Fueling Creativity

Coffee beans surrounding the word coffee stamped on burlap sack

As many of you know, we just finished up the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Almost 5 days of being surrounded by writers, agents, editors—people steeped in the business, work, and love of words. Each day overflowed with conversations about writing, from workshops to mealtimes to moments in the hallways sharing experiences and insights. And through it all, one place reigned as the stopping point—the place to meet and greet, to refuel and connect.


Oh yeah. Almost every moment the place was open, there was a line stretching out the door. And in that line, creativity flowed! I heard so many great ideas being bounced back and forth, so many answers to “How do I handle this?”, and so many impromptu meetings. I met Frank Peretti for the first time as the two of us stood in line, eyeing the display of rich, tempting pastries. Before I realized it was the Frank Peretti, I leaned forward and asked, “What say you? Brownie or chocolate chip cookie?” He glanced over his shoulder, eyes twinkling: “Chocolate chip cookie. You can’t go wrong with a good chocolate chip cookie.” Me, I prefer the brownie, but what was even more delicious was the chance to meet and thank a writer who prepared the way for so many.

Many who joined the eternal line did so drooping. Clearly, they were fighting weariness or possibly discouragement. But within moments of entering the ranks of the coffee faithful, conversations bloomed, and I saw them straighten, smile, and draw energy from the other “droopers.” Add a venti pumpkin spice coffee, and by the time that person left the Starbuck’s, there was a decided spring in the step.

I found myself sitting at one of the almost-always-occupied tables in the store, watching. Being amused. And uplifted. And inspired.

Yes, we need coffee. Or whatever your energizing fuel of choice may be. But more than caffeine or sugar, more than something tasty to the tongue, it was the fellowship of the line that refueled us. The knowledge that those behind and before us were there because they, too, loved words. The quick encounters that sparked ideas and sympathy and a connection. All of which refueled creativity and passion.

And unlike even the best coffee out there, that kind of refueling lasts.

26 Responses to Fueling Creativity

  1. Jackie Layton September 18, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    Hi Karen,

    Guess who I met in line at Starbucks? You!

    It was a great conference that blessed my socks off. And meeting you was a blessing.

  2. Ron Estrada September 18, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    Guess we’ll have to change “elevator pitch” to “Starbuck’s line pitch.” I had a great meeting over a cuppa myself. Imagine my delight when I found myself sitting between Brandilyn Collins and Jim Bell, discussing my book. It’s moments like these that make the conference worth a lot more than we pay. I didn’t get to share a coffee with you, Karen, but I enjoyed our interview. You offered some great encouragement and advice. Definately feeling refueled.

    • Pamela S. Meyers September 18, 2013 at 5:26 am #

      I’m just now coming out of post-conference brain fog. As stimulating as writers conferences always are for me, I always come home very tired, but happy for having been blessed to attend ACFW once more.

      So much to think and pray about.

      And, yes, I spent a good deal of time in SB myself. Right up to Monday morning when I left for home.

      Can’t wait for next year to do it all over again!

  3. Tammie Edington Shaw September 18, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    How true. Met many wonderful writers in that line. This is one of my best conferences and didn’t do one pitch, but I gained so much encouragement from so many.

  4. Laurie Tomlinson September 18, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    That’s funny, because I went to Starbucks once and met you in line there!

  5. Jeanne Takenaka September 18, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Loved this, Karen. I guess I didn’t get my SB drinks when you did. Sigh. :) I did meet some people in that line though, and it was fun to see who was sitting at the tables. I usually grabbed my drinks on the run.

    For me “line time” was a little taste of rest amid the busy-ness of the weekend. I enjoyed listening in on things going on around me.

  6. Martha Rogers September 18, 2013 at 6:59 am #

    Every morning had to have my latte to wake up and get going. Mostly on the run, but so many familiar faces in line and at the table. What a wonderful time of fellowship and sharing. So good to see you, Karen.

  7. April Gardner September 18, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    As Jerry Seinfeld says, “Coffee’s the boss.” In so many ways. :)
    Wish I could have shared a little SB table with you. One day!

  8. Stacey Zink September 18, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Okay, I think I need to start drinking coffee before the next conference. ;) Great post! I love reading all the blog posts about ACFW.

  9. Patti Jo Moore September 18, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Loved this post, Karen, and I so agree. :) Starbucks was like an oasis for me (that wonderful aroma perked me up even before I sipped my mocha). I even made friends with one of the precious young employees there, and gave her my card in case she’s ever in Atlanta (guess it’s pretty bad when they actually start recognizing you as a frequent customer).
    And thank you for being so kind when I rushed up to you in the hotel lobby the last morning (Monday) and “politely interrupted” so I could meet you in person—my husband was afraid we were going to miss our flight, but I HAD to meet you since you were only ten feet away! ;)

  10. J.D. Maloy September 18, 2013 at 8:44 am #


    That’s my high five for your pumpkin spice drink preference. Ditto, sister, you know what’s rockin the fall drink menu.

    Just last night I was sharing my weeks writing goal with my online critique group. When I finish my work, I’m getting a pumpkin latte with….wait for it…a dollop of mocha in it. BAM! Extra whip, please? Oh, and some mocha chips too.

    Sitting (or standing in line) with dear friends, sipping (or waiting for) a tongue dancing drink while talking story is one of “my favorite things.” Cue Julie Andrews.

