Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Before and After with Guest Cynthia Ruchti

I’m addicted to Before-and-After pictures. Hair makeover. Home makeover. Make up makeover. Yard makeover. I love to say “Wow,” to compare the “needs work” version of something to the “Isn’t that amazing?” version, to watch the transformation from dull and lifeless or outdated and awkward to stunning.

That may be part of the reason why serving ACFW as president and hosting the annual conference moves me so deeply. The conference itself is an album of Before-and-After pictures.
A favorite worship song contains this bridge (in two meanings of that word):

I come in empty; I leave filled.

Bring my sickness; I leave healed.

Brokenhearted; You mend every piece.

I come in captive; I leave free.

Many ACFW conference attendees arrive empty, exhausted from a year’s worth of striving, of staring at computer screens and draining their energies to balance life and writing, dreams and reality, passion and possibilities. The After picture shows conferees leaving filled to overflowing with ideas, hope, enough instruction to have earned them a degree, and enough new friendships to max out their Facebook limits.

Some, though thrumming with anticipation, arrive feverish, overdosed on unmet expectations and works-in-progress in desperate need of suturing. In the After picture, they have a better understanding of what to expect in the publishing world, and their projects have gained a healthy glow rather than the febrile flush.

Brokenhearted? Yes. Some arrive brokenhearted. Their Before pictures reveal bloated rejection folders and disappointment scars that show no matter how much concealer they use. And although the ACFW conference cannot remove the rejections and may in fact add more, the After picture shows evidence of mending because the attendee let the Lord at the scarring.
Captive to any number of false hopes and misguided dreams, conferees come to the conference and experience a retooling of their thought process and the birth of new dreams guided by the Holy Spirit’s work on their hearts and through their instructors and fellow writers. They leave free—bound only to God’s will for their writing, not the expectations of others.
Are these Before-and-After images true for every person who attends an ACFW conference? No. Some come in captive and leave captive. Some were gloriously free when they walked through the doors on Day One.

But every post-conference picture shows change. A broader smile. A deeper look of determination. Greater confidence. Clearer direction.

Sure, on closer inspection, each image shows evidence of exhaustion, too. The intensity of conference is both exhilarating and exhausting…and all the more so for the conference team, board members, and volunteers who pour themselves into the needs of the attendees.
But one look at the Before-and-After pictures reminds us it’s worth every ounce of energy expended.

In early September of 2008, I wondered if I might be heading for my last ACFW conference. Was the pursuit of a fiction contract my idea after all? I thought it was God’s. But I’d worked a long time and written a lot of words that remained unpublished. I arrived at the conference empty, willing to lay down my desire to write fiction if the Lord had something different in mind for me.

I left filled.

Within two weeks, I had an agent and a contract (for They Almost Always Come Home, Abingdon Press) and within two months, I’d been elected president of ACFW.
At the following conference in 2009 I was blessed with another contract (for the newly released A Door County Christmas, Barbour Publishing). Other projects now wait on editors’ desks.
Willing to lay it all down, I came to conference brokenhearted and found the Lord truly does “mend every piece.” Another transformation from Before to After…with no doubt more work to be done on me every day of this writing makeover.

Today Cynthia is giving away one copy of each of her releases to two Seekerville posters. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

They Almost Always Come Home (Abingdon Press)
The Heart's Harbor in A Door County Christmas (Barbour Publishing)


In addition to her role as ACFW president, Cynthia Ruchti writes and produces the radio broadcast, The Heartbeat of the Home, and serves as the editor of the ministry’s magazine, Backyard Friends. Her women’s fiction debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home—received 4.5 stars from Romantic Times. Her September release—The Heart’s Harbor in A Door County Christmas novella collection—is a romantic comedy. She and her plot-tweaking husband live in the heart of Wisconsin. Visit Cynthia at : www.cynthiaruchti.com


Helen Gray said...

Coffee's on.

Now I gotta crash!!!


Vince said...

Hi Cynthia:

I thought “They Almost Always Come Home” was the best first novel I can ever remember reading. It was so moving I felt like I was in the same room with the heroine. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t really happening. That it was only a novel.

