Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique

Watering Camels by Glynna Kaye

Admit it. You’re wondering WHAT ON EARTH can that title possibly have to do with writing?

Well, let me jog your memory. Some of you may remember the story from the Old Testament (Genesis 24 to be exact) about Abraham’s quest for a bride for his beloved son Isaac. Unfortunately for his chief servant, who has been entrusted with finding just the right daughter-in-law for his master, the responsibility entails a journey to distant Mesopotamia (a little more effort than mouse-clicking on eHarmony).

When at long last one evening the chief servant and his ten camels arrive at Abraham’s old family homestead, he’s one tired camper. Has the running-on-empty camels kneel down near the spring-fed well outside town. But now what? How is he going to get these road-weary beasts refreshed? The New International Version of the Bible notes that “chief servant” can also be translated as “oldest” servant. So this guy very likely isn’t a buff twenty- or-thirty-something. The prospect of such a physically gargantuan effort as hauling mega-gallons of water may not even be an option.

So he prays that God will grant him success on his search for a bride---and get the camels watered, too. “See I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

Before he’s even finished praying, here comes the beautiful Rebekah with a jar on her shoulder. Hmm. Surely this pretty little thing can’t be the one to tackle such a task as he needs done. But she goes down to the spring, fills her jar, and when Abraham’s servant asks for a drink, she gives him one. And then—you guessed it—she says: “I’ll draw water for your camels, too.”

Whoa. Now I don’t know the dimensions on a camel’s “water tank,” but I imagine filling up ten beasts of burden isn’t an easy feat for any young woman. But Genesis says she fills the trough again and again, drawing enough water for all of them.

To make a long story short, the chief servant pulls out a couple of bracelets and a gold nose ring, hoping that Rebekah’s kinsmen will let her “Say Yes to the Dress.” Which they do--and off goes Rebekah to her one true love.

Ahhh, happily ever after.

But I imagine there’s more to this story.

Behind-the-scenes stuff, you know?

Like I bet that night wasn’t the first time Rebekah went out to the well. Think about it. You don’t just skip out to the spring one evening and draw enough water to fill ten thirsty camels unless you’ve built up some major muscle. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.

And I bet it wasn’t the first time Rebekah offered to help a total stranger. The man didn’t tell her he was the chief servant of one of her relatives until she’d already made good on her promise. No, Rebekah’s character had developed to the point where keeping faithful to the daily routine, serving where God asked her to (even in the seemingly insignificant things), had become ingrained in her.

God’s hand was in the bringing together of Isaac and Rebekah—but Rebekah had to do her part, too. She had to cooperate, be faithful to the routine, in order to be in the right place at the right time.

Maybe at the beginning, when the experience was fresh and new, she found herself excitedly trotting out to the well with all the other women. It seemed fun, an adventure, so full of expectation that her Prince Charming would soon put in an appearance. But as the days and months and years passed, had the routine lost its charm? Had there been days when the effort seemed without purpose? Same old path. Same old jar. Same old familiar faces at the well. Same backbreaking work to water those big ugly animals?

Who knows, perhaps that very night--the one that would turn her life upside down--she’d even been tempted to hide out in the tent. Do her nails. Surf the net. Catch the season finale of CSI. After all, wasn’t tonight just another camel-watering night like all the rest?

But she made a choice. Threw off her lethargy and stuck to the routine. Grabbed the jar. And off she went to the well once more. And to her destiny.

I think writing with a dream of publication often has a lot in common with Rebekah’s watering of the camels. You’re filled with promise and expectation when you first feel that tug in your spirit that says “write a book.” The fulfillment of your dream seems just around the corner. So close you can almost touch it.

But oftentimes it turns out to be an unexpectedly BIG “around the corner.” Time passes. The excitement, the inspiration, the immediacy of it fades. The dream becomes worn around the edges. A little tattered, for much about writing a book is routine. Day in and day out. Maybe an occasional contest win. A word of praise from a judge. But those can be few and far between. Most days you’re planting yourself down in front of the computer with no more sense of anticipation than you might have for throwing in another load of laundry. Vacuuming the living room. Cleaning the bathtub.

