ST. LOUIS – A capacity crowd of Christian fiction writers celebrated the best of their field Saturday night during the 10th annual American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference.
Close to 700 packed the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch for the Awards Gala banquet to see Terri Blackstock, Melody Carlson, Sharon Dunn and Elizabeth Goddard, among others, win a Carol Award for their books. The ACFW convention ran Sept. 22 through Sept. 25.
“The authors have been excited to get behind the Carol contest,” said Tracie Peterson, who has won several Carol Awards and was the convention’s keynote speaker this year. “These have prove to be wonderful helps to train and teach, as well as honor those who have produced popular fiction in the industry.”
The Carol Awards, which used to be called the Book of the Year awards, were created by ACFW to promote Christian fiction.
“Writers want exposure for their writing and recognition for their hard work also means catching the eye of agents and editors,” said DiAnn Mills, one of ACFW’s co-founders and an author who has won several Carol Awards. “With a growing organization, the eyes of the publishing world are on ACFW and the winners of awards.”
Peterson added, “I think one of the best ways to sell a book is by word of mouth, and I’ve heard more than one judge comment on having spread the word to others about the books they had read. I think the awards are now recognized as a proof of quality.”
The evening started off with ACFW presenting Peterson with the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award. Colleen Coble, CEO of ACFW, presented the award, saying Peterson has a “heart for encouraging inspiring writers.”
Upon accepting the award, Peterson said, “I had no idea I was getting this award. … You are all such a blessing to me, this camaraderie , this networking, this love. I just thank you for this award.”
Mindy Obenhaus presented the 2011 Carol Awards, adding that entries were up nearly 40 percent from 2010. This year was the first time librarians and booksellers were part of the judging teams. “We wanted to get Christian fiction into the hands of those” who can help promote it, said Obenhaus.
Some winners talked about how they wrote their books out of circumstances in their own life. Beth Wiseman, winner for Long Contemporary Romance for Plain Paradise, said, “Plain Paradise was special to me … because I was guided by a miracle to write this story. … I wanted to write just one book to make a difference in just one life.”
Other winners used humor in their acceptance speeches. Susan May Warren, who won the Long Historical category for Sons of Thunder, said, “I admit after the last two days I’ve wanted to go back to my room and crash and watch football, but I have to say I’m really glad I stayed.”
Lyn Cote was surprised to win the Short Historical category for Her Healing Ways, noting that she’s usually the bridesmaid and not the bride.
Winning for her suspense novel, Predator, Terri Blackstock joked, “I wanted to warn people who use Facebook and Twitter that they’ll probably be murdered.”
Melanie Dobson, the only author to win two Carol Awards this year, was not present at the ceremony because she was attending a training session for an upcoming missions trip to Haiti. She texted her editor upon winning the second award that “it was probably a good thing I wasn’t there, or I’d probably have fainted and been too stunned to speak.”
Complete list of the 2011 Carol Award winners:
Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes (Tyndale House Publishers)
Never Say Never by Lisa Wingate (Bethany House)
Long Contemporary Romance
Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson)
Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren (Summerside Press)
Long Historical Romance
Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press)
The Camera Never Lies by Elizabeth Goddard (Barbour)
A Trusting Heart by Carrie Turansky (Barbour)
The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press)
A Father for Zach by Irene Hannon (Love Inspired)
Short Contemporary Suspense
Night Prey by Sharon Dunn (Love Inspired Suspense)
Her Healing Ways by Lyn Cote (Love Inspired Historical)
König’s Fire by Marc Schooley (Marcher Lord Press)
Predator by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan)
Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett (Tyndale Publishers)
Anything But Normal by Melody Carlson (Revell)