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From the President: 2011 Conference

I’m going to tell you a little story. After all, I am a writer. When I came to ACFW last year, I was seriously thinking about running for president, but with the contracted books I needed to write, I didn’t think it was a possibility.

I left the conference last year with the knowledge that someone I knew who would do a good job was going to run, so I went home to write those books. Well, as is often God’s way, He wouldn’t let the notion of me running for president go. He kept telling me to run. I decided, as I know many of you have, to do it out of obedience to Him.

When I got the call that I had won, I was surprised, scared and excited all at the same time. I have not regretted running for president because this organization has done so much for me as well as for others. Oh, and that small fact, the Lord told me to run. You can’t ignore Him.

In October you will have the opportunity to decide if you want to run for an office in ACFW. There are three offices up for election this year:

  • secretary
  • membership officer
  • volunteer officer

Think long and hard about the decision. I have been rewarded in numerous ways, but it is a lot of work.

Your foundation
When deciding on the theme for the conference this year, I kept coming back to several references in the Bible about building a firm foundation in faith. I saw parallels to our writing. Without a firm foundation how do we write successfully? How can we weather the difficult times? It all comes back to our belief in Christ, His message to us, and what we do with it in our lives.

“He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against the house, and could not shake it for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great” (Matthew 7: 24-27).

As writers, we need to build our craft on a firm foundation. With that goal in mind, the ACFW board through the year has worked to offer its members resources to do just that. It has been an exciting year for ACFW in many areas.

Our membership continues to grow. For the past few months we have been around 2,500 members strong. This is wonderful. I remember when I joined in 2003 the membership was under 500. In eight years we have grown by the thousands—not the hundreds. What a testament to the Lord. We are the Voice of Christian Fiction.

To help you build a firm foundation, the ACFW board looked at the programs we offered. We added some and changed a few.

  1. “The End” Program: This was developed to encourage writers to finish a book. You can’t sell without writing a book. It isn’t an easy task to write a complete novel. We want to acknowledge that and reward the people who do. Besides receiving a badge to go on your website or blog for finishing a book, you are entered into a drawing for a free registration for the following year’s conference. That is worth more than $500. The more books you write the more entries you have in the drawing. “The End” Program coupled with Novel Track and our monthly courses are preparing you to finish your book.
  2. Genesis contest: Genesis BadgeIn the year 2013 any entry into the Genesis must be from a completed book. When editors and agents read these entries for the Genesis and like what they see, they want to be able to ask for the complete manuscript and receive it. One goal of writers is to get their work before people who can publish their book. If it isn’t complete, that won’t happen.
  3. Newcomer’s Loop: This loop is for new members to learn about all that ACFW has to offer. We want everyone to get their money’s worth. ACFW has a lot to offer its members from monthly courses on writing, to a large critique group to genre loops. Sometimes all of this can be overwhelming to the members, especially the new ones. The Newcomers Loop is a great place to ask questions in a smaller group and learn how to navigate your way around ACFW’s website, loops, and programs.

ACFW is indebted to its volunteers. We have many of them, and they are all important to us. We started the Volunteer Spotlight to honor those people who give their time to the organization. I want to thank everyone who volunteers on the national level as well as in the local chapters.

We are blessed to have 25 chapters—and hope to launch two new ones by the end of the year. It can’t happen without those volunteers and their dedication to ACFW.

Enhancing the blog and webinars
Voice of Christian FictionWe have revamped our blog. Its focus is on becoming the Voice of Christian Fiction—the place people come to read about what is happening in the industry, what is important in Christian fiction, and articles from our members on writing and what’s important to a writer. We will have guest posters in the industry who will share their expertise. Be on the lookout for more good things to come. Visit the blog regularly.

We have offered our first free webinars, thanks to Thomas Umstattd who agreed to teach about promotion and social media. We plan in the future to hold more of these. We think it is another great perk to offer our members.

Making things easier for members
This year the conference team began using an ACFW uniquely-designed registration system to make the process of registering for the conference so much easier for everyone. Soon we will also have our own automated membership system. As our membership grows, the work of keeping track of all the members has grown too and become a tedious and timely job for the Membership Officer, but this new system will alleviate that problem.

We also added hostesses to each of the genre loops to help facilitate discussions concerning writing. These loops can be a great place to brainstorm, ask questions specific to your genre, and get to know other writers who are interested in the same genre as you.

We tweaked some areas on our website to make them more user friendly and revamped our resource page. Check it out and if you have suggestions for the page, let our Web Manager know. Those pages will only be as good as the information you input.

Reaching out to readers
Fiction Finder Fiction Finder buttonis a wonderful resource for readers, writers, booksellers, and librarians. We are continuing to promote Fiction Finder and spread the word about it. We have made it easier for writers to input their information and books as well as improved the search engine. The last time I added info about a new book, I was thrilled with how easy it was to fill out the information form. Much faster. It only took me five minutes, so go back in and add some more books!

The ACFW Book Club now discusses two books a month. With all the good books out there by our members, we found it was necessary to add another book to each month. The book club has nearly 1,600 members.

As you can see we are looking for ways to help writers with the craft of writing, discover ways to promote their work and be the place people come to find out about Christian fiction.

Member magazine
Coming next year, ACFW will publish a magazine for its members. We will distribute a mailed magazine four times a year—with the hope that it will become more frequent. We are excited about producing a magazine for writers of Christian fiction. Be watching for how you can help with the magazine, possibly by writing articles for it (we will be paying for articles), or purchasing ads for your new releases or your writing related business.

Constant changes coming
2011 has been a year of changes for ACFW and the Christian market and publishing. We have heard some saying this is the beginning of the end of the printed book. We have seen the explosion of ebooks, the closing of long-established lines, the creation of new ones, a large bookstore chain going bankrupt, and some Christian bookstores struggling to stay open.

We see it as a challenge. We’re hopeful people will continue to read our stories, no matter what format it is in—and some of the data supports that. People aren’t reading less, but more. Ereaders have opened a new avenue for people to enjoy our stories.

Yes, there will be change. But, is this so different from the other changes we have gone through in our lifetime? I wrote my first book longhand and then used a typewriter. When the computer came along, this world and publishing changed. I never envisioned 15 years ago carrying around a small phone in my pocket that would have access to the world through the internet.

ACFW is committed to keeping up with the changes in the industry and making the best decisions for the organization to meet those changes. As always, we welcome your input. We are in this together.

What does the future hold for Christian fiction? Only the Lord knows, but I hope there are many opportunities for the fiction writers.

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