Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Welcome Genesis Winner Carla Stewart!


I'm proud to introduce my dear friend Carla Stewart, 2007 Genesis Winner in the Historical Fiction category! Please welcome her to Seekerville!
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Thank you so much for having me on Seekerville.

I love the thrill of competition. Being first. Not athletics, of course. Board games, yes. Writing competitions, YES! I didn’t even know about writing contests when I went to my first writers’ conference six years ago. During the awards luncheon, my eyes misted over as the winners in each category were announced. My heart burned with, Next year, that will be me.

Man, I went gung-ho in the following months. Writing, praying, stewing over my lone entry. I entered my short story (I wasn’t up to novel length prose yet), and found out a month or so later that I was a finalist. Of course, I didn’t expect to win, but at this particular contest, they called all ten finalists to the front and went through all the runners up before getting to the actual third place, second place, etc. As name after name was called, I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. “First place with Sand Plum Summer . . . “ My heart stopped. I’d won! Me?? Oh my goodness. The thrill of winning that first contest gave me affirmation and encouragement to keep writing, and before I knew it, I’d become a contest junkie—a few wins, some near misses, and many failures.

Then I discovered ACFW and their contest—the Genesis. I knew from attending their 2006 conference that it was a biggy. Undaunted, I prepared and entered two manuscripts for the 2007 contest. The finalists would be notified no later than June 1. I kept busy with my crit group, my new WIP, and tried not to think about it. Then, almost two weeks ahead of schedule, I got THE CALL. I had finaled in the Historical Fiction category with A Dandelion Day.

Here’s the deal. I knew I had zero chance of winning this thing. For starters, it was the historical category. My story takes place in 1958. That’s historical? Well, it was according to the contest guidelines, but I felt like it was a bit of a stretch that I would even be considered. The finals judges (bless their dear hearts) were both editors from very conservative houses, and my story was about shock treatments and a mom who commits suicide, so I didn’t think they would particularly like it.

So, I went off to the ACFW conference, proud just to wear the pale blue “finalist” ribbon on my name badge and take in the conference. I didn’t prepare a speech, because I had no chance of winning. Bad choice. On the night of the awards banquet, I sat by my good buddy, Myra, holding my breath, somewhat curious about whether or not I was fourth or fifth place. When my name was announced as the first place winner, it took Myra and a couple of others at my table to propel me toward the front of the ballroom. Magically, my feet waltzed onto the stage, where Brandilyn Collins smiled, handed me my award, and asked me to say a few words. Uh-oh.

I should have been more prepared. When the applause stopped, the room got very still. Again, I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me, but I knew it wouldn’t. I took a deep breath, willed my body to stop shaking, and drawing from the few bits of acting experience I’ve had, I looked at the sea of faces before me and said something. I don’t remember what. I know the song “Holy Ground” had been running through my head all day, and I think I said something about that. It truly did feel like Holy ground to be with more than 500 Christian authors as we gave God the glory. And that’s indeed where all the glory goes. I’m just a goofy author stumbling through and am privileged to be able to pursue my dream of writing. Once in a while, I even get a glimpse of heaven and get to accept an award. Who can argue with that?

Reliving these moments has been fun. Thanks again for letting me ramble here. My final thoughts—you can’t win if you don’t enter. And, if you final in a contest, PREPARE A SPEECH ☺

Carla’s Website: www.carlastewart.com
Carla’s Writing Café: www.carlastewart.blogspot.com

19 comments :

  1. Carla, That is such a beautiful description of the feeling of winning the contest. Thanks for taking us all back to ACFW, in whatever year, and to other sweet, sweet moments in contest history.

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  2. Thanks, Mary. It was an unexpected thrill, and that's the nicest kind of surprise. And, thanks for having me here on Seekerville. I'm in great company.

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  3. What a great post Carla. And the photo of you and Myra is really lovely. Congratulations and praying for much success for you on your writing journey. Thanks for joining us today.

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  4. "... a few wins, some near misses, and many failures...

