Making a Difference
by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
“It's a big scary world. And I am one small girl. What difference can I make?”
This question is such an exciting one for fiction writers. The whole point of fiction, after all, is to take unprepared characters and throw them into a scary situation, be that a murder mystery, an epic quest, a romance, or a coming-of-age. But stepping out of the literary world back into this place we call "reality," the question becomes much more frightening.
When I began my writing career, I didn't realize just how frightening this question was. I was inexperienced and enthusiastic. I assumed that of course I would make a major difference and everyone would notice and be wowed.
Six manuscripts, four novels, two contracts, and two major awards later, the question, “What difference can I make?” has become a lot more difficult to face. With each novel I produce, I face the overwhelming frustration that is negative reviews . . . people who simply do not get my work, who don't understand what I'm trying to say, who dislike my characters. I face reviewers who will vehemently argue that fantasy has no place in the Christian market and shouldn't be encouraged in our publishing houses. I face bloggers who declare the omniscient narrative—my style of choice—a “publishing travesty” and will do everything they can to sling mud at my work and discredit me among my peers.
Literary awards, critical acclaim, and a majority of favorable reviews do nothing to counterbalance the hurt of each of these negative digs. Every time I write a novel, I place my heart on the line, offering it to those who will read. And every time, there will be those who turn up their noses in disgust, leaving me to wonder again, tearfully, “What difference can I make?”
And of course, the answer is, “None at all.”
Because this career is not about me making a difference. I am too small, and I am too weak. Even the story ideas ultimately don't stem from a source of inspiration inside me.
Year by year, manuscript by manuscript, God has used this career of mine to illustrate to me that this work is His work. Not mine. These ideas, these bursts of creative inspiration . . . they are a gift of His divine provision. Just as He provides my daily bread, He graciously bestows upon me His daily inspiration. This creativity, which is such a vital part of my existence, is not self-sprung or self-maintained. It is by God's grace alone that I am a storyteller.
Every day He reminds me that I can make no difference. But He can make all the difference. He can prepare the hearts of those He means to touch through my fairy tales. He can whisper the inspiration into my heart, the words that readers--His beloved children--need to hear.
So in this truth be fortified, fellow storytellers. You will never make the difference. And, as it turns out, that is good!
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Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, a series of fantasy adventure novels told in the classic Fairy Tale style. She is married to the handsome man she met at fencing class and lives with him, a gaggle of cats, and one long-suffering dog in NC. Her novels include Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, with Dragonwitch due to release summer 2013. Both Heartless and Veiled Rose have been honored with Christy Awards.
To learn more about Anne and her work, please visit
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