Julie, here, and I am:
So … what happens when this CDQ (caffeinated drama queen) mixes all three together?
The seeds of CFRR were first sown over three years ago when my dear friend Bonnie Roof and I talked about her deep desire to attend a retreat with some of her favorite authors where we could all just talk, laugh, and pray together. So we prayed about it.
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed. —Psalm 20:4
And, WHOA, did He!
Fast forward to early 2016 when three amazing bloggers—Bonnie Roof of
Overcoming with God blog, Carrie Schmidt of Reading is my SuperPower blog, and Annie C. of Just Commonly blog—joined forces to launch an idea each of them had been thinking and praying about separately, unbeknownst to the others. With the kiss of anointing from God’s hand, CFRR was born—a one-day retreat with readers and authors to take place the day before the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. (Picture: L to R bottom -- Bonnie Roof, Carrie Schmidt. L to R top -- moi, Annie C., and Sydney Anderson of Singing Librarian Books blog.)
The theme? Honoring God through Christian Fiction.
And, WHOA, did we!
These three ladies and the Holy Spirit put together a one-day retreat so chock-full of blessings and amazing Author Speakers/Panelists/Attendees that I wanted to use my blog today to both recap and thank them for all of their hard work and effort. For me, the best way to do that is to simply elaborate via their excellent schedule below.
But first, just a few comments from some of the authors who took part AND a huge thank you to the following sponsors of CFRR: Bethany House, Books & Beverages, Gilead Publishing, Love Inspired, Pelican Book Group, Revell, Straight Off the Page, and Waterbrook Multnomah.
(Picture to the left are all Seeker CFRR authors with some hubbies.)
Janet Dean (Pucker Up Panelist, L to R on bottom row, 5th). “For me, the best part of the retreat was meeting readers, seeing their excitement at having an opportunity to connect with authors. They were like a breath of fresh air, a reminder that stories matter and connect us as human beings.”
Debby Giusti (Opening Prayer, L to R on bottom row, 2nd): “We were a group of sisters that day, laughing and sharing and touching each other’s lives. God was present. He was laughing too!”
Ruth Logan Herne (Speaker/Pucker Up Panelist, L to R on bottom row, 6th):
“I have one word for my experience working with the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat: Excitement. Those readers/bloggers/reviewers came armed with a love of God, a love of fiction and with an excitement I have never seen at any author/reader event before... and I've been to plenty!”
Mary Connealy (Speaker, L to R back row, middle):
"I LOVED IT! I had really never been to an event like that before. I felt like, by the end of that day, I'd had a chance to speak to every reader in that group. Also I loved the Christ focus of the day. The prayers and singing.”
Tamera Alexander (Speaker): "What a joy to attend CFRR! Meeting with readers is always a kick, and CFRR is all about the reader. The relationship shared with readers—that are developed as we take these novel journeys together—truly is one of the greatest blessings about writing. And CFRR is all about that experience! Already looking forward to next year."
Meghan Gorecki (Author Attendee):
"Despite the amount of introverts in one room, no one knew a stranger. One activity was Author Speed Chats/Dates. The authors would rush around to cluster groups and we'd have five or so minutes with them to ask them anything and get to know them better. SO fun!!” (Picture compliments of author Meghan Gorecki.)
And now …
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CFRR ATTENDEE
Scarritt Bennet Center in Nashville, Tennessee
Welcome/Breakfast: Annie, Bonnie, and Carrie shared all the miraculous ways that God blessed and intervened on behalf of CFRR from inception to conclusion while everyone chowed down on beverages, pastries, and fruit.
Opening Prayer: As those of you who have met auther Debby Giusti already know, she is a true intercessor and prays from the heart, so she began our day with the anointing of prayer.
Praise and Worship: Next, author Caryl McAdoo beautifully ushered us into the presence of God, setting the tone for a God connection that carried throughout the entire day. (L to R, Tamera Alexander, Julie Lessman, and Laura Frantz enjoying worship.)
Speaker Session 1: Abbott and Costello … uh, I mean, Ruth Logan Herne and Mary Connealy kicked off the speaking sessions with encouragement and wisdom from their own writing careers, which wonderfully transitioned into a lively stand-up comedy routine when the moderators said they hadn’t used up their allotted time. Talk about comedic relief! Go, Mary and Ruthy!
Speaker Session 2: Julie Lessman (moi) shared my testimony, which included things like dressing up as a nun to sneak into a free movie showing of Gone With the Wind when I was sixteen and wanting to burn Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms at the age of twenty-one … to winning the booby prize at ACFW and sharing the greatest spiritual lesson I ever learned following a sabbatical I took from writing. If you’re interested, you can read the testimony in its entirety at the end of my personal blog HERE.
Author Tamera Alexander followed with her personal testimony that encouraged every aspiring and published author in the room, sharing her own rocky road in writing for God, a message that culminated in a truly anointed speech that gave me goose bumps when it dove-tailed perfectly with mine, unbeknownst to either of us.
Author Panel 1 (Moderated by Bonnie Roof):
Topic: You, Personally.
Authors (L to R) Carrie Turansky, Jennifer Slattery, Gabe Meyer, Laura Frantz, Jan Drexler, and Myra Johnson answered the following questions from readers:
1. What was the moment that you KNEW God had called you to write?
2. Do you ever get recognized when out in public (not at a book signing)?
3. What is the one thing from your real life and/or background be it family, education, faith, etc. that always comes into play when writing a book?
