Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We So Love Scaring People on Seekerville-Here's One Now :) Denice Stewart

When told I would have the opportunity to be a guest blogger on Seekerville, I was humbled and touched.

And panicked.

I’m talking lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, grinding my teeth together as I wracked my brain to come up with a topic worthy of Seekerville status.

And I got nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

So naturally, being the writer that I am, I started doing research on the posts I’ve read in the last few months.

Some of the topics include knowing the business-side of writing; doing your research; improving your craft; interviews with established authors, editors, and agents; contest information; career management; the list goes on.

And being the newbie that I am, I wondered what I could possibly add to the wealth of knowledge and experience already represented by this diverse, talented group.

My conclusion is that there are universal truths in the information available here. Truths we newbie’s need to pay attention to.

I believe as writers beginning our journey toward publication, we can save ourselves much grief and heartache by studying and listening to those who have gone before us. I know when I started writing, all the way back in high school, I thought I knew it all. My teachers encouraged me, told me I had a gift for the written word, and I should pursue writing as a career someday.

Yay! I loved reading. I loved writing. Why not get paid for it?

Then came college. Again, I got great encouragement from my professors. I “showed a talent” and “needed to take my writing to another level.”

Hey, whadaya know? I’ve got talent. I should be a writer, a shy little mouse like me. (Insert the sound of ego inflating here). And if I ever got around to writing a book, I would take the literary world by storm. After all, I had four or five people not even remotely related to the publishing industry telling me how good I was.

And some six or seven years later, when I finally got that book written, I gave it to five “honest” friends, again people who were in no way connected to the publishing world.

They loved it. This was a great book. When was I sending it out? They couldn’t wait to read it.

Now comes the really funny part.

It got accepted by a publisher.

On the first query I sent out.


During that six or seven years I had been reading craft books, reading magazines about writing, doing research on the web, went to my first local conference, and studying books in my genre.

But my head was still inflated to the size of a hot air balloon, and God had some powerful lessons in the art of humbling Denice.

I attended my first national conference, ACFW, in 2006, and received my well deserved comeuppance.

I went there thinking I would be the next J.K. Rowling, CBA style, and take the literary world by storm.

The first thing I remember attending was the agent panel, and my dream agent sat up there. And as they went down the line, my hopes were dashed one by one.

“Not interested in Young Adult.”

“Not interested in Middle Grade or Children’s of any kind.”

All of them. Every single one said it. I felt sick. What about my Great Masterpiece? Wasn’t this why God wanted me here? Hadn’t He thrown open all the doors so far?

Then came the editor panel. Same thing: no one wanted YA or Children’s.

But that was okay. The Maniacal Ego would not be defeated so easily, and I knew once I got into those appointments and had a chance to show them the second book I was pitching for that series, they would see my genius and trip over themselves to sign me.


The first appointment, I sat down in front of the editor and cried. The second appointment, I was so traumatized by the first meeting, I told the agent I wasn’t ready, and asked if I could pitch to her again someday when I was.

She graciously agreed.

And these painful experiences taught an introvert like me the danger of letting your ego lead the way. You’re not doing yourself any good hiding under a rock, but allowing pride to fill your heart instead of God will bring about a swift and disastrous fall.

So now I try to help myself by taking the sage advice of those who have gone before me and have braved the trials and tribulations on the road to Publication. Practice what the Seekers preach; keep tabs on the business-side of writing, study to improve your craft, enter contests and listen to the feedback from those, go to conferences to connect and stay informed.

Follow your dream to be a writer, but be humble, or God will help you get to your knees, one way or another.

Thanks for having me.

Denice Stewart (writing as D.C. Stewart) lives in Oklahoma City, OK with her husband and their three young children. Her first middle grade adventure, Where Would Cows Hide?, was released in March 2008 by Baker Trittin Press.



  1. Wow, Denice! How amazing to send out your first submission and land your first contract. Your journey to publication was a short one. No wonder you experienced a rush.

    I'm sorry you had to face the realities of the market after that first sale, though. Must have been quite a shock.

    Here's to a second contract in the near future.

  2. Congrats on selling your first book! It's amazing how it happened!

    I wish you luck on getting your second book published. Thans for telling your story.