  11. Jaime Wright September 18, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Is it horrible to admit that not only did I haunt the Starbucks line but I had my own Starbucks bar upstairs in my room by means of my coffee pot, Starbucks coffee pounds, and thermos lugged all the way from Wisconsin? ;) But you’re so right. I returned home and told my husband it was a Spiritual retreat. To see Jesus flowing through the veins of wannabes like me, to authors who wrapped their arms around me, to agents who invested their time and advice and sheer joy for the Lord … ack. I’ll shut up now. I’m still riding high!

  12. Lora September 18, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    I wasn’t there, but you are right…artists, including artists who write, need each other. We need to share our passion for imagination and creativity and find like minded people. Thanks for the post.

  13. Gail Gaymer Martin September 18, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Karen- Your observation is inspiring. As I wandered around, meeting old and new friends and welcoming first timers, it took me back to my early days feeling lost and confused and questioning my talent and ability. I loved seeing the sparkle in people’s eyes as I listened to their ideas or what they just learned and knew that ACFW was making a difference in their craft but also in them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and yes, I was one of those in the long line buying a Skinny Latte Mocca or sometimes a decafe. : D

  14. Jennifer Zarifeh Major September 18, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    I saw you in Starbucks I think on Sunday morning. Or Monday? Maybe both. I was itching to stick out my non-sweaty palm and introduce myself. But, alas and forsooth, you were deep in conversation with someone. So, thar ya be, I didn’t get a chance to get speechless and act like an idiot. I saved THAT moment for when I was exiting the elevator after realizing the nice, chatty, smiling man was FRANK PERETTI!!!
    Yes, I totally squealed “I just shared an elevator with Frank Peretti!!!” as I walked onto my floor. Okay, slightly above my floor. But you get that, don’t you?
    He actually did an imitation of me later on when I asked for a photo. What a nice man. What a model of grace and humility.
    What a crazy wrong decision! Brownies are WAY better!!

  15. C.L. Dyck September 18, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    I found myself sitting beside you at lunch on Sunday, Karen, and was so uplifted by the way you reached out to the young writer across the table from us.

    After you left, I fell into an absolutely wonderful conversation with the older lady who was beside you. It started with, “That’s the agent who discovered Francine Rivers. Indirectly, I’m here today because of her. The Atonement Child changed my life personally and revolutionized my perspective on the value and power of fiction.”

    What a fantastic weekend. So much of my life has been built up by the people and books in this industry, and I wish the same blessings for the people I met this year.

  16. Linda Yezak September 18, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    I was lucky to be able to nab a table every time I entered SB, and tickled that the line was always short. My writing partner and I did quite a bit of brainstorming at one of those tables.

    I’m a Folgers girl, and the only time I get SB coffee is in when ACFW meets in Indy, where I first fell in love with their caramel macchiato.

  17. Anne Love September 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Ah, such sweet satisfaction in a world that “can’t get no sat-is-fac-tion”. It was simply a spiritual coffee I.V. for me this weekend. It was such a privilege to witness God’s Kingdom in action, like a city on a hill, like salt from the Shaker, or the whip on my mocha–abundantly filling my cup to overflowing with the satisfaction of connection in a world where most feel disconnected and broken. I thought of it all again today in my hometown Starbucks line. Pretty sure my face was still glowing. Sigh.

  18. Michelle Massaro September 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Great post! A spot-on summary of one of the greatest aspects of conference. I loved seeing all the conversations going on, the impromptu mentoring, the joy-sharing, the pictures and hugs and connections taking place. What happens outside the classrooms is just as nourishing as what happens INside. It’s awesome! =)

  19. Ane Mulligan September 18, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Coffee is one of the major food groups for writers, right?

  20. Sharyn Kopf September 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Starbucks?! So that’s where all the magic happened. Not being a coffee drinker, I missed out on all that. I guess next year I’ll have to stand in line and mingle, then inexplicably change my mind when it’s my turn to order.

    Silly me. In my ignorance, I was happy to discover diet Mountain Dew at the soda fountain in the gift shop. But there was never a line. And certainly no Peretti.

  21. Erin Unger September 18, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    I didn’t get to go to this conference, but I found the same thing to be true at the Great Philly Conference when we stood in the lunch line. So much good conversation, so many wonderful people to meet.

  22. Emily Rogers September 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    This was my first conference, and while I seem to have missed out on the Starbucks conversations, I so enjoyed getting to meet other writers through the conference in general! For once I could talk about writing and have people understand. :-)

  23. Sharyn Kopf September 18, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    BTW: My surprise refueling/connecting moment happened Monday morning. I packed and hauled all my things downstairs, thinking the event was over and I’d just go to my car and head home.

    But when I discovered the central lounge area full of attendees who were chatting and sharing and brainstorming, I couldn’t leave. In fact, I met several more people that morning. Stayed another three hours and had a great time!

    Still no Peretti though.

  24. Patti iverson September 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    I’m so proud to love Karen. You are a Godly, nutzo, class act, my dear friend. I like reading what peeps say about you–and what you write–and with those you “hang” with–writers ‘n God’s peeps. Doesn’t get better than that… and to think I had you all the time! Niiice!

  25. Carol McClain September 19, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    Karen, I’m not surprised you spent hours in that Starbucks line! I did, too, though I never realized the grey-haired guy I’d seen all over was Peretti.

    I almost didn’t go to conference this year–so discouraged about the journey was I. It turned out, as it always had, wonderful. Whether I get good or bad news, I always grow.

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