Friday, May 7, 2010


By Shannon Taylor Vannatter
I tend to go backward about things in life. Here are just a few of my reverse tendencies:

Having our first baby at thirty-six, sixteen and a half years into our marriage.

Writing three books and submitting them before ever attending a conference.

Writing three books and submitting them before ever joining a writers’ group.
.That’s right, I decided to write a book, so I just did. Afterward, my local librarian steered me toward a market guide. From there, I learned how to write queries and proposals, well I thought I’d learned. My first proposal had dialogue in the synopsis and I’m certain it gave at least fifty-two editors a good laugh.

But, I got two rejection letters with handwritten notes saying I had a great plot, I just needed to attend conferences and learn to write. Learn to write? Why attend conferences when I can just write? So, I wrote two more books and actually got one Print on Demand published.

I thought I had made it. And in all honesty, I finally attended my first conference so I could be a big dog. A big published dog. And sure enough, I was a big dog. No one else at the conference was published, other than the speakers.

I was queen for a day and to top it off, the conference hosted several contests for essays and short stories. I won two first place awards. Oh, I’m telling you, I had arrived and was certain publishers would fight over my books.

After the book came out, reality sank in. Bookstores didn’t buy my 171 page, $21.95 paperback book. I had to pay $15.95 for each copy and since I’d just had a baby and quit my job to be a stay-at-home-mom, I couldn’t afford many copies. So, I sold a rousing 178 copies of my very badly written, unedited book. With those rousing numbers, the publisher rejected my sequel even though the book had a cliff-hanger ending.

About that time, my husband/preacher decided to do something shifty. He only does shifty things for me, mind you. He went to a bookstore, which of course did not carry my book and ordered it. The shifty part: he had no intention of buying it. Knowing the book would eventually be put on the shelf, he hoped eventually somebody would shell out big bucks to buy it.

But my book wasn’t even in their system. However, the clerk told him they had another title by that author. Huh?

This is how we found out that another Print on Demand company had published the first very badly written book I ever wrote. We got a lawyer, who mentioned plagiarism and big money. But I didn’t want big money, I just wanted the publisher to stop publishing my book and pay me the piddly royalties he owed me from the piddly three books he sold.

The lawyer sent the publisher a cease and desist letter: requesting he stop publishing my book and pay me my cut. It got really ugly with the publisher, who sent me a really nasty, un-Christian-like e-mail, swore he didn’t publish the book, and finally admitted, “It accidentally got loose in his system.” Huh?

I never did get my royalties, but the book is out of print, unless Amazon digs it up for the Kindle.

Finally, I decided all of this was getting me nowhere fast. Maybe joining a writers’ group, attending more conferences, and learning to write might not be such a bad idea.

Through local groups and conferences, I learned the basics and wracked up a lot more awards. The problem with local contests is: A lot of beginning writers enter these contests. You get no feedback. The judges don’t say, “This stinks, but it stinks less than the other entries, so you win.” I know this, because at this point, I’ve judged a few local contests. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good entries, but in one contest, I picked the least stinkiest entry.

Finally, in 2005, I discovered ACFW. The first time I attended the conference, I learned that I knew nothing about publishable writing. ACFW took me to the next level and I’ve attended every year since, but didn’t join until 2008. You know—that backward thing.

Once I finally joined, I also joined a critique group, which took me to the next level.

It was somewhere along that point when I began entering RWA National contests and ACFW’s Genesis. In all, I entered five contests and placed second in two RWA’s. One second place finalist even went to a big-time editor, who said I’d started the story in the wrong place.

The feedback I received from the judges in these contests was invaluable. And though I can’t say that a contest got me published, I can say the judge’s comments got me to the next level and publishers really started to take notice after my two second place wins.

A mere two years later, which seems like at least ten, I’m awaiting the publication of my first traditionally published book, White Roses. Much of the tweaking I did to get it publishable came from judge’s comments.

How many levels are there in writing? Beats me, I’m still learning. Just ask my very, incredibly, patient editor. My advice if you’re pre-pubbed: Don’t do what I did, unless you want to take nine years to get published.

 Join at least one local writers’ group. Two or three if you can afford the time.
 Attend local conferences, as many as you can afford and enter the contests. Sometimes you can get your conference fee back in contest wins.
 Join ACFW or a large national group geared toward your genre or niche. If the national organization of your choice sets up critique groups, join one or shop for other writers who would like to form one.
 Attend ACFW or a large national conference geared toward your genre or niche. If you can’t afford it, look into buying the conference CD’s.
 Enter national contests with guaranteed feedback from the judges. Even better if the final judge is an editor you’re targeting.

