Friday, September 3, 2010

Keep Your Divine Appointments at ACFW

One of the questions I’m often asked is, “How do I get published?” There is no simple answer.

When you arrive at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in Indianapolis this month, keep your heart open to hear the still small voice of God. The secret to hanging up your shingle as a Christian book author is to keep the divine appointments that the Lord has set for you.

If you’re sitting in a workshop that falls flat on your ears, slip out the back and into another class. As creative writers you plan and prepare for this once-a-year conference, marking the workshops you need to attend, but the plans that you have made may be preempted by God.

During mealtimes sit at different tables and network with the people you meet. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but at every conference I’ve found that the Lord directs people with similar interests to sit together for a meal and conversation.

Join a group for coffee or sit in the lobby with a new friend. We always assume that we’re sent to a conference for our benefit, but what if the Lord wants you to encourage a writer who’s ready to give up the dream?

Year after year I hear the most amazing stories about how someone first came to be published. It might have been because they met an agent, editor, or another author in the hallway and struck up a conversation.

One night at dinner an author told me his inspiring story about attending his first writers’ conference where he received a harsh critique of his work. Convinced that his desire to write the best Christian boys books was nothing more than a pipedream, he left the critique room and strode down an empty hallway toward the outside door.

All that stood between him and the door to giving up his dream was one small woman—an agent who just happened to block his way. She encouraged him to continue writing, and he has written several devotionals for boys, who are often neglected in the Christian publishing world. The author’s name is Tim Shoemaker.

When you feel discouraged or depressed and don’t know why you even came to the ACFW conference, remember Tim’s story. And don’t forget to keep your divine appointments.

Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!


  1. At my very first writing conference, the major track I attended on the first morning was a disaster. I came back to the room and told Kay, "I'm ready to go home and give this up." She suggested I attend class with her the next day. "This guy makes writing fiction interesting, and I've learned a lot already." So the next morning I went with her and was inspired by a man who's been a friend and mentor since: James Scott Bell. That was only one of my divine appointments along my writing road--there've been many others.
    Thanks for the encouraging words.

  2. I had planned to attend the ACFW conference this year but as it turns out, I can't... Now I feel better. Maybe I have a devine appointment at home. I love this blog about encouragement and being used by God in ways we might not expect. Conferences aren't all about receiving and learning. They are about giving and teaching (sharing information) as well. Thanks!

  3. I'm unpublished--or rather, I'm self-published with a children's picture book under my belt, but I'm looking forward to meeting the other writers probably more than the agents and editors. Over the last several months, correspondence via e-mail and FB with them has made me feel like they are best buddies. I love to write for God, but maybe I need to be there for others rather than for me. God only knows, I might never be traditionally published, but the friendships forged with ACFW folks are written in my heart.

  4. At last year's conference, I was miserable. I was in pain, had to use a wheelchair, and to tell the honest truth I cried in my room the first two nights. Because the pain was so bad, I had to extend the trip by a day in hopes of getting stronger before making the long trip home. The airline fees were astronomical, and I had to pay for an additional night at the hotel. I was convinced that God was trying to tell me that the writing thing, and the whole conference trip, was something I wanted but not necessarily what He wanted FOR me.

    On that final day, however, I happened upon an editor I knew in the hotel lobby. We shared a coffee and a couple of hours together. We talked about our lives, our dreams, and the many unexpected things we had in common. Those couple of hours changed the whole face of how I saw things. I guess you know who the editor was. :-)

    I think when a person is open to "divine appointments" and allows God to move them, it really opens a line of communication we don't even know is there.

  5. Thanks Barbara,
    Love the encouragement. Knowing God does have divine appointments takes the stress out. Looking forward to enjoying the conference and to see what the Lord has planned. Thanks for this blog. Your heart to help writers shows through and is appreciated.

  6. Thank you, Barbara. I found your thoughts regarding divine appointments to be so true at my first "big" conference in May at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Now as I prepare to go to Indy, your reminders encourage me to be humble, be available and to remember to breathe.

