2016 pre-conference mix and mingle

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It’s almost time, y’all!!

Welcome to the fourth annual pre-conference mix and mingle, the event with the cheesy name but serious fun. In case you’re new here and have no idea what this is all about, it’s just a little link up with some questions that help us get to know each other before conference arrives. I’ve loved the opportunity to “meet” people ahead of time, especially that first year in Indianapolis when I was a newbie  🙂 At the bottom of this post, there’s a little link-up with friends who will be going to conference and their own get-to-know-you posts.

Here’s how to play:

– Copy/paste the questions and fill out your own answers in a post on your own website and paste the URL to that specific post (not your homepage) using this handy link-up tool. Just click on the button below that says “Add your link”. If you don’t have a website, feel free to answer the questions in the comments below!

– Make sure to link back to this post after you fill out your answers so any of your readers who are conference attendees can participate, too! The more, the merrier.

– Click through the links below to get to know other conference attendees before Nashville!

Here are my answers!

Name: Laurie Tomlinson

Location: Tulsa, OK

What you write/tagline/trademark: Contemporary romance for 20s and 30s audiences / “Stories of grace in the beautiful mess”

Place in the book world: Newly contracted author represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary. My debut novel is currently in production with Harlequin Heartwarming, and I’m also writing my fourth manuscript.

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: All the hugs.

Something VERY serious: How do you take your Starbucks? Not a coffee drinker, but chai or iced Passion-Tango tea, please!

The unique talking points that will get you going for hours: Planners, pens, cooking, Texas Longhorns football, and whatever TV show I’m currently watching (Try Firefly)!

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, 4-year-old daughter, and 16-month-old son. You’d better believe I’ll be missing my yellow Lab snuggles, too!

Conference goals we can pray for? Last year, I prayed God’s vision for my writing would be clear, and that was answered with a renewed passion to continue my series for the “New Adult”/early 20s audience, even though it’s been a tough sell in the inspirational market. So I would love prayers for the two books I am pitching AND for all the opportunities/connections that conference will bring!

Anything we can celebrate with you? My debut clean contemporary romance is coming out from Harlequin Heartwarming in the near future!

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? You can like my author page on Facebook and sign up for my email list by clicking here!

Your turn!

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Be sure to check out who’s going to conference as (hopefully) the links start showing up!

2016 conference promo

It’s that time of year again! In case you aren’t keeping a countdown, there are 70 days left until the ACFW Conference begins.

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I know. It kind of snuck up on us this year since it’s in August instead of September. But I can’t wait to get to Nashville and see everyone!

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I’m passionate about using my experience to help authors achieve their conference goals! If you’re going to be pitching your work at a different conference this season, I’m proud of you and will extend these rates to you, too 🙂

Things to keep in mind:

  • You are welcome to read more about the services I currently offer, along with my experience.
  • These are my normal rates that will go back into effect after July 15.
  • I will offer an extra 10% discount for each client you refer to me!
  • While I can offer design guidance on one-sheets, I’m not a trained graphic designer, and my services focus on developing and refining promotional copy. However, I will be happy to recommend a designer to you!

If you have any questions or want to discuss the possibility of working together, feel free to email me — no pressure at all: laurie [at] laurietomlinson [dot] com. You can also reach out via social media or hit the connect button above to send a message.

Is this your first time pitching at a writing conference? Tell us what you’re up to!

2015 pre-conference mix and mingle

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It’s about that time again!

I can’t believe this is the third year for the pre-conference mix and mingle. In case you’re new here and have no idea what this is all about, it’s just a little link up with some questions that help us get to know each other before conference. I’ve loved the opportunity to meet people before I meet them in person, especially the first year in Indianapolis when I was a newbie  🙂 Assuming all technology goes according to plan, there should be a little link-up at the bottom of this post with links to different people going to conference and their own get-to-know-you questions.

Here’s what to do:

– Copy/paste and fill out your own answers (you don’t have to answer all of them!) in a post on your own website and paste the URL to that specific post (not your homepage) using this handy link-up tool. Just click on the blue button below that says “Add your link”. If you don’t have a website, feel free to answer the questions in the comments below!

– Make sure to link back to this post after you fill out your answers so any of your readers who are conference attendees can participate, too! The more, the merrier.

– Click through the links below to get to know other conference attendees before Dallas!

Here are the questions and my answers!

Name: Laurie Tomlinson

Location: Tulsa, OK

What you write/tagline/trademark: Contemporary Romance / “Stories of grace in the beautiful mess”

Place in the book world: Pre-published author represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary. Currently working on my third manuscript while the first two are out on submission!