The book seems almost experimental to me --especially with using two POVs. I think the ambitious nature of “They Almost Always Come Home” would pose a big risk for a first novel. Were you advised against writing this book by CPs or editors?

“They Almost Always Come Home” is an amazing work that is sure to win many awards. I couldn’t recommend a book more highly.


vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

Walt M said...

In 2008, you were thinking it was your last ACFW conference, but then you were president in 2009. Were you already involved with other volunteer work with ACFW. It just seems to be a large undertaking to go to President.


Anonymous said...

Taking a break from sewing quilt blocks and watching Scooby Doo(the original thank you very much!)and eating Taco Bell(though now I think it's eating me..those nachos bell grande don't look all that grande but they are... trust me)but that was convenient since the chances of getting one of those country breakfasts Ruth has on her website seem slim and none..sniff...I'll have to work on my mom over Christmas.luckily I've had 43 almost 44 years to perfect the technique!

I'll have to look for these(if I don't wi that is LOL!) I like funny and that novella collection sounds good...the other one sounds like it might be sad just from the title but I'll look it up and see!


Amber S. said...

Wow! I can't imagine all the work that you must do--and all the exhilaration that comes with seeing those "After" pictures! :) Congratulations on your books and all that you do!

God bless!



P.S. Anybody up for some hot chocolate and chocolate doughnuts? (OK, I know I'm a bad influence, but what can I say?) ;)

Lisa Jordan said...


I applaud you for the heart-pouring efforts you give to ACFW. This year's conference was the best one to date, in my opinion, even though I missed almost all of my classes and workshops and sessions. The warmth in the hotel and the constant bathing in prayers washed my heart of any misgivings. Whether I get a contract or not, I know God brought me to ACFW for His purpose.

Thank you for your prayers and our chat. I'm so blessed to call you friend.

lisajordanbooks at yahoo dot com

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cynthia,
This year's conference was bigger and better and filled to the max with the Spirit of the Lord. Was it Brandilyn who mentioned that you walk the rooms in prayer prior to the beginning of the conference? That one bit of information reveals who you truly are--a woman of heart who loves the Lord and uplifts all those around you. Thank you for your wise and prayerful leadership of ACFW.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Such a transformative event and such a blessing to all those who attended, I am sure. That is one thing I have always loved about conferences. They are often a needed shot in the arm, just when the Lord knows you need them.

Blessings on all your vocations.

Peace, Julie

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ah, Helen, thank you for the coffee!!! My Internet was down earlier and I WAS SO WORRIED!!!


Welcome home, darlings. MISSED YOU ALL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cynthia, what a beautiful, heart-felt post. Thank you so much for all you did and do to make ACFW a wonderful place full of warmth, wit and wisdom. I've heard nothing but great things about this conference, and that's a reflection on you and your selfless volunteers. God bless you, kid, and super congrats on the books, the response and your new career.

God is, indeed, good...

And great hair, btw.

Just sayin'.

I called Panera for breakfast today because I lost time with my Internet snafu, just could NOT get to the oven.

Grrr.... But I love Panera Bread, love the old-world concept of their food and the new-age way it gets shipped and prepared. They are truly a model for good chain eateries because they don't FEEL like a chain eatery.

I'm baking this afternoon so lunch lightly. I'm experimenting with the leastuns.

We'll see. I will only bring the edible, non-boogered desserts.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cynthia, Thanks for sharing with us on Seekerville.
The conference sounded lovely and I loved the live blog link thing this year. This techno world is amazing

Ruthy, sorry about the snaffu. I'll cover breakfast.

To go with the paneras Ruthy brought, I have a platter of fresh fruit. with lots of raspberries.

An omelet chef is standing by to make your personal omelet. He has a whole cart of sliced veggies, cheeses and different meats like ham, sausage, bacon, steak, chicken sausage, etc. You pick.

And biscuits and gravy for those who love southern.

And Amber, the chocolate donuts and hot chocolate hit the spot.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Cynthia, I knew this post would be as amazing as you are. So glad to have you with us today! Hugs

Julie Lessman said...

