The conference was great. We had a lot of fun connecting with friends and associates in the world of ACFW. I worked very hard meeting hopeful authors; connecting and praying with my clients; squeezing in times to confer with Chip and Amanda whenever possible. Between us, we taught or participated in at least half a dozen teaching and/or industry sessions. Chip did a great job as emcee of Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy pizza party. Though I had to duck out early to attend a publishing dinner, I hear he helped move things along at the line dance lesson which followed. Here’s a YouTube link to one of the most well organized line dance lessons I’ve ever seen … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNvFf7tQH0w.
At the awards banquet, we were pleased to cheer for all the winners, and picked up a few awards ourselves. Our very own Jenny B. Jones won twice; once in the Young Adult category for I’m So Sure (Thomas Nelson) and again in the Long Contepmorary Romance category for Just Between You and Me (Thomas Nelson).
Jenny is always a hoot, and her off the cuff acceptance speeches were no exception. If you weren’t there and would like to get an asparagus-free taste of the awards banquet, check out the liveblog at http://acfw.com/conference/liveblog.shtml led by Tyson Wynn of Wynn-Wynn Media.
By the time the Agent of the Year was announced, I’d thoroughly decided there was no way I would possibly be walking up front to accept the award, so I was thoroughly shocked, quite honestly, when my name was called. I think my thirty-second-at-best acceptance remarks relayed this.
I will admit I was asked to prepare a speech just in case, which I did. But learning mid-conference that winners would have 30 seconds max to say thanks, I ditched it.
Still, I think it expresses very well what this award means to me, so I’ll share it here.
When I heard I was nominated and realized there was the chance that I might have to trot up to the front of the room and receive recognition, I hoped to find something in my closet which I hadn’t already worn to other ACFW and conference events. But … no luck. I’m not much of a shopper, actually. So it took a bit of a nudge from my husband, offers of help from my two best girlfriends, and some pre-shopping advice from a fashion savvy author I represent, to get me to the “social wear” department of our local upscale department store. “Don’t worry about the price,” they all said. “Just find something that makes you feel fabulous.”
After selecting as many dresses as possible to take into the dressing room at once (as much as I hate shopping in general, I loathe the back and forth between the racks and dressing room even more) I narrowed it down to three, then one, marched over to the jewelry counter to find jewelry to accent the dress, then escorted my usual frugal self to the register without stopping too long to ponder the fact that the dress I chose was (of course) the most expensive of the bunch and (gasp) not on sale. It did make me feel fabulous, though, so I caved and bought it.
And then the next morning at church Randy Alcorn, whose book THE TREASURE PRINCIPLE has greatly influenced my thoughts on money and possessions, was a guest speaker. Randy, in his very gentle-yet-convicting way, reminded me (well, it wasn’t just me, but it felt like it) that God provides for us so that we, the church, can provide for others.
My soul said amen. And then it started doing a number on my conscience. Suddenly the price tag of that dress started to matter again. Before the day was out, I decided I’d be returning the dress and looking elsewhere for something with a more conservative price. And that I’d be praying for an opportunity to up my contributions to others in need. It’s not the first time God influenced my life through the work of a book or author.
Before I was even aware there were such things as “Christian books” (which begs the question – can a book be a Christian?) authors like John Steinbeck, Norman Maclean, Elizabeth Berg, and Gabriel Garcia- Marquez helped shape my sensibilities for what makes a good story good.
Back in the day when I was a new believer and Christian fiction was housed on one shelf, Frank Peretti’s THIS PRESENT DARKNESS opened my eyes to the reality that we live in a battlefield, and are responsible for keeping ourselves girded in prayer and armed with truth.
Donald Miller’s, TO OWN A DRAGON, helped usher me through a very dark time in my life when I realized I still had “Daddy Issues” I needed to resolve.
A few years ago, Randy Alcorn gave me a signed copy of his book HEAVEN, which opened my eyes to the delights of the age to come. And then, God gave me the opportunity to share these insights with the twelve year old daughter of my best friend who was losing a battle to brain cancer but looking forward more each day to meeting Jesus.
When I first began agenting, I wondered if my dream to create a bridge for Christian fiction authors to inspire the world to a higher standard of entertainment was realistic. Leif Enger’s PEACE LIKE A RIVER showed me that it is. Learning that Barnes & Noble had chosen to place Carla Stewart’s CHASING LILACS at the front table of every store across the country this past summer helped affirm my confidence that I do indeed recognize good writing, and that my endeavors to represent quality books – and authors – who make a difference in our world is worthwhile.
Lisa Samson’s book QUAKER SUMMER helped dawn in me the notion of looking for an opportunity to reach out to my local community – even if it only felt like a tiny drop in a very, very big bucket.
Reading Melanie’s Dobson’s book LOVE FINDS YOU IN LIBERTY, INDIANA while my son’s class rehearsed their roles in a civil war peace cotillion added a fullness to my appreciation of the struggles of our founders and forefathers. And mothers.
This summer I had a chance to meet Arloa Sutter in person – she’s an author I represent whose new book THE INVISIBLE just released. As the director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries in East Garfield, Chicago, the work she is doing on a daily basis to help people in one of the most impoverished communities in America is inspiring. But the reality of her message and her life – that there’s always hope – came at a time when I needed that reaffirmed as the economy struggled to recover from a downward spiral and so many of the yet-to-be published authors I represent needed encouragement to keep their heads up, and continue fighting the good fight with me – even when prospects seem bleak.
Everyday there are stories being written, and read. Hearts – and consciences – being challenged and changed all because of books.
So, even if it means I have to trek back to the mall the next chance I get, I’m grateful for Randy, and for other authors whose books have shaped who I am, and who I am still becoming.
To be a part of this is honestly reward enough, though I am honored to have received recognition for it.
A sincere thank you to Chip MacGregor, the authors I’m privileged to help along in their publishing journeys and whose letters were responsible for my nomination, and all the authors whose work has influenced me over the years.
Like I said, I’ll be returning the mall very soon to return the dress I left hanging in my closet when I packed for ACFW.
I’m keeping the earrings, though.