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: All the hugs.

The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: Food, planners, and college football! (Go Longhorns!)

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, daughter who will be turning four while I’m gone, and five-month-old baby boy who is a new addition this year! But you’d better believe I’ll also be missing my yellow Lab snuggles.

Conference goals we can pray for? My goal is to soak in the joy of writing and be refreshed by the community of my writing people. Please pray that my eyes will be open for the vision/purpose God has for my writing journey and any opportunities He brings my way.

Anything we can celebrate with you? That my writing “muse” didn’t abandon me after a crazy year 🙂

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? You can like my author page on Facebook and sign up for my email list by clicking here! (I will NOT share your email with anyone and will only send an email with the very most important news.)


That’s it!

Be sure to check out who’s going to conference as (hopefully) the links start showing up!

If not, now you know a little more about me 🙂

bravery, that judge, & other thoughts on the Genesis Contest

Genesis

Originally posted on The Writer’s Alley

Are you on the fence about entering the first 15 pages of your finished manuscript in the Genesis contest? Let me give you a little perspective that may help you make your decision.

I’m going to preface this post by admitting up front that my experience with the contest is beautiful and life-changing, but very unique. Yet I think that no matter what outcome you achieve, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

  • You get invaluable feedback on your finished manuscript. This is the chance for you to see what experienced writers have to say about your work. And the semifinal-round judges are published authors in your field who know what it takes to get the attention of an editor. Confession: before I entered for the first time in 2013, the only people who had seen it were my mom, husband, and a select group of friends. Having unbiased input from someone who isn’t your adoring critique partner can show you ways to add dimension to your work and accentuate your writing strengths.
  • Granted, there always seems to be That Judge who doesn’t really get what you’re going for and gives you a score that’s way different than the others. Still, that perspective is helpful to see — and it helps you practice taking criticism for your passion-poured work, which you’ll get even when you’re published. You have to develop thick skin and discern what’s truth about your work and what simply doesn’t resonate with one person’s experience. So take it gracefully, even if it seems out of left field, and get a second opinion if you need to. 🙂
  • It helps you bond with others in the same stage of the publication process. Your fellow Genesis entrants know the roller coaster toil to The End that you battled and won; they’ve been elbow-deep in the same trenches you’ve wrestled through. When the first list of semifinalists came out, I friended some of them on Facebook, and that led to some of my most treasured friendships and writing partnerships to this day.
  • If you final in the Genesis, you instantly get your work in front of agents and editors. The final round judges are all editors and agents. Even though I already had an agent last year, I had two inquire about my representation to the Contest Coordinator. Plus, if you attend conference, people see your semifinalist or finalist ribbons and take notice. The agents and editors with which you have appointments may sit up in their chairs a little because they know that you entered the Genesis contest and are serious about your work. It’s hands-down a fantastic and attention-grabbing attribute in a query, one-sheet, or writing resume.
  • Because even if you don’t place in the top 10, the bravery it takes to enter will launch infinite more acts of bravery in your writing. I maintain that pressing send on my Genesis contest entry was the bravest thing I’ve done to date in my writing journey. It’s the moment I can exactly pinpoint my mental shift from thinking of myself as a wannabe writer to believing in myself as a pre-published author. That alone is better than any plaque or scoresheet anyone can ever give you.

What doubts are holding you back? Still think your writing isn’t ready? Reluctant to invest the contest fee? (The Genesis is fair and comparable to other contest fees, even contests of a far lesser caliber.) 

Good luck to everyone, and know that I’m ridiculously proud of you!

fear is not the boss of you

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I’ve been thinking about fear a lot over the last few years as I’ve dealt with it in my personal life and made it a major theme in my second book. It’s one of those things that, if you don’t keep it in check, it can consume you. It can manifest itself in unhealthy ways and become an enslaving force in your life. It can trap you and keep you from living your full potential in freedom.

And I’ve wrestled with it at different times. I’ve wrestled HARD.

As my writing friends are preparing for ACFW Conference — an integral part of our year as writers, a major stepping stone in our careers — there’s been a lot of talk about fear. Well, it turns out I have a lot to say on the subject.

It’s a pretty cool thing to be sitting in church with no idea what you’re about to hear until the pastor starts speaking about a topic that’s been on your heart. That’s what happened to me yesterday, helping me flesh out some of my thoughts. So here goes.

Fear may come from the sinful nature in us, but it still comes from us. 

