Archives For ACFW

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” Ephesians 3:20

The Arch as seen from the rooftop terrace of the Hyatt in St. Louis

I turned 50 this summer. By this season of my life, I’ve seen many dreams fall by the wayside as God replaced them with better ones. But sometimes the old dreams died hard, leaving my heart battered and sore.

I’ve mentioned in past blog posts how devastated I was in 2008 when the Christian school I’d ministered in for 19 years closed. It was during those difficult weeks in early September that I began haunting my local library. In an attempt to stay occupied, I found myself devouring book after book on writing craft. And it naturally followed that I began to write. That first story doesn’t contain much to recommend it, but it kept me focused and gave me such a great feeling of accomplishment.

With author Laura Frantz at the ACFW Awards Banquet

Then more sadness entered my life . . . During 2009, my best friend’s stage 4 breast cancer attacked with a vengeance. I put my story away for a while and spent most days by her side. After she went home to be with the Lord in early 2010, I wrote a tribute to her. And that was all I wrote for a very long time.

Eventually, my heart began to heal, and the writing bug resurfaced. By summer 2010, I knew I wanted to do more with my writing. So I began a blog and joined American Christian Fiction Writers. Through ACFW, I took an online class from award-winning author Sharon Hinck, entitled Sharing Faith in Fiction. And then a new dream took root in my heart, to write an inspirational story and see it published someday.

Author/teacher Susan May Warren's rooftop pizza party

Along the way, I wondered if my writing was taking time away from other things God would have me pursue. I prayed for Him to show me clearly if I should press on or give up my new dream. Soon after those prayers, my novel finaled in the ACFW Genesis Contest. Then it won the 2011 Daphne du Maurier Award for unpublished writing. And this past weekend at the ACFW Conference in St. Louis, my story won the 2011 Genesis Award for unpublished writing in the romantic suspense category.

To me, winning the contests was affirmation that I’m headed in the right direction—with my writing and in God’s eyes.

So I’m praising Him for giving me a new dream. Whether it turns out as I’m hoping or He has another reason for bringing me this far, I feel free to celebrate!

I cling to the encouragement of Ephesians 3:20 from The Message: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

Would you like to know about the book I wrote? The info is at this link. Or maybe you’d like to keep tabs on my writing journey by signing up for my newsletter.

Check out these pics from the conference. I met some wonderful folks! (Please excuse that so many pics include me . . .) Continue Reading…

On Monday, I uncovered a drug ring in South Minneapolis. On Tuesday, I spotted a felony theft at a country club in Edina. On Wednesday, I overheard plans for industrial espionage while staking out the back room of a workshop in St. Paul.

On Thursday, my daughter blew all my cases out of the water . . .

With these first lines from Symphony of Secrets, author Sharon Hinck ushers us into the slightly-zany mind of single mom and talented flutist, Amy Johnson. As a crime novel buff, Amy is always on the lookout for a real-life mystery to solve, yet she can’t seem to follow the clues that lead to understanding her daughter’s heart—much less, her own.

Caught reading--instead of cleaning my messy home office!

Amy is flawed and funny and filled with an overabundance of imagination. She’s a main character who works her way into your heart until you’re ready to follow her into any fictional situation. I found myself rejoicing to see her win a spot with the Minneapolis Symphony (which brings her to the attention of the handsome conductor) and empathizing with the self-doubts that swamp her as she pursues her dream.

When she attempts to discover who is sabotaging the symphony and steps out of her comfort zone to connect with the non-musical mothers of the cheerleading squad, some of her antics made me laugh out loud.

But, for me, her bravest moments come when she faces her past, acknowledges the pain she has caused, and finds a way to move forward in love.

If you’ve ever yearned for a dream, loved someone enough to sacrifice for them, stumbled a time or two on the path of life, or experienced blessings in unexpected ways, you’ll be charmed by this book.

And here’s some advice for other aspiring writers out there: read this book!

In a class Sharon Hinck recently taught for American Fiction Christian Writers, she emphasized that “one of the keys to writing was to help your reader build a relationship with the characters.”

Since Sharon demonstrates this so successfully with the creation of Amy Johnson, this story is a great study in character development. (After all, Sharon was named “Writer of the Year” at the 2007 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.)

Madeleine L’Engle once cautioned writers, “Your point of view as a human being is going to come over in your writing whether you know it or not. There’s no way you can hide it. And that’s a very scary thing, particularly true, oddly enough, in fiction. Story is revelatory.”

Sharon, too, takes her responsibility as an author seriously and shared her thoughts in our lessons:

“I think it’s appropriate to approach our story telling with a little healthy fear and trembling. When someone is willing to spend several hours in your created world, with your created characters, absorbing your world-view, you have an opportunity to influence for good or bad.

Therefore, be saturated with the Word. We work with words, but we never exhaust our need to be IN the Word—taught, fed, and shaped by the Bible.”

To learn more about Sharon and her other books, visit her website. The sidebar section labeled Encouragement links to some meaningful reads, sure to touch your heart.

Book Giveaway: Let me share this sweet story with one of you.

I made the mistake of starting Sharon’s book during a school week, and you can see by my

My copy of Sharon's book where it should NOT be--in my school bag!

photos that I ended up reading when I should have been working. My copy of the book shows some outer wear from having been dragged around with me and handled by my curious students, but the pages are pristine. So if you’re the type of person who doesn’t judge a book by its cover, this is the giveaway for you!

To win my somewhat used copy of this book, you must be a subscriber or GFC follower. Then simply leave a comment below to let me know you’d like to be included in the drawing. Please include your email address. (Remember to write it like this jenniebee [at] gmail [dot] com.) I’ll run the giveaway until next Friday, October 15.

Follow this link to purchase your own copy of the book.