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From Whence We Came: ACFW’s humble beginnings, Part 2

By Andrea Boeshaar

In Part 1 of this blog I reminisced about the early days of ACRW — American Christian Romance Writers which eventually morphed into ACFW. In this post I’ll discuss several of its growing pains as well as some of the many accomplishments of this organization.

In February of 2000, the first Advisory Board opened up ACRW to receive members. It soon became apparent that a large portion of our membership hailed from Texas. So in 2001, author DiAnn Mills, also an Advisory Board member, coordinated a conference in Houston. Lynn Coleman attended and led a workshop. Membership in ACRW was also discussed.

But that wasn’t the organization’s first conference. ACRW’s first national conference was held in Kansas City in 2002. Karen Kingsbury was the keynote speaker. We needed at least one hundred attendees to break even and I recall there were ninety-nine paying attendees when the conference was set to begin.

We advisors kept praying…and then author Kathy Ide walked in and registered, giving us the one hundred attendees that we needed!

There were many highlights at that first conference. One in particular was Barbour Publishing’s contract giveaway that turned a hard-working, unpublished romance writer into a published author.

Those early days were exciting as ACRW grew. But then the advisory board had a major shakeup: Lynn Coleman announced that she would step down as CEO. Essentially, she felt God speaking to her from John 3:30 and in order for God to increase ACRW, Lynn believed she had to decrease. Lynn stated, “The Lord suggested I step down in order for the organization to continue to grow. It was becoming known by some as Lynn Coleman’s organization and that was not what I or the Lord wanted.”

Lynn’s decision catapulted me into the top position. I quickly learned my strengths and weaknesses as a leader of a national organization.

At the time, ACRW had an advisory board (AB) and an operating board (OB). The latter handled the majority of contest and annual conference planning, reporting to the CEO and her advisors at online meetings. In 2004, at one of the conjoined meetings before the conference, a motion was brought forth to change the name of ACRW to ACFW–American Christian Fiction Writers so the organization could be more inclusive. The face of Christian publishing was changing rapidly and embracing a wide range of genres.

The measure passed. The organization’s name was changed.

But it wasn’t too long after that I announced my resignation. My mother had broken her hip and my sons were getting married, joining the Army National Guard, and going off to serve in a post 9/11 world. I also had book contracts to fulfill and I worked a job outside the home. Author Colleen Coble gracefully stepped into the position of CEO of the AB – and she’s done a magnificent job along with all the other advisors.

And the organization couldn’t have survived back then (and now!) without its many, many volunteers.

More changes occurred as the organization grew. Per the ACFW website, “At the end of 2012, ACFW made a structural change for 2013 and beyond, moving from a two-board system to a single-board system with the Advisory Board comprising the majority of a newly formed Executive Board. Two more Executive Board members were added–Allen Arnold and Cara Putman. Conference Director Robin Miller was asked to serve as Executive Director, adding to her conference responsibilities.”

To date, ACFW boasts of more than 2600 members worldwide. Many Christian authors, including me, have benefitted from the organization. ACFW has allowed us to meet and make new friends. It’s offered us online critique groups and entry into the many genres that host pages on Facebook. It’s enabled us to network at conferences where we can meet literary agents and editors and learn about the publishing industry.

While much has changed in the past sixteen years, ACFW’s objectives and goals have remained largely the same. ACFW exists “to advance Christian Fiction by inspiring writers to join with God in the creative process, training them in the craft, and educating them in the publishing industry.”

To this day I maintain my membership and regularly attend my local ACFW chapter, ACFW-WISE. Presently, I’m contracted with three traditional publishers, and I can honestly say that I’m a better author and a more dedicated Christian today because of this organization.

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar 2016Andrea Boeshaar has been married for nearly 40 years. She and her husband have 3 wonderful sons, 1 beautiful daughter-in-law, and 5 precious grandchildren. Andrea’s publishing career began in 1994. Since then, 31 of her books have gone to press. Additionally, Andrea co-founded ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and served on its Advisory Board for a number of years. In 2007, Andrea earned her certification in Christian Life Coaching and she’s now the purveyor of Steeple View Coaching for Writers and The Writer’s ER. For more information, log onto her website: www.andreaboeshaar.com. Visit Andrea on Facebook and Twitter: @AndreaBoeshaar.

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4 Responses to From Whence We Came: ACFW’s humble beginnings, Part 2

  1. Ian says:

    Thanks so much Andrea for sharing this history. Coming from Australia, I and many of my non-American colleagues are so appreciative of ACFW and that its membership is open to us.

  2. Andrea, thanks for this look at how the ACFW came to be. I was one of the elected members of the Board that the Advisory (now Executive) Board did away with, and serving the ACFW was a privilege for those two years.

  3. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Andrea: Thanks so much for sharing Part 1 and Part 2 of ACFW’s beginnings. I’ve enjoyed learning the history of the organization and I’m thankful to be part of this talented, God-honoring group.

  4. Amy C says:

    Thanks, Andrea. What a great thing to look back at our roots as we move ahead. Thank you for sharing this.