In Romans 7, Paul talks about sin’s control over our lives. “So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.”

I think people give the devil way more credit than he deserves. Fear is a product of the lies we’ve chosen to believe. The programming we’ve conditioned our minds to compute. The influences around which we’ve surrounded ourselves.

Sometimes even the comfort that comes with the familiarity of fear.

But if fears come from our own nature, we can actively fight it. 

Romans 8 offers hope for our sinful condition. “So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”

Fear doesn’t hold a candle to the power of Christ in us. Not even a flicker. But it’s our choice, an active decision to reprogram our reactions to the things that normally trigger fear. The thoughts we choose to give our energy and attention. We can decide what to believe as truth in our lives, what chances to take to move toward all the possibilities of bold, unapologetic freedom.

We can surround ourselves with positive influences and media that fills us with truth instead of negativity. We can divert unhealthy ideas instead of dwelling on them. We can focus on freedom one decision at a time and not abandon our efforts completely if we fall short a few times.

If you’re headed to the ACFW Conference, don’t let fear be the boss of you. 

Something is bound to go differently than you’ve expected. It’s inevitable. But know that there is nothing that can happen that will be an ultimate deal-breaker. No worst case scenario that’s as bad as you think it will be. Nothing that can ruin your entire trip unless you let it.

You’re surrounded by people who get you and want you to succeed. Remember that, if God has given you this passion and message to share, no fear can derail that unless you let it.

I’m going to leave you this song, one of my favorites lately, and encourage you to be brave, whether you’re going to ACFW Conference or facing something else.


You make me brave

You make me brave
You called me beyond the shore
Into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now 
The promises You’ve made

 

 

 

 

my first ACFW conference experience

Last year, I was a brand new ACFW member. I was still new at even considering myself a pre-published author, and if it weren’t for finaling in a contest and the encouragement of a few persistent friends, I probably would have talked myself out of going.

But when I looked at the ACFW, I saw this big fellowship of people with an unreal camaraderie. And even if it took years, I wanted to be part of it.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t take years.

I dressed like I was going to a job interview and wheeled my suitcase to the terminal at the Tulsa airport, kissed my husband goodbye, and embarked on what I felt was a grand adventure. Because it kind of was.

And I had my first (in-person) experience with the ACFW earlier than planned. My connecting flight at the DFW airport was soon after landing, so I hurried to my gate. There I found a group of women talking and laughing. I didn’t know a soul. But I recognized one, author Betsy St. Amant.

So I inched closer. Casually. Gathered up the nerve to ask if they were going to ACFW. They immediately opened their circle to me and asked me what I write. Can I tell you that it was weird answering that question for the first of many times that week as someone who normally shrugged it off? But it got much easier, I promise. Then we exchanged business cards and went around introducing ourselves.

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I don’t remember everyone who was at the airport gate that day. But I remember that, when I said I was flying standby, Lena Nelson Dooley offered to pray for me with the whole group. Wow. Me, a person she had just met minutes before.

When we touched down in Dallas and dispersed to get our luggage, I realized that in my frenzy to get all of my materials ready, I had no way to get to the hotel from the airport. Rookie mistake. But sweet multi-published author Elizabeth Ludwig had pity on me and took me into their taxi. Another WOW moment of unhesitating kindness.

I think that’s the whole point of this post. The members of ACFW are your people. Individuals with whom you can unleash your full writerly self without fear of condemnation or strange looks like the “Muggles” give us when we talk about our characters as if they’re living, breathing people. The Muggles just don’t understand 🙂

At conference, I encourage you to introduce yourself to people — even that multi-published author you’ve been fangirling. Respect people’s personal space. Be courteous, professional, friendly, and especially gracious. But take that step closer and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and exchange business cards. Learn somebody’s story. Not everyone will become your new best friend, but you never know what connections you’ll form.

Or who will become your fabulous new critique group. 🙂

Conference CPs

Laurie Kara

PS: If you’re new to the ACFW Conference, Mary Vee put up a fabulous, informative post today on The Writer’s Alley. It will help you prepare with peace and confidence!

2014 pre-conference mix and mingle

It’s that time again!

Last year, I loved doing this pre-conference mix and mingle. It definitely helped me learn new faces and get to know people my first year at conference 🙂 Assuming all technology goes according to plan, there should be a little link-up at the bottom of this post with links to different people going to conference and their own get-to-know-you questions.