Beautiful message this morning, Cynthia and SO dead-on. This conference was one of the very best for me -- not only because you and the board/volunteers made it so excellent, but because like in the anointed lyrics you mentioned, "I came in captive; I 'left' free." I had an encounter in the prayer room with Brandilyn Collins that changed my life and how I look at conferences from this day forward. For that, I am grateful to the point of tears, and grateful to you and the others who worked so tirelessly behind the scenes to make a difference in the lives of so many.

I can't wait to read "They Almost Always Come Home" -- I've heard nothing but fabulous things about it.


Pepper Basham said...

It was a true blessing to get to meet you this weekend. As I sit in my office at work, I feel the exhaustion from head to toe, but I also know I'm 'filled' with the wonder of a Savior who does amazing things and allows us to be in a group of amazing people.

Your prayers at ACFW were moving - heartfelt and beautiful. I posted a pic of us on my personal blog at www.pepperbasham.wordpress.com
thanks so much for your spirit-guided leadership and the lovely post for today.

Cynthia Ruchti said...

I just now got my Internet working this morning and am so blessed to see so many who have found this post resonating in their hearts! Thanks, one and all, for stopping by to say hi, to offer sweet and much appreciated words of encouragement, or to ask questions. I hope I catch them all and bounce back to you. If not, toss them to me again. Coffee. Yes. That would help!
VINCE--Yes, creating THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME the way I did was a risk and even my agent advised against it before she signed with me. After the fact, those who read it now say they can't imagine it could have been done any other way. I take counsel very seriously, but wrote to invite the reader to become Libby and experience it all with her, rather than reading about her.
WALT: I became president of ACFW for no other reason than obedience to the Lord. I've long had a heart for the organization. But running for president was a direct response to a specific nudge, poke, okay TASER from Him. It has been a wild ride, but one filled with that glorious combo platter of blessings and challenges!
THANK YOU Seekerville visitors. I'll stay in touch throughout the day. As I've told the Seekers, spending time with you is a dream come true for me.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Beautiful story, Cynthia.

Thanks for the hope you share with writers everywhere. You must be amazing to be the president of such a large and wonderful organization.

The more I hear about this conference, the more determined I am to get their next year! And I hope I will leave filled as well.

Thanks so much for sharing.


sbmason (at) sympatico (dot) ca

P.S. It's apple picking season up here. The leaves are turning extra early this year. So here's some of my favourite apples - MacIntosh, freshly picked!

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi Cynthia--welcome to Seekerville! Thank you so much for such an amazing conference. I was truly blessed and already I'm looking forward to next year's conference.

It was wonderful meeting so many Seekerville friends in person!

'They Almost Always Come Home' sounds wonderful and I'm looking forward to reading it. What a great example of persistence.

Teri Dawn Smith said...

Cynthia, Thanks for leading ACFW with your sweet spirit and obviously leading of The Holy Spirit! You inspire us every time!

This year's conference was the best ever!

Helen Gray said...


Good morning. It's good to see you again. I never got an opportunity to speak to you personally, but I enjoyed your presence in the services. Thanks for your commitment.

I was zonked when I brought the coffee, but I had to take care of my too long neglected duty before hitting the hay.

I got the networking and contacts I went to Indy for. Now I have work to do. Gotta get busy.


Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Cynthia, and welcome to Seekerville!! Thank you for sharing your wonderful journey story with us. And for making such a significant contribution to ACFW and the conference --both such amazing shelters and launching pads for Christian writers!

Mary Connealy said...

HI HELEN!!!!!!!!!!

It's so fun to have met you and know you beyond your comments and your picture. That's what's the best part of ACFW is really getting to meet all the people we know.

Mary Connealy said...

And speaking of meeting great people, Cynthia, you are such a great president to ACFW. Man oh man, standing up in front of all those people is my very own personal nightmare.

And you're so poised and gracious and it appears you can stand there and talk and actually THINK at the same time. Plus no drooling, which is what I usually end up doing!!!!!

It was great to see you. Thank you so much for coming to Seekerville. God bless you. The Lord was really working through you this week.

Rose said...


After reading your post, I can not wait to go to next years conference!

Wishing you much success with your books. I've seen the Christmas novella on the store shelves!

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Cynthia Ruchti said...