  3. Denice, thanks for being so open about your writing journey, and for the great reminder to listen to advice.

    Has the Christian YA market improved at all since you first published?

  4. Denice,

    Thank you for your post. Being a newbie myself, the advice that you gave was timely. Thank you!

  5. Hey, Denice,

    I bought "Where Would Cows Hide" at the ACFW conference this year. My sons don't have nearly as many books to choose from as my daughter.

    They started reading it over the weekend but have not finished. (We had a lot going on.)

    Thanks for sharing about your journey.

  6. Welcome to Seekerville, Denice, and thank you for your wonderful, sobering words! And, oooooooh my, what a painful post to read -- to go from instant success to instant humbling would be, in my opinion, even more difficult than not having the initial success at all.

    And, gosh, we've ALL been there, haven't we? Some of us more times than we can count. But one thing we all eventually learn is that if we want to write for Christ, He is going to make darn sure that we are humble enough to do so!

    Long live humility -- the very ink in our pens!


  7. Thanks Denice for joining us. What a great post and your experience is humbling--even to read it. I know that God has a plan for you, so tough it out and remain faithful.

    Reading your post helps me to accept my lessons in life and in this business. We all have unique experiences. God loves variety-smile

    Hey, I've got a pot of Chocolate Velvet coffee on and some Bear Claw coffee cakes. Some Seekers. They need their chocolate.

    Thanks again Denice and enjoy your stay with us.

  8. Isn't it sad how YA and middle grade fiction isn't a priority for Christian publishers? I think it's sad, because I've seen some of the books in the library that are available for my 10-yr-old fifth grader, and it's scary. I picked out an award-winning book at the library to read to my daughter and had to stop reading on about the third page because the kid had a magazine he didn't want the adults to see that he had. Hello. How to explain that to a 10-yr-old. Ugh. (One day I'm going to start my own advocacy group--Writers against Pornography, but that's a different subject altogether.)

    And that book is tame compared to the other stuff the secular publishers produce for young kids. For girls, you have promiscuous activity and boyfriend swapping, for boys you have blood and violence and dark, satanic characters.

    Hello. Time for the Christian publishers to wake and realize that these teens who grow up reading this trash aren't exactly going to be reaching for a Christian book when they become adults. They'll be too jaded.

    No, I don't write YA, but if I ever get an idea for one, I'll write it. I think these books are SO needed.

    Sorry for the soapbox spiel! And good for you, Denice! Thanks for writing this kind of book. I heartily wish you all the success God can give, and I totally related to what you said. Pride is a strong lure, but God humbles us to prepare us for success.

  9. Thank you all so much for the warm welcome.

    I wasn't kidding about being so nervous to post here today. You guys are like the rock stars of publishing to me, and to have the opportunity to share is nothing short of amazing.

    Reality does, indeed, "bite" and the teeth are often quite sharp. I think God just used that first book to show me I definitely have a long way to go.

    And Lorna, from what I understood at the ACFW conference in Minneapolis this year, the YA market in CBA is perking up. I was at a table with an editor who let our table in on the secret that she was there with instructions to find a few specific stories, including YA. So I believe there is hope on the horizon.

    And Ann, thank you SOOOO much for buying the book. I think I missed you at the book signing, and I'm terribly sorry about that. I hope your sons enjoy it!

  10. Hear, hear!!

    I posted a tongue in cheek blog here several weeks ago... pre ACFW conference... where in my cocky self I flayed and snarked about the differences in CBA and ABA. I had fun and made fun.

    My perspective has done a 180. While I still see the limitations, I also see the room for growth the flexibility developing in the market, and the AMAZING people that ARE ACFW.

    This little peon is learning. Little by little, but learning and eating her words.

  11. Hi, Kelly, while you're eating your words, have some of Sandra's bear claw coffee cake with it. Makes it go down easier. :)

    Welcome to Seekerville, Denice. I wish you so much success with the YA books. There is such weird stuff out there for kids, everything from the incredibly (to me Sweet Valley Twins, Baby Sitter's Club books, V.C. Andrews RL Stine horror books to these new Twilight books.
    We need a Christian version of Harry Potter. I actually wrote two books in a series for that once. About a school for young angels called Cherub Academy.
    I never got too far with it.