    I'm going to argue the point that the only failure would have been in not using the amazing and recognizable talent God gave you, girlfriend!

    So nice to have you here. Welcome aboard, and thanks for sharing the hits and the misses.

    We can sooooooo totally commiserate!

    Ruthy

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  5. Thanks, Tina. The journey is so much better traveled with friends like Myra. You're right, Ruth, the only failure is in not trying. The one thing I didn't mention was that I entered two manuscripts in the Genesis, and one did not final. That felt like a failure to me at the time, but I got great feedback that I can use in the future. I wouldn't have learned those things if I hadn't tried. Thanks for your sweet comment.

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  6. So true--the only failure is not trying! That's important to remember as we pile up rejections and not-so-glorious contest experiences. You have ZERO chance of winning or selling if that manuscript sits in your file drawer. And you maximize your chances of success many times over by taking to heart those judges' comments and critiques.

    Thanks again so much for visiting in Seekerville today, Carla! We gotta do lunch again one day soon!

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  7. Carla,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Not only was it uplifting, but it reminded me that things happen in God's timing.

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  8. You gals are great. Yes, Myra, a long lunch, strategy meeting is in order soon. Gina, thanks for your comment. God's timing is everything. I know I've had things rejected that turned out to be a blessing--either I could improve on the story or God had other plans for it. He's also blessed me with affirmation along the way so I know I'm still doing what he put in my heart to do.

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  9. LOL, Carla!! Prepare a speech? Mmmm...I did that once, but my dear friend, Myra, made darn sure I didn't get to deliver it!:)

    What a wonderful post, Carla! "Holy Ground," indeed, for all of us ... whether or not we win contests! Walking out the path that He has for us as writers, glorifying His name, is a privilege and a pleasure I hope and pray we never take for granted.

    Congratulations on the Genesis win!

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  10. God gave me a precious gift when He allowed me to meet Carla at the conference before the banquet. I was so humbled because she informed me that she had been praying for ME! By name, because we were finalists together in the historical category. And I'm so GLAD Carla won. God is good...ALL the time!

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  11. That's another benefit of contests--making heart to heart friends. I might not have known Erica had it not been for the Genesis, and she is such a sweetheart! Julie, you are funny. Did Myra give the speech you prepared?

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  12. Hi, Erika. So, is Minnesota under a sheet of ice, too? Or is that just Nebraska?
    And I heard record snowfall or somethign like that in North Dakota. Global Warming, gotta love it.

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  13. Julie and I (and Janet Dean and Tina Russo Novinski Radcliffe) were all finalists in the 2005 Golden Heart inspirational category. I got to give the speech. Julie got a top-notch agent instead. And sold her book. As did Janet. It is so true--contests are great ways to make new friends! Where would I be without the Fab Four???

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  14. Carla, Welcome to Seekerville and thanks for sharing your heartwarming story. How funny when we think we have everything figured out but God has something else in store for us. I bet you were so excited about winning after the initial shock wore off. Are you still entering contests? Happy writing.

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  15. What a great story, Carla!! And great advice. :)

    Congrats on your wins!! We're so glad you came today to be with us and share your story.

    Missy

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  16. My thanks to y'all for having me. Your kind words are an encouragement, and I had fun tripping down memory lane. As for entering contests . . . there are several I have my eye on, and will enter the Genesis again, if I can get it all together before the deadline. With Myra's prodding me and God's grace, that's the plan. Thank you all for your comments and welcoming words.

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  17. oooh, Carla, I know all about preparing that speech. Been there a couple of times, and several buddies MADE me prepare a speech about an hour before the 2004 Golden Heart awards ceremony. If they say prepare a speech, PREPARE a speech.

    Loved reading about your finalling in the Genesis!

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  18. Congrats on winning, Carla! That's awesome. You're inspiring me to go looking for some contests... :)

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  19. Congrats, Carla!!

    I've already heard huge buzz about your stories!

    Hugs,
    Cheryl Wyatt

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