By Andrea Boeshaar
As I pondered an idea for this blog, it occurred to me that not a lot of ACFW members know about this amazing organization’s inception. Hundreds of writers attend the national conference and meet with editors, talk to friends who have become near and dear to them via ACFW’s many online services.
But did you know that ACFW began as ACRW — American Christian Romance Writers? If you don’t, then you may want to read on. If you do, then please reminisce with me and others.
Recently, best-selling author Tracie Peterson recounted what she remembered from those early days.
“Lynn Coleman and I had been talking a lot about the need for a Christian writer’s group for a long time – since at least 1997 and I think it was even earlier than that. We were both involved with RWA and knew [the organization] didn’t offer anything for Christian authors. We knew there were groups already in place that focused on Christian writing, but because of [popularity of] Heartsong Presents, [for which we both wrote] she and I were especially eager to have a Christian writer’s group that focused on romantic fiction. I suggested we could have our own version of RWA and Lynn said she’d been thinking the same thing.”
Then somehow I got involved. I had shared a hotel room with Tracie, Becky Germany (the editor of Heartsong Presents at the time), Cathy Marie Hake and Pamela Kaye Tracy at the 1999 RWA Convention in Chicago. It was a bit tight in there with five of us ladies. But as we talked about the RWA conference, I believed, as Tracie did, that there was a need for a national Christian organization that allowed CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) writers to mingle with editors and other writers of romance. I knew Lynn Coleman because of the AOL chats she facilitated in which various Christian guest speakers would introduce themselves and discuss Christian romance writing. Discussing the matter of a national organization with Lynn, she asked me to be the VP on the very first advisory board. When ACRW went live on February 1, 2000, we had six members, our first board. They were Lynn Coleman, DiAnn Mills, Gail Martin, Tracie Peterson, Misty Taggart and me.
The board worked hard for several months before Feb. 1, and often met in an Internet chat room to discuss the mission for ACRW. We agreed that the group’s sole purpose was to raise the bar in Christian romance by edifying and educating writers.
Barbour Editor, Becky Germany, remembered those early days as well. She stated:
“I think it was Tracie’s idea to announce a contract for an unpublished author at the first ACRW conference [in Kansas City]. I remember being in a small ballroom. It became [Barbour’s] tradition to announce those contracts as a way to encourage new authors. It basically came to a stop when we sold Heartsong Presents, though we still like to give unpublished authors a start when we can.”
Many authors, including me, got their start by writing for the Heartsong Presents book club.
Many long hours went into the planning of ACRW and when the organization first launched, we were under Reg Forder’s ACW – American Christian Writers umbrella. A subscription to the Christian Communicator was included with members’ fees. But as ACRW grew, we, the board members, caught Lynn Coleman’s larger vision of where God was leading this organization, and we branched off from Reg Forder’s group.
In Part 2 of this blog which will go live tomorrow (Sept 3), I’ll share how the organization grew and eventually made the turn from ACRW to ACFW. So stay tuned.
Andrea Boeshaar has been married for nearly 40 years. She and her husband have 3 wonderful sons, 1 beautiful daughter-in-law, and 5 precious grandchildren. Andrea’s publishing career began in 1994. Since then, 31 of her books have gone to press. Additionally, Andrea co-founded ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and served on its Advisory Board for a number of years. In 2007, Andrea earned her certification in Christian Life Coaching and she’s now the purveyor of Steeple View Coaching for Writers and The Writer’s ER. For more information, log onto her website: www.andreaboeshaar.com. Visit Andrea on Facebook and Twitter: @AndreaBoeshaar.