  7. Conferences are about so many things, and I've been fortunate to be able to attend most of them since I joined ACFW. I agree that we have to let the Lord lead the way, and that sometimes means putting aside the agenda we arrived with. After knowing so many other attendees online, when I meet them in person, I feel as though they're old friends. Hugs replace introductions, and we can jump right into a conversation--often where we left off in email or on Facebook.

  8. Barbara,
    Thank you so much for your encouragement! I'm working on "not putting my hope in man (or woman)" and trusting God to arrange those divine appts. He wants me to have!

  9. Barbara, I've had some especially meaningful "divine appointments" at ACFW conferences that kept me going through some very discouraging writing times. But one of my best divine appointments ever was actually a visit to Brandilyn Collins's blog just over 2 years ago. ;>D

  10. What an inspirational post. Thank you for this, Barbara. Last year was my first ACFW conference. Actually, it was my first ever conference.

    I was early to volunteer as a time keeper and I ran into an agent who had a cancellation and asked if I'd like to sit down and pitch to her. I was a bit dumbfounded. I hadn't expected to get to pitch to TWO agents. We met and clicked and I submitted my stuff to her right away. I thought for sure this was God's divine appt. I thought for sure she'd email back to offer representation.

    When I got her (very kind and very helpful) rejection, I was crushed. Maybe it wasn't a divine appt after all. But then I used the feedback she gave me in her rejection, made the changes, and submitted to the other agent I had met with - the one I had chosen to meet with (my dream agent). Two months later, I got the call from my dream agent.

    I'm quite certain I would never have received that call if the first agent hadn't explained to me why she rejected my work. Just goes to show, God works things out His own way and we can never quite see His hand at work until after the works been done. You know what they say about hindsight.

    In the midst of all this waiting right now, it's good for me to remember this!

  11. My first ACFW conference was in 2007. It was my first-ever writers' conference, and I was nervous and excited about my first-ever pitch to an editor. But it fell flatter than matzah. The editor did NOT like my story and I was crushed. I also had a killer sinus headache because of the Texas humidity. All I wanted to do that night was sit in my room and cry. But I was scheduled to work in the book store so, even though I wanted to bail, I went downstairs. Best decision of my life. Turns out the person I was scheduled to work with, Lisa Richardson, was my divine connection. In the years since then, she has become my best friend, critique budy, and the sister of my heart. We even share the same birthday! (Although not the same year... I made my debut a few years earlier) That first conference experience taught me a lot of things, but the lesson that stuck with me is that God will put me where He wants me. That knowledge makes it much less stressful!

  12. What inspiring stories! In two of them, I was the divine appointment. Thanks for sharing Sandie and Myra. There have been so many others while I've worked at Abingdon.

    Richard, I knew that James Scott Bell gave you a dynamite review for one of your books, but I'd never heard the story of how you met.

    And you're right, Katie, sometimes we can only see God's hand at work in hindsight.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences everyone. It's at moments like this that He reminds me to stay alert and keep my heart open when He sends me to a conference or a workshop.

    So breathe easy and enjoy yourselves!

  13. I had a divine dinner with an editor!

  14. One of my divine appointments was with you at Writing for the Soul in 2009. You were at the table next to my agent, Les Stobbe. I've been published in non-fiction (nothing book length yet) but I had been working on fiction. As I waited for him, I gathered the courage to ask you to look over my first chapter. You made several encouraging remarks until you reached one particular line "Oh, well this isn't quite right now, is it?" That remark was a turning point for me in regards to craft. That line had bothered me every time I read it but I had decided to let it go. After our appointment, I promised myself I would listen to my own voice and work until I knew I could defend my own work. It may not be perfect but I will know that I didn't let something go that I knew wasn't there yet. Even though it didn't result in a book contract, that will remain, for me, a divine appointment. At this past year's BRMCWC, Alton Gansky gave a glowing review to my revision of the same chapter of the same novel - even reciting some of my lines to other writers throughout the conference. I can trace the root of that excellence back to our appointment. Thank you.

