Monday, January 23, 2012

My First Query Comes Full Circle

I might as well just jump into this story, so I’ll start at the beginning.

Sort of.

I always wanted to write, but was scared of failure. I loved to read romance, especially westerns, and I enjoyed the Christian fiction I could get my hands on.

Finally, I decided I’d better put up or shut up. I went to the library and found one book on the shelves about writing fiction that sounded like it might be helpful. It was by Kathryn Falk. I think it was called How to Write a Romance. I devoured it. By this time I had started my great American novel. I didn’t know anyone who was published or even dreamed of becoming an author, so I was working in a dark hole with Kathryn Falk’s book as my map.

According to Miss Falk’s book, it would take several months for an editor to get back to me, so by my calculations, I needed to query somebody since I was about 100 pages into my story. Then something BIG happened.

In August of 1995, I was listening to public radio on the way to work. I heard a senior editor of a well-known Christian publishing house talking about the growing popularity of inspirational fiction. I pulled over on the side of the road and wrote down everything she said, including the fact that she said if anyone had a story to tell, she'd be willing to look at it.

My hand was literally shaking, and I queried her immediately.

Such a God thing, right? Here I was right on target. I had just enough time to finish the manuscript before she asked to see it. Things were going good, really good!

Between that query and her response three months later, I hooked up with a local writers' group, and had my work bled all over, in good way of course. Somewhere about this time, I realized I had a long way to go to be a published author.

So, what was the editor’s response? She asked me to send what I’d written. GULP!

This was bad, very bad! The story was horrible, no real beginning, middle, or end, and I'd learned just enough from my new writer friends to know that I was in real trouble.

The only thing that saved me was that the editor left the publishing house before I could get anything in the mail and I was off the hook.

I slinked back into my hole and got serious about learning the craft of writing.

Fast forward 15 years.

With a fairly large portfolio of contest wins, rejection letters, and near misses at a smattering of publishing houses, Tyndale House Publishers released my debut novel, Stealing Jake, in July 2011.

And who was the mystery editor I heard on the radio way back in 1995?

Tyndale House, Senior Editor, Karen Ball.

And lest we think God doesn’t have a sense of humor, Karen is now an agent with the Steve Laube Agency, and I’m blessed to be represented by Steve.

Now how’s that for coming full circle?


  1. I can't believe I'm the first comment. Amazing story! It's nice to know we all start out in a very naive state! I know I did. Who knows? Maybe I'm still in it.

  2. What a great story, Pam!

    SO glad Karen was on the radio that day and so glad that Tyndale brought you on board! LOVED Stealing Jake!

    And love you, too Pam! So glad we got to chat a bit at conference!

  3. Love your story, Pam! A full circle and most certainly, the hand of God cinching it closed. Beautiful...

  4. That is awesome Pam!! What a great story. It's all in God's timing, isn't it? :)

  5. Wow, that is such a fun story! We can say 'it's a small world' but really, it's a God thing.

    Oh, and that just made me think of what I heard the other day... 'It's a small world until you have to clean it' or something like that. Made me laugh!

  6. LOL, Pam! So many of us have lived in the Land Without a Clue! I can apply every step of your journey to my own. Wow, no wonder we have such a sisterhood!

    Back in "the day," Kathryn Falk and Romantic Times had such a strangle hold on the romance industry. It's little wonder people still equate "romance" with "bodice-rippers."

    Ah well, older and wiser is a good thing : )

    What a tremendous affirmation that your FIRST query letter resulted in a request! WooHoo, Pammy!

    AND Tyndale House eventually bought your work.

    AND Karen Ball is now an agent with Steve Laube.

    Who says God isn't at work in our lives? Just look at the career path He'd mapped out for you!

    BTW, Stealing Jake was a book WELL worth waiting for!

  7. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for sharing your first query/submission with us.

  8. Great story, Pam! What a testimony to how God works!

    I'm loving all these posts of firsts. They give inspiration to those of us still waiting for the first of firsts.


  9. This is so amazing, Pam. Synchronicity is an amazing thing.

  10. Great story, Pam. I loved Stealing Jake.

    Query before you first manuscript was written? Now that's confidence.

  11. Pam, I loved your story, and it is really fun to see how God brought the circle to closure, in the very best of ways! :)

    I admire your bravery to contact the editor in 1995. :) You must be a passionate lady. :) I loved Stealing Jake. Looking forward to anything else you put out there. :)

  12. Oh yay, Pam. What a cool story - and hope for those of us who are on the very loooong, sllllooooowww track :-)

    And I love Karen Ball!
    God certainly has a great sense of humor - and a perfect sense of timing :-)

  13. I broke out in goose bumps at your story. Thanks for sharing! Also,
    I loved Stealing Jake, what a great book!

  14. Pam, What a fun story. Sometimes not knowing any better is a good thing or you wouldn't have finished Stealing Jake.

    Love Audra's name for "Land Without a Clue" We all started so clueless which is one of the main reasons we started our group of Seekers. We didn't think the answers should be kept secret.

    And Virginia the publishing business IS a small world. That is why it is so important to meet the editors and agents even if they aren't at the house you are targeting because one day they might be.

