Faithwalk: She looks just like me

I’m black on the inside.

Last week, when I arrived at the ACFW conference, in Dallas, Texas, I looked around and no one looked like me that is my skin color and my hair texture. I admit, I thought I made a grave mistake attending. Lets face it; no one wants to feel excluded when they enter a room of strangers, especially among 625 people during a four-day conference. I expected cliques, and well-to-do authors sticking with those they knew, after all these were church folks. (Okay I won’t go there.) Anyway, I forged ahead because in reality this crowd was all made in the image of God, hence we all looked alike and wrote varied kinds of fiction. I have to admit I confessed my trepidation to a few people.

However, when I said no one looks like me to Rachel, she said, “I’m black on the inside.”

Now, when I met Rachel she was posing with a friend, I jumped in her photo and said, “You need a bit of color.”  They laughed and snapped the photo. Then I turned to Rachel, and said, “Girl, this morning while you were leading worship I told the Lord you needed a bit of soul. I wanted to talk with you about putting a bit of ump in your worship.”

Rachel laughed. I laughed.

Because on stage Rachel kicked it up a notch with a body wave and booming voice: “God loves me, and I look gooood.”

At worship service, I repeated the mantra: “Cause, I too knew God loved me, and I looked goooood.”

“Let’s take a photo together,” Rachel said.

I handed my iphone to a man.  “She looks just like me,” I said to Rachel.

Nichole writes motivating fiction. She talks more than I do. If you know me, you know that’s a lot of talking.

By the way, six black writers attended the conference. I only got to know two of those writers: Nichole (I’m standing beside  her in a chair, she’s much taller than me) and Jacqueline (We’re both wearing purple and planning to attend a black writer’s conference together).

I dreaded being the only black writer simply because writers, agents, editors, publishers and mentors need to have a common connection, other than writing, but a relationship. Yes, my goal was to pitch my work to agents and editors, to come home with business cards that allowed me to send manuscripts and proposals for consideration. Yet what I learned: without a relationship, without editors and agents understanding who I am, my concerns, and my culture a relationship is null and void.

Honestly, I did get snubbed a few times by writers, an agent and an editor at the breakfast table and in the elevator. And I was not paranoid, I spoke they didn’t. Even a few people who looked like me snubbed me.

Despite my trepidation, I met awesome people, made great contacts (will let you know the outcomes if I get book contracts), have a stack of business cards to increase my blog followers, and found someone who looks like me.

Jacqueline lives in Mississippi and this is not her first ACFW conference. I can’t wait to read her story set in early 1930s of Chicago.

BTW: at the airport Rachel and I chatted about a few black Christian authors. Now I need to introduce her to the music of Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Youthful Praise to name a few.

Isn’t it good to be confident in who you are, and know who you serve: God not people?

Faithwalk: Hungry Writer’s Early Arrives at ACFW Conference


What do you do when you do not see anyone that looks like you? This question has haunted me for days. On the plane, I read the ACFW Journal The Voice of Christian Fiction and none of the columnist look like me. Not the same hair texture or skin color.

Once I arrive in Dallas-Forth Worth, I get on the hotel shuttle, and politely ask the other women, “Are you attending the conference?” They reply yes. I say, “I’m nervous this is my first one.” They smile. I wonder what are they thinking.

I check in, and then head downstairs to pick up my registration packet. Still no one looks like me, and I get that stare. If you have been in my shoes, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and say I’m being paranoid. And then again, it is what it is.

I go to my hotel room and call my three favorite people. They look like me but they are not at this conference and they are not writers. I unpack and head downstairs for dinner. Not even the staff looks like me, however they notice me, for I look like no one else in the dining room.

After dinner, I browse the hotel. Not even the people in the paintings look like me. I head to the ACFW bookstore to see what’s been published. I’ve looked at thirty books and the cover images, you guessed it, don’t look like me. I sigh. A lady passes me, and says: “Is that a good sigh.” I say, “No.” I continue walking through the tables and looking at books. I stop at books published by Zondervan, simply because I have a Saturday appointment with an editor from that publishing house. I take a breath. I focus. I remember the morning devotion.

God is the source of all creativity and innovation. He created the world in seven days. He has made you to create. If God has placed an idea in your heart to do, ask the Lord for His help in bringing it to reality. He desires to see His people create new things that can serve mankind and bring glory to God. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”
Faith plays an important role when considering stepping out to launch a new endeavor.

Well, I had faith that I could. In May of this year, I decided to write full-time. Despite the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, the editors and agents that I would meet at this conference were looking for one thing: a writer who could write a compelling, emotional story that millions of people wanted to read. And my goal is to do God’s will because when I don’t see anyone that looks like me, and hopefully I will, I have to remember I’m God’s child and according to His Word we are all made in his image. So maybe everybody looks like me.

Stay tuned for next week when the Hungry Writer shares her conference experience.

