A Few Moments With ... DiAnn Mills
Frequently as part of my job as a feature writer for Afictionado, I get to interview interesting people. This month I had the joy of interviewing an author who is part of ACFW’s history. DiAnn Mills is Member Number 1 in this fine organization. As a founding member of ACFW she has watched it grow from an idea created by some romance writers (we were originally ACRW: American Christian Romance Writers), to an organization more than 2,000 strong spanning the globe.—Tiffany Colter
DiAnn Mills has won countless awards including Christy Awards in 2010 and 2011 (Breach of Trust and Sworn to Protect and is a finalist this year in ACFWs Carol Awards for Pursuit of Justice. Despite this she is still a down-to-earth lady, according to Julie Garmon, a friend.
“I’ve known DiAnn since September of 2006,” Garmon said. “It was my first big teaching/speaking event. I’d flown from Atlanta to Dallas to teach at the North Texas Christian Writers Conference. DiAnn looked at me from across the room with those piercing laser beam-blue eyes and made her way over to me. ‘You look shy,” she said quietly. “Do you need a friend?’”
I was 19, lonely and sad, and switched on the TV to a Billy Graham crusade ... The Holy Spirit touched my heart and I gave my life to Jesus.
Hard to believe a woman who so quickly makes friends started her walk with Christ in a lonely place. “I was 19, lonely and sad, and switched on the TV to a Billy Graham crusade.” Mills said. “The Holy Spirit touched my heart and I gave my life to Jesus.”
That connection with the Lord continues to this day. “I begin my day with a quiet time: worship, prayer, and nurturing my soul with His Word. I then exercise. Without the two, I’m worthless,” Mills said. That quiet time with God extends beyond home. Like many successful writers, she travels frequently. “Travel is so therapeutic. This is a time to appreciate God’s creation.”
Colleen Coble, ACFW’s CEO, says she “grew up” with DiAnn as a writer. “DiAnn and I started writing Heartsongs for Barbour at about the same time. “DiAnn is incredibly focused on her writing. She’s an encourager and has a great heart for ACFW. She was instrumental in starting the organization too!”
Heart of a teacher
Those who have attended ACFW conferences are no stranger to Brandilyn Collins’ funny way of telling a story. “Oh, DiAnn just looks sweet,” Collins said. “Let her near me and she gets me into trouble in about five minutes flat. Don’t let that suave façade of hers fool you.”
On a more serious note, Collins said Mills has many strengths, including teaching. ““She’s a great teacher of the fiction craft,” she said. “She’s a regular instructor at Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild conferences, and he handpicks his teachers.”
In fact, Mills is the mentor for the Guild’s top-level craft course. “We at the Christian Writers Guild are thrilled to have DiAnn serve as our Craftsman course mentor,” Jerry Jenkins said. “Not only is she a careful, comprehensive, and page-turning novelist, but also she brings those same gifts to her teaching.”
Garmon also spoke of her mentoring heart. “DiAnn has mentored me, encouraged me, believed in me, prayed for me, and edited me through two novels. She simply will not give up. It’s not a part of who she is. She’s a fearless woman of faith—it’s a rugged faith—living, breathing, and active.
“Her friendship is one of those rare treasures sent straight from the hand of God. I don’t understand it. I can’t explain it, but I’ve been blessed—I am daily blessed—to be championed by her.”
Dedication to craft
For a woman so well-known as a teacher, Mills must have learned some great lessons—and have great advice to share. She said one of the worst pieces of advice she’s received is that published writers must have a degree in creative writing. That’s simply not true, she said, however, learning your craft and growing are important.
Every book has to be better than the previous one.
“Every book has to be better than the previous one,” Mills said. “My personal challenge is my own criteria. The characters have to be deeper. The plot has to twist a little tighter. The setting must be more antagonistic.” It is her passion for great writing that earned her Christy Awards two years in a row—much to her amazement.
“My biggest surprise has been the Christy awards in 2010 and 2011,” Mills said. “A writer creates a story that keeps her up at night. The passion for the project consumes every waking and not-so-waking thought. How grand when she discovers that others have also found value and meaning in the story!”
A serious passion
When she is not mentoring or writing, Mills spends her time reading, cooking, gardening, and spending time with grandbabies. It is a fulfilling life, she said.
Mills’ life illustrates the importance and value of interacting with your readers. This dedication to relationship has earned her love and respect. “I love to hear from readers,” she said. “Now that lifts my spirits! Writing is a passion for me, a ministry calling, and I take it very seriously.”