    Pammers. So love your story and how you now see God's hand and sense of humor.

  15. This is such a sweet story.

    Sometimes "Land With a Clue" was so much more enjoyable. Didn't know I was doing anything wrong so I didn't have any worries.

    You may'be mentioned it before and I just forgot, but do you have your next book under contract? Or what's the next one you're working on?

  16. Pam, I love your story! I have Kathryn Falk's How to Write a Romance on my shelf. One of many of my how-to books. I had no idea what I was doing when I started writing. But like you, I was full of enthusiasm and queried too soon.

    What fun to see that you and Karen Ball have indeed come full circle. Just proves the number of players in this business is relatively small.

    I loved Stealing Jake! The orphans stepped right off the page and into my heart.


  17. Thanks Pam. I am mostly laughing. God must have been the day we all 'planned out the schedule' of our publishing career (or anything else).

    It all comes back to His timing and that's so awesome. Stealing Jake is in my TBR and I know your thoughts here will come to mind when I read it.

    Happy Monday everyone!

  18. Good morning all.

    An assortment of coffee, tea, sweeteners (I prefer Sweetleaf English Toffee liquid stevia. Just sayin') on the sideboard.

    Servers are setting up a full breakfast, featuring eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and country gravy so that will be ready to dig into in MOMENTS!

    Cathy, yep, naive pretty much sums it up!

    Carol, that's why my hands were shaking. What were the odds of hearing a Christian editor on public radio? Never before or since have I heard anything like that.

    And since it was Tyndale, I was (vaguely) familiar with the publisher. Being slightly OCD, I'd already started paying attention to who was publishing my favorite Christian books.

    Lyndee, love that visual. I can just see God's thumb and forefinger pinching the two ends of that circle together. lol

  19. Good morning!

    I love hearing stories like this. Full circle moments. Things we THINK are a coincidence but clearly are not! Good lesson to keep our eyes and ears open!

    Thanks for sharing, Pam!


  20. Oh, Pam, what a story! Weren't we all just so TOTALLY clueless once upon a time?

    And your experience should also be a vivid reminder that the publishing industry is really a very small world. We should always be cautious not to burn any bridges, because you just never know when you'll encounter that particular "bridge" again farther down the road!

  21. 'It's a small world until you have to clean it'

    Ugh. Isn't that the truth??

    Audra, I was definitely in the Land Without a Clue. Amazing how much we don't know until we become involved in something.

    Kirsten, I agree. It's so much fun to read all the firsts. And we're just cherry-picking what seems to really stick out as a major first for each of us.

    So many amazing writing-related memories that make me smile and a few not-so-amazing that make me cringe! lol

  22. Bridgett, you call that confidence?

    Okaaaay, if you say so, girlfriend.

    In hindsight, that is NOT the word I would use.

    Clueless and naive come to mind. I didn't even include a title in my query AND there was at least one TYPO.

    If you could put flashing neon signs on a query letter, this one would have screamed


  23. Such a great story, Pam!! I don't think I've ever heard you tell about that radio interview. Wow! Amazing how you went full circle. :)

    By the way! Y'all need to stop over at the Yankee-Belle Cafe today for a recipe Pam's sharing!

  24. Pam, I bet you even had a spreadsheet back then for that first query letter!! :)

  25. Gotta head out for awhile, but I'll check back in around lunch.

    We ARE having lunch, aren't we???

  26. Full circles are the strands life's made of, darlin'!

    Love this. And I'm so glad God's road for you brought you to us, to Seekerville, to this group that loves you to pieces and MARVELS at your organization.


    Hey, coffee's hot and fresh and I'm serving it with the Oreo Balls that Pam's got cooking over at the Yankee Belle Cafe.

    Pammers, thanks for hookin' us up with some good eats and a great story of patience, faith and perseverance!

  27. What a cool story, Pam!!! :-) That had to be such a God thing for you to hear Karen Ball on the radio right then, because I'm sure that lit a fire under you to keep working hard! God is amazing like that. He gives us just what we need just when we need it.

  28. What a neat, neat story, Pam! LOVE it.

  29. PAMMY!!! What a GREAT story, my friend -- TOO FUNNY and VERY inspirational!! Soooo glad you got published because I absolutely LOVED Jake and look forward to many, many more Hillman creations.

    The only thing that bugs me?? The 15-year time span -- the Inspy world would have been blessed by more of your books a lot sooner, my friend, but who can argue with God's timing??!!


  30. LOLOL! I LOVE that story, what a GREAT one, Pam!

    God's ways are amazing AND just where the whole publishing industry can take a person. :-))

  31. Pammy, thank you SO MUCH for pulling over while you took notes with shaking hands.

    I thank you and the Mississippi State Police thank you.

  32. What fun! I just love those God-has-a-sense-of-humour moments! And of course, way back at the beginning of your journey there wasn't a Seekerville to enlighten you and whip you into shape!

  33. Hello, I'm back, visiting during lunch break.

    Connie, I'm not contracted for another book yet, but I'm floating a couple of great proposals! lol

  34. Missy, I'm not sure when I started the spreadsheet, but yes, this query is at the top of the list, with dates and everything.

    I still have a copy of my query and her response.

    It'll be worth a lot of money some day!

  35. lol - Mary, you'd think we could be as conscientious with our cell phones, wouldn't you?

    It wasn't that I was being SAFE, mind you, but I had the feeling that God put that interview in that spot just for me that day at that time, and if I kept driving, I would have missed the entire thing. Back then the internet was so new that you couldn't just go pull an interview up on a website.

  36. That was an amazing story. It great to see God at work.

  37. Wow Pam, what a cool story. Thanks for sharing!

  38. Great story, Pam! It's funny how something like Karen's radio talk could make such a difference in the life of a would be/newbie writer. But it does. God's at work--and maybe at play.

  39. what a wonderful story Pam, I have been wanting to read Stealing Jake and to hear how you began is awesome, all those little ducks just fell right into place and so glad they did.
    thanks for sharing today.
    Paula O

  40. I love hearing people's 'How it all began' stories. It makes me remember we are all human. Thank you for sharing yours.

  41. Wow! What an amazing story. You're an inspiration to all of us!!

  42. I think I missed lunch! Couldn't make it to the computer. But I've got a big pot of homemade potato soup on the stove, and cornbread in the oven.

    My boys will tell anybody that my potato soup is the best!

    Sherri, I cannot resist clicking on your profile pic to see that cover! :)

  43. cool story and I live how it happened.

    Although I wouldn't wish you having to wait so long to be published I am glad when you finally had Stealing Jake published it was such a good book. (Its in my top 3 reads of last year) I am eagar to read more books of yours.

    Im late today to hot yesterday to think and to day not feeling great cos of the heat.

    Oh an totally personal note I have a lead for a job in town. Its not being advertised and with a optometrist. they need someone with computer skills and I guess the rest you learn on the job. a few have left cos of the lack of computer skills and I do know I do well with these skills. I am applying today posting early tomorrow morning (cos of affore mentioned heat). I would appreciate prayers that if its God's will It will be positive. Thanks.

  44. Pam,
    What a great story!!! Love the pic, too!

    Karen spoke at the first ACFW Conference I attended. I was blow away. That gal knows her stuff. When she talks, I listen!

    Congrats on coming full circle and publishing with Tyndale House!


  45. Sherri, is that your new book cover? It's BEAUTIFUL! Those LI artists really know their stuff. Gorgeous!

    Ausjenny, it's so odd to hear you say the heat is bothering you... :( Praying for your comfort- and your new job possibility!!

    YAY for jobs!!!

  46. Pam,

    Please, ff there are not too many ingredients, provide your potato soup recipe. Made one in the crockpot the other day and the potatoes never did get soft.

    Thanks for being the kind of friendly person I feel I can ask for a recipe.

  47. What Cathy said.

    /uses big puppy eyes and promises of cookies on Pam/


  48. Ausjenny - Remembering you in prayers for the job prospect!

    Off to ck out your recipe, Pam. My dd is a food scientist for Kraft, but started at Nabisco. Oreos are a staple here. I like the goldens best, lol.

  49. Pam's Potato Soup Recipe

    1/2 onion
    2 tablespoons margarine
    6-10 potatoes or more, depending on how many you're feeding and how big your boiler is!
    Salt & Pepper to taste
    2-3 cups of water
    1 can Cream of chicken soup
    1/2 to lb of Velveeta cheese
    1 pack Real Bacon bacon bits

    Mince onion and sautee in butter in your boiler.

    Peel and cut up potatoes. Add potatoes and water and cook on Med-High until desired doneness (is doneness a word?) Maybe 30 minutes.

    (Pop your cornbread in the oven while the potatoes are cooking... just sayin')

    When potatoes are done, reduce heat and add cream of chicken, velveeta cheese, and bacon bits.

    Lower heat and stir until velveeta melts. Careful here because you don't want your velveeta to stick to the bottom of the pan.

    Serve with cornbread.

    Also, If you want to be a little healthier, cut back on the cheese, and add another can of chicken soup.

  50. Sounds... YUM!

    Need to email this to myself...

    Jenny - praying for things to go well!

  51. What is this? A conspiracy. Potato Soup here and you're making Oreo Balls at the Yankee Belle?

    Yankee-Belle Cafe

  52. Just wanted to add that God's plan is always so much more amazing than we can begun to understand.

    Also I didn't final in the Gotcha contest but I did get 91 out of 100 and some info.

    Tina Pinson

  53. Thank you for sharing. Always great to know how authors start out.

  54. Isn't it awesome how things come full circle and you can see God's hand in it all the way! That's such an awesome story Pam!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  55. Loved your story! God does work all things out for our good, doesn't He? ;-)

  56. Hey, glad to see the latecomers stopping by.

    And, Tina, apparently yesterday was a carb day all around.'s broccoli. lol

  57. Great story Pam! The first one really stands out...

  58. What fun to read this! And what an honor to be even a small part of your journey.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Karen Ball

  59. Karen, so glad you stopped by!

    I remember listening to that radio spot just like it was yesterday.

    Every encounter, every query, every contest, every submission is a step along this journey. :)