Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What’s an Award-Winning Author’s Deep Secret?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

So, this summer a miracle happened.

My book, Dwelling Places, received an award (Christian Retailing Best Devotional). Woo Hoo!

Oh, did I happen to mention that this is the twelfth book I’ve had published? And my very first book award?

No wonder it felt like a miracle.

You see, I’ve been a published writer since my first job out of college (editor for Carolina Country Magazine). While raising four littles, I wrote mostly for magazines (a form of paper media back in the day that came out monthly). But I’ve been writing books for at least twenty years now.

Writing. Even when no one crowned my work with an award. Yes, even when royalty checks were laughably tiny or non-existent. You see, I’m not from that writing camp where everyone receives a trophy just-because-you-showed-up-and-wrote-a-book!

The truth is I don’t write to be rewarded by recognition (as lovely as that is, I must admit).

I write to be read.

I write, praying that the words God gives me might be taken into the heart and soul of someone who needs them at just the right time. That these powerful words of truth and grace might be used in some small way to propel that reader into a deep, daring, and dedicated Kingdom life.

Yeah, that.

Sometimes I get feedback from readers that confirm fruit of my labor. Sometimes not.

I keep writing. But only the books that God first stirs deep within me, prodding me in a specific area—so much so that I simply must put the story on paper. Bare my soul. Throw it ‘out there.’

Writing becomes more of an act of obedience than an opportunity for recognition.

Is that also why you want to write this book? Because God has given you a story, a teaching, a life meant to share with others?

My deep secret? 
It really isn’t all about the awards.

That said, you may be surprised to learn that as faculty for several large writing conferences, one of my favorite parts is watching folks walk to the stage to receive their award. Whether it is first place for published fiction or tenth place for as-yet-unpublished Bible Study.

I beam when I see what this kind of encouragement does for that writer who had already decided she was going to hang up her pencil after this conference (you know who you are). The boost it gives to that unknown one whose dream is still so very fragile.

Since my ministry is called “Encouraging Words,” I believe that encouragement comes in many packages.

Some of those packages look a lot like awards.

But I also know that occasionally we are “that writer” sitting in the banquet audience listening in vain to hear her name called. How well I remember doing just that as my eleventh book didn’t even make it to tenth place merit the year it was submitted.


But I kept writing. In fact, my very next book was “Dwelling Places.”

“Easy for you to say, Lucinda, you just won Best Devotional.”

“Yes, honey, I did and it felt marvelous. But I wasn’t even at the convention to receive it. And now that my fifteen minutes of fame is over, I’m struggling over a brand new manuscript and prayerfully waiting to receive a new book contract.”

I keep writing.

And so must you.

If awards come, be happy. Throw a party and add the honor to your resume. But then, get back on the keyboard or in your journal. Move forward.

And if they don’t come – those awards – on that first book, or the fourth? Keep writing. Grow in your craft. Immerse yourself in God’s Word. Live life among people and places.  Face-to-face. And in real time. Die a little. Bleed from your heart. Publicly praise that colleague who beat you to it (whatever ‘it’ is).


In God’s economy, someone will most surely read your words. Words that can be used to change a life. Or even turn the whole world upside down. Words that will most certainly change you.

And that someone won’t even know or care if your book was acclaimed.

God’s smile is our best award.


Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she delights in weaving grace and mercy into ordinary life situations. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she is the author of 13 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning, Dwelling Places (2017 Christian Retailing Best Award for Devotional) , Ordinary Graces,  Live These Words,  Refresh! and Role of a Lifetime.  A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), Lucinda received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs monthly for The Write Conversation.Whether co-directing  "reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,"  pouring into young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.encouragingwords.net/ 


  1. Oh Lucinda I love your words of encouragement. I love I connected with you on Facebook and shortly after you were on Faculty at BRMCWC where we met in person. My writing journey has been a walk with the Lord. It's never been a race though at my age maybe I should pick up the pace.

    If I never receive a writing award my reward has been the beautiful friendships I've formed along the way. It has been a blessing to know, pray and cheer on other writers and authors. I love how I talked a friend into going to our first BRMCWC and she won a needed scholarship. I cried tears of joy the year she won her first award. And I am proud that she will soon have her 3rd book published. So I too enjoy seeing others walk the stage for their awards.

    I'm blessed to see God at work in the adventure.

  2. Thank you Lucinda for sharing your secrets and for encouraging us. May the Lord keep touching your words.

  3. What a wonderful post, Lucinda. We all need affirmation, but when it becomes all about the awards, it becomes "all about me," when it should be "all about Him." I love, love, love this statement: "Writing becomes more of an act of obedience than an opportunity for recognition." So well said. We write because God gives us the gift of words to share with others. Blessings! :)

  4. God’s smile is our best award. These are great words for us to live by. Thanks for encouraging those of us who haven't received an award for our work. You've helped me refocus on what's really important.

  5. Thank you for the encouragement to keep plugging away.

  6. Cindy, Thanks for your words of encouragement to all of us. You've always been a winner in my book!

  7. Thank you for much needed encouragement. It's hard to keep plugging away when it feels like your voice will never be heard.