  12. And Denice, how's it going so far? Pretty scary, right? Well, Ruthy hasn't shown up yet, so brace yourself. :)

  13. Denice - I truly needed to hear this today. I've been sitting on the fence about my writing - making excuses.

    My experience in school, both high
    school and college were similar to what you experienced. My writing "professor" was never more disappointed than when I announced I was getting married.

    Anyway, the Lord has been so faithful and so longsuffering with me, and He is calling me back to my true work. I would ask all of you to pray that I will understand exactly what I am to write and to keep writing without excuses.

    Thank you so much for this post! Thank you Seekers - you guys mean a lot to me!


  14. Awww, Kim! You're gonna make me cry!

    I always knew I wanted to write. I just needed the courage to do it.

    And one day I got the message, "If you're going to write, then DO IT!" (God can yell very loud sometimes).

    He told me to either get with it, or give it up and move on. And the idea of never writing again was the push I needed.

    It also helps to have a VERY supportive husband, and the support of our families.

  15. Thanks for sharing, Denice. It can be painful to be forced to one's knees after so much buildup. Think of being on your knees as gaining a different vantage point...and some rest for your feet.

    Congrats on your publication!

  16. Hey, Mary!

    Guys, you have no idea how lucky you are. MARY ROCKS!

    Thank you for the invite and support, lady!

    And, yes, I AM still scared. But my hands aren't shaking so much as I type, so the typos are getting better. I think :).

  17. Welcome to Seekerville, Denice. Thanks for having the courage to join us, LOL!

    I love your post, it so reflects my tender ego as a beginning writer. All my relatives and friends thought my writing was award winning stuff. Mentally, I was purchasing gifts for all those supporters with the HUGE advance check I knew would come as soon as the world realized my talent.




    In the legendary words of Yukon Jack of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer fame, I became a Humble Bumble very quickly.

    Yes, purple is my favorite color! How could you tell??

    I had a lot to learn and you are so right, Denice, you'll be on your knees before the Father in no time at all.

    I still have a lot to learn. But now I'm willing to listen and discern. God's not done with me yet : )

    Thanks for the timely reminder, Denice : ) Cherish that first contract and my prayers are for a speedy second : )

  18. Thanks, Patricia.

    I like that different vantage point perspective.

    Sometimes I also think about it like this: When God decided to spank us, it's better to drop to your knees when His hand swooshes by. Because if He gets that full swing in, you're gonna be on the ground anyway.

  19. Yeah, Audra.

    Humble Bumble is right.

    Though I'm usually more bumble than anything!

    I have MUCH to learn myself, which is one of the reasons I find Seekerville SO helpful.

  20. I wonderful post with sage advice. Thank you, and welcome to Seekerville!

    My word verification says "recappr". Does that mean I should emphasize what I said?

  21. Denice, being afraid of Seekerville doesn't make you a coward, it just shows good sense.

    But you came on in anyway. Good for you.

    Someday...not now I'm sure... you'll be so glad it was hard to get your SECOND book published because you'll be hanging with embittered, battle scarred veterans of the I Want to be Published crowd and seriously if you get all sweet and sunny and say, "I got my first book published and have been published ever since.." well, you'll be like raw meat in a pack of wolves.

    No mercy.

    This is the same advice I gave my husband when his new boat blew the motor up. Someday, when everyone swapping busted up boat stories, you'll be so glad this happened.

    When I came out from hiding under the bed, he'd wandered off to search for a three-legged elk to devour so it was all fine!!!!!

  22. Thanks Mary!

    As always, sound advice from a pro!

  23. Hi Denice, I was getting ready to email you and ask when you were up on Seekerville, but clicked over here first, and here you are.

    And you were so scared! Fabulous post, and I have to admit I had a little envious green-eyed monster thing going on when you told me you landed a contract on your first book. Now - I am so proud and tell everyone, "Yep, she's my daughter-in-law, my PUBLISHED d-i-l!"

    Mary, so nice of you to invite Denice to Seekerville. This is definitely the place to be seen and heard.

  24. Thank you, Carla.

    And I was only a teeny, tiny bit envious when you got your agent!

