It All Started Because I Wanted to meet Debbie Macomber
I had spent 20+ years as a journalist and even won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. You would think that winning that award would compel me to go further in my nonfiction endeavors. Instead it did the complete opposite. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling that little flicker of excitement that I used to feel upon starting a new assignment. Months went by and I realized that my time as a freelancer had come to an end. What did excite me was the possibility of getting back to my first love – fiction.
I promptly joined RWA and wrote 3 novels. All three are on my hard drive and one I went so far as to print it out for edits. It’s buried in a filing cabinet to this day. I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day again. Then, in 2011, my absolute favorite author announced a contest. Debbie Macomber, famed women’s fiction and romance author, would be choosing the winner of a novella of up to 25K to be included in a reprinting of her novella, A Family Affair.
This was it! I would write a fun, sweet romance that would win the contest. All I have ever wanted was to meet Debbie Macomber. Of course the prize had nothing to do with meeting the author. But having Debbie Macomber pick he winning story was as good as it gets for me. I wrote my story, A Husband for Danna, at break neck speed – 3 weeks. For those 3 weeks I lived at my computer, writing thousands of words per day so I could make the contest entry deadline. And I did. And for someone who, I’m ashamed to admit, is plagued with doubt and entertains negative thoughts, I look back today amazed that I never once thought about the fact that I might not win the contest.
And I didn’t. But oddly enough that didn’t faze me. The fact was that I had enjoyed writing that short, fun, fast paced story. I loved my characters, Danna and Eric. So I decided I would submit it to a small press that was looking for novellas. This time I didn’t count on getting published. I told myself “I’ll wait to see what the editor thinks.” I told my writer friends that I was hoping to get some positive criticism to make the story better. I was secretly hoping that I would be offered a contract. I wasn’t.
But, hey, that was only 1 rejection – one. At the time I didn’t even realize how lucky I was. That editor actually wrote the rejection email himself and said “I love the premise, love the idea but your characters are flat. They need work.” I could have shelved the story because, after all, I had only written it to ‘meet’ Debbie Macomber. But I loved that story. So I decided to submit to another small press that had a call for contemporary, sweet novellas.
Flash forward to Labor Day 2013 or around August 31.
I’d love to tell you that I was busy, that last weekend of the summer, rewriting my novella. After all, I need to somehow bring my characters to life. Honestly, at that point I wasn’t sure how to do that. So I submitted the story as is to this small press and crossed my fingers. Maybe she would offer some advice on how to bring those flat characters to life. She did. In fact, she did more than that. She sent me an email telling me that she loved the story and asked how open was I to revisions in order to make the story work for her. Open? Just call me a door.
The email arrived exactly on Labor Day. How fitting. I went to work to work, throwing my all into that novella. One month later I happily hit the ‘send’ button on my keyboard. And I sat back and waited to hear the good news. I pictured myself signing a contract. I envisioned the cover of my sweet book. The cover was the easiest part. Actually, I was now watching my book unfold as a movie. Did I mention that the whole time while I was writing this book, that 3 week marathon, I had been running the story as a movie in my head? I was thinking Hallmark Channel (and Debbie Macomber did have two of her books turned into Hallmark Channel movies. A girl can dream).
Stop the cameras!
Not happening. At least not at the moment. The editor sent back yet another round of extensive editing she would need to see before she would consider my book. She asked to see them no later than the first week of November. No problem. After years of working as a journalist, I’ve always loved editing. For me the editing is the easiest part of switching from non-fiction to fiction. I dove in to those edits, again making my desk my home, only leaving it for visits to the little girl’s room or bed. I’ll be honest. I am not one of those writers (you lucky gals) who can burn the midnight oil. I need my 6-7 solid hours of sleep each night. Mornings are my peak creative time.
I hit ‘send’ again. This time I’m not holding that picture of a contract or book cover in my head. I’m feeling a little less confident but still hopeful. I decide that whatever happens I’ll be better for it. And besides that, I reason with myself, most authors get dozens, hundreds and more rejections before they make that first sale. Who was I to think that I would bypass that time honored tradition?
Good thing I had that little pep talk with myself. Too bad it didn’t make the rejection hurt any less. It was just three days before Thanksgiving. After all that editing, the changes and even cutting out chunks of my story, she had decided that A Husband for Danna just wasn’t for her after all. I left my desk to lick my wounds. I took a walk out in the cool November air. I spent some time with my cats (they’re great stress relievers).
I’m a journalist. So I did what I’ve done over the 20+ years of working as one. I picked myself up, sat down at my keyboard, and wrote her an email thanking her for the opportunity of working alongside her and getting her expert help. She wrote back and wished me luck placing it elsewhere.
That night I talked to my critique partner. She offered her shoulder and some virtual chocolate and said “Why don’t you put it away for now and start something news?” But I really loved that story. Thanksgiving came and went. I didn’t work on the story anymore. I just let it sit there while I mulled around some new ideas. Then a writer from one of my RWA chapters, Faith, Hope & Love, posted about a pitch party that was being held by her publisher on Facebook.
This was it, I told myself. I would pitch my novella to them through Facebook and see what happens. If that didn’t ask to see it I would pack the story away. But they did. So I sent the completed manuscript (the one I had completely revised for the other editor) to them on December 13. And I decided to just forget about it. No more fantasizing about contracts, no more picturing contracts and no more movies in my mind.
I’m going long here so I’ll cut to the chase for you all. I actually lost track of time. On February 17, 2014 I decided to follow up my submission with a quick email. The editor’s assistant promised I would hear back with the week. I did not get my hopes up. I hadn’t gotten many fiction rejections but I’d had tons of “Sorry we can’t use your story” rejections in my nonfiction work. I was ready for a rejection and to pack up that story (so to speak).
But on February 19, 2014 I got the surprise of my life – an acceptance from Astraea Press! What makes this even better is that ten years ago I had made a deal with myself. I would be published by my 50th birthday. Well, I had turned 51 on January 19, 2014. This email arrived exactly one month after turning 51, a year after my self-imposed deadline.
As they say, better late than never!
And that’s my story……not quite as miraculous as the authors who receive dozens, hundreds and more rejections but pretty amazing just the same.
Thanks for letting me share it on one of my most favorite places on the web!!!
Christina is giving away a copy of her novella, A Husband for Danna, so please mention you want to be entered in your comment!
Christina Lorenzen started writing as a young teen, jotting stories in wire ring composition notebooks. Her first typewriter
made it faster to get all those stories out of her head and down on paper. Her love of writing has sustained her through a myriad of
jobs that included hairdresser, legal secretary, waitress and door-to-door saleswoman.
Luckily for her, writing proved to be successful and a lot less
walking than going door to door. A Husband for Danna is Christina’s first novel. She is busy working on her next. When she
isn’t writing or reading, she can be found walking her dog, talking to her herd of cats and spending time with her family.
Connect with Christina online at: