Friday, October 24, 2008

Today's Guest is Susan Sleeman

Every published author has one. A story about how they came to be published, or about receiving THE CALL. Over the years, I used my writer’s senses to hear, see, taste, smell, and feel the day I’d pick up my ringing phone to hear the words, ‘we want your manuscript,’ but THE CALL never came. And it never will.

You see, I received something far bigger than THE CALL. I learned of my book contract by a surprise announcement in front of five hundred of my closest friends, my fellow writers, at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. Many of you may know that each year at the ACFW conference Barbour Publishing publically awards contracts to three recipients. You may know this, but I had never been to an ACFW conference and didn’t know contracts were awarded in the Heartsong Presents Mysteries imprint. So my first surprise of the afternoon was when Susan Downs took the stage. My mind started racing. What? Susan gave out contracts? Too bad I’m not in the running for something like this. She’ll never say my name. No, definitely not me.

Yes, I was certain I would be the last name she announced. Here’s why. At the end of March, I submitted a proposal to Susan for Nipped in the Bud and within three days she asked for the full manuscript. Wow, something in the proposal must have resonated with her. Then within three weeks I received a positive evaluation of the manuscript with a few suggested revisions. Susan was not able to contract new works until the fall and she requested I return the revised manuscript to her by August 1 when she was in a position to make a decision. This was a good sign, right?

Though disappointed that I would have to wait until August for any firm answer, I made the revisions, sent the manuscript back in late July and waited to hear from Susan. I’d also completed Read Between the Tines, book two in the Garden Gate Mystery series and sent that proposal to Susan, as well. I was pumped. My phone was polished. Charged. I eagerly waited for that call. Each day I woke up hoping it would be THE DAY.

But Susan was silent. Nothing. No response. And when I asked my agent about it, he was vague, encouraging me, yet at the same time saying nothing. I whined to my critique group, which includes three Heartsong Mystery authors. They tried to encourage me, but when August came and went, I was certain Susan had lost interest in Nipped in the Bud and I began living with the Maybes. Maybe my revisions hadn’t been enough. Maybe she didn’t think I could take direction. Maybe a better manuscript landed on her desk and she went with that one. Maybe I missed another opportunity.

So, you can see with that mind set, when Susan began to describe who the contract would be awarded to, starting first with vague items like she’s a wife and a mother, I peered around the room waiting for someone’s face to burst with excitement as they recognized her description. Susan continued, and I realized each point was true of me. Her focus became narrower and it still fit me. I can’t remember the exact comment that told me she was awarding the contract to me, but I can remember turning and looking into the excited faces of three members of my crit group and their faces telling me that they had known about this. Some of them since April.

Yes, they were in on the surprise. They had to be. You see, I wasn’t even planning on attending the conference. So they had to help Susan get me there. My first reaction, was no fair. You knew for so long, and I stressed all this time. But then, I realized what an honor it was to have Barbour publicly announce their affiliation with me, that tears were my only response. Today, the question I am asked most often is, was it worth waiting for months to learn of the contract this way. My answer is a resounding YES. And I eagerly look forward to May of 2009 when my first book in my Garden Gate Mystery Series, Nipped in the Bud will be released, and in 2010 book two Read between the Tines and book three Seed You Later will be released. You can read more about these books at my website, .

My dream came true. Not in the black and white of a phone call, but in living Technicolor of up close and personal. And as my dream came true in full view of the conference attendees, it spoke to the unpublished writers in the group proudly proclaiming, “Yes, it can happen to you. Keep working. Learn the craft. In the face of rejections, keep writing. Don’t give up. Next year, this could be you.”


Jessica said...

Ooh, I'm so glad you shared your story! How wonderful :-) Boy, though, I can definitely see how you would've been stressing.
It makes the "call" so much sweeter I guess.
Now, at least. LOL
Thanks Susan.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Lovely, lovely story.

Congratulations and God's Blessings on your life, family and writing career!


Walt Mussell said...

Wow! That is absolutely amazing! Thanks for telling the story.

Glynna Kaye said...

WOW! What an amazing way to get "The Call," Susan! Congratulations! (Love your cute book titles!)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Congratulations, Susan! I was there and I was so happy for you!

It's so much fun to hear "the call" stories.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Susan, I remember that moment well as I was sitting on the end of the row right across from you. I didn't know you at the time, but I was absolutely thrilled for you and actually had tears in my eyes. Of course, I'm eternally menopausal so that's not necessarily an uncommon thing!:)

Anyway, SUPER CONGRATS and thank you for sharing your story with The Seekers -- it's a lot of fun seeing an amazing "Call" like this through the eyes of the beholder.


Kim said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! How wonderful!

I look forward to reading your stories!


lynnrush said...

Thanks for sharing your story. Wow.

God bless.

Mary Connealy said...

Yayayayayay!!!!!!!!!! Susan. This is how I got my first contract too. What a sweet, wonderful moment.
I've heard Becky Germany talk about trying to keep the announcement a secret and it's hilarious and so wonderful what the Barbour editors go through, hoping to surprise someone but still, not lie to them. Very tricky.
God bless them for this tradition.
I love the line about the phone being polished. That sounds like something writer would do. LOL

Erica Vetsch said...

Yay! Susan! Fellow Blindsided Barbour Author! LOL, since we have the same agent and he knew about both of our contract offers at about the same time, I can second the 'vague but encouraging' responses.

And yeah, it was WAY worth it to wait until the conference to find out. I'm so glad we found out together. :) Congratulations, and I can't wait to read the Garden Gate Mysteries. The titles are so intriguing!

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Congrats on selling!

Love hearing call stories!

Good to have you in Seekerville.


Audra Harders said...

Susan, thanks for sharing that wonderful moment and the many preceding!! I remember when Mary received her contract at the ACFW conference, such a wild moment for all of us Seekers!!

Congrats on the sale of your series, and I love the titles!

Pam Hillman said...

Congrats all over again, Susan! We all enjoyed the moment tremendously!!

Tina M. Russo said...

Thanks so much for sharing that inspiring story, Susan. You made my day!!!

CatMom said...

I don't know you Susan, but was sitting with Tammy Alexander and we were right behind you! I had chills (the good kind-LOL!) when you were announced and your crit partners started snapping pictures....soooo exciting!! Congratulations, and may the Lord continue blessing you and your writing, Patti Jo :)

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Susan,
I remember that exciting ACFW moment!!! Woo-hoo!! Everyone had goose bumps! Glad we could share the big announcement with you. Much more fun than being all alone at home!

Missy Tippens said...

Susan, I'm sorry I wasn't here last week. Thanks for joining us in Seekerville!

I loved hearing your story. How fun! Every time they announce those contracts at the conference, I always get so teary. It's so exciting!Congrats to you!!


Susan Sleeman said...

Hi all,
I just stopped in to see if there were additional posts since I posted on Saturday and I find that my post isn't here. I have been sick, bronchitis, and living in a fog but I was sure my post went through on Friday. Guess I was wrong.
So I'll say again thank you for all the wonderful congratulations and remind those who haven't yet found the perfect publishing home for their works, you too, could have this happen to you. I can't wait until conference next year to share this same event with one of you.