Faithwalk: The Hungry Writer Prepares for a Conference


The faithwalk. At this moment my walk is like a tightrope. My faith is like jumping off a cliff expecting a net to appear at any second before hitting the ground. Simply, I ‘m a bag of nerves as I begin preparing for the ACFW Conference—American Christian Fiction Writers. It has taken me a few years to get to this conference. And I have the jitters because the first conference 100 writers attended, last year 700. Imagine my trepidation as I mingle amongst the best-selling award-winning Christian Fiction Writers. Imagine my angst as I try to humbly pitch my novel ideas to editors, and make new writer friends. I’m not new to the writing life, but I’m resurrecting a new one.

I’ve been in the writing game for few decades. I’ve have not committed to a fiction or nonfiction category. Nonfiction has paid many bills; fiction has been tormented fun. However, I have committed to being a writer: one who writes. And over the years, I’ve prayed for the Lord to increase my circle of writers including Christ followers, and African Americans. Now don’t get me wrong the writer friends I have and writing groups that have embraced my writing, and me I respect and enjoy. Without them, I wouldn’t know I was writing Christian fiction, a young adult novel or even had potential to pursue writing. Hey this writing thing is tough business and with so many rejections, and so many more writers in the game it’s easy to want to give up.

A few nights ago, I said if this doesn’t pan out in three years, I’m becoming a truck driver. My friend laughed, and then said: “ Angel, you can’t even back up a U-haul truck.” He was right. I thought about that for a few days, and realized if I had as much gumption as Jacob, I couldn’t give up this struggle, until God said so.

I asked for this increase of writers for a closer connection. For example, a few years ago five writers sat down to read and listen to each other work. One lady read her essay about her hair. The other ladies applauded her hair to life metaphors.  Me, on the other hand, had questions about the logistics of the work. Why? I too was black, and could directly relate to hairstyling issues whereas the other ladies were not. The reader was most appreciative of our similar connection.

So, as the Lord began to expand my circle of writers I too became most appreciative of our connections. Take my story titled “Deliverance.” (Started as flash fiction, moved to short story, now in novella stage, I’m sure in a few days it will be a 50,000 word novel.) I digress. I submitted this piece to an online Christian group of writers—Scribes. These readers took note of the redemption, compared it to Hosea and Gomer, Ruth and Boaz. Then I passed the work along to an African American writer and she noted that in 1917 a few of my characters were not born, or in Harlem at that time. She questioned the language of one of the characters, “Really, who says ‘shall.’” She connected to the beauty parlor scenes and was perturbed at the sexual promiscuity of the protagonist. One of the Christian writer’s also commented on a sensual scene questioning, “Don’t you think that’s too risqué for a Christian audience?”

These comments alone make me anxious about my work, imagine as I sit at the table face to face with other writers and editors. Will I make good connections or will I choke? Will I come home with interested editors and book contract possibilities, new writing assignments or will I fail? I distinctly remember author Alice McDermott saying, at another conference: “If you can do anything other than write do it.” I should have thought about driving a truck then.

Since, we all know I’m not truck driving material, check out my post and pictures about the relationship with my car, I’m preparing for the conference with much to consider based on the First Time Orient Digest: a prayer room, the right pitch, editor meetings, one sheets, saying the right thing at meals, not being quiet, not talking too much, meeting and sustain friendships with other writers, business cards, chapters, workshops, comfortable shoes, casual business attire, and the final mantra: I did not waste my money attending this conference.

Well, I’m preparing to jump off the cliff and land in safety net. 

Faithwalk: The Hungry Writer

A few days ago, I read an article in Chronicles in Education about writing. The author listed several tips for aspiring writers. In my own words, he suggested: write as often as possible, read what you want to write, explore different genres, know the rules so you can break the rules, don’t expect friends and family to understand your weird creative moments, and remain hungry so you continue to write.

I consider myself a hungry writer. During the past few decades, I’ve been wrestling with my writing, from creating and editing, polishing to publishing. I feel like Jacob wrestling with God, and will not let go until God blesses me.

And in the past five years, I slowly wrote as I put my energies into academia as contingent lecturer moving from adjunct to temporary full-time instructor of English teaching three to five classes a semester. Even a hungry writer needs to eat. A hungry writer scribes at whatever the cost. Sometimes writing early in the morning, late into the night, on the bus, on the train, in the parking lot, at the desk, on the table, in the bed.

In May of this year, I decided to resurrect my writing life. Some weekends, I stayed in the house glued to the laptop, printing pages for editing and revising.  I started this blog with a goal of writing weekly without pay in mind but discipline to writing weekly. During the summer, I wrote the blog posts and posted weekly no matter where I stayed: California, Virginia, Panama Beach.  At home I searched writing markets, gathered work that needed revision, submitted to magazines. I was immersed, hungry to write, hungrier to publish at whatever cost. My hunger for writing left my refrigerator empty on many occasions. I even posted an empty fridge on Facebook last week.

Yet my hunger for writing cannot overshadow my need for love. This is the advice the author gave in the Chronicles of Education article about writing: Remember to love your family, love your friends, love yourself. Love ignites creativity.