Even if you do all these things, without wasting four years chasing your tail, like I did, it may still take nine years. Or longer. But take heart, if you keep learning, honing, and submitting, eventually editors will notice. With enough persistence + patience, you’ll learn that last nugget that will help you transform your writing to publishable.

I’m giving away a free copy of White Roses.
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing.

A little bit about
White Roses
Pastor Grayson Sterling loves his wife. The problem is, Sara was killed by a hit-and-run driver two years ago. Grayson knows he needs to move on, that the continuing depth of his grief is not healthy for him or his young son. Desperate, he convinces his church to hire Mark Welch as associate pastor to relieve him of some of his load. When Adrea Welch arrives at his church with her brother, Grayson cannot deny his attraction to her.

For years, florist Adrea Welch has been artfully arranging white roses for Sara Sterling. Now those flowers are carried to the cemetery by a faithful, grieving husband. How can Adrea be so attracted to a man still devoted to his dead wife? When secrets from Adrea’s past collide with their budding relationship, both she and Grayson must learn to lean onGod’s abiding wisdom.


Linda Henderson said...

I'm not a writer, but I can certainly appreciate all the effort it takes to get a book published. Your book sounds like a very heartwarming story and I would love to read it.

seriousreader at live dot com

Amber S. said...

Please enter me for a chance to win this book! :) It sounds like a very touching story.



Regina Merrick said...

Where's the coffee? I'm too EARLY? Pfffft . . . .

Thanks for sharing your road to publication, Shannon. Like snowflakes, no two are alike, are they? And yet, there are some common threads that run through each. The main one being that you do not get to this point alone. It makes me think of the verse in Hebrews about "so great a cloud of witnesses." I don't normally like to call attention to myself - and that many "witnesses" watching sounds a tad scary - so why am I writing again? Yes, and literally begging people to read what I wrote? You'll have to remind me . . .

Yes, it's late . .. er, early . . . and I can't wait to see who else shows up for the party! I could really go for some cinnamon rolls . . . after I take a little nap . . .

Don't enter me into the drawing. I plan to buy my own signed copy at ACFW, thank you! :D


Dianna Shuford said...

Shannon- I can relate to the whole backwards thing. My standing joke with my family is that "I came in the world backwards (breech birth), and I'll probably wind up leaving the same way." (I have always had visions of winding up feet first in my coffin when that time comes.) We won't go into how many times I've done things all mixed up and backwards.

My first story I even wrote backwards. I wrote the ending scene first, then wrote each previous scene to mesh into the one that followed. Write backstory? Synopsis? Oh, well, the most redeeming thing I can say is that manuscript did place 3rd in the Maggie contest.

I can appreciate where you've been and am very happy for your success at finally being published. Your book sounds wonderful.


Trinity Rose said...

Thanks so much for telling us about your writing history. I find it interesting that authors don't all get published right away. It's a lot of work behind each book. Please enter me.
Trinity Rose

wandaelaine at gmail dot com

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Boy can I relate to your story! I had an experience that cost me nearly 4 yrs out of my career. Still not traditionally published but the books are out there and available for public consumption.

Anyone know where to find those people? LOL!

Congratulations on your success!

May God grant you MUCHO sales.


Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Shannon! Thanks for sharing your journey to publication with humor and honesty. It's not an easy road, made harder, as you say, by trying to bypass the learning curve. I thought I was a first rate writer...until contests told me otherwise. :-) Congratulations on the release of White Roses!

I brought yogurt, fresh fruit and eggs benedict this morning.


Rose said...


Your book sounds wonderful and what a lovely cover.

Thanks for sharing your story about publication with us.


RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Brenda Anderson said...

Good morning, Shannon. It's so fun to see you here. :D

I always love hearing your story. You are a wonderful encouragement to me. And just so you know, I've done my share of starting backwards too. You're certainly not alone.

Like Regina, don't enter me in your drawing. I'll be buying a case.

Debra E Marvin said...

I like the idea of 'levels' of writing--a grand staircase that we can't quite see the end of, but thankfully there's a landing to two to pause on and catch our breaths!

Thanks Shannon. You've reminded us of the many paths to publication. Congratulations on your debut 'traditional' book!

Is it too early for guacamole?

Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Shannon and welcome to Seekerville! Regina's complaining about the coffee already? Sheesh. I've stacked the buffet with Starbuck's best variety - my fave the chocolate hazelnut...well worth waking up at 5:00 am for!!

Shannon, I can so relate to doing things backwards! I even read books backwards. When deciding to buy a book, forget the first page, I go for the last page and read the last couple paragraphs. This does not give away the plot b/c in romance we all know we'll have HEA.

