September 22 | Keynote Address
Write what you know. Learn what you don’t.
And never give up on the dream.
Tracie Peterson (right), keynote speaker for the 2011 American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference, was also a founder of the organization. In her Thursday address to conferees, she hearkened back to those early days.
In the beginning
“I remember clearly what it is like to be a new author,” Peterson said. To get—and provide—support, she and the other founders (Lynn Coleman, Andrea Boeshaar, DiAnn Mills, Gail Martin, and Misty Taggart) created what has become ACFW.
“We needed an organization for training and encouraging authors at every level,” Peterson said. “One of the most important things (to a new writer) is sharing the wealth of knowledge and experience available.”
“We’re truly blessed by the fellowship of an organization that has grown from 3–4 women to nearly 3,000.”
From her early love of reading came a passion for writing.
Peterson’s interest in writing began early. “I read an average of 20 books a week—classics and everything,” she said. “In fact, my mom had to petition the librarian to give me an adult card when I was a child so I could take out 10 books, instead of three.”
From her early love of reading came a passion for writing—specifically a passion for Christian fiction. But early efforts lacked fruit.
Perseverance pays off
“One of the first times I met one-on-one with an editor, that editor worked for Bethany House,” Peterson said. “Steve Laube was one of the best examples of an editor in the business. He was honest. He didn’t give me false hopes, and yet he wasn’t mean.”
She persevered, her desire to write strengthening.
When you have a passion … and you’re able to focus that passion, God can do amazing things.
“When you give yourself to the Lord, he can actually lead you places,” she said. “I followed the rules—did the things I was told to do—and yielded my heart. When you have a passion for something, and you’re able to focus that passion, God can do amazing things.
“There’s a mission field right here,” Peterson said. “Thank God I didn’t have to go to Africa! The things you write and the things you say are changing lives, so be gentle with one another.”
Peterson gave advice on how to be gentler:
- Editors and agents: “Smile more and snicker less. Howling hysterically is not allowed.”
- Authors: “Don’t wrap yourself around an editor’s or agent’s leg.”
- Agents: “We’re advising authors that a 50 percent fee is exorbitant.”
- Authors: “Publishing is a business, so please do not threaten that God will pour out His wrath on anyone who rejects your manuscript.”
Working together as authors
You will touch lives in ways you have no idea about.
Peterson said she loves working with other authors—newer ones and more experienced. “It’s great for me to be able to share and give back,” she said. “We have contests and we have fun—but I have yet to see people have knock-down, drag-outs over contests.
“Contests will always cause tears—and laughs,” she said. “Just remember, editors and agents who are part of this organization are here to help you. Write what you know. Learn what you don’t. And never give up on the dream.”
“You have power. Use your stories to be powerful—but be humble. You will touch lives in ways you have no idea about.”