He will make those divine appointments for you, whether it’s this year at the conference or if He’s telling you to wait. Rest. Trust. There. Now doesn’t that just take the pressure right off? Rather than fret that you’re missing your ONE CHANCE to connect with the editor of your dreams, you’ve got better things to do.

So...what are you going to be doing next week?  

~ Jenness Walker

Friday, September 9, 2011

Packing (Flannel) Security

Me and my "glang-glang" (aka flannel blankie)...
Fact: I love flannel a little more than the average person. Seriously, I should probably marry a lumberjack. And teach Sunday School. Except, wait, do Sunday School teachers still use flannel boards?

A few years agoin yet another discussion about why flannel sheets warm my heartthe source of my flannel-love finally occurred to me. When I was young, like most kids, I had a blanket. Unlike most kids, I called my blanket my “glang-glang.” Why? I don’t know. I like to think my creativity was making an early appearance.

But the point is this: my blanket was flannel or at least very flannel-like. And to this day, flannel still make me feel...secure. (Go ahead and laugh. So did my college poetry class when I wrote a sonnet about flannel.)

So when I travel to St. Louis for the upcoming 2011 ACFW Conference, rest assured, I will be bringing my own pillow…in a flannel pillowcase.

The ACFW Conferenceor any conferencecan feel intimidating. The temptation to compare ourselves to others is overwhelming. Thoughts about what will or won't happen during the conference can be, if we allow them, prickly and pressuring.

That’s why I think it’s good to pack a little slice of security when we head off to conferences. For me, sure, that means my flannel pillow and of course, my beloved Diet Coke with Lime. But also, something else: the security I find in knowingdeep down and without a doubtthat God is in control.

It’s that knowing, that security, which scratches out the pressure of conferencing or any writing pursuit. And in its place…joy.

Just yesterday I started reading Philippians. My Bible includes an introduction to each book and in the intro to Philippians, I read this: “Joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our livesthat he will be there no matter what! Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ.”

I don’t plan to be simply happy at ACFW. I don’t plan to be pressured either. 

Instead, I plan to experience joy…because I’m “packing” the ultimate security blanket: trust in God’s total control.

How about you? Whether you’re attending ACFW or any conference, or whether you’re writing at home, how do you hold on to security and joy in the midst of pressures?

Melissa Tagg

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Checking Your Spiritual Packing List


The other night I chatted with Reba via IM and mentioned I started pulling things out for the upcoming ACFW conference. Her response was, “Already?”


September was already upon us, so of course I was beginning to pack. Beth blogged What to Pack for the ACFW Conference, then Pat’s post followed up with packing the business essentials.

I made a clothing packing list and a business list that included business cards, bookmarks, netbook, camera, one-sheets. But then I made another list—a mental one—my spiritual packing list.

This list included a teachable spirit, a humble heart, blessed attitude and an overflowing bucket of grace. I need to pack my mouth stretcher too because every year I end up storing my size 7W foot in my mouth at least once.

Conferences release a myriad of emotions—excitement, anticipation, joy, anxiety, fatigue, envy. Having a teachable spirit allows us to be blessed by those who have walked the road before us. Every writer started at the very beginning. Those bestselling authors and terrific presenters were in our shoes at one time—unpublished with a hopeful heart. Having a teachable spirit allows us to accept constructive criticism and view our weaknesses with grace and an open mind.

Even with a teachable spirit and open mind, you may have great intentions, but could end up hurting friends you care about or saying something you didn’t mean. Having a humble heart allows you to go to that person and ask for forgiveness. Having a humble heart also makes it easier for someone who offended you to apologize. Bury the grudge and extend grace to the offender. 

I remember attending my first ACFW conference in 2005 and receiving so many blessings. After that, I prayed and asked God to use me to bless someone at the conference each year. The first year I did that, I met two new attendees--Kelly and Tammy. I still stay in touch with Tammy. She mentions how much I blessed her during that conference. I think I received the greater blessing. 

So while you're packing those outfits and one-sheets, pray every day leading up to the conference and while you're there. Ask God to give you a humble heart, teachable spirit, and to use you to be a blessing to someone else. Keeping your expectations in check allows God to use you for His purpose. What better conference benefit could you ask for?

