Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shaking the Dust

I've decided I need to expand upon and give some illustration of what I blogged about yesterday. I won't name the blogger I referenced yesterday, but I will say that the group in question is the ACFW. That stands for American Christian Fiction Writers, and it is a volunteer organization whose purpose is to help Christian fiction writers, readers, and publishers.

I am a member because I am an editor with Splashdown Books, the publisher of Finding Angel, and Splashdown is an "ACFW recognized" publisher. That means Splashdown meets their requirements as a Christian publisher, even though we publish very weird stuff ;).

Their requirements can be pretty stringent, and I don't agree with many of them. For example, they require their recognized publishers to have a separate imprint for Christian fiction if the overall publishing house has secular books as well.

A particular publishing house called Desert Breeze was denied "recognition" by the ACFW despite a clear distinction between their Christian and secular romance novels. They didn't want to restructure their entire house, and I agreed with them. It's ridiculous. There are other publishers with Christian "imprints" whose websites don't distinguish between books from those imprints and the other, secular books. Yet DBP has their site very well organized. This, my friends, is bass-ackwards.

DBP appealed to the leadership via proper channels. They were ultimately denied. But instead of getting on the ACFW loop and squawking, they involved themselves elsewhere, joining groups that were more secular. They've been really successful, with both their secular AND Christian novels. They did what I said we need to do in my other post--they found where they belonged, and or created places for themselves, and it's worked. They essentially ignore the ACFW--because their visions don't jibe.

One particular author with DBP, Shawna Williams, is a good friend of mine. She recently attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. Several other DBP authors went as well. From what I gather, they had a blast. And Shawna told me specifically how open the attendees were to Christian romance! Again, instead of moaning about the lack of acceptance by a particular group, these ladies involved themselves in a convention that held the same standards.

I mentioned my own publisher, Splashdown Books, and the fact that we are recognized by the ACFW. We happen to fall in line with them, but it's not because we specifically set out to meet their standards. AND we do branch out, both as a publishing house and as individual authors, into markets for our particular genres. You won't find me at an ACFW conference, but you'll find me at the Necronomicon. We at Splashdown know that we're both Christian and speculative.

My point? Success comes from focusing on what you're trying to accomplish and not spending valuable time berating what others are doing. DBP has my respect because they set out for a certain goal and accomplished it, without looking anywhere but forward.

Matthew 10:14 says, "If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave." Even God's word is not meant to be hammered into people, so what makes us think our opinions should be?

If you disagree with a group, go find another group. No inciting derision, pouting over backlash (that you refuse to address), and posting follow-up blogs about how petty that group is. Shake the dust from your feet and move in the direction you want to go. If the "other" group is wrong, they'll fall of their own accord. If not...well, there's room enough for both groups.

In an email to a friend, I likened things to this. A lot of people don't like the restaurant Hooters because of the girls in short shorts. Some customers have tried to make them change their uniform code. It didn't work--because there were gobs of patrons who love the girls and their (lack of) attire regardless of the food (which some love, and some hate). And because, guess what--Hooters has every right to set whatever dress code they want for their waitresses. (Just as the ACFW has every right to set it's own guidelines, logical or not.)

If customers want different, more modest scenery, they can go to another restaurant. If they're entrepreneurally inclined (can I coin a new phrase?), they can even open a restaurant of their own, specifically for those customers. Here's the catch--they can't stand in the middle of Hooters berating the waitresses and managers, nor drag the customers from their seats. Instead, they need to advertise their restaurant for what it is, rather than what it's not, and if there are customers who want that, they'll come.

DBP did exactly that. Splashdown is doing that.

I'm doing that, too. This is my last post on the topic. I'm shaking the dust.

(PS--I chose that top picture because I was known for my black Chuck Converse in high school. I miss those old, raggy shoes....)


Shawna K. Williams said...

Love this, Kat! And thanks for showing DBP the love. I'm really proud to be an author there, and I also know that DBP and Splashdown aren't the only ones doing it. At RT I was seated next a an author with Astrea Press (check them out) and this is their vision is well. This particular author has ended up on the USA Today's bestseller list multiple times. It is possible!

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks,Shawna! Just being honest. I've liked what I've seen with DBP. I like that they didn't just see the ACFW as an obstacle. Instead they decided to simply forge their own path. And I am so happy to hear all you have to say about RT--even though I'm not a big romance reader :).

Shawna K. Williams said...

Ah... but that's one of the things that came up in a discussion I had with one of the conference coordinators. RT Convention began thirty years ago, and back then it was primarily for romance writers and readers. It's grown now so that it includes everything! The only thing that hasn't changed is the name. Tradition and all -- honor one's roots. I saw political thrillers, science fiction, paranormal... the whole shebang while I was there.

Jennette said...

Hey Kat! I agree with what you said in this post and yesterday's post. It's funny because just yesterday I was thinking, maybe I could "fit" in the CBA...I'm pretty flexible :-) I write what I want to write, but then I have to "find" a place for it. for me. As I start my next novel, I'd like to know which direction I'm going before I rewrite the rough draft. It might save me some major mistakes and later overhauls and rewrites. course, those could be because of all the newbie mistakes :)

Kat Heckenbach said...

Jeanette, we can often "fit" multiple places. And flexibility is good :).

I started off just writing what I wanted to the best of my ability. It doesn't fit the CBA, and I'm fine with that. It was never my intent--yet most of my readers are Christians. I think the key is persevering and keeping a constant search going for other writers who write your same kind of stuff. There is strength in numbers.

Good luck to you!!!

C.L. Dyck said...

Both posts--dead on, Other Kat. There's more to the problems than the online spewing, but suffice to say a healthy attitude will keep writers focused on what they want to do, not what they don't.