Here’s what to do:

– Copy/paste and fill out your own answers (you don’t have to answer all of them!) in a post on your own website and paste the URL to that post (not your home page) using this handy link-up tool. Just click on the blue button below that says “Add your link”. If you don’t have a website, feel free to answer the questions in the comments below!

– Make sure to link back to this post after you fill out your answers so any of your readers who are conference attendees can participate, too! The more, the merrier.

– Click through the links below to get to know other conference attendees before St. Louis!

Here are the questions and my answers!

Name: Laurie Tomlinson

Location: Tulsa, OK

What you write/tagline/trademark: Contemporary Romance / “Stories of grace in the beautiful mess”

Place in the book world: Pre-published author represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary. Currently working on my third manuscript while the first two are out on submission!

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: All the hugs.

The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: Books, good food, and college football!

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, three-year-old daughter, and yellow Lab!

Conference goals we can pray for? That my books will find their perfect publishing home and definitely for peace during pitches!

Anything we can celebrate with you? I’m a finalist in the Romance category of the Genesis contest.

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? Yes! You can like my author page on Facebook and sign up for my brand new email list by clicking here! (I will NOT share your email with anyone and will only send an email with the very most important news.)

Link-up

That’s it!

Be sure to check out who’s going to conference as (hopefully) the links start showing up!

If not, now you know a little more about me 🙂

conference prep promo

Hi, everyone! Conference season is upon us, and it’s time to finalize your promotional materials!

To give back to the writing community that has blessed me so much, I’m running a Conference Prep Promo from now until September 22.

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Here are the details:

{$40} One-sheet consultation: I will help you refine your one-sheet, including back cover summary, author bio, formatting, and minor graphic design assistance.

{$25} Short Summary / Tagline / Hook: For $25, I will help you develop your 1-2 sentence hook, short book summary, or elevator pitch. 

{Price negotiable} Synopsis / Proposal: If you’d like a critique of your synopsis, proposal, or more in-depth help with your project, please email me at laurie {at} laurietomlinson {dot} com for pricing or use the contact form below!

{10% discount}: I will offer a 10% discount for each paying client you refer to this promo, so be sure to have your friends tell me who sent ’em! 🙂

I’d love to let my seven years of experience in book publicity help you present your manuscript in the best possible way so it can grab the attention it deserves from editors and agents. If you have any questions at all, feel free to check out my business page or contact me directly. I look forward to hearing about your project!

 

 

 

dragons, commandments, goldfish: what I learned from karen ball

This past weekend, the Oklahoma City chapter of the ACFW hosted a mini-conference featuring author/editor/agent extraordinaire Karen Ball. With the years she’s poured into the industry, she had so much valuable insight to impart on writers of all stages and genres in attendance.

Okay, people. We’re talking about the same Karen Ball who discovered authors among the likes of Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury. So basically, Redeeming Love never would have been a thing if it weren’t for her. That might be a bit of a stretch, but clearly, the woman knows her stuff.

She talked about everything from “dragons” out to destroy fiction to the passion behind writing to a little story about a goldfish that’s apparently pretty well-known in the ACFW circles 🙂 If you have the chance to hear Karen Ball speak, RUN (to not from). She’s a compelling speaker, a gifted teacher, and even a talented singer, we learned.

There’s one thing she said that resonated with me the most, though. I could write a month’s worth of posts about the pages of notes I took with her industry and craft advice. But if you asked me what was most important, I wouldn’t even flinch to tell you this is it.

“What’s the most important commandment?” Karen asked us.

And like diligent Sunday school children, we recited, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Actually, we never could figure out which order they went in, but it worked.

“And what’s the second greatest command?”

“Love your neighbor.”

“…As?”

As yourself.”

It’s easy when you’re working hard in any profession to lose sight of taking care yourself–especially if you’re pulling off a precarious balancing act with other things. But if I took care of my neighbor the way that I took care of myself right now, it wouldn’t be pretty. I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I let someone skimp on sleep, neglect healthy living habits, and allow his/her life to fall out of balance under my care.

So why would I do that to myself?

I think a lot of us writers become absorbed in deadlines, writing, revising, building platform, critiquing, and especially researching that we forget to love ourselves and take care of ourselves. No matter what stage of life I’ve been in, from student to working 40+ hours a week to balancing a full-time job with taking care of a baby that doesn’t sleep and writing a novel, I’ve learned two things. 1) It’s all about balance. 2) Even a little bit of effort goes a LONG way.

