Last year in Denver, my faith journey led me at last to the wonderful community that ACFW has created. To start at the beginning, faith did not come easy for me. I grew up in a Christ centered home, but as I went out into the world and began reading philosophers who held that this life is all there is—that the rest is wishful thinking—frightening questions rose. How do you know that the Gospel stories are true? I would ask. And no one had the answer. As a result, I slid into agnosticism for many years. Just got on that treadmill and started to run.
But for all those years I wanted desperately to believe; I just couldn’t get there. In my case—and there are many others like me in this country—the heart can’t accept what the mind rejects. I needed ‘reason’ as soil for faith to grow. Thirty years later, on a driven search, I found the answers while writing my first non-fiction book, Faith On Trial. (I know, I know. I put Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on trial, and they won! But I’m a lawyer, what can I say.) That book answered the burning questions for me. My life changed. I returned to the fold with new understanding, strong Christian faith, and a deep abiding love for our God.
I published three books before understanding what the ACFW Conference could offer. Last year I attended the conference in Denver. From the initial blogs before the conference began, I began to understand what a wonderful, caring group of people were involved in creating this event. This experience. And the minute I walked up to the registration desk, that feeling was confirmed. It was like being tucked into a warm blanket.
The annual ACFW conference is unlike any other writing conference that I’d attended. Why? First and foremost because everyone there—organizers, people in the bookstore, volunteers, speakers, attendees—every one of them saw the art of writing in the light of their beliefs, their faith. And they care about you. They want you to succeed. Everyone is passionate about the craft, and about conveying the Christian message through fiction.
I once read that if you begin your writing with just an “idea”, then you’re in trouble. I strongly disagree. I believe it is ideas—like our thoughts on Christianity, the Creator and His universe, evolving through the characters, plot, and narrative that make a great book. Universal ideas, or themes, like this resonate through the centuries and help us, and our readers, form opinions on faith and doubt, war and power, love, hate, revenge, feelings of ‘otherness’. We learn from this. Ideas are central to our writing.
So the moment I walked into that conference I knew that I was home—because these same ideas were central to every writer there. Every one of us was there because we have something to say about faith and hope and love of God. And if you go back to the great books that you remember over the years, Tolstoy, for instance, I believe you’ll find that those books endured because they kept the same focus on ideas.
My first ACFW Conference last year was an experience that changed my life. Sometimes it’s not easy to write about your faith, to put yourself ‘out there’ and expose your innermost thoughts. But from the beginning of the conference last year to the end, I felt that I’d walked through the door into an entirely new community of friends who write for the same reasons that I write. And they are people who are caring, generous, giving, loving.
If you’ve never attended the ACFW Conference, and you are writing Christian Fiction—I urge you to go. And I look forward to meeting you in Indianapolis in the fall!
You can learn more about Pamela and her books at her website.