LOL. I plot backwards, too.

Thanks for joining us today!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Shannon remembers me from the 2005 conference, unfortunately! LOL
(Psst, Shannon, you're supposed to have forgotten about the little fainting thing. No one's supposed to know that was me.)

That was my first conference too. I had just joined my first critique group, just joined ACFW, and just finished my first novel. I was sure it was going to take the world by storm, starting with the editors at that conference. I had a lot to learn!

I started entering contests a couple of years later and learned soooooo much from those contests. It's very possible that I learned more from contest feedback than from any other thing I did, like go to conferences and take classes.

So glad we both took the time to learn the ropes! (Not that we don't still have a lot to learn.) Congratulations on your debut book, Shannon! My debut comes out this year too! YAY us!

Julie Lessman said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Shannon! It's great to have you here today.

And a degree from the school of hard knocks may not be as prestigious as one from Yale or Harvard, but I suspect those who graduate from H.K.U. learn valuable lessons that many of the Ivy League crowd never will. I know I did! :)

You said: But take heart, if you keep learning, honing, and submitting, eventually editors will notice. With enough persistence + patience, you’ll learn that last nugget that will help you transform your writing to publishable.

Amen to that!! Great blog and great tips.

Your book looks and sounds wonderful, Shannon, and I wish you much success with it.


Regina Merrick said...

Yum - best Eggs Benedict I've ever had! Thanks, Janet! And Audra, thanks for bringing a variety from Starbucks. Plain ol' "Breakfast Blend" is my coffee of choice, chocoholic though I may be.

I'm getting VERY excited about meeting a LOT of you at ACFW this fall.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

I had no idea it would be so hard. I thought I'd write the book and publishers would stand in line for it. Thank goodness for the naiveté of beginning writers. If not for the head in the clouds approach, there might not be any authors.

Thanks for your comment. I so hope the story touches hearts.

I have hazelnut coffee, my favorite. I'm anxious to meet you in Indy and thanks for your intent to purchase.

Have you ever tried editing backwards? I got that tip at a conference and it really works. Read your manuscript a paragraph at a time beginning at the end of the book. You'll be amazed at what you catch. You don't get sidetracked by the story and you pick up on inconsistencies.
I once realized I had a character speaking halfway through a scene, when I'd established at the beginning of the scene that she wasn't there. Try it.

Renee said...

Shannon, I love the story of your backwards publishing journey.

You said you entered several RWA contests, are you a memeber of RWA? If so, can you compare RWA to ACFW? I'm a member of RWA and have been debating joining ACFW, but I think the closest group meets about an hour away. The closest RWA is about an hour and a half, so most of my learning is done online.

reneelynnscott at gmail dot com

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


Even after we sign the contract, it's a lot of work. Each book goes through at least three edits. My first two went through four, bless my editor's heart. She's great.
For a while I felt like I was jumping through hoops. In three weeks time, I was doing the final read through for book 1, edits on book 2, and writing book 3.
To know that readers will eventually read my words: priceless.

I think the public consumption people are all on the web. I jumped into Facebook, Twitter, and Shoutlife last week.

I bet you've been in the trenches. Thanks and congrats on your success.

The folks at Heartsong did such a great job with the cover. The church I used for the book is real and in Rose Bud, AR. I never sent the cover artist a picture, just described it. It looks amazingly like the real thing, except it has more windows, which makes it prettier. The real thing is on the slideshow at If you go to my new website, excuse the mess. My wonderful friend, Linda Fulkerson is getting it set up for me. If I'd send her some content, it would be awesome.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

One of my awesome critters. She keeps me on my toes. What is so-and-so feeling in this scene? And body language, she's great with it, always reminding me to get my characters moving and show their emotions.
A case of books? You're awesome!

It't gaucamole time anytime in my book.

Congrats to your success. Reading the last lines, that's just not right. Even in a romance. Yes, I know they'll get together, but I want to save the sweet, perfect ending to savor at the end. Where it belongs.

Mary Connealy,
The very first thing I meant to do this morning was thank you for inviting me to Seekerville. I actually meant to thank you at the end of the post. You know that backwards thing. Anyway, thanks a million!

Lorna said...

Shannon! Good morning, my friend! You are the very model of perseverance, but I don't think you took the long road, I think you took the road God planned for you. If you'd done it differently, then we would never have met and I would have missed out on an awesome crit partner!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Probably lots of people remember your grand debut at ACFW. It was horrible. We were so worried and shaken, then so glad when we heard you were okay.
That's awesome that we started with ACFW the same year and have books coming out the same year. I think that's a testament to ACFW, an awesome organization. And they didn't ask me to say that.

