This is me with long-time ICW member Peter Leavell, back in November 2012. It was his book launch for Gideon’s Call, for which he’d just won Operation First Novel and a publishing contract. I think this was the second time I’d met Peter, but he invited every writer he knew to this party and I’d never been to a book launch before, so I decided to attend.
I’ve attended a number of book launches since then, including one of my own, and this still qualifies as one of the best.
But notice how I can barely muster a smile in this picture. That’s because I was having a barely disguised anxiety attack (and if only I’d known Peter a little better, we could’ve compared notes).
I was still working on climbing off the anxiety merry-go-round when we moved to Boise a few months before this picture was taken. A few years before that, I’d decided to give fiction writing a go. I thought it would be simple—every other kind of writing came easy to me and I was a life-long reader of great fiction—I figured I knew how to do this.
There were some early successes—a couple of short stories published in literary magazines, and then it became a slog. Slowly, the realization dawned on me that writing fiction was as different from other writing as painting a portrait is different from painting a wall. And then there was the whole, you’re also starting your own small business selling you, which I hadn’t bargained for.
Those first few months in Boise are a blur, but somehow at one point I stumbled into a conference of local Christian fiction writers. While I’ve been a believer since I was a kid, I hadn’t read a lot of Christian Fiction, other than people like Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, Annie Dillard—who I knew were Christians but who I just thought of as great writers.
My fiction had taken an alarming and unexpected turn into spiritual matters, so I thought I’d check these guys out and see what they were about. I’d never hung out with fiction writers before.
It was a revelation.
There I was, surrounded by fifty or so other writers who talked like it was perfectly normal to go through phases where you spend more time listening to the voices in your head than the person sitting next to you, that it was okay when the characters in your novel became more real to you than real life—
I wasn’t the only one.
They seemed nice, so at that conference, I joined their winsomely-named group and, having another anxiety attack, showed up at their monthly meeting. What’s one of the first things they do, but go around, have everyone introduce themselves, and talk about what they’re writing.
Yeah, “I’m Lisa Hess and I’m a fiction writer. I keep vowing to stop writing fiction, and then I have a relapse.” I thought about opening with that, but instead, I sort of flinched and stuttered, “I’m Lisa Hess and I’ve been working on this young adult novel for five years. I keep re-writing it and I don’t know where to go from here.”
Nobody laughed or rolled their eyes. Instead, I got nods, encouraging smiles, and successful authors who said, “Oh, yeah, I did that with my first novel.”
I wasn’t the only one.
It turns out, a few years before I met these authors (as the legend goes) some of them met each other in a back corner of Rediscovered Books, and they realized they weren’t the only ones, and IdaHope was born.
At that time, they were unpublished or just barely breaking in. Today, between all of them, I’m pretty sure they’ve won every Christian fiction award there is, from Operation First Novel, the Carol, the Christy, and a number of secular awards, as well. Our members now include more than a few USA, NYT, or Amazon best-selling authors.
But what I most love is that every single one of them has a mentor’s heart reflecting their love of Jesus Christ.
Like the professionals they are, many of our seasoned ICW members completed a lot of successful work and continued to publish during these recent confounding years (one even had a movie produced based on her novel!) So this IdaHope Christian Writers reboot is an exciting time, and we’re looking forward to hearing from long-time ICW authors and our new friends, as well.
These days, they’re successful, experienced and mature enough to maintain a professional personae for an hour while they talk about the crucial, business side of being an author. But I’ll tell you a secret: just like you, they all still have moments when their eyes film over and they’re at least a hundred miles and sometimes worlds away, listening to the characters in their latest WIP.
All that to say, we just wanted you to know you’re not the only one. Join us!
About this post:
Orginially published in 2016. Updated 2023. Beliefs represented by individual authors are not necessarily shared by all members of ICW.