Cara Putnam

Cara graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Huskers!), moved to the Washington, DC area, married the man of her dreams, worked in the non-profit world, went to George Mason Law School at night. Cara is also an attorney, lecturer at a Big Ten university, women's ministry leader, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, her husband and her kids. Heartsong Presents is publishing her three book series of World War Two romances: Canteen Dreams (October 2007), Sandhill Dreams (May 2008), and Captive Dreams (September 2008). Love Inspired Suspense published her first romantic suspense in May 2008. Now she’s working on the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Law (don’t ask!) and the first book in an Ohio World War Two series.

Meet Cynthia Ruchti, ACFW President

In January, four positions on the ACFW Operating Board change. Congratulations to Cynthia Ruchti, the new president; Cheryl Wyatt, the new vice president; Margaret Daley, the new volunteer officer, and Angie Breidenbach, the new publicity officer. A huge congratulations go to Robin Miller, Pamela James, Michelle Sutton, and Cara Putman for two years of service on the board.

This month we’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Ruchti, the new ACFW president.

First, congratulations on being elected president. Why did you run for this position?

It’s no secret that I appreciate this organization. From my first contacts with ACFW, I could tell it was marked by a compelling passion for excellence in writing craft, a desire to promote Christian fiction to new heights, and a strong drive to support and encourage those brave enough to seriously pursue writing. I agreed to allow my name into the nomination pool as an act of obedience to the Lord. He challenged me to be true to my commitment to go wherever He asked me to go and do whatever He asked me to do.

That is one of the things I love about ACFW. The members are committed to serving one other and following the Lord’s lead for the organization. Each president gets to put his or her unique stamp on the organization. What’s your vision for ACFW?

We’ve grown rapidly in recent years. When I first joined, the membership roster numbered a relative handful compared to the more than seventeen hundred now affiliated with ACFW. In these early days of my term, I’m learning and adjusting, fact gathering, and celebrating the principles and people who have guided the organization to this point and the new team the Lord has put in place. My heart is to continue along that path, to support the goals first established by the founders and Advisory Board, to build on the amazing work of past leadership, and specifically to cheerlead the organization’s efforts to grow deep even as it grows wide. Deep and wide.

You are not a new face to ACFW, but what’s one thing that readers of this magazine would be surprised to know about you?

That my golf handicap is . . . my lack of skill? That I was a baton twirler back in the day? That I once foiled a mugger on the streets of Chicago by retorting, “If I had any money, why would I be walking in this neighborhood?” Young mugger fled, doubled over in laughter.

Hmmm, I may have to add that mugger foiling technique to a book someday! If someone comes to you and tells you that she want to be a writer, what advice do you have for her?

Fiction writer? Join ACFW! But don’t just join. Take advantage of everything it offers. The online courses. The archives. Forums. Topics of the Week. Loop discussions. Critique groups. Conferences. Conference CDs. Local ACFW chapters. Read every craft book you can collect. Voraciously read Christian fiction, especially in your genre. Then be prepared to practice your craft. Volunteer in some capacity. Make connections with other writers and industry professionals. As you write, be prepared for God’s timing to look far different from your own. Journalists know the W words: who, what, when, where, why. Fiction writers become familiar with others: work, write, work, write, wonder, worship, wait. Wait. Wait.

You’ve been the topic of the week coordinator for ACFW and did a wonderful job. How did you come up with all the creative topics?

I stared at a lot of blank screens until something showed up. It’s a lot like Where’s Waldo? The first year, I tested myself before I ever agreed to take on the task. I gave the Lord an hour and told Him that if He could help me come up with a good number of topic questions in that time, I’d take it as a sign I was supposed to say yes to the invitation to serve as TOTW coordinator. By the end of the hour, I had fifty-two questions—one for each week of the year. That list ran out a while ago. From that point on, I watched for events or objects or quotes or trouble spots in my own writing that might spark a topic I hoped would generate discussion. If the loop had been active with weighty craft discussion, I’d opt for a topic related to the writing life. The task challenged me, but deepened my appreciation for my fellow writers.

You’re from Wisconsin, right? Tell us why Wisconsin is a great state to live in.

Right now, with the air temp outside cold enough to freeze your plasma (and I don’t mean TV), I have to use my imagination. My favorite seasons here are anything but winter. Spring lasts about an hour, then it’s summer, green and lush and vibrating with activity. Oh wait. Those are mosquitoes. Where was I? Ah. I think I hear the tourism bureau calling. They’re looking for a new representative. Did I mention cheese? And Brett Favre? Oh, that’s right. We lost him. So, we’re back to cheese. Honestly, Wisconsin is a state with a wonderfully widely varied terrain and great people with a great work ethic, beautiful scenery, some of which is in my own backyard. My husband and I spent several fall getaways visiting Wisconsin’s waterfalls. Few people know we have them. My husband, three kids, and five exceptional grandkids live in Wisconsin. Did I mention cheese?

See, your answer is exactly what I love about you! And any editors reading this, ignore the exclamation points. You write and produce a radio show. What show is it, and why do you find that fulfilling?

The Heartbeat of the Home has been on the air for twenty-nine years. Each fifteen-minute broadcast begins with a slice of life scene—dialogue between two on-air voices, usually. Storytelling. Onto that fiction backdrop is woven a devotional-style teaching that helps our listeners understand how the Bible’s truths apply to everyday life. Having the opportunity to do what Jesus did—show God’s heart to people—is an incredible privilege. Offering hope is its own reward. Only recently have I seen how the Lord used all that short storytelling to also equip me to write longer works of fiction that reveal God’s heart and offer hope.

What is one thing that God has taught you and surprised you with in the last six months?

One of the key things is something I’ll keep secret for a while longer, since it’s the subject of my current WIP and the Lord and I are working it out together. Oh . . . I’ll tell you anyway! During a private time of communion when I sat beside my mother, who is gravely ill, her pastor began the traditional liturgy we know so well. The young man quoted the Scripture that says, “On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread and . . .” I was completely overwhelmed by those few words. I’d heard them, really heard them, for perhaps the first time. It wasn’t right after Jesus and His disciples had experienced a spiritual high. It wasn’t during a moment when Jesus was feeling especially loved, appreciated, or understood. It wasn’t because His disciples finally “got it.” It was on the night He was betrayed that He offered His supreme gift of love for us, beginning that pain-wracked journey to the cross. I still get choked up thinking about the depth of a love that would react not out of a high-five moment, but in the midst of betrayal to give Himself for us.

What is one specific way that people can pray for you as you take on this new role?

Some have already let me know they’re praying for wisdom and discernment. Others are praying for me to hear from heaven before I speak or act. Some know I need the Lord’s help to juggle many responsibilities. But I would also ask people to pray that I would emerge from this task smelling more like Jesus than I did before I began . . . drenched in the sweet fragrance of Christ.

I hope y’all have caught a glimpse of the heart of this woman who will lead ACFW for the next two years. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see where God takes the organization next.