Thanks and congrats on your success. I bet you could tell me a thing or two about hard knocks. It was definitely a learning experience, but in the end, all worthwhile.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

I'm not a member of RWA. The contests I entered didn't require membership in the organization. I can't give you comparisons, but I can say if you're interested in the inspirational market, definitely join ACFW. Even if you don't go to your nearest local group meeting, joining is so worth it.
They'll set you up for critiques. We recently had a webinar on publicity and marketing, which is what spurred me to redo my website. The loop is awesome. If you need to know what kind of dental floss your dentist hero would recommend when he does your heroine's root canal, just post the question on the loop and more than likely someone will have a family member who's a dentist and can help you out. The dentist thing just came off the top of my head. It's not a WIP.
ACFW also has online courses and when you get published, they have great marketing opportunities. I can't recommend the org. enough. The things I've listed aren't even half of the benefits.
Another awesome critter. Her first draft sings. It's ridiculous and disgusting. To top it off, she never got a rejection. The very first book she submitted to an editor got snatched up. But I still love her anyway. BTW, her book Making Waves comes out in August. I'm not big on historicals, but I love hers with her spunky,humorous characters.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

I just got my box of author copies of White Roses. I got teary-eyed, clutched the book to my chest, and thanked God. I'm all jittery inside. Going to call hubby and meet him for lunch so I can show him.
I'm pumped!!!!!
Whew, that was close. I thought I was going to have to tell my winner they'd have to wait until I got my books.

Lorna said...

Oh, Shannon, I got tears in my eyes reading that! I thought I heard a cheer from Arkansas. LOL

Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, Shannon,

Wonderfully transparent post! Thank you for posting here at Seekerville. I love this place.

Mary Connealy said...

Good morning, Shannon. What a great story.

I think I did everything as slowly as possible too. The best thing anyone can learn from my road to publication is to NOT do it my way.

It took me far too long to find writer's organizations, classes, contests.

I just started writing.

I can't believe that about your book being stolen. Disgusting. It got LOOSE in their system? What? Like your story is a wild bunny?

I'm trying to imagine that while all this was going on you were cheerfully thinking, "Wow, this'll make a great blog post someday."

No gnashing of teeth at all.

Yeah, right.

Mary Connealy said...


I swear I just hugged them all night. Had them in my arms.

I might have slept with them. Thrilling. Seeker buddy Cara just got her hands on her books for the first time.

We heard her screaming all the way across the country. A sweet, sweet moment.

Brenda Anderson said...

Yah, Shannon! I heard your cheer in Minnesota too, and to think I thought it was thunder. I'm absolutely giddy for you.

Now, take a picture cradling your baby. I can't wait to see it.

Julie Jarnagin said...

Wow. What an interesting journey you've been on! I'm sure a lot of people can learn from your experiences.

Cindy said...

Wow, that's quite the journey. It took me a long time to realize the more involved I got, the better--and the more I'd learn. So it's been a long journey for me, too. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

And the book sounds wonderful!

Regina Merrick said...

Your babies came!!! I'm with Brenda - I wanna see pictures!! So THAT'S what that sound was, your shout of victory coming from southwest of here! :) And then there was the one from Iowa, Minnesota, and now from Kentucky and the ends of the earth!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Shannon,

Thanks for sharing your story with us. I find it so uplifting to read others' path to publication, while I struggle along! LOL.

Your book looks lovely. How thrilling to actually get your copies while on this blog. Every author's dream, for sure, to hold their book in their hands.

I never knew about the critique groups with ACFW, so I'll have to delve a little deeper. Thanks.

Congratulations. Wishing you much success.

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars....



I remembered Grayson's name the minute I saw the excerpt. And the flowers, the white roses.

I remember being touched by the idea, by the plot line, but was I a typical Ruthy snark????


All right, feel free to be honest. But, (since I just finished breaking hearts in the Genesis...) let me just say, some of my best contest critiques were the tough ones. (I'm hedging my bets here, can you tell????) whatever path brought you here (and your story made me laugh and cringe because I recognized soooooo much of it!) I'm so glad you've arrived and that story has been bought.

YES!!!! Congratulations on that.

Super Good News!!!!

Hey, is there coffee??? Because I sure could use a lunchtime cuppa.


Alice V said...

"Got loose in his system" ?! Now that's an original excuse for theft.
I love the cover of your book. It looks just like the church where I grew up. Hope I win your book.
avaldal @ shaw dot ca


Myra Johnson said...

