Before anything else, I want to thank the Seekerville ladies for the wonderful time we had in Denver during the ACFW conference in September. It was my first writer’s conference and my wife and I hardly knew a soul. Julie and Tina and the rest took us in and let us join them as the group headed downtown to the 16th St. Mall. And thanks, Tina, for the invitation to spend some time with the folks here in Seekerville. I’ve been lurking off and on for the last few weeks. You are a very active bunch.
What’s up with the turtle sitting on the fencepost? I know this blog is fond of pics, so I looked for one that might serve as a theme for my post.
Some Bio Info:
I’ve been a full-time pastor for the last 24 years at the same church in the Daytona Beach area. I’ve been married for 33 years to the only woman I’ve ever loved, Cindi. We have two grown children, Rebekah and Isaac. Let’s see…I like pizza, ice cream, chocolate, and a thousand other things I’m not supposed to have. Cindi keeps me from most of it. So we eat chicken, salad and vegetables. I put something on my English muffin that’s not quite butter. We don’t exercise near enough.
My online stuff:
Website – http://www.danwalshbooks.com
My blog - http://danwalshbooks.blogspot.com
A Bit About My Book:
My debut novel has been out since September, called The Unfinished Gift (Revell). Here’s a one-paragraph blurb:
It is a few weeks before Christmas, 1943. Little Patrick Collins is being driven across town to stay with a grandfather he’s never met. His mother has just died in a car accident. The Army is trying to locate his father, a B-17 bomber pilot, somewhere in England. Patrick has just three things on his Christmas list. He wants the Army to find his father. He wants to leave his grandfather’s house. And he wants the old wooden soldier in his grandfather’s attic…the one he is forbidden to touch. The Unfinished Gift explores how God can use simple and sometimes surprising things to affect powerful changes in our hearts. Like a little boy’s prayers, a shoebox full of love letters, and the selfless sacrifice of a total stranger.
If you haven’t already picked out your Christmas novel for the year, I hope you’ll give it a look.
Now…back to the turtle thing.
My Journey Up the Fence Post
Tina thought the readers in Seekerville might be interested in my publishing journey. Here’s the problem…how I went from being a seeker to getting published is about as unlikely as that turtle sitting on top of that fencepost. And just as challenging for someone else to follow. For about a year, I didn’t want to tell my story to any of the authors I met online, but you can’t avoid it. It’s one of the small-talk questions writers ask each other. But now I think God has given me something that might actually encourage my fellow sojourners.
I’ll tell you what in a minute.
It all began during an 11th grade creative writing course. By the end of that year, I knew I wanted to write novels. A year later, I came to Christ and it totally messed up my plans. Main reason was, I realized I had absolutely nothing to say. So I set it aside and made my aim to get to know the Lord better. This eventually led toward a call for ministry. I didn’t write another thing for the next 20 years, except sermons.
By 1997, we had two small children and I was the lone pastor of a growing church. At a conference, pastors were challenged to pick up a hobby as a way to release stress and avoid burnout. Cindi suggested I start writing fiction again.
As the Christmas season ended that year, The Unfinished Gift just began playing in my head, like scenes from a movie. Over the next 2 days I wrote a 5-page synopsis, then set out to write the book. A few months later, with the book about half-finished, I knew it just wasn’t the right time. Writing had quickly gone from a casual hobby to an obsession. I could either stop writing or become a bad dad. So I set the book down and didn’t write another thing for 10 more years.
In 2007, as summer began, Cindi urged me to pick up the book again and finish it. It just seemed like the right time. Both our children were now grown. So I pulled the book out, brushed off the cobwebs and finished writing it before summer’s end. Here’s where the fencepost thing comes into play. From everything I’d read, I should expect an extremely frustrating process from this point, with many years of constant rejection.
That didn’t happen. Instead…I have only one rejection letter in my drawer.
Working from a list of the top literary agents in Christian fiction, I submitted my first 3 query letters, including a brief synopsis and the first 3 chapters. After that first rejection letter, two more letters came. But agents 2 & 3 asked to read the entire manuscript! Within two weeks, one of them got back with me, confident she could get a contract for the book.
We had the contract for The Unfinished Gift with Revell less than 2 months later. The editing process also went lightning fast. It consisted of one email containing 3 minor suggestions that took two hours to fix. A few months later, Revell bought the sequel called The Homecoming. I finished it last summer. It’s due out in June.
Somehow, and for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, it’s like God just picked me up off the grass and plopped me on top of that fencepost. I skipped the hardest part. I have no idea how I got here and no idea how to advise anyone else still along the way.
But There is This…
There is something I have learned through all this, perhaps a fresh perspective that might encourage those experiencing a more normal publication journey. Here it is (you all know this): God is sovereign over all things and even cares about the minor details of our lives. I think this truth needs to be emphasized.
I’ve done a lot of online reading over the last year―loops, blogs, websites and emails―and I’ve observed something over and over in many places. Something I believe could potentially become a faith killer. It’s this strong tendency among Christian writers toward striving and fretting. There’s almost a sense that the key to getting published is all up to you, you and your incredibly hard work.
You’ve heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” Anyone who knows their Bible would see this popular saying is off. But this saying, in a way, gets at the concern I’m talking about. Please don’t hear something I’m not saying. I believe in diligence. I believe in hard work. I believe in persevering. The Bible encourages all these things. I believe all these things are necessary to get that elusive contract.
But I also believe in faith. Not faith in faith, but faith in the One who loves us and gave His life for us. Faith in His commitment to care for us, so that we don’t have to live our lives as orphans, fending for ourselves (including our journey toward publication). If God the Father knows when a lone sparrow falls in the forest, He knows our situation, down to the smallest detail.
When I stand before God, I don’t stand before Him as a published author. Those of you still not published stand right beside me. We both stand before Him as beloved children. His love for us is the same and, because of Christ, will never be removed.
May I encourage you to pull away often from the frenzied pace―whenever you’re tempted to believe it’s all up to you―and allow His love for you to once again regain first place and refresh your soul. Keep working hard at it, keep writing and refining and listening to good advice.
But always know, you are loved, and you are His. No earthly prize will ever compare to this.
Today, Dan will be giving away a copy of The Unfinished Gift to a Seekerville visitor who comments. Winner will be drawn at 8 pm MST and posted in the comment area. Please be sure to leave your email address.