Sunday, June 26, 2011

A 2 Z: FaithWriter Friends

In April of 2005 I was coming out of the darkest time of my life. A year and a half of severe germphobia and depression had hit me out of nowhere (though my grandmother's unexpected death may have played a part). My personality is somewhat happy-go-lucky and I'm not one to spend too much energy worrying, so my family and I were dazed by my spiral into OCD so severe I was spending every minute in complete panic and most of my time frantically cleaning or showering.

By God's grace we finally found a medication that fulfilled what my body was lacking and as my brain chemicals slowly righted, I began to look elsewhere to fill my time and thoughts. I found a message board online for one of my family's favorite TV shows, Doc, and began participating in fan fiction. I've considered myself a writer all my life, but this was the first time strangers had seen my work. They loved it.

I decided I wanted to find a place online where I could post other short stories I was working on. A search for Christian writing groups pulled up FaithWriters, but a look at their thousands of members had me convinced I would be lost in the shuffle.

God brought me back there a few days later and I joined and posted a story or two, and found their message boards. Most of all, I also found the weekly writing challenge. Let's just say I wasn't exactly "lost in the shuffle." In fact, in an interview with me a year later Lynda Schab said I "burst into FaithWriters... like a firecracker."

More about that in a minute. First, let me explain that the writing challenge gives a word or phrase prompt and then participants have one week to write something on that topic that is between 150 to 750 words (that's a max of a page and a half). In all of my 23 years of life I'd only finished a handful of stories. Dozens more floated around stuck in my head. A few had managed to leak a few paragraphs out on paper before I was distracted with another idea. The short stories I'd written for school had ended up being pages and pages long.

The first challenge topic I tried was "Thanksgiving." My rough daft was several thousand words. Somehow I managed to cut most of it and find a remnant of the story that still made sense in 750 words. (I later became known as the master surgeon.) I submitted and nervously waited for it to become live anonymously, and then a whole week passed before I'd know the judging results. Comments, those coveted golden boxes, poured in on that and even a few on the other regular stories I'd posted.

That became my first story accepted for publication. I was shocked when I got first place in the beginners level and second place overall. My family had told me I was good at writing, but this was confirmation from strangers! The next week I again placed second. In a time when life was difficult, it was a blessing to have God grant me a talent that made something, at least, come somewhat easy. Over the next two years I entered every single week and my writing grew in leaps and bounds, thanks to the practice and the many FaithWriters who took me under their wings and mentored and critiqued me.

But besides giving me writing help, the people of FaithWriters did even more. They were friends, prayer partners, counsellors, and life-lines. As I continued to crawl out of the dark pit and into a more healthy and functional life, they walked alongside me through emails, instant messaging, the message boards, and even phone calls. They did not judge me, but loved me and guided me and supported me. (Many of you are reading this, so I want to say, "Thank you!" Thank you for allowing God to use you in my life then, and now.)

Now six years later, I still count many individual FaithWriters among my very closest friends. I only enter the challenge occasionally now, as I'm trying to focus on my novel, but the FW community remains a vital part of my life. I have been the assistant conference coordinator for a few years now and last year had the honor of being invited to also teach a workshop. I teach again this year and am even more excited about my topic (how to bring your writing to life).

I've been to a few other Christian writing conferences, but the FaithWriter ones are unique because the people there are already a tight-knit community, to which any newcomers are quickly welcomed. The workshops are mostly taught with in-house speakers--FW members who have experience and skill in specific areas. Between and after the informative sessions, the time is filled with hugs, prayers, laughter and games (in fact, we tend to stay up half the night playing together). Sally Stuart, the famous director of the yearly Christian Writers' Market Guide, spoke at one of our conferences and mentioned how special of a feel this one had in comparison to the many, many others she'd spoken at.

Speaking of the conference, how would YOU like to come? It's in Detroit on August 12th and 13th, and guess what? The Early Bird special has been extended until the end of June. You still have time to sign up! And as well as the conference being extra-special, it's also extra-cheap, and if you find good airfare then the cost of the conference and airplane tickets are comparable to just the workshop costs of other conferences. So, if you're a writer or have always wanted to be a writer, hurry over to See you there!

For more "F" posts from bloggers participating in the "From A 2 Z 4 U and Me" meme, check


Barbara Lynn Culler said...

Most of my FaceBook friends are Faithwriters!

Joanne Sher said...

LOVE you Amy - and I feel the same way (and my F will be about FaithWriters too LOL). GREAT post.

yeggy said...

Similar journey, Amy. Grateful to you and FW friends for being Jesus to me in a time of need. Go well!

Rita Garcia said...

FW has been a huge blessing in my life, also! Love you, Amy!!

Nancy K. Sullivan said...

What a wonderful story of how God united you with FW. He's always on time and looking out for our very need. And the other FW's (myself included) are blessed by your writing.

God Bless. See you soon :)

Diana Lesire Brandmeyer said...

It's amazing how God works isn't it?
I have to find out more about this faithwriters. I love the idea of prompts. Diana

Shelley Ledfors said...

Wonderful post, Amy. FaithWriters is such a special place. I am very happy to have you as a FaithWriter friend and to have met you in person (even if too briefly) in February.

And I'm REALLY looking forward to the conference!

Diana Dart said...

Sniffle, sniffle. Beautiful post that shows how super cool you and FW are! I felt so blessed to have met you at the conference - your talent, sparkle and wit made that weekend extra special for me (and so many others, I'm sure) Can't wait for August!!!!

Niki Turner said...

Amy, very cool! Thank you for your transparency and for your enthusiasm!

Anonymous said...

Amy, this was such an inspirational story and I'm glad you shared it. FW was actually the second writing site I came to participate in. But since joining, I've cancelled my other subscription. The peers at FW make me feel right at home.

I'm so looking forward to coming to this year's conference, especially considering it is close to home. I plan to drive to Livonia. Looking forward to introducing myself to my peers, and participating in some good fellowship with fellow wordsmiths.

Patty Wysong said...

I am soooo very thankful for Faithwriters! It's scary to think where I'd be today withOUT FW! They made such a HUGE difference in my life. =]