I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Howdy, RWA style

One of the best things about attending the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Anaheim, California, this July was meeting people. I met people I already know but have never seen face-to-face like our Anita Mae Draper and Suzie Johnson (sweet ladies!), and I met a whole bunch of other writers. From all genres! Inspirational (like me), paranormal, suspense, you name it.

Right away, I learned the first question you ask at these things is, “What do you write?”

from wikipedia
It’s a natural question at a writer’s conference, and it gets the conversation going better than “where are you from” or “what do you do when you’re not writing,” etc.

But I also learned this type of question can label you very quickly. Or at least, I felt it labeled me. When a suspense writer tells you what she writes, there’s still a bit of mystery about her as far as theology goes. But when I told new acquaintances I write inspirational, it automatically communicated my beliefs as well as the type of story I write.

This is a good thing. I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. But I did find that my label of inspirational author (aka Christian) met with one of the two reactions that I usually receive in real life: acceptance (me too! or that’s nice) or discomfort (huh, nervous laughter, or goodbye.).

eBay Image 1 envious T-shirt: Original NOOMA Film Prop
Back of an actor in Nooma 018, from worthpoint
Feeling "labeled" reminded me of something I’ve seen in the mall, on a Dr. Pepper commercial, on “Glee,” and in a “Nooma” video. The concept is that we secretly—and not-so-secretly—label ourselves and/or allow others to label us. In this exercise, people wear t-shirts emblazoned with a single word that they feel describes them or describes how others perceive them. Words like “HIV+,” “nerd,” “addict,” “snob,” etc. Hard words, but the idea is that once they’re out, they aren’t as shameful. (In the Nooma version, the end result is a great visual illustration of who we are in God.)

So there I was at RWA, immediately sharing my identity as a Christian every time someone asked me, “What do you write?” I tried to be mindful to well-represent my genre and my God. But an encounter with a woman who laughed at the inspirational genre had left me a bit weary and self-conscious.

Soon after, I was standing in a long line, and the lady in front of me—a member of the Published Author Network—smiled at me. So I extended my hand, introduced myself, and asked, “So what do you write?”

She grinned. “Erotica! How about you?”

I was almost afraid to answer. Not because I was ashamed of my Christianity or what I write. But at that moment, I was raw and feeling judged. Surely this author would do the same and wouldn’t bother talking to me once she knew what I believe. She would judge me as someone who would condemn her chosen genre. Or condemn her for writing it.

Instead of frowning, she beamed. “Super! I see you’re a first-timer. What do you think of the conference? Have you pitched yet? Who did you pitch to? What’s your story about?”

Talk about irony—I was the judgmental one! I’d expected her to disapprove of me, but instead, she showed me kindness. The line we were in was long, so we talked about a lot of stuff. I asked about her writing journey. She offered me advice and encouragement as a first-timer. Then she gave me her card and wished me well.

There’s networking, and then there’s friendliness. This woman was simply friendly.

Our encounter left me thinking about how quick I am to judge others. While I was wallowing in how others have labeled me, I labeled other people. I let my own hurtful experiences shape my expectations. In doing so, I limit God when I assume a type of person won’t be responsive to His message or one of His children.

I also realized someone might not know Jesus if no Christians bother to start a conversation with them.

Jesus started—and finished—conversations with every sort of person. People from within and without his culture. People whom others ignored. People with power; people with nothing. Am I open to every person God brings my way? Am I afraid of being rejected by certain types of people, and if so, what does that matter in light of God’s ability to accomplish all things?

There’s no one beyond God’s saving grace. Therefore, there’s no one we shouldn’t try to love. Even in a brief moment when we can perhaps plant a seed with a kind word, a smile, or word of thanks.

It's not about me. It's about Him.I’ll try to keep it in mind next time I say hello and extend my hand to a new acquaintance.

 ***

Are there certain types of people you fear approaching because you might be rejected? How has God helped you overcome these fears?

Originally appeared on www.inkwellinspirations.com

2 comments:

Cheryl Klarich said...

Susanne, I loved your insight. I wish I could have been there!

Lovely, lovely, post.

Susanne Dietze said...

It would have been great to see you there, Cheryl! Hopefully one of these days...

Thanks for dropping by!