Monday Mentor– ACFW 1010 Update

Going Up?

Having just returned from the ACFW conference, I can think of no better topic to blog about than what else—the ACFW, of course. In case you don’t know, ACFW stands for the American Christian Fiction Writers. I have enough tips that I could fill a month’s worth of blogs, but for space purposes, I’ll limit what I have to say to My Ten Most Important Lessons Learned at the ACFW Conference.

My journey to the ACFW conference officially began when I registered for my classes, paid my fees and then booked my hotel room. Oh, and what a grand hotel it was. Before I ever stepped foot in the building, I scouted the Internet for pictures and details—and I had a problem with that I saw.

Fortunately, while registering on line, I noticed a little box that allowed me to explain my special needs and request appropriate accommodations to meet them.  This is what I wrote:

Dearest Hyatt Regency Consierge,

I am so thankful that you have the wise foresight to ask your guests in advance what special needs they might have. My needs are quite common, I’m sure, but quite significant. You see, if they are not met, I’m afraid both you and I will suffer significant repercussions.

I am deathly afraid of heights. I notice that your hotel has many floors, many floors. I cannot possibly function on a top floor. In fact, on a mission trip to Michigan, my pastor once forced me to ride across the Mackinac Bridge. It wasn’t enough for him to make me ride across the bridge. He stopped the van and taunted me to look through the windows over the edges of “Big Mac” or “Mightly Mac” as the third longest suspension bridge—in the world—is affectionately called.

It wasn’t pretty what happened. I tried to warn him. Not quite willing to be nearer my God to thee, I began writhing around in the floor board, begging him just to get us the “you know what” over the bridge. I’m not sure my pastor ever recovered from the experience. He eventually left for West Virginia, then Montana—and finally China! I must have caused him a heap of embarrassment.

I’m sure you understand what I’m saying. Please house me close to the ground floor.

Mr. Consierge,  I once lived in a multi-floor apartment complex with outside entrances. I had a small dog at the time, and my small dog’s leash snapped, and my small dog ran away—but not far. He ran up the steps to the top floor of the complex, and I had to retrieve him. There were only two floors, not like your fine establishment which has floors that scrape the bottom of heaven. But I don’t do open spaces and heights together.

Mr. C, I had get down on all fours—maybe it was my belly (I can’t recall)—so that  I could crawl or writhe all the way across the open walk. I embarrassed myself. I embarrassed the apartment manager. I embarrassed my dog. Do you really want something like this occurring at your hotel?

Mr. C Dude, I become violent whenever I am near the edge. I will not walk beside a wall made of poly methyl methacrylate, PMMA—Plexiglas. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Instead of putting up a sturdy reassuring wall, the architect of your building planned clear walls so that patrons can look down at the floors below them.

Man, that’s just crazy! How could expect anyone in his or her right mind want to look down?

And, that’s another thing…your glass elevators. I’ll take the stairs, thank you. Mr. Consierge, sir, please put me on the bottom floor.

Under normal conditions I don’t think I could take down a grown man—even with the violent tendencies that come with my extreme fear of heights. But I’m taking kickboxing now. The combination could be lethal. I’m not threatening you—not yet anyway. I’m just saying.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

So when I arrived at the Hyatt Regency, I smiled at the man helping me get checked in. He smiled back and handed me my room key.

“You’re on the eighteenth floor.”

I did not faint. I did not cuss—after all, I was attending a Christian conference. I had to exhibit some self control. I merely got on those glass elevators and pushed number 18 and rode to the top, leaving my fears with the consierge on the bottom floor.

What other choice did I have? Stay locked in my room afraid to do what God had call me to do? I don’t think so.

So as I leave you with the Top Ten Lessons That Changed My Life, I’ll start with the most obvious.

  • Get over it. If you are serious about being a writer, you’re going to have to get over whatever fear you have that’s between you and the desire God has placed in your heart. Whether it’s a fear of talking to new people, facing rejection or changing your routine to do what it takes to learn how to hone your craft, you’re going to have to get over it. Well, you could just hide your talent and stay in your safe place and refuse to take a risk. You’re better than that. Come on!
  • Cynthia Ruchti says that instead of worrying so much about creating characters, we writers should focus on developing our own character first.
  • Everyone has a story. How is your life story? Boring? Author Tim Downs says that maybe a good editor (God) should get a hold of it.
  • Tim Downs also says that it is through fiction that you, the writer, will woo people.
  • Allen Arnold, Senior Vice-President and Fiction Publisher at Thomas Nelson challenges writers to know their brand and to know their tribe. Brand refers to the writer’s identity. Tribe refers to the type of followers.
  • Literary agent Rachel Gardner welcomes new writers to visit her blog for information regarding getting an agent, writing a query, crafting a pitch, etc.
  • Writers who are interested in learning more about writing for young adults should check out the website YA Highway.
  • Tim Downs says “the delight is in the hunt.” Readers and other human beings enjoy finding hidden treasures. Most of the time, information “sticks” with audience members when they hear a story rather than a lecture even when at first the audience members don’t “get it” at first. Think about Jesus. He was willing to be misunderstood. He spoke in parables so that his audience could think about the story and hunt for the truth lying under the layers of story.
  • Writer Jill Williamson recommends paying attention to pacing. Writers should avoid stopping the flow of the story with going into backstory or “telling.”
  • Serious readers and writers should check out Book Sneeze. If you like to read and to write reviews, you must check out this site!
  • Writer Brandilyn Collins offered a scripture reference (Jeremiah 45: 5) for writers to help them maintain focus:  “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people,declares the LORD, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.”  (Learn more about this author at her website:

The most important bit of advice I have for new writers is to join ACFW–but ONLY if you are serious about your craft. This organization is built on prepping the writer for publication. If you aren’t ready to devote yourself to the craft, you won’t be willing to take advantage of the resources.

Stay tuned….more ACFW info to come this week!