Friday, August 7, 2009

April Erwin-hope, motivation, determination…faith.

Wow! I got to meet Mary Connealy, how cool is that?

Mary’s career is a great inspiration to me, so when I heard she was coming to town for a book signing I was thrilled. I never dreamed I’d get the chance to talk shop with her, but Mary’s a great gal and welcomed the conversation. After discussing our writing ups and downs, she invited me to guest blog here at Seekerville.

I. Was. Floored. And completely psyched. I agreed immediately, too hyped on my adrenaline buzz to think about the ‘big picture’.

The big picture being, what in the world could I, an unpublished writer, possibly have to offer to the readers at Seekerville? I read the blog, I know how many published authors post, and I applaud each time they post a new success. Why would they want to hear what I have to say?

That line of thinking of course led to a great deal of ‘bloggers block’. I couldn’t come up with anything to share. When I finally wailed in despair to my sister, she did what every great sister does. She laughed at me and then gave it to me straight. She listed the things I had accomplished, the lessons I’ve claimed to learn, and told me to write what I know.

Gee. Sounds a lot like advice I’ve given others. Guess I’d better start listening to myself.

Okay, so I’ve never had a book contract; but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had some success in the writing world. I’ve completed three adult novels. My first novel, Missing Pieces, is self-published. I was young, green, and impatient. I didn’t know word one about getting a publishing contract and wasn’t sure I ever would, so I did it myself. It did moderately well in my hometown; it was even adapted as the school play by my high school alma mater. However, I determined the next books would be different. I’d get an agent and a real book contract.

My second WIP is an Inspirational Suspense. The first agent I submitted to, requested a full manuscript, but turned it down because it wasn’t ready. She was right. After two more re-writes, I entered the much-revised version in two contests - the Genesis and the Daphne. Although my scores weren’t bad, I didn’t place in the Genesis. The Daphne was a different story; I received honorable mention in The Daphne Du Maurier Unpublished Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense 2008 category. Whoo Hoo! Now that felt good. Did it get me an agent or a contract? No. However, it did give me some very good critiques and a little assurance I was on the right road.

My third WIP is a Chick-lit. Something I was sure I’d never write. Not because I have anything against the genre, but because up to this point all my ideas had been mystery/suspense based. Life throws us some odd curveballs though, and this story demanded I write it. I had around ten chapters complete, when I saw the Stiletto contest. They had an Inspirational chick-lit category and I thought, why not? I submitted and to my very huge shock, placed third. This time it brought more than a contest win. It also brought an agent request. For the full manuscript if you please.

Holy Cow! I finished the manuscript in record time for me and sent it off. After waiting on pins and needles for around a month, I received an email from the agent. She said I had a great voice, but the intro needed a better hook. Could I try again and re-submit the full manuscript?

You betcha! I worked out a better beginning and re-submitted. This time it was nearly the full 3 months before she responded. She loved my story, thought I had a great voice, but because my heroine was overweight, felt like she had to turn it down. She believes obesity is one of the seven deadly sins, and wouldn’t feel comfortable promoting an overweight heroine. She did like the sound of my other WIP, would I submit a full manuscript of it?

Wow. Now I’m in a little bit of a tailspin. I had been praying that if she were the agent for me, she'd offer a contract. If not, she’d reject me. But what do I say to this? Sure, obesity is an uncomfortable topic for some, but it's also one of the biggest (no pun intended) issues in our nation. It's also something I understand. Being plus-sized is not easy. To reject the book solely because she didn’t like a fat heroine, though, is hard to understand. Could I even work with someone like that? I didn’t know. What I did know was that a second opportunity was in front of me and how could I ignore an open door? I submitted my suspense novel and prayed some more.

Just last week I received a letter from the agent, along with the first five pages of my book. She loves the story. Loves the voice, but found some formatting errors. She declined it, but invited me to re-submit the full manuscript.

