American Christian Fiction Writers
Cara Putman

Cara Putman is a woman living a dream. Barbour's Heartsong Presents has released six of her books, including Canteen Dreams, a WWII historical set in Nebraska that won the ACFW 2008 Book of the Year for Short Historical. She also has written romantic suspense for Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense, contemporary mysteries for Guidepost, a historical romantic suspense for Summerside, and the Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law. Cara is an attorney, wife, mom to four, homeschool teacher, occasional professor at Purdue, active at her church, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, her husband and her kids. Visit her at

ACFW Happenings

Welcome to Genesis 2012!

Fiction Finder

Contest season is heating up with contests like ACFW’s Genesis for unpublished authors, which will soon be accepting submissions. Often writers wonder if it’s worth risking their babies to the world of contests. So this month, I’m turning over the column to Vickie McDonough, ACFW’s treasurer. Vickie brings a unique perspective with interviews with many finalists and winners.

In 2003, as a very green writer, I entered my first ACFW Noble Theme contest (now called the Genesis Contest) and was stunned to take first place in the historical category. The next year, I was a finalist again, but placed second, beaten out by newcomer Mary Connealy. Little did I know that 2003 would be my last year to be eligible. At the same conference, I was stunned when the Barbour team announced I’d received a contract for a Heartsong Novel.

Entering contests can be both scary and exhilarating, but kudos to those who take the risk and learn from the experience. Many who have done that have gone on to publish. In fact, around seventy-five Genesis finalists have gone on to publication—and a number of them are now multipublished. So sit back, take heart, and enjoy the following success stories from your fellow ACFW members.

ACFW is one of my favorite organizations on earth. I credit ACFW that I am published today, the critique group that helped me learn to write, the conference that led to my meeting people who would buy my books, the connections that resulted in wonderful friendships and professional relationships, the classes I took through ACFW, the contest I won that drew attention to my books from the right people, the agents I signed with, and the editors I met whom I now work with.

I call it the Five Cs of Publishing.

o Critique Group
o Conference
o Connections
o Classes
o Contests

It’s really Five Cs, One A, and One E, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue very smoothly, now does it?

Mary Connealy, Romantic Comedy with Cowboys,
Genesis Finalist 2004
Multiyear BOTY/Carol Award finalist

Okay, I’m going to go ahead and admit it: I owe ACFW my firstborn child for all the benefits I’ve gleaned through this amazing organization. Without it, I seriously doubt I’d be published today or would have been published as quickly. It was an ACFW paid critique that caught glaring mistakes in my very first manuscript and where I joined a critique group that helped my manuscript be all it could be. Through ACFW I learned tons about writing and have acquired a huge network of people who’ve helped me at every turn, providing more anointed mentoring than a prophet convention in heaven.

Finaling in the 2005 Genesis contest was a proud moment because this was not just any RWA contest. No, this was a contest judged by my peers—godly writers whose ultimate mission is, like mine, to glorify God. Besides, where else can you go from winning a prize for the most rejections one year to Debut Author of the Year the next? I guarantee you, nowhere will you find an organization with a huge heart for authors and a truly inspirational soul than ACFW!

Julie Lessman, The Daughters of Boston Series
Noble Theme Finalist 2005
Carol Awards in 2009 and 2010

In 2009, I entered a story in the Genesis contest that received scathing critiques from the contest judges. After several weeks of licking my wounds, I took their comments into consideration. I discovered I had written a main character who was difficult to love. I did a total rewrite of the first chapter and put the story on the shelf. In April of 2011, my agent called with a tremendous opportunity. Tyndale House was acquiring a few completed manuscripts to launch their new Digital First line in July.

I submitted the very manuscript that had been dinged and reworked. Tyndale received the proposal on Monday, requested the full manuscript on Tuesday, and bought the story on Friday.

Nobody wants to hear that his or her story needs work, but writers must be willing to listen and learn. Becoming a part of ACFW helped me improve my craft, get signed by an agent, and ultimately sell a book.

Lynne Gentry, Reinventing Leona
Genesis Finalist 2006, 2007, and 2008

ACFW created a foundation for my writing journey, firmly establishing stepping-stones of learning and placing God-sent people into my life who became mentors and encouragers. Each conference class or workshop and every online course took me a step farther. God used ACFW to show me what was possible. Loop topics kindled a flame within me to reject the notion of giving up, and finally, at the 2009 ACFW conference, I received my first publishing contract. My debut novel, Leave Me Never, released in January 2011, and I have signed five more contracts since then. I thank God for a partner like ACFW to help me along with my writing, and now my publishing, journey.

Connie Stevens
Noble Theme Finalist 2004
Genesis Finalist 2009

In 2002 I entered the ACFW Noble Theme writing contest for the first national conference. I was a finalist and attended the conference that year not only because of the contest but also because my friends encouraged me to do so. As a result, I met the agent with whom I would sign and made many friends who gave me great advice and helped me on the road to becoming a novelist. Being a finalist in that contest helped to confirm in my mind that I wanted to write Christian novels. That was the beginning of an enlightening journey to publication with encouragement and support from so many friends made through ACFW.

Martha Rogers, Summer Dream
Noble Theme 2002 Finalist

I am very grateful for all I’ve learned as a member of ACFW. During the last eleven years I’ve been blessed to meet my agent, my editors, and many other writers who have become dear friends through our interaction online, our local group, and at the annual conference. The mentoring and encouragement have made all the difference in helping me fulfill my dream of becoming a published author. Joining ACFW was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my writing career.

Carrie Turansky, Surrendered Hearts
Genesis Finalist 2003
Multiyear BOTY/Carol Awards Finalist

When I became serious about pursuing publication in the inspirational market, one of my first steps was to join ACFW. I found a (somewhat) local chapter and made the hour and a half drive once a month to attend meetings—and found a band of comrades and encouragers. Just what I needed.

The local chapter talked a lot about the Genesis contest and encouraged all unpublished members to enter, so I did. Oh, my expectations were so high that first year! And they were dashed, too, when I got some (deservedly) humbling scores. But I learned a lot from the judges’ comments.

I entered the next year, too, and received mediocre scores. Again, they were well-deserved. But the third year I entered, I was amazed to get a call telling me I’d finaled in the contest. To be completely honest, I was shocked because I’d forgotten that day was the date finalists would be notified. My (future) editor requested the full manuscript because of that finaling entry and ended up buying that very manuscript—which also won the Genesis contest in 2009. I would definitely say that my local ACFW chapter and the Genesis contest were an instrumental part of my success in selling that first book.

Lacy Williams, Marrying Miss Marshal
2009 Genesis winner