4. What's the funniest/weirdest thing that's happened to you on your writing journey?
5. What's the most enjoyable aspect of choosing writing as a career? Conversely, what's the hardest aspect of choosing writing as a career?
6. How did you decide to write in the genre you did?
Prayer for Sick: We took a few moments to lay hands on those who were sick and beseech God on their behalf.
Imagine chatting with your favorite authors or reader friends in an elegant, high-ceiling, wood-paneled college faculty dining room that is abuzz with chatter and fun, dining on lemon rosemary chicken, orzo salad, lentils, yummy grilled veggies, pita and hummus, various salads, and ice cream!
Speaker Session 3: Author Laura Frantz, who calls herself the “Un-Author” because she doesn’t enter contests or spend much time on FaceBook or other social media, turned the tables on readers by asking them questions she solicited from authors such as the following:
1. Do you prefer stand-alones or series?
2. What's the biggest deciding factor for you when picking up a book from an unknown author?
3. Why is chocolate the international equalizer of all things wonderful?
4. Do you prefer more passion in your books-both spiritually and romantically-or less? (bet you can't guess which author asked this question??)
5. What is the most important thing a book must have for you to keep reading?
6. How do you prefer to interact with your favorite authors? Through social media, or via newsletters?
7. What are your favorite genres?
Author Panel 2: (Moderated by MeezCarrie):
Topic: Pucker Up! (and, yes, paper fans were distributed in goodie bags on arrival)
Authors (L to R) Pepper D. Basham, Ruth Logan Herne, Melanie Dickerson, Janet Dean, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Julie Lessman answered the following questions with much humor, grace, and more than a few blushes!
2. Speaking of just right, what elements do you think must be in the perfect fictional kiss?
3. What's your favorite kissing scene that you've written?
4. What are the challenges in writing godly love and passion without crossing over into lust?
5. Within your various publishers and genres, what are the parameters/guidelines/boundaries you must adhere to when writing kissing scenes?
For me, one of the highlights of CFRR was the speed chat, which was basically speed dating, except with authors. In circles of three to five chairs, attendees were able to pepper authors with questions until the bell rang and a new author arrived in their circle. In addition, each attendee had a bingo card of sorts where they checked off the authors who came to their circle in an author bingo game with prizes.
I don’t know who had more fun during the speed chats — the attendees or authors Becky Wade, Brandy Heineman, Caryl McAdoo, Dani Pettrey, Gene Woods, Jean C. Gordon, Julie Lessman, Kara Isaac, Kate Breslin, Krista Phillips, Marie Wells Coutu, Mary Connealy, Mesu Andrews, Ruth Logan Herne, Shelley Shepard Gray, Susan Page Davis, and Tracey Lyons.
Break / Snack: Caramelized Chex mix—To. Die. For!!
Author Panel 3: (Moderated by Bonnie and MeezCarrie)
Topic: "Imaginary Friends"
Authors (L to R) Carrie Fancett Pagels, Mesu Andrews, Dani Pettrey, Becky Wade, Kara Isaac, and Sarah Monzon were on the analyst couch for questions such as:
1. Did you have imaginary friends as a child?
2. If your characters could describe YOU as an author, what would they say?
3. Has one of your characters ever embarrassed you?
Closing Praise and Prayers: Author Melony Teague announced the Grand Prize Winner and closed the day with more uplifting worship and prayer. (Pic: Melony Teague and moi)
Personal Prayer Times: Anyone who wanted to could sign up for personal prayer in author groups of one or more, which was pretty timely for those wanting a little extra favor and grace when pitching at ACFW.
Book Signing!! Talk about books, books, books!! Attendees could buy books from a special "store" set up by 21st Century Christian Bookstore of Nashville OR bring their own to have authors sign. (Pic to the right: Ruth Logan Herne)
All in all, it was one of the most anointed and intimate events I have ever been to, and I encourage anyone who would like to receive information on the 2017 CFRR (when it’s available) to sign up at the CFRR website at http://christianfictionreadersretreat.blogspot.com/.
A FEW CFRR GOODIE BAGS STILL AVAILABLE!!
If you’re interested, you can find more information at CFRR Goodie Bags. Goodie bags generally contain the following:
Goo Goo bar, package of trail mix (with Mary Connealy's book cover), bag of M&M's (with Ruthy's Finn logo), 3 Tootsie Roll Pops tied together with Janet Dean's book cover, a red heart-shaped stress ball with Annie's blog logo on it, pin with Carrie's blog logo, magnet with Dani Pettrey's book cover, sticky note pad with Jan Drexler's web site, 4 pens from authors (in addition to the CFRR logo pen), note pad from Kate Breslin, author business cards, 2 door hangers, 12 author postcards (1 with the tea bag from Carrie Turansky, another with a pack of flower seeds from Tracey Lyons), 24 bookmarks, a postcard from Marie Wells Coutu with a huge button, and a framed quote from Isle of Hope.
Today the giveaway is what I gave away at CFRR — signed paperback or e-copies of A Passion Most Pure, A Light in the Window, and Isle of Hope, plus a framed quote from Isle of Hope, so leave a comment to be in the draw! (Pic compliments of Annie C. of Just Commonly)