Hi, Shannon! Welcome to Seekerville and congratulations on getting your first author copies! That's quite a moment, isn't it? Take lots of pix!

And I SOOOO relate to your "jumping through hoops" comment. I just recently completed proofing the galleys of my third Heartsong Presents novel, so I know exactly what you're going through. Being published means learning to juggle well!

But oh, is it worth it!!!

Debra E Marvin said...

So cool to be here when Shannon's book came in the door!

I'd also say that being part of ACFW is amazing. I don't go to any chapter or zone meetings, but it doesn't matter. We get so many benefits online. You can get into a zone loop (boy we have strange phrases, nowadays) and that helps a lot, too. The resources at your fingertips, especially the knowledge and experience of others, and their willingness to share is something I wouldn't want to give up.

Mary Connealy said...

I love the blurb about your story, Shannon.

It gave me chills.

I subscribe to Heartsongs so it should be coming to my door soon.

It's a very beautiful idea. She's falling in love with the man who sends white roses to his wife's grave. That's beautiful.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

First, Melanie, that whole fainting thing???


She was your mentor. Obviously her fault then. You bear no responsibility. ACFW mentors are supposed to waylay any and all fainting scenes.

And Shannon, did I meet you through Wild Rose back in the day???

In any case, I'm just delighted you're here.

And yes, Audra does things backwards. I can testify to that. I can probably send you documentation in triplicate, but that doesn't seem all that friendly, now does it???

And that 2005 conference... Sweet.

Super sweet. Well. Apart from Mary making Melly faint.

Cinnamon rolls. Brought 'em to go along with the rest of the fare. And I'm lovin' the choco-hazelnut coffee, Audrakins. THAT'S a total frontwards maneuver.


KC Frantzen said...

Wow - here we were when your books came?! That is so like God isn't it? I'm tearing up and smiling together - is that allowed?

Congratulations Shannon!!!

Thanks for all your story today. It is encouraging, in a backwards sort of way.

And thanks to Mary for inviting you.

Melanie - quite a way to make an entrance. SO glad you were OK!!!

Ah Ruthy - you're an excellent critiquer, snark and all.

So - did I understand that Cara rec'd her books today too? WOW. (even if recently - still WOW!) What a day for any author. I'm still working on it. God's timing and all that.

Beautiful book. Would enjoy the read!!! Especially now that we know more of your story!!
ksf895 at citlink dot net

Smiles all around Seekerville today. Yippee!!!

(I have to use all my !!! here since they are so frowned upon in a ms. sigh.)

Vince said...

Hi Shannon:

The problem with the School of Hard Knocks is that by the time you graduate, you’re punch drunk.

I’ve had to tell that to a lot of bosses in my time. That usually stops their SHK braggadocio.

While you can learn a lot by taking a beating, sometimes you don’t recover from a beating.

I think the best idea is to learn from the best experts you can find and then advance by doing and doing and doing.

So I really agree with your post. Your ideas also will work in many other career fields. (Like learning to write advertising copy.)

BTW: I’d really like to win your book. I’ve been trying to buy it for a few weeks. At first the link did not work on ACFW; it was not sold on Amazon; they didn’t have it yet at the Christian Book store; I could not find a local retail seller that carried the line; and Heartsong Presents does not make it easy to buy. (They ask you to print out the order form and mail it in.)

Also, Heartsong Presents books are such an outstanding value that the postage costs more than the book! I always try to buy three titles at a time. I love Heartsong Presents and I think all fans should check out their website. I only learned about Heartsong Presents because I wanted to read Autumn Rains. I wish I’d learned about this publisher earlier.

Good luck with White Roses



vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

Anonymous said...

a great posting...thanks for the chance to read this wonderful novel...

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Mary Connealy said...

You have noticed that they did away with the whole mentoring program.

I blame myself.

Obviously they were afraid of lawsuits.

Mary Connealy said...

Vince if you watch Amazon they will very soon have USED copies of Shannon's book available. Those are there long before the new ones release.

Also once in a while has them earlier. But I just checked and no Shannon book there yet.

Anonymous said...

Please count me in.....sounds like such a great book!! Thanks!!!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Okay, I'm back. Went to lunch with hubby and casually just handed him the book. So fun! He didn't know I dedicated it to him: To my very own Pastor in Shining Armor for all your love and support. This man has taken me to countless writers's conferences and entertained our now 8 year old over th years while I do my writerly stuff.

On another note: I have a new blog where I tell real life love stories, author interviews and excerpts all geared toward romance. If you'd like to share your story the guidelines are on my old pitiful looking website: My new website: doesn't have all my content yet. My marvelous friend, Linda Fulkerson is making me look more professional, but I've been hanging out in Seekerville instead of sending her content.