It’s Oct. 22, and I have yet to post my writing goals for this month. (Though there are many.) So I’m going to post a different kind of list. My personal list–my manifesto of sorts–of decisions I can make that have proven to help me be my healthiest and happiest self. Achieving the balance in life that makes things run more smoothly.

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prayer + running outside +  mindful eating + treating + {enough} sleeping + internet rationing + journaling + dressing immediately + pampering {this happens never} + planning + water drinking + being present + serving + singing + creating + maintaining my house = Happy Laurie

I am constantly adding to this list, constantly failing at keeping it, and would never expect to follow it perfectly. But if this is something I can strive for, if just even one of these habits will stick, then I think loving myself will help me love my neighbor.

Isn’t that sort of what this whole writing thing is all about?

What’s on your personal manifesto of self-care? If you’ve had the opportunity to meet Karen or hear her speak, what’s your favorite memory?

what acfw conference taught me {about literary agents}

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Lit. agent panel featuring Karen Ball, Dan Balow, Tamela Hancock Murray, Chip MacGregor, and Nicole Resciniti (Photo by Betsy St. Amant)

I have yet to write a conference recap because I simply don’t know how to describe such a magical weekend. It gave me the chance to be around 600-plus people who *get* me.

Only, it’s a lot less fifteen-year-old-girl than that sounds.

So this is where I’m going to start, because I had really great experiences with the agents I met. Here’s what I learned about them and from them.

Agents are really, really informative. 

Many literary agents maintain blogs with helpful posts for pre-published authors and seasoned industry professionals alike. They range from author-agent etiquette, pitching pointers, industry trends, marketing tips, and more. You can learn a lot about the industry by keeping up with these blog posts and also get a sense about an agent’s strengths based on their content–all without ever stepping foot at a writers’ conference. I would have been a goner and looked (even more) like a total newb if I wouldn’t have had these valuable resources when prepping my pitching materials for conference.

Moral of the story: Read up!

But agents are real people.

With real feelings, real preferences, and real schedules. I went into conference like a sponge. My mind was filled with said blog posts, the kinds of authors these agents represent, and lists of work they were looking for. But it was strange seeing the proverbial men (and women) behind the curtain. The first night, they did a big agent panel with blind questions from the audience, and I loved seeing their different personalities. I made it a point to introduce myself to the agents I’d be pitching to in a no-pitch-zone manner to take the edge off. (It helped me SO much.)

Then after the panel, some of my friends and I ran into the founder of one of the biggest agencies in the business at the bottom of an escalator. I thanked him for giving his time, planning to move along, but he ended up asking us about our books. It turned into a substantial, thirty-minute conversation about his experiences from other conferences, the craziest pitches he’s ever heard, and various tidbits about the book industry in general. That he would take the time to chat meant the world to us and made us feel so much better going into our pitches.

So, what did I learn? Agents deserve genuine conversation and respect for their time. Even though agent appointments at conferences are essentially like speed dating and these professionals have the potential to hold so much of your future in their hands, they are real people who don’t deserve to be blindly accosted or info-dumped. I witnessed this happen to agents on multiple occasions–and I felt violated for them!

Moral of the story: Don’t go into an appointment or meeting without doing your research. Don’t be pushy. And don’t be a robot. Breathe.

Agents value boldness. And solid writing. 

Based on my personal experience and my friends’ experiences, the general consensus is that agents like you to stand out from others. They want you to be intelligent about your story and where it belongs in the industry. They want to see your passion and confidence in your work.

But they want that to translate to the page, too. Even if you nail your pitch and earn an agent’s invested conversation, they are ultimately concerned with the writing. That’s what will be most memorable for them. But on the bright side, if you somewhat flub your pitch but have a brilliant manuscript, there’s hope for you!

Moral of the story: Be bold, but professional. And definitely don’t be creepy. Make sure your writing is strong enough that it speaks for itself. 

An agent can look great on paper, but has to have passion for your project. 

Even if an agent has so much to offer, a great track record of sales, and a personality that really clicks with you, he or she has to be right for your project. The benefits and statistics may look great on paper, but unless that agent takes ownership and resonates with you and your work, it won’t be the ideal match.

Sometimes it’s really true that your work is fantastic, but just not the right fit for a particular agent. If you’re currently in that stage of your career and this happens to you, don’t let it get you down. Just continue looking for the right one because trying to force it or settle for the wrong one won’t do you any favors. And that goes the same for the other side of the coin, too. Don’t settle on the first agent who offers you a contract if you have an inkling of hesitation for some reason. 

Moral of the story: Sometimes you might not have “chemistry” with an agent. But settling doesn’t help anyone.

