ACFW 2017: A Beautiful Breaking


Writing wise, it was a pretty dry summer.

A couple of writing projects were making their rounds in the black hole of querying agents. (Okay, it’s not really a black hole, but it can feel like it with all the waiting.) In a world that worships instant gratification, the pace of the publishing world is glacial. I was working on a new project…because that’s what writers do while they wait. They search for the next story idea.

But, even though I really liked my new story concept and the characters had promise, trying to get me to sit in the chair and put down words was like holding a cat over bathwater. No…scratch that ;). That cat has passion. I was more like something stalking around the chair, sitting a moment and then running away.

My time is a very limited resource, and there were so many things pulling for my time. Deep down, even though I wouldn’t admit it to myself, I felt like I didn’t have the time to write another novel unless I felt sure that I could actually make something happen with it or with one of my past projects. I didn’t really need a time intensive novel writing hobby. There are other shorter form ways I could use my writing.

Guess what….when you sit down to write a novel and invest that time to write, edit, and submit it there are NO guarantees. A fact that I am well aware of. Most writers have a whole collection of novels that will never see the light of day. So all summer long, though I did write some, I really felt I needed more direction before I could mentally commit to another novel.

Enter this year’s American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference. Last year had been fantastic and so eye-opening. It had given me so much direction. Surely this year’s conference would give me the answers I was looking for.  Besides it would be a little time for this frazzled homeschool mom to three little wild things time to solely focus on God’s calling and how that related to my writing life.

So I arrive in Texas at the beautiful Gaylord Texan. This huge, sprawling place. A little tired, mentally and emotionally. A little bit not sure what I needed from conference this year, but that I needed something.

Worship opened our  first night (Can I say just how amazing it is to be in a room with 400-500 other creative minds, worshiping our creative God. How amazing it is to be a part of an organization that brings us together in one room for that.) Suddenly, where I had felt dry all summer I was a teary mess. Like some knot wound tight was being undone.

And there went the rest of conference. Me feeling like my heart was on my sleeve. Ha, ha writing is supposed to help you develop “tough skin” and suddenly I was feeling fragile. I was not exactly happy about that. I don’t like for people to see my emotion, I’d rather put it on paper. But something in my spirit told me, that I didn’t need more “hardness” or skirting away from my writing frustrations. I needed to face them, and if that brought tears, so be it. The saying goes that writing is like bleeding on a page. Well, I guess I felt ready to start bleeding. This emotion was going to create something.

And that was only the beginning.

In my hotel room after an appointment with an industry professional, I broke. I was a hot mess in my hotel room, feeling like an idiot because I COULD NOT stop crying. And, I felt so foolish for this torrent of emotion. Really, really ridiculous. The thing is, it was not a bad appointment. AT ALL. In fact it was a huge affirmation of my abilities.  I like to be grounded and practical…I wasn’t in this moment. Even though I felt affirmed in my skill as a writer, I was still spinning my wheels. Stuck. And, honestly I’m still processing whatever my deal was with all that. But, it was real. And it was anything but the numbness I had been feeling towards writing.

I wasn’t fond of the tears. I wasn’t fond of the discouragement. But, it led to searching. In all that searching, I found one clear thing. Though there are many things that I can do well, writing stories is the one thing that I really feel naturally good at. It is the one thing (besides motherhood of course) that “makes my eyes light up” as one friend put it. There is a reason that God placed this inside of me.

Little messages were sprinkled throughout conference from friends, industry professionals, and speakers. Messages that all pointed to one thing. Yes, Amanda, even though you feel stuck, you are called to write stories. And then, I was okay. I could work and wait as long as it took to launch that first book into the world as long as I was on the path God wanted for me. As long as I wasn’t working against God, seeking my own way.

Still, I wanted the next step. And I was so frustrated that I couldn’t seem to find it. I remarked on the phone to my husband that 2016 conference felt like Cloud Nine, this year’s conference felt like Ground Zero.

I was feeling broken, but it was a beautiful breaking. When God breaks us, He doesn’t do it for destruction. He breaks us so that the foundations can be strengthened and assessed. Conference this year didn’t wreck me…well I felt a little wrecked…it helped me find the theme of my heart. The thing underneath all the things I write.

I took some time Sunday morning before my flight to pray and think about the heart and theme that God wanted a part of my writing. And I have a fresh direction for my writing life.

The theme of my writing can be summed up in three words: Hope, Healing, and Home. So from now on that is my litmus test for what I’m writing.

Through a series of events that only God could have orchestrated with all the details, I got that one next step that I had been looking for. Sometimes people need a beautiful breaking to get them thinking and seeing in new ways. And sometimes ideas and stories and hopes and dreams need a beautiful breaking so that they can find what they were meant to be all along.

So, I’m home writing. One of my stories is going through a beautiful breaking of sorts. Those of you who have read my work, never fear. I’m not destroying anything, but I am experimenting with a story, taking it apart and re-piecing it with something that I think will bring the story to a new level. It is my one next step, and I have no idea what will come of it, or if I can pull off what I’m trying to do. It doesn’t matter, because ACFW 2017 in all its ups and downs and highs and lows, gave me the one thing I needed. The next step and affirmation that I am on the path that God has given me. So, if I know it is His path I don’t care how long or winding it is. I don’t mind the waiting and rejections. If I am doing it with Him and not just because I think I should, then I’m all good.

Thank you to all involved in running the ACFW organization and the conference itself. It has allowed me to connect with writing friends, literally all over the world. Thanks to all my writing buddies who listened to my wrestling, and who encouraged me along the way. Thanks for being a part of my story.

And thanks to all of you who follow my writing journey.

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