It's been so great to share this journey with you. Can't wait til your book comes out and you get your first moment of holding that baby in your trembly hands.

Hey fellow Heartsonger. Thanks for stopping by. I really hope that publisher doesn't stumble upon this. He threatened to sue ME back then.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Mary,

You were one of those helpful judges once. Not with this book, but another still unpubbed one. You even offered to help me with it and I didn't contact you because I thought Mary Connealy doesn't have time for me. See another backward moment. I should have grabbed that offer and not let go.

Nashing of teeth and lots of chocolate. But people did actually tell me, You'll have a great story someday when you make it big. I don't know about the big part yet, but it's a great story, I guess. In a frustrating, surreal sort of way.

Hubby will take me to Outback Steakhouse tomorrow probably. We always celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, book stuff there. Lorna and I were talking earlier about how much eating and celebrating goes on with the road to publication, when you get the offer, when you sign, when the check comes, when you finish each edit, when you actually get the book, when you finish the next one, when you turn in the next one. Our hubbies like all the eating.

Brenda, I'll definitely get hubby to take pictures when he gets home from work.

BTW, he's a bivocational pastor, so by day, he makes teeth at a dental lab.

Cynthia said...

Thank you for all the practical advice for being a writer. I know that I should share my work with others, but being who I am I think it would be hard to hear some of the critiques. I know that I should find someone to look at my work though.

I can't wait to read your book. It sounds very interesting.
cynthiakchow (at) earthlink (dot) net

Missy Tippens said...

Shannon, welcome! We're so glad you joined us today.

I just loved your post! I love how you did everything out of order, but God still got you to where He wants you to be. :)

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Congrats to Cara for holding her baby for the first time too! Woo Hoo!!!

Hi Julie,
Julie Jarnigan is one of the newest Heartsong authors. We connected through Facebook or Twitter or Shoutlife. Not sure which one, but I'm so proud for her just stepping on to the wild ride. She has a great story too. It was on her blog one day last week. Check it out. I'd include the link, but I'm jumping through hoops trying to keep up with all the comments. So much fun!

I'm sure Linda will post the pictures on the awesome photo gallery she put on my new site, that is if I ever send her any content.

Hi Susan,
I hope my story doesn't discourage anyone. I was thinking in a typically backward way that maybe writers would think, whoa, if she can make it through all that, I can too. Or, surely my journey won't be as rough as hers.
Definitely check into the critique groups. I don't think I'd be published without mine. I think ACFW has a large group now, where you submit something and critique two things in return. I think they'll still set you up in a small group, or you can post it on the loop that you're looking for one.

Great point about getting involved.
I'm not a real social person. I was painfully shy as a child and I'm still not overly outgoing unless I'm in my element or I know you. So it was hard for me to join groups and attend conferences at first. I tend to stay in my corner and not mingle when I'm out of my element. Writer friends, who get you, are so helpful and integral to the journey. Wish I'd gotten out of my comfort zone and gotten involved sooner.

Ahem. I just happened to dig the contest entry you judged out of my desk. I'll have to tackle it in a whole other comment all by itself.

Missy Tippens said...

Audra!!! That is so against the law! You cannot read the last page of a book first!

I'm totally ashamed of you.


By the way, I love the new photo! How have I missed that?

tkay said...

I love the storyline already, all relationships need God. It will be wonderful to see how you bring acceptance into play. I'm excited to read it!

Missy Tippens said...

Woo hoo, Shannon!! Congrats on holding that baby in your hands. :)

I boo hooed over my first box of books, too. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Oh my goodness. I didn't remember that it was 2005. But I do remember that someone fainted at my first ACFW conference (Nashville)! And that it was Mary's fault. LOL So I'm a class of 2005 member as well. :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Thanks for being so honest!
Great advice!
And Congratulations on your book!

evamariahamilton at gmail dot com

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Back to Ruthy,
Actually, you were great. You pointed out that you liked my heroine's name. BTH, it's pronounced, A dree uh. I used to work with a girl named that when I was starting this book and I asked her if I could use it.

Back to Ruthy,
You pointed out several places where it read awkwardly. You caught that I had my florist doing flowers for six weddings on Valentine's Day instead of doing the weddings the day before. You urged me to clarify a few things. You said you'd never heard of it called a rent house.

This makes me laugh. All my critters said the same thing and all my editors. It is now rental house, even though Arkansans say rent house and if you say rental house, we'll think you're uppity or not from around here. So, I guess my characters are uppity with their rental house.

