I’ve been asked to preempt my previously scheduled self (“The Timer Is Your Friend”) to share the story behind “The Call” I got last month for my very first book. My journey has definitely been a long and winding road, with a few unexpected detours!
I come from an extended family of poets and storytellers. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting on the dining room floor listening to my grandmother and her brothers and sisters tell “windjammers” about growing up in rural Iowa. My parents read to me when I was small and encouraged me to haunt the shelves at the local library. By the time I was in third grade I was writing poetry, short stories, and even plays that my cousins and I acted out in our grandma’s basement “theatre.” By the time I hit junior high I was devouring the classics and scribbling away on and illustrating my very own “novels.”
Fast forward through college and first job years, continuing to fill notebooks with ideas, characters, scenes. I didn’t have a clue about how to pull a book together, but I was happiest when writing. While I dreamed of one day being published, it seemed so out of reach for a small town, Midwestern kid. Didn’t you have to be a big city girl or head to New York to break into the world of publishing?
It wasn’t until about 1991 when I picked up a Romantic Times magazine that I came to realize authors were REAL PEOPLE and I didn’t have to live in New York City and starve in the proverbial garret in order to be a published writer. So I joined RWA, attended writing workshops/conferences, and began to learn about the profession and the craft. By 1996 I was consistently finaling in RWA contests. The frequent feedback on my chick-lit flavored single title romantic mysteries was: “it won’t be long and we’ll see you in print!”
Well . . . life sometimes has a way of slam-dunking you when you least expect it. Out of nowhere debilitating health issues arose that made for a very long, slow recovery. Years, in fact. But my God is a faithful God, and about 2004 he began to draw me back to writing again, this time to explore inspirational romance.
It took a few more years to acclimate myself to a new genre, a new direction, but since my previous stories had always been “squeaky clean” and had a Christian worldview, I “converted” a few of them. In 2006 one of my entries won first place in RWA Faith, Hope & Love’s “Touched by Love” and American Christian Fiction Writer’s “Genesis.” But I was still waffling about what I wanted to write, where I’d best fit in. CBA? ABA? 1st person POV romantic mysteries? Historicals? And most of all, where did God want to use the gift he gave me?
It was in the autumn of 2007 that Seeker Tina challenged the unpublished Seekers to think outside our boxes, to step out of our comfort zones and do something different. So in the summer of 2008 I prayerfully started a brand new story targeted for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired line. Third person. No mystery. Heartwarming. I entered it in the Golden Pen contest, thinking I could get good feedback on a synopsis and the first three or four chapters. Test the waters.
However--much to my shock--in December 2008 I was notified my entry had not only won first place in the inspirational category, but the finals judge/editor had requested a “full”!!! I sent it to New York on Tuesday, January 13, 2009, and got a call from Steeple Hill Love Inspired senior editor Melissa Endlich on Friday, January 23. She loved my manuscript and wanted to BUY it! And not only did she want to buy it, but she had an opening for an October 2009 release! While I’ve dreamed of this forever, it totally caught me off guard.
After that initial shock, I blissfully floated on air--until I got home from work that evening and found the promised revision letter waiting in my in-box along with an art fact sheet to be completed. Aaack! This is REAL. The past month has been an absolute roller coaster. Highs. Lows. Moments of insecurity. Excitement. Panic. Thankfulness. Fear. Joy. I still don’t think it’s quite sunk in that in another 7-8 months people I don’t even know will be able to pick up something I wrote and read it!
Because of the fast-track timeline, I’m learning by crash course all the things that go into getting a book on the shelves. I was asked to submit new title suggestions and attack the detailed art fact sheet first--that’s the document they use to dream up your cover. The form asks for a short synopsis, hero/heroine descriptions, setting info, story themes, significant objects in the story and such as that.
Next I launched into several weeks of revisions. Then came a “Dear Reader” letter, bio, dedication, acknowledgments, and discussion questions that go in the back of the Steeple Hill books for book club use. Whew! Now I’m working to get a website up and attempting to brainstorm the next book. And all this while working full-time!
I’m already being asked “what words do you have for those who aren’t yet published?” You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true. Don’t give up. I could have given up so many times it’s not even funny. It’s okay to dream big dreams. Every single day do something to move yourself closer to that dream. And have FUN with your writing. I really had a blast writing this one.
It’s important, too, to have a support group of people who have attained or who are actively shooting for the same goal you are. I really don’t believe I’d be signing a contract at this point in my life if God hadn’t teamed me up 3 ½ years ago with 14 other Christian writers who kept bumping into each other in the contest finals. While we do critique for each other on occasion and share industry news, it’s the prayer and moral support that I value most. (And the occasional kick in the seat of the pants.) My Seeker Sisters are high on my “thank you, God” list!
So, that’s my “Call” story! I hope and pray we’ll be sharing LOTS of them in Seekerville this year!
Dreaming of Home – Steeple Hill – October 2009