by Natasha Kern
In this season for appreciating our many gifts and blessings, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the blessing of ACFW.
When I first began agenting in 1986 way back before email or the Internet existed and before editors had computers on their desks (and resisted them mightily), ACFW did not exist. Amazingly, all submissions at that time were sent in physical manuscript boxes by mail, queries arrived by mail at least a tub full every day, and agents spent many hours on the phone talking with clients and editors, even at odd hours for foreign submissions. At that time, fiction was essentially the red-headed stepchild of CBA publishing. My first client was the lovely and talented Jane Peart and I still represent her literary estate for her daughters Chloe and Eden. Working with Jane and other writers lead me to see the power of parable and of storytelling to open hearts and inspire readers. The books I represented for writers like Kathleen Morgan, Anna Schmidt and Robin Lee Hatcher, who at that time were moving from the general market to CBA, were inspiring to me and deeply affected my own faith walk. It became my biggest dream to see inspirational fiction become accepted and appreciated by publishers and booksellers; for novels to have a respected place at the literary table as works of lasting value; and for these books to have more opportunities to reach readers beyond CBA stores as well as providing an avenue of expression for writers of stories laid on their hearts.
I continued to represent fiction almost exclusively for most of my career. Some years ago, after considerable frustration with requests to change stories I represented to nonfiction books to better convey their messages, I wrote a letter to about 25 editors and publishers (in a moment of insanity) in essence writing about the reasons why Jesus spoke in parables instead of bullet points and how hard it is to improve upon His methods of teaching people which he explains in Mathew 13-13 and which is confirmed in Matthew 13-34 as His primary teaching method.
These novels that are often downplayed for being mere entertainment are much more than that. I have saved so many messages that clients have received from readers saying that they had lost their faith and found it again through one of their stories. Readers who read a Christian novel for the first time and began attending church. Those who faced life’s challenges differently after receiving a fresh perspective on faith through the life of a heroine. One client began writing light-hearted romances after being widowed young. She said reading those kinds of stories kept her going through a dark time when she needed to be there for her kids. Now she is writing them for other women. In so many ways, stories are essential for a deeper understanding of ourselves, of life, of our walk with God. The parable of the sower is for writers.
Over these many years, it is with delight and appreciation that I have seen all that ACFW has accomplished for this industry, for writers and for the ministry of telling parables. The mentoring, workshops, online classes, blogs like this one, the writers’ loops and local and national conferences have raised not only awareness of the power of storytelling, but also markedly improved the quality of writing in this industry as well as respect for writers of fiction. Over these years in the course of selling over 1,200 books, I have often been told by writers that I have made their dreams come true. And now, I must say thank you to all of you members of ACFW from the bottom of my heart for helping to make my dreams come true.
Natasha Kern represents fiction writers who are NY Times best-selling authors, USA Today Bestsellers, RITA, CAROL, CHRISTY and EDGAR winners. She also still continues to discover and offer representation to new writers.