You mentioned my comma use, which I still have no clue about. My poor editor. You applauded Adrea's backbone and her brother's temper, even though he just graduated from seminary. You fell in love with Grayson and suggested I get into his POV sooner.

You gave me a 192 out of 196 points. You complimented me on talent and encouraged me. I remember it made me cry in a good way.

The version you saw is very different from what it is now. In my willingness to try anything to get published, I had a long version and a short version of this book, so I could submit to longer and shorter word counts. You saw the long version. The Heartsong will be the short version.

Anyway, you were very helpful with no snark in sight. I can't believe you remember it.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hi Alice,

Trust me this guy was a real original. I got him taken out of Sally Stuart's Market Guide.

Definitely a juggling act, but so worth it and I'm in the home stretch with this series. Two edits left on book 2. Book 3 is done and with my awesome critters with a deadline of June 1. Doable.


Glad you could share my moment with me. I hid from the UPS guy and waited til he was gone, I didn't want to share it with him. Besides, I didn't have my face on yet.

I have an issue about people seeing me without makeup and I'm fine with that issue. I saw a woman on Dr. Phil, many moons ago when I was on bed rest with my pregnancy, who didn't go anywhere without her makeup. I thought she was normal, but Dr. Phil talked her into taking it off on national TV. She did and that's when I thought she was nuts.


My dad sends me flowers or a balloon every Valentine's Day. One morbid day on one of his birthdays, I realized he was older than I wanted him to be. I started thinking of how I'd feel the first time my gift from him didn't come. Then I turned it around that I might go first and figured he'd take the gift to the cemetery. That's where White Roses came from, so it's very special to me. My dad just turned 70, which is not old, but older than I want him to be.

My parents stopped by on the four-wheeler a few minutes ago to see the book. Four-wheelers are our entertainment in rural Arkansas. We love riding them through the woods. My family doesn't go mudding with them, but a lot of people do. We just enjoy the Spring and Summer scenery without worrying about ticks or snakes.

Anyway, they were all excited. They're awesome and have always been very supportive. When I finaled in my first National contest, hubby couldn't get off work to take me to the conference. I'm not the independent type and would never take off on a trip like that by myself. I wish I was, but I'm not.

My mom was still working, so Daddy volunteered to take me. He drove me and my then five year old to Dallas and played in the hotel pool with my son all day long while I went to the conference and got my 2nd place award. Doesn't that make you go Awww!!!!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


Too funny about blaming Mary for Melanie's episode. And Mary saying that's why they stopped the mentor program.

We sat at the same table once at lunch. It was 2005 because later you won the Genesis and I was so excited because we'd met. When you judged my contest in 2008, I was shocked to learn you still were pre-pubbed. Then when I heard about your contract, I popped over to congratulate you.

Hi KC,
Glad you got to share my moment too. Crying and smiling is definitely allowed. I do that quite often. And I love exclamation points!!!! Never have understood why editors don't!!!!! My son missed a homework question last week because of me. He was supposed to properly punctuate a sentence with no punctuation. He put an exclamation at the end. It was an exclamatory sentence, but I've been so trained not to use them, I told him to put a period instead. He was rather miffed at me over that.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


I definitely don't recommend the SHK. That is so awesome that you've been trying to buy my book. Someone who doesn't know me has been trying to buy White Roses for three weeks. Now that does a writers' soul good. Makes me teary-eyed again.

I actually asked me editor about the purchase link on the Heartsong site. She usually answers pretty quickly, but she's been on maternity leave, so she's probably drowning in e-mails. If you'll send me an e-mail, so I'll have your address, I'll let you know what she says. stvauthor at


I just have to ask, where does Amazon get used copies?

Karen K and Jackie,
Thanks for stopping by.


The thing with critique groups is you have to develop a tough skin. Know that it's not a jab at you, but constructive critism to help your work shine. ACFW members truly want to help one another.

Hi Missy,

The whole story was definitely a God thing. With me going one way and Him gently poking me back where He wanted me.

We should start a 2005 Club.


I hope you enjoy it. I loved writing this book, through a dozen different versions and four edits.


Thanks and glad you stopped by. This has been so much fun.

Renee said...

Shannon, thank you for answering my question about ACFW. It's something I'll definitely look into.

Vince said...

Hi Shannon:

The first website I look at each morning is the New Releases page at ACFW. White Roses had the top new release position for about two weeks (it’s still featured) and it did not have a picture. (It does now.)

This caught my interest and then the description made me think of Joe DiMaggio sending flowers twice a week for decades for Marilyn Monroe’s grave. That’s why Joe DiMaggio has been called “The Last Hero”.