You precious people make me blush. It helps cover over the post-conference-exhaustion pallor, though! Or is that palor? You know you're too tired when you really want to know how to spell it but can't key the word into the online dictionary! I'm traveling today, too. As often as I can, I'll pop in. But if I seem absent, I'm just skirting the island's kiosks looking for a banana for my inflight meal! :)

Carol J. Garvin said...

Isn't it wonderful that God knows our needs even better than we know our own? Blessings to you for all He accomplished through you at this year's conference, and a belated congratulations to Pam Hillman and Mary Connealy for their contest wins.

cynthia said...

Someday I would love to attend the conference--but a little thing called the beginning of the school year always interferes with the timing. Someday though.... It really does help to meet with like minded people--to help spur one another on. A writer's life can be a lonely one. Husbands can try to be supportive, but there's only so much they understand. :)

cynthiakchow (at) earthlink (dot) net

Missy Tippens said...

Welcome, Cynthia!! You did such a marvelous job at the conference! I'm so thankful for all your service to ACFW, and for all the work of the board and volunteers.

Thanks for a great post, too! :)

Audra Harders said...

Cynthia! Welcome to Seekerville!! I absolutely loved sharing lunch with you at the conference. You are a sweet, kind, gracious and really funny woman!!

Isn't it funny how when the time comes and you break down and say *all right Lord, I guess this wasn't Your will for my life* that He smiles and stirs your pot and blesses you beyond belief!!?? What a truly inspirational testamony to the plans God has for our lives!

They Almost Always Come Home has been added to my reading list. God bless my eyeballs to read faster than humanly possible, LOL!!

Thanks for joining us, Cynthia!

Since I've been attending the ACFW conference, I haven't had time to stock my shelves with goodies. Let's see, how about baked berry cobbler and French Vanilla ice cream?

And Coffee. Keep the coffee coming.

Audra Harders said...

Helen, you are always sooooo good about plugging in the coffee pot. Where would we be without you???

I don't really want an answer to that...

Dawn Ford said...

You and everyone did such a great job on the conference. I did leave full of ideas and ready to go. I had to write notes down on my 10 hour drive home.

It was a blessing to know you walk up and down the halls praying. What a great speaker Tim Downs was. What great connections I made. My conference was a success.

I've heard great things about "They Almost Always come Home". I can't wait to read it.

Jason and Emily said...

Thanks for your willingness to make a conference like this come together. As a newbie, it was amazing and inspiring to see all the hands working so diligently to make this happen. I loved the workshops, classes, late nights and the times of worship. And the PEOPLE! What a welcoming group. Just what I needed at this point in my journey. God bless you!



Cynthia Ruchti said...

The team behind the scenes served so faithfully yet invisibly...as all good team members should. They deserve a standing ovation. Now the heavy prayer labor begins for the connections, relationships, and dreams started this past week.

KC Frantzen said...

So so so inspiring.

Thank you Cynthia for sharing your story and more about the conference. Beautifully done and honoring to Him!

may at maythek9spy dot com

I'm excited to go to the SCBWI conference soon. Hopefully will experience many of the same aspects, though not nearly the emphasis on "Christian". Maybe some of us can make a difference anyway. :)

Digging for Pearls said...


What a blessing for me to be able to attend this conference for my first time. I was touched by your sweet spirit, love, and concern that shone through each time you were on stage.

Today finds me weary but also filled. Thank you for the ministry, leadership, and direction you give through ACFW.

Jodie Wolfe

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Thinking about all you amazing people while I sip pumpkin spice latte in the airport that just decided it would be a good idea to turn on the air conditioning, since it's 92 degrees in Indy today! My "personal summers" appreciate it! If I had my druthers, I'd go home and lie on the couch with my feet up and soft music playing for about a week so I can soak in all I learned and experienced at the conference and rehearse all the blessings the conferees were to me. Instead, I head out in two days for a weekend long women's retreat where I'll speak four times in three days. I'm double-passionate about the subject, but must admit that it may take a few more pumpkin spice lattes to get my batteries recharged. I think I'll plug my power cord into the Word of God for two days. That ought to do it!

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing your inspiring story here. I've never been to the ACFW conference, but have experienced the exhilaration you described from attending other Christian writers conferences. From all I've heard the ACFW one is not to be missed. I loved "They Almost Always Come Home." You successfully accomplished what you set out to do with Libby's and Greg's moving story. Safe trip home.