Agents are game-changers for your writing. 

And not just because they can help you land a contract. They know what works and doesn’t work in the industry. What readers want, what editors want. What sells. They have the spidey sense for those kinds of things. During one of my appointments, an agent asked me a single question that ended up changing a significant backstory thread in my book. I’d hesitated going that direction, but after hearing her reasoning and feeling it out for myself, I’ve fallen completely head over heels for this storyline and feel my characters have more dimension with a few simple tweaks.

Though you have to use discernment and go with your gut in every decision about your work, a teachable spirit goes a long way when working with an agent. It can really take your stories to the next level.

Moral of the story: You won’t get far if you’re not willing to accept a little direction or constructive criticism. And trust your agent. He or she wants to make your book the absolute best it can be.

So this is where I am right now, priming my manuscript for agent requests. Hopefully I will return some time in the near future with more insight from the other side. But until then, happy writing and pitching!

Agents and agented authors, since you are more knowledgeable on this subject, what are some other pieces of advice you can offer yet-to-be-agented authors?

an extended (but never really complete) thank you

How do you possibly say “thank you” after a Genesis award? An extended speech, that’s how!

On Sunday night, I gave the glory to God for making me and everyone in that room about writing. That storytelling is just who we are!

I thanked Jef and Allie and our families because I couldn’t have done it without them. They took care of Allie and often picked up the slack for me, extending grace when I needed it the most. And Jef…wow. I don’t think there are words enough to express how grateful I am to have you as a teammate!

My critique partners Jaime Wright, Anne Love, and Kara Isaac for all of their input (and, as they know, for talking me off the ledge sometimes).

Kathleen Y’Barbo for convincing me to enter Genesis and for correcting me when I called myself an aspiring writer. “You’re a pre-published author,” she told me.

I thanked everyone in the ACFW for welcoming me with open arms. And that was very literal. They friended me on Facebook, answered my (many) questions (looking at you, Amy Leigh Simpson), became my critique partners, and even let me stand with them and exchange business cards with me in the Dallas airport before we ever even arrived in Indy.

If I hadn’t been having an out-of-body experience, I would have thanked the Genesis judges, who sacrificed their time and energy to provide meaningful feedback for us and make our writing stronger. I’m so going to pay this forward if I ever get the opportunity!

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I should have thanked my brilliant and beautiful co-finalists Lindsay Harrell and Sally Bradley for becoming my friends and sisters in the complex category that is contemporary fiction. We are so going to be celebrating debut novels together sometime soon.

Even my Tulsa coffee shops deserve huge thanks for fueling my late-night writing marathons and allowing me to close them down at least once a week so I can get my work done!

My best friends JT, Sarah Beals, Lindsey Reddick, and Amanda Morad for being beta readers, idea nurturers, and the first ones I ever allowed to read my story. And Meseidy Rivera for taking my headshot days before the competition closed and figuratively holding my hand as I hit Send sitting at her dining room table.

There are so many people I could thank. Someone I’m sure I’ll remember right after I click Publish. I’m still in awe that they called my name. Thrilled and so, so honored by each and every bit of the love and encouragement that’s come my way.

If I can do anything to give back, it’s to emphasize over and over again that whether you win Genesis or not, there’s so much beauty and fulfillment in squashing the lies and going after your dreams. In doing what God made you to do. All it takes is surrender, a little bravery, and lots of hard work that, most of the time, doesn’t even feel like work. 

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I’d planned on recapping the ACFW conference in this post, but it’s already getting long. So I’ll share more of what my first manuscript is about instead since we were under wraps before conference! Here’s the bit I used to pitch Take Heart:

Being jobless and single can seem like the end of the world. But sometimes it’s just the beginning.

Spencer Brooks has always dreamed of how her storybook ending will unfold. Rewarding career. Picket fence. Husband who makes Prince Charming seem like a waste of perfectly good paper and ink.

But when life after college doesn’t turn out as planned, Spencer returns to the small Oklahoma town she promised she’d never call home again to draft a better blueprint for her future. So far, her best attempts have landed her back under her parents’ roof with an inbox empty of job leads, and her only relationship is with the mop and broom of the local coffee shop.

As Spencer attempts to stay out of her flawless cousin’s shadow and dodge her newly engaged ex-boyfriend, she must learn to surrender control and discover God’s plan for her life. Even if it looks nothing like her own.

Can Spencer learn to trust that only God can lead her to the life—and love—she’s always dreamed about?

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You guys are the best!