There’s just something about them Yankees!

It’s so romantic – of course I have to read White Roses!

Erica Vetsch has a new book out, then there’s White Roses, so I need just one more book to make a three book order. BTW, the lady at Heartsong is very nice over the phone if you want to call in a credit card order.


Kathleen L. Maher said...

White Roses sounds awesome. Congrats on your first published book! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Shannon, I laughed so hard over your comment about makeup and having your face on! I hide from my UPS man, too! But more so for being in my jammies with bed head. LOL

Also, what a sweet story about your dad. I did say, "Awww" right before you said it in your comment. :)

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


Definitely look into it. I credit God, ACFW, my crit group, and contest judges for getting me published.


I remember that Joe Dimagio story. Always thought Marilyn should have held on to him, but she was such a mess.


Thanks for stopping by.


For a long time I could count on one hand the people who'd seen me without my face. But in the last few years, I've had lots of conference roommates.

I was scarred at a young age. We had a next door neighbor that was just absolutely gorgeous. But one day I saw her without makeup. It scarred me for life.

Virginia said...

Congrat on your new release! This book sound like and awesome read and I would love to read it. I love the cover its beautiful!


Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Thanks Virginia,

I was very pleased with the cover. I thought they did a really good job.

Pam Hillman said...

Love the story of your journey to publication, Shannon.

Thanks for sharing!

And congrats on publishing White Roses. The book sounds like a tear-jerker, for sure.

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

I am soooo late. Welcome to Seekerville and thanks for your inspiring message.

Since I am late I brought frosted brownies for the late crowd.

Pam Hillman said...

I think Melly's fainting year (sorry, Mel, you'll never live it down!) was the year Sandra and I were working the registration desk that morning.

Mel, we had a FRONT ROW SEAT as they wheeled you out of the hotel! lol

Hey, but you still had great hair!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hi Pam,

I hope it jerks tears. Thanks for stopping in.


I am so on a diet. The writing life is certainly sedentary.

Pam Hillman said...

4-wheelers rock down here in Mississippi too.

A gazillion years ago, someone asked if we were going to have more kids, and I said, "Nope. You can't get that many people on a 4-wheeler!"

This is even funnier now that all of my guys are over 6 feet tall!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

4 Wheelers are what we use for entertainment in New York as well!!!!

Only ours are called cars.

Next train to Hicksville!!!! :)

Hey, did you guys know that there is a REAL Hicksville in NY??? Just outside New York City, in the metro region. Oh, yes, I've gotten on and off at the Hicksville station more than once. It does not resemble any Hicksville in the lower half of the contiguous USA. I promise.





I was the NICE judge. 192....

Oh, darlin', I loved it!!! ;)

We've all done the shorter/longer versions. Or the CBA/ABA versions...

But short or not, I knew the minute I saw Grayson's name that I'd had strong feelings about this back in the day. Let me just say there are a few authors out there (not TOO many, but a few) that probably wish I'd been judging a different category. Not theirs. Not as many as cringe at the name "Connealy" but then she doesn't sign 'em all...

Bawk...bawk...bawk... :)

I love making farm noises to Mary and Pam. It's just one of those things.

Shannon, I'm still in big trouble because my first book was dedicated to my mother. Dave was mortally wounded. And my daughter was chagrined that I didn't mentiion her long-suffering editing....

How odd that I thought she enjoyed reading the early editions, LOL!!!

Oh, man if I had it to do again, I'd put them in bold type. For heaven's sake. Egos. Sheesh.


Now that you've taken me down memory lane AND Tina brought brownies (sooooo glad you brought those, girlfriend) I'm in my happy place. And Vince, I CAUGHT that Yankee reference....

Joltin' Joe... What a delightful man. Solid. True. Now there's a baseball legend.


Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


You have to try a real four-wheeler. The wind in your hair, bugs in your teeth. Actually, I've never gotten bugs in my teeth. I just thought it sounded good. They really are fun because you can go just about anywhere with them. Cowboys are replacing their horses with four-wheelers when they herd cattle. I have a cowboy series by the way, but my cowboys ride horses, broncs, and bulls.
In Mary's defense, she was nice when she critiqued my other story. She even offered to help me with it. No offers from Ruthy. :)
Thanks again for inviting me Mary and thanks to all the Seeker sisters for this awesome blog. I had so much fun today.

Cindy W. said...

I always love stopping by Seekerville. It feels like home with all you wonderful people. Thank you for the wonderful post. Such pearls of widom.

May you all have a blessed day!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W


Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hi Cindy,

I hope my hard knocks help someone. Thanks for stopping by.