The MBT Ponderers are blogging about the upcoming ACFW conference all month. Consider reading the latest issue of Voices, the My Book Therapy e-zine written for the Voices by the Voices. The issue is packed with great advice for conference prep. 

Your turn: What spiritual item could you add to our list? What spiritual takeaway have you received from previous conferences?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Author Interview: Christine Lindsay (& Book Giveaway)

Author Christine Lindsay visits with us today. Her book Shadowed in Silk (WhiteFire Publishing) debuted this month. I've enjoyed getting to know Christine as we chatted via e-mails. Shadowed in Silk, winner of the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Historical Novel, tells the story of Abby Fraser, an American living in Colonial India:
She was invisible to those who should have loved her.
After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British Army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.

Why this story, Shadowed in Silk?
As a British immigrant, I grew up on stories of the British Raj, which is a fascinating time in history. A time of glittering English pomp in Colonial England, which is swashbuckling with cavalry officers in great military exploits, and their English wives and sweethearts living in such a trying and exotic place. For the British, this was as exciting a time as the wild west was to the U.S.
But combining my fascination with this era, is the desire to tell a story about a woman who feels invisible because she is unloved. So many people feel that way, and I want them to learn what my character, Abby, learns -- that God sees her and hears her when it appears no one else does.

So what's your backstory? (I can read your bio--what's left out?)
I too grew up feeling a bit invisible. My alcoholic father preferred the bottle to caring for his children and was abusive to my mother. Much of how Abby feels when her husband Nick mistreats her is taken from watching my own mother suffer through an abusive marriage.
I also felt invisible to my first child. I was unmarried when I gave birth to her. Wanting the very best for her, I chose to relinquish her to adoption when she was 3 days old. Then for the next 20 years, I prayed the Lord would allow us to have some sort of relationship unique to birth-mother and birth-child.
God is so very faithful. He not only blessed me with a wonderful husband afterwards, but filled my empty arms with our three children. And 20 years later, He did allow Sarah and I to meet.

Your daughter, Sarah, is the model for the cover of Shadowed in Silk, as well as the book trailer. Would you share this story with us?
After my birth-daughter, Sarah, and I were reunited when she was 20 years old, I began to re-live the loss of relinquishing her in the first place. I would always love her with the love of a mother. But to Sarah, I was this stranger that she had no relationship with. Our feelings for each other were terribly lop-sided. To make things harder, Sarah's adoptive parents were very upset that I had searched for Sarah. They would have preferred that I stayed out of the picture entirely.
My husband and the Lord encouraged me to write out the emotional pain of this rejection. So Sarah became my muse. Over time, I developed my writing skills and the relationship between Sarah and I evened out into a very close friendship -- that of an aunt and niece. When Whitefire Publishing was looking for the right model for the front of my debut novel, the photos of models they sent me reminded me of Sarah. On a whim, I suggested her as our model.
When Whitefire saw the pictures of Sarah, they agreed she was beautiful. And Sarah, bless her heart, agreed to be the model to help promote my writing ministry. I was overwhelmed with how God used Sarah to start me writing in the first place -- and then to put her pretty face on the front cover and the book trailer. Only a tender-hearted God could arrange something like that.

Everyone's talking ACFW right now. Any tips for how to get the most out of writers conferences?
I've only been to one ACFW conference and I pray each year I can return. It was wonderful. My advice is to go and just have fun. You will learn so much your head will feel stuffed. Go to the appointments with the editors and agents, but try to not stress over them. God will unfold your writing career in the right timing, which may not match the timeline you have planned.

When you're stuck--call it Writer's Block or plain ol' frustration with your characters--what's your never-failed-you-yet way out?
Take a prayer walk or a long drive with my husband. He often has the answer to my plot snags, and the long drive gives me time and quiet just to think.

What's in your To Be Read (TBR ) pile?
Sandi Rog's Yashua's Bridge and JoAnn Durgin's Awakening.

If not a writer -- then what?
Put my energies into teaching Sunday School. Or do volunteer work for Children's Camps International.

I can't wait to read Christine's book! Leave a comment or question below for Christine for a chance to win a copy of Shadowed in Silk.

Monday, September 5, 2011

On the business end, what to pack for the ACFW Conference


Only 17 days until the ACFW conference in St. Louis!