Anonymous said...

I would love to read these books...have heard so much about them!! Thanks for entering me.

Teri Dawn Smith said...

Another congrats to Mary for her Carol award! I'm glad we got that extra, unexpected visit in the airport!

Regina Merrick said...

I totally missed out on the Seeker gatherings at ACFW - by the time I was finished with late- night chats, I was exhausted! What a great time, though. Cynthia, I appreciated so much your words on Sunday morning, and your prayer. I was in the choir, and truly felt you summon the Holy Spirit to come down on us. Thank you for your leadership.

Helen, thanks for the coffee! It was good to see you this week!


Edwina said...


It was great to meet you at the conference! This was my first conference and I loved it! Thank you for all that you have done and will continue to do for ACFW.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Cynthia! We're delighted to have you here!

Like you, I love Before and After pictures. Your post is a vivid reminder of what the ACFW conference does in the lives of attendees.

This year's conference had many highlights for me: Tim Down's keynotes, Michael Hauge's workshops, the Award's night with special guests Carol Johnson and Janette Oke, and those gorgeous pins the leadership so generously issued retroactively. And our Mary Connealy and Pam Hillman's wins! And hooking up with friends and making new ones. The list is long and includes delicious food. I'm tired but also energized and lifted up.

Thank you for all you've done for ACFW. You have such a heart for the Lord. We will miss you at the helm!

Congratulations on your books! Can't wait to read them.

Hugs, Janet

Cynthia Ruchti said...

May I say something? Seekerville is one of the most helpful and encouraging blogs in all of blogdom, and is done in such a fun and creative way. I subscribe, although I don't often comment. And more times than I can count, I've archived the blog post because it contains rich teaching or insights that are inescapably necessary to my education as an author. It was valuable to me before I was published. It's at least that valuable now. Kudos to the Seekers. They've worked hard to provide us all with a uniquely clever and welcoming spot in which to work through our writerly concerns. Great place to celebrate, too!

Glynna Kaye said...

Cynthia -- On behalf of the Seekers, thank you for your kind words! We came together 5 years ago to support each other on the writing journey--and decided 3 years ago we wanted to help light the path for others seeking to follow God's leading on a similar journey. So happy to be a part of yours!!!

Dianna Shuford said...


I'm so glad you didn't give up! It was a blessing to meet you at conference, my first one. Thank you for your encouraging words here as well.

It's people like you that spread encouragement and confidence that make it easier to keep pushing when you are tired and wonder if walking this pathway of writing is the right one.


Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Awwwwwe, you are so sweet. Hope I get to meet you one day. Thanks for being a guest in Seekerville and we pray for continued success in your writing!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my goodness, here it is bedtime...

And I'm just getting back with treats but I think I'll save them for the morrow.

Cynthia, what a gentle and sweet heart you have. Thanks for blessing us here today. And I'm hoisting a pumpkin spice latte from my Keurig in your honor.

It just seems RIGHT to drink them in Sept-December. Like a right of passage.

Hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cynthia, for your encouraging words. I love before and afters, too. I want to read They Almost Always Come Home, esp after Vince's comments. I'm trying to write something w/two points of view, and a model might help!

Anyway, as my Civil War soldier turned Arizona cavalryman seeks to help an oppressed, isolated woman whose husband is a no-good, thievin' scoundrel, not to mention wife-abuser....I will think "before and after"....before and after...and be encouraged.
BTW, everyone, my word verification started with eat, so I'm off to rich real oatmeal, walnuts, blueberries to fortify me for the day...join me?
Thanks. Gail gkittleson@omnitelcom.com

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Thank you for the invitation and the blessing of spending time with you. I'll still hang around if anyone wants to chat.

Emma said...

They Almost Always Come Home and
The Heart's Harbor in A Door County Christmas both books sounds wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.

Cindy W. said...

Thank you for your post Cynthia. It was truly a blessing for me. I currently reading They Almost Always Come Home and I am loving it. Would love to read A Door County Christmas.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Phyllis Wheeler said...

Cynthia, you said it all so well. The Lord is so good to us.