There comes a time when you have to face facts and analyze what you're given. The positives: Good voice, good story, good writing. The negatives: a fat heroine and formatting errors (I swear it was my printer. I’d never send out something like that intentionally and I examine my submissions very closely.)

The outcome? It's just not meant to be. Not my writing career, but my relationship with that agent. Does that mean I’m a failure? I’d like to think the answer is a resounding NO. The failure would be in ignoring all the many critiques and advice I’ve received through judges - both positive and negative. Failure would be giving up on something I fully feel called to do. It would be a failure to ignore the successes I have seen, no matter how small they might be.

So, I whine. I sometimes worry I have nothing to offer. I wonder if my writing will ever go anywhere other than my desk drawer. Then I (or my sister) remind myself of the bigger picture. You only have nothing to offer if you quit trying.

Yes, there are many great writers on this blog and they all have great advice and words to share. I’m honored to blog among them. I hope in the end that I’ve been able to offer something of worth to all of you, published or not - hope, motivation, determination… and most importantly, faith.

April Erwin

Book Trailer:


  1. I'm glad you posted because you definitely have something to offer! Thanks for the encouragement and motivation to keep at it.

  2. April,

    Nice post. I do find myself wondering why the agent would have asked you to resubmit if he/she didn't like te heroine in the first place. However, your success will come some day.

    I'll go make some coffee and put out the bagels and cream cheese.

  3. Walt you're making coffee. We need more guys like you in Seekerville.

    Friday, Friday. Friday is my favorite day. And you can never go wrong with bagels.

    April, so good to have you here. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Good morning, Jill.

    I'm in push mode. I spent money on a contest and I refuse to lose it. So I have to write three chapters in three days. I can do it, right?

  4. Yes, Tina, you can do it!

    Thanks for sharing your story, April. I believe you have something to offer readers, and that is hope and determination to stay with it when things haven't gone the way you planned. I admire your dedication and pray you will find a place with an agent who understands you and loves your stories.

  5. April,

    What a great post about perserverence - wow! Rejection is a hard thing (you know how Julie is about it...scary ;-) - but you've really taken it is such a positive way and bloomed. I trials either make us grow or break us, and it's nice to see how those rejections only developed your writing. Woohoo for you.

    Have you ever read Laura Jansen Walker's book Miss Invisible. The heroine shows the pluses of the plus sizes. Hilarious.

    Many blessings on your writing future and you're right, - getting the best agent/editor for you will be worth the wait.

  6. Hmmm. This really has me thinking. Maybe because I'm older than most heroines (I suppose I should look into 'hen lit') but I don't know why a plus size heroine would make a difference. I don't really need to identify with what the heroine looks like because I want to empathize with her emotions--be it a suspense, chick lit, women's fiction or romance. I hope you find a place for her!!

    Thanks April. Great post. Congratulations on all your requests and finals! Obviously you're doing this right.

  7. Well I have had my entire pot of coffee and now I read your post April.

    I know this goes against the popular culture but here is my two cents and a quarter.

    I firmly believe that if God gives us a writing talent then if you have the guts and determination to stick it out and learn your craft you are going to sell.

    I don't believe it might not be God's will for you to sell. Nope, don't believe it one bit.

    That said, timing is his and he is the God of the 11th hour so in the meantime keep writing.

    Keep writing until you have twenty manuscripts under that bed if necessary.

    You obviously have the fortitude for this business.

    Keep writing.....

  8. Good morning April! Thanks for joining us in Seekerville!

    Loved your courage in sharing your writing journey. Sometimes it's tough to acknowledge you've been rejected, why you've been rejected, -- and again!

    Isn't rejected an awful word? I prefer to think of it as *it doesn't suit my tastes, but I certainly encourage you to seek someone who can do this justice.*

    I absolutely love the encouragement you've received. Great voice and great story -- those words of praise from an editor or agent go a long way in my opinion. I'd think 90% of the mission is behind you. Keep going, girl!

