Since my last post, some amazing things have happened. I am humbled and honored by all the attention I've received at ACFW's annual conference this past weekend, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis. I went knowing my first novel, The Unfinished Gift, had been named a finalist for the Carol Award in two categories: Debut Author and Short Historical. This alone was an exciting development.
I had no expectation of winning either award (but I confess, being a finalist for two gave me some hope I might have a chance at winning at least one). Even as I practiced what I'd say if I did win, it felt awkward and out-of-place, not like something I would actually say (they asked us to please rehearse, so we could keep our comments to 30 seconds). As it turned out, I hardly said anything I had planned.
The conference itself was amazing and, except for the fact that my wife Cindi couldn't be with me, I was having a wonderful time, learning so much, connecting with good friends and making some new ones. The award banquet was Sunday evening.
Earlier that day, I had the unexpected surprise of having lunch with Carol Johnson and her husband (the woman for whom the Carol Award is named), along with bestselling author James Scott Bell and keynote speaker for the conference, Tim Downs. It wasn't planned; it just worked out that way. I had been talking to Cindi, came into lunch late and sat at one of the only tables available, at the far end of the room. It was a fascinating conversation.
At the banquet, I sat fairly close to the stage with my agent, Karen Solem, and editor Andrea Doering. As the evening progressed, my thoughts alternated between trying to remember what to say if I won, then scolding myself for being so stupid to think I'd be called upon to say anything at all. The evening progressed, as the winners for the ACFW Genesis Contest were announced. Then a number of other awards were given for Editor, Agent and Mentor of the Year, as well as a Member Service award for the most outstanding volunteer.
Finally, the Carol Awards began. Then I saw the names appear for the Short Historical category. My name was mentioned last in the group. "And the winner is..." I couldn't believe it when they said my name. Here's a picture of the big screen, just after they announced I'd won (that's guy standing is me walking up to the stage). I was overwhelmed.
As I walked back and sat down, I had one of those fleeting "Now I can die a happy man" sensations. About ten minutes later, they got to the last category for Debut Author. Based on the quality of the books by other authors on this list, as well as the fact that I'd already won an award, I knew there was no chance of winning.
Then they read my name...again.
I was speechless. I walked to the stage mostly trying to regain my composure. I certainly didn't prepare a second acceptance speech. After fumbling a few moments, I remembered to thank Colleen Coble and Deb Raney, two good friends at ACFW, who've helped me so much since joining ACFW.
In the aftermath, both that evening and later the next day as we all packed up to go home, I was inundated with encouragement from so many people. Needless to say, the airplane ride home was not too shabby. The only glitch was having my luggage singled out and searched, because the metal in the award plaques signaled some kind of alarm.
Other than that, it was a most remarkable trip. The following day, I received even more incredible news from my publisher, which I'll write about in a second post.