ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award

The announcement was made recently that I will be receiving this award at the upcoming conference in Dallas.  When I first received the call from a friend, I didn’t know what to say.  I’m still trying to find the words to express what I’m feeling.  Honored –  yes.  Aware there are others more deserving – absolutely.  Scared – oh, yeah.  

Why?  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Maybe it has to do with not being finished yet, still being an apprentice, and still very conscious that I have so much to learn – about the craft, about living the Christian life in a fallen world, about everything.

No one achieves anything without help, and I have had lots of help from lots of people over lots of years.  First of all, God gave me the desire to write and the talent to develop.  Rick and I talk about how I was one of the few members in our class (we’ve known one another since grade school) who knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up.  Be a writer!  It’s something God planted in me. 

My parents encouraged me to go to college and paid for my education, even though I decided to major in something as impractical as English with an emphasis in writing, and a minor in journalism.  I found out years later my mother had dreamed of being a novelist when she was young.  She became a nurse instead; a practical career, but also her calling.   My dad, a police officer and later coroner, wrote two non-fiction books on police work (one while he was in bed for months after having had a heart attack).

When I finally did start writing (after college, after Rick and I got married, after a miscarriage, after getting a full-time job), Rick encouraged me.  I wrote in the evenings (on a typewriter).  After a couple of months, he asked why I wasn’t writing anymore.  I said I’d finished the manuscript.  Well, where is it?  In the closet.  His comment:  “I don’t think an editor is going to come knocking on the door and asking if you happen to have a manuscript in the house.”  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Send it out.

After a couple of agent disasters, but one book published, I attended a writers’ conference and heard about a good agent.  Of course, I didn’t have the courage to contact her.  “She wouldn’t be interested in me.”  Again, Rick stepped in.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Remember?   

Jane Jordan Browne was my agent for twenty-five years.  When she was in the hospital dying of brain cancer, she was still keeping a watchful eye on my career, encouraging and guiding me.  She had a wonderful protégé, Danielle Egan Miller, who has been my agent since Jane’s death.  It’s a blessing to have someone act as your advocate in all kinds of situations, and Danielle (along with her associate Joanna MacKenzie) has done that. 

All through the years, I have been blessed with excellent editors.  Three of the best:  Karen Ball (who brought me into the Tyndale family) and Kathy Olson, who knows how to carve out the excess (last time – 40K words!) and Karen Watson who always knows what questions to ask to get my creative juices flowing.

I also have Christian writer friends who have impacted me greatly.  Like C.S. Lewis’ “inkling” buddies, ten of us gather yearly in Idaho to pray, plot and play.  The rest of the year, we keep in contact.  Whenever I’m stuck, they’re available.  Whenever I need prayer, they’re ready to jump in.  I also have a good buddie in Chile who frequently fans the flame to write when I’m wondering why I ever thought I could. 

All to say, I am thrilled to receive the award, but accept it knowing full well it took many people – family members, agents, writer friends, editors, church friends, and publishing house teammates over many years to help me achieve anything.  And for each and every one of them, I want to say — when the evening comes to receive the award, you’re all right there with me, sharing in it.