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.