    But she is fabulous and you TOTALLY deserve it.

  25. Hey Denice - I appreciate your writing testimonial.

    It reminded me of Brenda Coulter who (according to her website diary) had her first book, Finding Hope, accepted for pub without revisions and it went on to win numerous awards and yet SH didn't want her second one.

    Sandra - I love Bear Claws - thanks.

  26. Melanie - loved your comment on YA - especially the part about what teens will read when they're adults.

  27. I blush to admit ... don't worry about missing me at the book-signing, Denice. I was the only person at MOA who couldn't find it.

    I went to the Lego store and Justice for Girls and then went back to the hotel b/c the party was not where I thought it would be!


    I'm sure I will be mocked and scorned, but, true story. Guess I needed a nap.

  28. Ann,

    I promise, had I not been following the crowd of other authors being led to where we were supposed to go, I wouldn't have found it either!

    I would have ended up in the alley behind the Mall or something.

    By that point, I think we ALL needed a nap!

  29. Welcome to Seekerville, Denice! And thanks for sharing your story!
    I hope you have a fabulous career in YA. Like Melanie said, we need your books for our youth.

    Some of us have had years of being humbled through contest feedback and rejections and can't imagine selling that first time. But as your experience proves, a sale doesn't mean the tough times are over. I try to remember that I can't count on anything, except God.


  30. That's a great post!

    I know all about God teaching humility, let me tell you!

    Now I've learned my lesson and I don't have to be humble any more, right? :)

    Please enter me in your contest- I'd love to win free books!


  31. LOL
    The Maniacal Ego?
    That's awesome :-)
    And what a twist in the post I thought I was reading. I hope you sell another very soon. This was a wonderful post and a great reminder.

  32. Bear claws are WONDERFUL, Sandra!

    And the coffee...

    To die for, woman. I'm sitting here (with a new modem so I'm not saying VERY BAD WORDS at my computer), breathing in the essence of that velvet coffee, so rightly named.

    Denice, I love that we scare you! Pumps my ego considerably. As if it needed pumping, LOL!

    And you saved your own life by owning the fear and the humility because I would have gladly eaten you alive and spit jellybeans of fire if you showed up with the 'Oh-I-sold-my-first-book-because-I'm-that-special' line.

    Is someone gagging here?



    Drat, and I swore I'd never do that in public. What a snot I am.

    You know, your post was wonderful in so many ways, I'm not sure how to count them, but you wrote with warmth, humor and a comfort that shows 'you'. So nice to have you here.

    And Kimmers, if you need that kick in the pants, or a hug, call us. We're here. We all get that way, feel that way, dip our chins from time to time. And then we find some reason to make fun of Mary and instantly perk up.

    God is good!


    Hey, afternoon snack:

    Homemade butter/sugar cookies (The Mary's or Deluxe sugar cookie recipe from Betty Crocker, in ALL editions, it's that good) with home-made Ruthy butter icing, tinted orange for the pumpkin-shaped cookies.

    And Sandra brought more coffee. I've got Polar Express hot chocolate (decadent h.c. with bits of peppermint candy tossed in...Oh my stars...).

    Cozy up. Chat. Eat.

    So nice to get here today!

    Ruthy (Who is no where near as scary as Mary and Tina. And Julie. And Camy...

    But definitely scarier than the rest of the crew.


  33. Denice, Welcome to Seekerville! Your post made my smile. I think all writers need an ego--not an overinflated one--but a big enough one to take all the hits and still keep coming back. There really are a lot in a writers world to keep us humble--and sometimes humiliated.

  34. Thanks, Ladies, for the warm welcome.

    I would never presume to know more than the Seekers, or attempt to flaunt my "dumb luck" publication as anything to do with my skills, such as they are. :)

    It's all God, all the time!

    Thanks again, for having me.

    And Ruthy, I love the "jellybeans of fire" comment. I am fairly warned.

  35. Dumb luck? C'mon now, that's taking humility too far.

    And honestly I just keep asking myself, Where WOULD Cows Hide.

    Very intriguing title.