    I don't have any breakfast goodies to offer today, but rumor has it that one of the concessions at the fair is way over stocked in shake mix, so milk shakes galore this afternoon!!!!

  9. Tina! Three chapters in three days??


    You can do it!!!

  10. Dear April, what a beautiful blog ... and so very needed, not only by writers on the road to publication, but those who have arrived at their destination, only to find that there are STILL potholes in the road.

    I have no doubt from your heartfelt post that you will "arrive" ... and that your hope, motivation, determination and faith will serve you well when you do.

    God bless you on your journey.


  11. Oh Audra, you're words were like soothing balm on my head or melting chocolate in my mouth...sigh. That's good to remember.

    Tina - three chapters! Woohoo, I feel like I have arrived when I get three chapters completed in 3 weeks ;-) Nah, when the muse hits I do move a bit faster than a granny who hasn't had her coffee yet...
    speaking of....
    I'm for the milkshakes, Audra. Chocolate for me, of course

  12. Hi, April! Thanks for sharing your story. Everybody says perseverance is the most important thing for a writer to have--even more important than talent, and you certainly have talent. Perseverance will get you there, but as someone else said, it's all in God's hands and his timing.

    Hang in there, girl! And I think that's the coolest thing that your alma mater produced a play from your first novel! HOW COOL IS THAT???

  13. And yes, Tina, you CAN write 3 chapter in 3 days! I know you can. Wow 'em, girl.

  14. Thanks, April! Words of hope indeed. They're much appreciated.

  15. Good morning Everyone! Wow, I'm so excited to see so many here already. Thanks so much for your encouragement. Here I was hoping to share a little hope and in turn received a bushel full in return. You guys ROCK! :)

    I love being here, and I certainly wanted to bring a few goodies myself. I have chocolate chip pancakes and hot chai tea. Dig in!

  16. Hey Melanie,

    It WAS awesome to see my first novel made into a play. A little surreal as well. :)

    Thanks for your compliments on my writing, that means a lot coming from you. I was super impressed by your last MS.

  17. Thanks so much for guesting in Seekerville, April! And YES you definitely have something to offer the world in a blog (and a book!)--don't forget, 4 years ago at this time NONE of the Seekers were contracted. Debby was only a step away, but some of the rest of still had a ways yet to go. So we're living proof that prayerfully hanging in there and improving your craft-- just as you're doing--pays off.

    So glad you got to meet Mary in person! I've yet to do that myself--but ACFW is speeding toward us and I'll get to meet some of the Seekers I haven't had the opportunity to meet yet--and hopefully meet many of you from our Seekerville "family," too!

  18. Hi Pepper,

    I haven't read Laura Jansen Walker's book, but I've heard it's great. I'm adding Miss Invisible to my TBR stack now. :)

  19. Good morning, April,

    This is such a tough business. You're a shining example of perserverence.

    And I agree, Mary's terrific! :)

  20. Hi, April,

    I think it's cool that your first story was adapted into a play. That's pretty neat.

    Did you get to see it? What did you think?

    Overall, I guess we will just keep plugging away.

  21. you write a great blog and I am sure your books will be published soon, sometimes it takes awhile.

    May God Bless


  22. Hi Ann,

    I did see the play both nights they performed it, and it was very cool. After each performance, the school asked me to do a book signing. I think that play is the biggest reason my book did even moderately well. :) Praise God for that!

  23. Hi, April. I think your story is everyone's story. It's all laid out there just like it happens for 99% of all writers. Write, submit, reject, revise, contests, agents, keep writing, keep subbing.

    I'm proud of you and I'm proud of your plus-sized story. Mae Nunn's first book had a plus sized heroine so they CAN sell.

    It was so fun to meet you at thet book signing, April. I love talking to writers. It's the very best.
    Thanks for being on Seekerville.
    God bless you and EVERY writer on the journey.

  24. Aww! Thanks, Mary! :)

    It's so encouraging to see that we are not all alone in this journey. Sometimes our hearts forget what our brain knows - and that's when we have the most trouble.