  15. I used to work hard to have lots of appointments. One year, I was so tired. I canceled all of them before I arrived. That was the year I found my agent...or she found me. We'd just eaten a few meals, talked as friends, and hit it off. Now I count her as my sister--and she sold my work because she believed in me after we'd built a relationship. I don't go to any appointments any more because I've spent time getting to know people and how I can be their friend or help them instead. It's a much more peaceful way for me :-) I'm not frazzled and fatigued any more.
    Angie Breidenbach

  16. I am such a fan of conferences! So wish I could be there this year, but I have a long-standing speaking engagement in Sacramento. My prayers--and a touch of envy--will be with you all as you enjoy the conference and keep those divine appointments!

    ~Kay Strom

  17. One of the great blessings of being a Christian writer is that our experiences are all a well-woven tapestry of divine appointments. We need to resist the temptation of discerning them solely by worldly measurements. Publishing a book isn't the end all! If we keep our hearts open to God's hands in the clay, His presence is palpable at every turn.

    As a matter of fact, I have a story of divine appointment with the esteemed Barbara Scott eighteen months ago at my first ever writer's conference at Mount Hermon.

    Barbara, I plan on sharing it soon on my Blog. It's a funny story, and one others may find encouraging.

  18. I'm attending my first ACFW this year and am very excited and nervous. I've saved for it since last October. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement.
    But as the conference nears, I've been doubting whether I should go. I'venot had a lot of time to write since the new academic school year started at the university where I teach (and since my kids started school). It's made me wonder if, like your story, it is a pipedream.

    Thanks for the reminder of God's hand in it all - and that there is a purpose behind each moment and each meeting.


  19. Definitely a divine appointment, Christa! I spoke with someone in the UK last night who reviews books, and WALKING ON BROKEN GLASS is one of her Abingdon favorites. She called it "a brave piece of work." I agree.

    Lori, I don't remember our conversation, but I'm glad it resulted in you trusting your voice. To write truthfully, we need to dig deep into ourselves and listen to those little nudges. I'm so glad to hear the "end" of the story. :)

    Angela, I loved your experience. I've felt that way many times: frazzled and fatigued. Usually, it's only when I stop pushing forward and instead rest in God's hand that He can move in my life. I tend to be a Martha rather than a Mary.

    Kay, I'd love to see you at ACFW, but I know that you have many divine appointments to keep in Sacramento. Blessings my friend.

    Michael, I can't wait to hear your funny story. My short-term memory isn't what it used to be. LOL

    Pepper, trust your heart and attend the conference. Remember when we were kids and stared up at the sky, spotting people and animals as the clouds flew by? The dreams He put in your heart then may be ready to take wing. Relax in your meetings and don't worry about the outcome. His plans for you are good.

    Have a wonderful weekend!



  20. I've been following Barbara's blog and the comments from the beginning. So thankful that I did. The information shared here prepared me for my appointment with her at the Greater Philly Conference. I knew that she liked a one sheet. Thank you, Barbara, for helping me to feel at ease then. Meeting and talking with you was the highlight of this conference. Happy to see your back posting all this useful information. I'd love to attend the ACFW some day.
    Pat Davis

  21. You're so encouraging. I met Terry that way last year and soon after become one of his clients. Then, a couple months later, one of his assistants. You're so right, Barbara, you never know where the Lord's leading.

  22. These comments, and your post, is wonderful! I felt very down after my appts last year. The editor flat out said no way when she heard one of my stories had a deceased child. I didn't know what to say and felt so awkward...Maybe at the next conference I shouldn't think so much about myself and how I feel, but about others. Thanks for the reminder Barbara! And of course, for reminding me that God has a great plan for me. :-)

  23. Thanks for this encouragement. This will be my first time to attend and I had been starting to doubt if I had made a big mistake. I'm only four chapters into my WIP and wondered if it would have been better for me to wait and go when it's finished. I don't have any appointments lined up so I guess I'll be on the lookout for those divine appointments.

    Jodie Wolfe