Why can't I be more like Beth and already be organized? It's not like I don't kinda, sorta know what I'll take, and now because of her blog last Friday, I have list of the kinds of clothes I'll need. (Yay)

But...I have an appointment with an editor, maybe an agent, and I'll need more than clothes. I'll also have opportunities to pitch at meals and on the elevator (but definitely not in the restrooms). How do I get ready for that? What do I need? Yikes! (hyperventilating here)

Okay, okay...take a deep breath...you have 17 days...Nooo! I'm leaving the 20th--that's only 15 days away.

Deep breath. I can do this. Just let me get out of my right brain and step into my left, organizing brain. Ooh, it's lonely over here. I really like the other side better.

Get busy.

Okay, don't get so snippy.

Let's take this one thing at a time. Pitching means I need a pitch. Thank goodness I signed up for Susan May Warren's MBT Polish and Pitch Scrimmage. I always winged it in the past, but that really made for some terrible pitches. Not doing that this year. I'm going to be prepared and the Scrimmage will get me ready.

What if I'm asked for a proposal? Probably won't happen. But if it does, I'm prepared with 3 chapters and a 2-page synopsis.

Business cards. I created my own in a card program and printed them on high-quality ivory paper, but they can be ordered on line at places like Vistaprint.com. This is what mine looks like.

One-sheet. My One-sheet is on my website, P. T. Bradley.com. I've also listed a couple of places to see other author's One-sheets. On the back of mine, I have a synopsis of my book. One-sheets can be created in Publisher or Word.

Breath mints. Very important when you're sitting almost knee to knee with an editor or agent.

Whew...I think I'll make it. I hope this will help anyone who has to pitch to an editor or agent. But always remember the outcome is in God's hands and in His timing.

Pat Trainum

Friday, September 2, 2011

What to Pack for the ACFW Conference

Decisions, decisions!

I have nineteen days to figure out what I'm packing for the ACFW conference in St. Louis.

 I've already answered the "Will it all fit in a carry on bag?" question. (Are you kidding me? I plan on wearing shoes, people!)

My goal this year: No last minute mad dash to the local mall to update my wardrobe. I've attended enough conferences in the last decade that I should be able to mix and match outfits that don't have my friends commenting, "Oh, I loved that outfit the first time you wore it. And the second time."

Now to the specifics of what you need to pack for the conference. Let me address the men first. I've lived with my husband long enough to know how y'all travel:

  1. Two shirts. 
  2. One pair of pants. 
  3. A suit jacket to toss over your shirt and pants for the banquet Saturday night. Unless you're Jim Rubart, who wore a tux last year. Or Chip MacGregor who rocked a kilt. 
  4. Several pairs of underwear--but only because your wife insists.( If you're single: Please. Buy a four-pack of Haynes and toss it in your suitcase.) OK. Moving on. 
  5. One pair of shoes.
  6.  A toothbrush and a razor.

Done--and it all fits in a carry on bag.

So, ladies, what are your must-pack items?

  1. At least three professional "I'm pitching you a bestseller" outfits. Requirements: You look good and you're comfortable. You want to be thinking about your plot, not whether your slip is showing. (Does anyone wear a slip anymore?)  
  2. One emergency backup outfit. Somehow I always manage to spill salad dressing on myself at lunch right before my 15 minute appointment with an editor.
  3. Comfortable shoes--possibly one pair per outfit. If you're comfortable in 4-inch heels, go for it.
  4. Something fun for the awards banquet Sunday night. Do dressy. Or do floor length.Or do sequins. Or do basic black and throw on some funky jewelry. Maybe this is when I'll see my friend Melissa's orange almost-a-mini skirt.
  5. Toiletries. Here's your trivia for the day: The word toiletries comes from the French word "toilette" which refers to body care and hygiene. I always bring an extra toothbrush for someone who forgets theirs. Friends don't let friends go to bed without brushing their teeth.
  6. Workout clothes. If you really think that's going to happen.
  7. Munchies. Enough to share because, yes, I will be stopping by your room.And you're invited to visit me and practice your pitch. Or just chat.

Thanks to this blog post and the "I need a photo" moment, I have a suitcase upstairs in my bedroom. Now all I have to do is pack it.

All the Ponderers' loved Edie Melson's jewelry last year!

So, what are your must-pack items for ACFW? We'll be talking ACFW all month-long on the Ponderers' blog. Each post, we'll be adding another item to our packing list. Let us know if we forget something.