Re RT and the crossflow between areas of the industry, that's my experience as well. There's a lot of back-and-forth. Writers, agents, etc. associate across lines, it's just that the CBA serves a niche audience of its own. Same as romance is a market area. Same as SF is a market area.

Which should give one pause: if an individual will bite the hands that have helped in one area of the industry, then why should any of us believe it won't be the same elsewhere? It never pays to burn bridges, because the road on the other side forks in many directions, and thus does word get around.

I've blogged before that CBA fiction is a relatively young industry sector. It has only been around since 1979. I'm older than it is. So, y'know, I'm willing to give it time and room to grow.

And if it doesn't grow in my kinda direction during the span of life in which I'm writing, I'll find the place that *is* right for me, rather than being shocked and horrified to discover there are places that aren't. I don't need to kick somebody else's marbles across the floor in order to make my own game. Why would I waste time like that when I could be writing or editing, or simply out in my garden with the peace and quiet?


~Cat with a C

Kat Heckenbach said...

Original Cat, thank you. Your wording is lovely, as always!

Great point about the relative age of the CBA. It's something we have to allow to grow. And it may easily grow in a whole new direction. Can't force it, though.

I appreciate you stopping by!!!

Caprice Hokstad said...

So you told us why you chose the top photo. Care to explain the other choice? LOL Just how many Hooter photos did you peruse to find that one, I wonder?

Kat Heckenbach said...

LOL, Caprice! I chose the one I could find with actual food in it, and no bikinis. ;P

C.L. Dyck said...

"I appreciate you stopping by!"

I appreciate you articulating the issue so well. Think of all the books people could write and all the craft they could hone if they put that sword-fighting energy into creative writing instead of internet battles, eh? :) It's like mutant killer zombie writer procrastination. :)

Mike Duran said...

I've wrestled so much with this question and I must say, I'm on the other side. I'm definitely one of those who often "berate" where Christian fiction is at and choose to remain in town, dust and all. Although I think your points are fantastic, Kat. The question I'd ask is, When is it wrong (or right) to work for change w/in the industry? There's definitely a time to "shake the dust off" and start your non-Hooters franchise. But isn't there also a time to stay put and remain a change agent? The Church should be constantly self-reforming. But this can't happen if people just leave and "do their own thing." Could we be doing groups like the ACFW a disservice by NOT staying put?

Mike Duran said...

I've wrestled so much with this question and I must say, I'm on the other side. I'm definitely one of those who often "berate" where Christian fiction is at and choose to remain in town, dust and all. Although I think your points are fantastic, Kat. The question I'd ask is, When is it wrong (or right) to work for change w/in the industry? There's definitely a time to "shake the dust off" and start your non-Hooters franchise. But isn't there also a time to stay put and remain a change agent? The Church should be constantly self-reforming. But this can't happen if people just leave and "do their own thing." Could we be doing groups like the ACFW a disservice by NOT staying put?

Kat Heckenbach said...

Mike, I'm a member of ACFW even though I don't write "CBA" fiction. I am, in a sense, staying in town even though I disagree with much of the CBA and thus the ACFW's regulations--just like you are. I think it *is* possible to shake things up from the inside, and we do need that. But it won't come from blasting the whole organization to the ground.

You use the example of "The Church"--and what I'm saying is, we're all part of The Church, while each belonging to individual churches. Some of those churches are more contemporary, and some are more traditional. But contemporary churches didn't come in with intent of bulldozing the traditional churches. There's room for both, and room for growth. As time goes on, you begin to see the older, more traditional churches dying off, while newer, more contemporary churches thrive. It's sort of a survival of the fittest (oh, yes, I, little miss Creation science just said that...).

If there are people within the ACFW writing stuff that is on the edge, if we continue to toe the line, we can force some expansion of what the ACFW stands for. You are doing that with your fiction. But do you feel that the other genres that have NOTHING TO DO with the kind of fiction *you* write need to cease to exist? Do you consider everything the ACFW produces "rubbish"? Or do you see us as a team with stronger players and weaker players? Do you see it as a place that can allow edgy, challenging fiction, like yours, while also allowing other fiction for other readers you don't agree with? Do you feel that for Christian fiction to not be considered rubbish it MUST reach mainstream audiences?

My point is less about allowing complacency or pandering poor writing, and more about not calling others worthless because they choose Christians as their audience. If you don't want to write for Christians, or for the demographic of Christians in a certain group, you don't have to.

Some DBP authors write for Christians, but they don't force their fiction on the readers who *want* more sanitized stuff--and yes, there are readers who *want* that. I'm saying that if there are readers who want that and writers who enjoy writing it, leave them be while you write for your audience with unbridled abandon--which is a demographic of Christians who want something different than the other group.

I also must point out, that when "berating" other authors in the CBA,you, Mike, also are open to hearing their sides and discussing the issues. But if someone comes into a group with their fingers stuffed in their ears because they can't handle opposing opinions, then yes, they need to move on.

Mike Duran said...

I'm definitely not of the position that the CBA is filled with junk. There's way too many good books and good Christian writers. Nor do I slight anyone for writing, or wanting, "clean fiction." My problem is when the entire industry is defined as the bastion of "clean fiction," as if not saying "damn" makes our book Christian. That's just junk theology. I think both can coexist. However, we'd have to develop a more nuanced approach to art and evangelism. This, I believe, is the rub. Great discussion, Kat!

Kat Heckenbach said...

Ah, see, I knew that, Mike :). You're fighting *for* Christian fiction, not against it. You recognize the good of what's already there, and you're just trying to gain a foothold in some uncharted areas. I think you and I are very much on the same page.