    My sister and I have a motto "Dream Big, Be Bold, and NO Fear!" That's not always the easiest motto to follow, but with God's help all things are possible. Especially the NO Fear part. :) So when the rejections do come around, we keep pushing forward and Dreaming Big of all that God has planned for us.

  25. Oh my gosh I totally forgot about that Mae Nunn book. I loved that story. She was a gardner, former dancer I think. I loved it.

  26. April,

    Thanks so much for blogging with us today! I loved your post and your spirit!

    You and your sister say: Dream big, be bold, and NO fear!

    And I say, Amen! I'm going to post this somewhere to remind me of it each day.

    Thank you!

  27. Welcome to Seekerville, April. Your post touched my heart! I'm with Tina--with your talent, courage and tenacity, you will sell. Waiting isn't much fun, but for most of us, it's part of the journey. All we learn along the way strengthens us for what lies ahead once we sell.

    God bless!


  28. April--Love your motto and those chocolate chip pancakes. Can we make more? :)

    Thank you so much for the reality check too. Yes, we can have an awesome manuscript and then something just doesn't sit right with the editor. Major bummers.

    The gals are so right--God's timing, God's gift. Thank you so much for sharing!

  29. April, the editor who rejected you on your overweight heroine and your formatting errors is, and I will put this as nicely as I can, full of CRAP! Did you mention to her that the average size woman in America is a size 14 and that does NOT make a woman obese?? A legitimate and far sighted agent will see the value in appealing to women who struggle with weight (and that includes those of us who fight to keep 10 lbs of ALL our lives!) and won't reject a talented author based on typos. You're lucky to be "shut of her" as my Sainted Grandma would have said.

    Thanks for the mention of my first book, Mary! Yes, my first heroine was overweight and I was critized by contest judges for writing an "ugly duckling" story! Isn't that hateful! But Joan Marlow Golan loved it as did Krista Stroever and Melissa Endlich so I've had heroines in subsequent books who've battled thunder thighs and cellulite. That's real life so keep writing about it April!

    Can y'all tell I've been in Texas for a week. You can always tell a Texas girl but you can't tell her much! YeeeeHa!

  30. That last post was from me, Mae Nunn! I didn't mean to be anonymous, I just couldn't figure out my Google password!


  31. Hi April!

    Having had the fun and privledge of reading and doing crits on both of your terrific books, I have to wonder why that agent didn't snatch them up!

    You are a terrific writer and I for one love your characters no matter what comes up on the scale!

    Thanks for this little jolt today - am ready to roll up my sleeves and get back to work.

  32. A lovely inspiring post. Thank you. I'm sure you'll make it one day, and meanwhile, thanks for encouraging me to keep trying.

  33. Hi, Mae. You write great stuff. I loved that heroine.

    I think we're all guilty of making our heroine, though emotionally trouled, conflicted, etc. oh, so, beautiful.

    It's hard to escape that.

    I think we need to bring some honesty to fiction.

    Although, the perfect beautiful heroine is fantasy so I suppose that's why it sells.

    I've been reading a lot of regency lately for some reason, just enjoying it a lot. And the thing I keep noticing is all the members of the Polite World are exactly the same......except for the hero and heroine, they're always out of step with that shallow world.

    And yet, it wasn't a really big world, the upper class in Regency England. So if every book has their 'this heroine was different' story. Seriously, by now, that's all of them. Leaving no one to be normal.


  34. You go, Mae.

    I love it when I am right. The book is Hearts in Bloom and I checked on Amazon and you can still get it, only through independent dealers.

    She was a former dancer.

  35. Mae -- I had no trouble identifying the "anonymous" poster. That mention of Texas and a "yee ha" at the end was a dead giveaway. :)

  36. Thank you all so much for your kind words and encouragement. You've been an inspiration to me as well. I'm so happy to have been here. Keep writing and stay strong. :)

  37. I got here late in the day, but just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. You do inspire motivation, determination and faith.