Faith, Friends, and Storytelling

acfwalleycatsLast weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. I’ve been going to ACFW for five years now and over that time I’ve developed great connections with remarkable people, met some of my dearest friends (Go, Alleycats!!), and cultivated a deeper understanding of the ‘call’ God’s placed on my heart as a writer.

alleycatsI am a writer.

My Granny called me one when I was about ten years old, and I joyfully accept the mission. God just happened to sprinkle powdered sugar on top of my life by giving me an amazing group of writers to share the journey.

Tweet: ACFW is so more than meeting editors and making profitable connections. It’s a braided blessing of fellowship, worship, learning, and encouragement.

francineI’m reminded of this truth every September I’ve joined hundreds of writers, editors, publishers, marketers, daydreamers, and world-weavers.

We are taught great courses. The ones I took in marketing were particularly fantastic this year.

We develop amazing friendships. I absolutely love the camaraderie honed among professional daydreamers who love Jesus.

We worship. At the heart of this calling and these friendships is a bond bound by grace.12027752_10207297498386565_6334955013657674308_n

We find and give encouragement. Because the writing road has more twists than a pretzel, finding other journey-ers acfwjulie'sangels2along the way helps the stragglers stay the course and shores up the discouraged.

We create hope-filled stories. And encourage others to spread the endearing truth to the world through words.

What a gift!

Fingerprints of Grace

keygoldbackgroundSo, it’s been a long week of work and family. Some of the fam have some sort of cough/congestion/sore throat, so it can make the days get a little longer – but for the most part, everyone has kept the complaining low and hugs high. 🙂

In the middle of this tiring week, something else happened besides crazy coughs and sniffly nights. Four amazing ladies read (or are reading) my debut novel and sent me encouragement. Some times it’s easy to get lost in the middle of the everyday struggles, and I’m always in wonder by God’s gracious touches of his grace. What those little words of encouragement can do to change the tone of an entire week!

Maybe even an entire life!

Years ago I was having a talk with one of my nieces as she was struggling with some personal challenges and she said, “But I don’t see God. I don’t feel Him. How can you tell me that He loves me.”

Good question. What person hasn’t asked that at some point or other.

I said – “Well, his little fingerprints are all through your life if you look. In my love for you. In your uncle’s love for you. In your parents’ love for you. In the way your teachers spend extra time trying to encourage you. In the laughter you bring to your cousins, and the laughter they send back. Maybe we both need to start looking for his fingerprints and we’ll remember that God is right here – always working in our lives.”

So Laura Frantz, Julie Lessman, Dawn Crandall, and Jean-Marie VunCannon – Thank you for being those fingerprints of grace in my life this week!

News to Share

10646741_10204870944154085_8514285265217180766_nWell, so much has been going on lately that I figure it’s time for a recap…and just maybe I’ll get back on track to posting at least once a week on this blog 🙂

Ever hopeful!

God has an amazing way of surprising us with more than we expect.

I’ve been pursuing writing for the past ten years and in that time God’s done some amazing things like:

Introduced me to the fabulous Alley Cats

He brought the FABULOUS, Julie Gwinn to be my friend first – and then my agent

Brought wonderful authors like the Seekers, Janice Thompson, Beth Vogt, and so many others into my life

He’s brought teaching and resources to help hone my skills.

And now..well, I’ve joined the roller coaster of published authors.

1. I signed my first contract with Lighthouse of the Carolinas for my Contemporary Romance novel, A Twist of Faith, at the end of September. It’s a fun story that is a modern day retelling of My Fair Lady set in Appalachia. It’s scheduled to release in June 2015.

2. I signed my second contract in mid-November to co-author a Middle Reader/YA novel that accompanies a new video game releasing in 2015.

3. Yesterday I signed a three book contract with Vinspire Publishing for my historical romance series, beginning with The Thornbearer to be released in October 2015. This Penned in Time series takes place during World War 1 and follows the lives of three friends who each struggle with forgiveness and the definition of true beauty as they face a world at war.

I’m excited about these new opportunities but also nervous about how to make it all fit into a very busy schedule as a full-time speech language pathologist and mom of five. It’s great to know if God provided the opportunities, He’ll also provide the ability to complete them 🙂

Here’s to seeing what God ends up doing with MY story in the middle of writing these stories!!

A Day Off to WRITE

I can’t remember the last time I had a day off JUST TO WRITE!

The last day off I took to write, two of my kids got sick the night before and were home from school with me.

But today….

TODAY……

I am sitting at the kitchen table staring at an empty house and getting ready to open up a manuscript to DIVE INTO.

FOR. THE. DAY!! (or until 3:30)

It’s my big attempt to get ready for ACFW which happens in THREE WEEKS! I will get to meet CASEY HERRINGSHAW, ANGIE DICKEN, MARY VEE, WENDY MILLER, and SARAH FORGRAVE!! My ALLEY CATS!!!

Did I mention Casey is a FRASIER FINALIST!!

Did I also mention I get to stalk…er…meet RUTH LOGAN HERNE!!!

Anyone else get excited about writing days? I’m feeling very Connealy-esque here. Might have to shoot somebody! 😉

A Visit with Author Krista Phillips

If you don’t know this already, I am a member of a fantastic group writing blog known as The Writers Alley. It’s such a fun place to be – with nine awesome aspiring authors to help bounce ideas, share prayer requests, enjoy funny moments, and gab about writing. Interestingly enough though, many of us have never met in person. We started the Alley online last May with five: Mary Vee, Casey Herringshaw, Krista Phillips, Sherrinda Ketchersid, and me.

In the fall of 2010, God sent five other authors our way: Julia Reffner, Angie Dicken, Sarah Forgrave, Wendy Miller, and Cindy Wilson.

Since ten is one of my favorite numbers, I think our group feels pretty complete. But what would make it even better is to get to meet in person.

We’re all scattered throughout the U.S. so that makes meeting very hard, but this weekend I had the opportunity to meet Krista Phillips. Unfortunately, we met at the hospital where she’d just brought her sweet baby girl, Annabelle, back to the PICU. To learn more about Krista’s amazing journey with Annabelle this past year, you can visit her fantastic blog here.

It’s such a blessing to meet any of these ladies who’ve inspired and encouraged me so much this year. I was grateful to meet Wendy, Sarah, Angie, and Cindy at ACFW last year (and that was WAY before The Writers Alley ever came to be – cool, huh?!?)

With ACFW 2011 just around the corner, I look forward to meeting more of the Alley Cats. Particularly, Casey and Mary – but we’ll be joined by Sarah, Wendy, and Angie too.

Other writing buddies will be there – such as the EXCELLENT Seeker-gals! Oh dear, I love them!

And friends, Carol Moncado, Keli Gwyn, Laura Frantz…and so many more!

Any writing pals-meetups in your future? Whether at ACFW or otherwise?

Also, here are a few pics of the Parthenon in Nashville- a exact replica of the original Parthenon in Greece.