  36. And btw I am NOT SCARY!!!!!!!

    I will SLAP ANYONE WHO SAYS I AM!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    (sorry, I need to tell that joke every couple of months)

  37. I just went and bought your book Denice. I've got some nephews exactly the right age. Not sure if the little monsters can read, I'm afraid of the answer so I don't ask.

    But maybe this will suit them.

  38. Mary, you're not scary unless you're telling those medical horror stories. Still doing research?

    Denice! I loved your blog. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I can relate to not knowing what to blog about and being terrified in the middle of the night. That's me trying to come up with a new idea to write about on Seekerville. My next blogging date is NOV 19, and I'm already worried!

    Also loved your editor appt stories. Oh, yeah, I was there too. Quaking in my cute little sling pumps. Now I just suck in a deep breath and start chatting.

    Hope you realize we're really nice people . . . unless, of course, Mary starts talking medical again.

  39. Thank you, Debby. I wish those editor stories were ones I made up, but alas, they really happened.

    But this year I went from crying idiot to bumbling idiot, so I consider it a step forward.

    And Mary, lady, I'm gonna have to kiss you next time I see you. THANK YOU for buying the book. I really hope your nephews enjoy it. And you might even like it, too.

    Now you'll finally know where cows hide!

  40. I'm sure Mary will include that detail --where cows hide -- in her next novel! Calico Canyon was a hoot!!!

  41. Denice,

    Thanks for your post from the heart. There were many lessons in there.

    I didn't necessarily like the lessons, but they were there!

    Cathy Shouse

  42. Hi,

    I haven't read any books by these authors but have heard so really good stuff about thier books!

    Please include me!

  43. Okay, Cathy. Now I'm nervous again. Which lessons were bad?

  44. I'm late to the party, but Yay, Denise! Thank you for posting this and being so transparent. Thanks for letting me meet you at ACFW, and for being so nice.

  45. The pleasure in meeting you was all mine, Erica.

    And congrats on your Genesis wins and on your contract.

    Now I can say I knew you when!

  46. I agree with the others - WOW! to be accepted the first go round would probably make me big-headed too LOL!

    Wonderful post.

    Good luck and God's blessings on your life & writing.


  47. You know, my husband is a rancher. That's why I know how hard it is for cows to hide. they're HUGE. And none too bright. :)

    Yikes, I just described myself.

    Forget it.

    I love the crying for the editor, Denice. You sweet thing. Poor editor. LOL Like they don't hand out their share of tears, huh? I think you're wise to skip the middle part where they crush your dreams and break your heart and start right in crying.

    Very efficient.

  48. whow - three good authors - love all of them and their books. I would love to win.
    jrs362 (at) hotmail (dot) com

  49. Denice!! Love how you spell your name and since you seem quite nice I am not throwing a birthday cupcake at your for selling on your first query.

    In fact, congratulations. You REALLY did you homework.

  50. Thank you Pamela and Tina.

    And Tina, you're more than welcome to throw cupcakes at me! LOVE cupcakes!!

  51. Blogger ate my comment early this morning. Trying again.

    Denice, great to have you in Seekerville, and we're not as scary as we'd like you to think.


    It's a hard pill to swallow, but I trust that this set-back will just make you stronger down the road, and you're story will surely encourage someone else along this journey.

  52. Hi Denice:

    Talk about nervous. I have a guest spot on November 3rd and I am a man and a non-fiction writer. And then I read:

    “I’m talking lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, grinding my teeth together as I wracked my brain to come up with a topic worthy of Seekerville status.

    And I got nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.”

    After that I had to run and read another Inspirational. Thank God for Inspirationals – I love them.

    I see you survived. That gives me hope.



  53. Thanks for your encouragement, Pam.

    And Vince, actually, I think you've got a leg up for this blog because you are a man! You've got a unique perspective to write from, and it will be great to hear what you have to say.

  54. WE have so much to learn. And at 64 I sometimes feel I'm running out of time.

    God Bless you.

  55. Sharon,

    NEVER, NEVER SAY SO! You are 64 years YOUNG, and in your prime. Never think otherwise.

    And you're right, we're all learning, all the time.

    Bless you, too!

  56. Hi Sharon:

    I'm 64, too. Just think: Betty Neels wrote dozens of books after she turned 64. I heard that 64 is the new 44. LOL.