Minnesotans aren’t Canadians, but they’re still known for being nice. Except Minnesota N.I.C.E. is not about being soft-spoken or polite. It stands for Novelists Inspiring Christian Excellence. Minnesota N.I.C.E. is the local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). In recent years the organization has grown way beyond it’s origins in inspirational romance writing. So I joined.
We stayed in the Canal Park Lodge right on Lake Superior. Views alternated between misty fog blotting out the shore on Saturday (when we had a boat trip scheduled!) and brilliant blue skies with sunshine sparkling on the water.
Rachel Hauck was our speaker. "What is the lie your character believes about herself that is holding her back from reaching her goal?" she asked us. I appreciated how much Rachel shared herself as well as what she has learned over the years about writing. She was vulnerable, even to the point of taking negative examples from her own books. “This is how I think I could have done this better.” Sunday morning Rachel prayed for each one of us individually. The group was small enough that she had gotten to know us and could pray to our specific needs and passions. Words from Daniel 1:17 crept in repeatedly that God would give us knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. I had never thought to apply that verse to myself or to my hunger to write to the glory of God. Thank you, Rachel.
People go to writers’ conferences and retreats for many reasons. Some go for the teaching, to get new ideas and improve their writing skills. Some are seeking the kick in the pants that comes from being with other writers who invariably ask, “So what are you working on?” Some go for contacts with publishers and agents although that will happen more at the big ACFW conference in St. Louis in September.
I went to this retreat for relationships. I figured meals and coffee times would give more opportunity to get to know people than shaking the hand of the person sitting next to me after listening to a speaker at a regular meeting. Some attendees like Naomi Musch and Shirley Kaplin-Olson are published writers. Two others are finalists in the ACFW Genesis competition to bring promising, unpublished writers to the attention of publishers. One woman is writing about Angola. Another is interested in a short-term missions trip to work with orphans in South Africa. You can imagine that we found lots to talk about!
The smallness of the retreat (fourteen) meant that there was time for personal interaction with everyone. When I go to the next chapter meeting, I won’t walk in as a stranger. I have friends.