I know for myself I came THIS CLOSE (thumb and index finger pinched tightly together) to scrapping the routine. I’d been writing for years. Faithfully reading books, taking on-line workshops, and listening to tapes on the craft of writing. Faithfully logging in my word counts. Entering contests. Getting feedback.

But I was becoming weary, from the shores of Unpubbed Island, of scanning the horizon for ships’ sails. Finding time to write in the midst of a demanding day job was no easy task. Other worthy visions beckoned. I was no longer even certain that I wanted to keep trying to get off the island! I mean a comfy hammock strung between shady palm trees, gentle waves lapping on the sandy beach, and all those yummy coconut treats … Life was good, wasn’t it? Faithfully watering island camels seemed less and less appealing as the handwriting on the wall loomed large: MAYBE THIS DREAM IS NOT FOR YOU.

But last year I prayerfully made a decision. A choice. And with the encouragement of my family, my faithful Seekers, and renewed strength and determination provided by my Heavenly Father, I set out once more to water the camels. One more time. And that was the manuscript for which I got the long-awaited “Call.”

If I’d hidden out in the tent, ditched the water jar, refused to be true to the routine, my very first published book wouldn’t be released this month.

So don’t give up. Like Rebekah, make a decision. Keep watering those camels.


This post first appeared in Seekerville October 28th, 2009.

Glynna Kaye’s first published book, “Dreaming of Home,” was a finalist in the 2010 ACFW “Carol Award” as well as first place winner of the 2010 “Booksellers Best” and “Beacon” awards. Then came "Second Chance Courtship” (February 2011) and “At Home In His Heart” (August 2011). "High Country Hearts," a fourth story set in the mountain country of Canyon Springs, Arizona, debuts in March 2012.

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  1. Belly up to the coffee bar, girls and boys. There's plenty to go 'round.

    Oh, Glynna, how did you know??


  2. What an encouraging post, Glynna!

    I have a questions for everyone who has been published. How many novels did you write before a publisher gave you a contract????

    No, you'll pardon me while I go water the camels.

  3. Ooh, and thx for the coffee Helen. I brought some ooey gooey scrumptious lemon bars and snickerdoodles. It's Saturday after all. :)

    Jan, I'm now published, but did it on my own. So depending, it may "count" or not, but no contract either way. Just lots of promoting the character and story!

    Wanna peek?
    (It's a loverly hardcover fully illustrated book, if I may say.)

    Speaking of May, she's been pestering me about #2 so I need to get with it! But I've been tending to Mom and that's ok and what I need to be doing for now.

  4. Jan, good question.

    I had two inspirationals, two sweet romances, and two single titles completed. I also had and still have a slew of partials of varying genres.I mean a slew. Slew equals a much too large and embarrassing number to reveal.

  5. I could be wrong since counting is not my strong suit.

  6. WOW. What a really beautiful post! I'd read that part before and I have to admit (ow, this is painful) that I had two thoughts on the verses. One: she's pretty nice to offer to water the camels and that shows a generous nature. Two: if she can pull that much water, for that many camels, she's a hard worker and he probably thought she'd survive the long journey back and not be a slcaker when she got to her new husband!

    But this post gives me a new insight. Faithfulness.
    Seekerville is amazing...

  7. Glynna,
    Beautiful, inspiring, reassuring. Thank you.

    I would like to be considered for the critique.

  8. Wow, Glynna, thanks for uplifting my Saturday!!!! Amazing scripture connection along with some humourous asides hit the right spot with me. Bless you!!!! And bless whoever dug it up out of the archives.

  9. Helen, I thought of you and me and all of us as I read this because it's the 'darkest hour is just before dawn' kind of analogy.

    Glynna, I remember this so vividly, and how we struggled with Plan B, how to jerk ourselves out of our comfort zones to make the magic happen. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"... Einstein. Smart dude. Love him. And your hard work and endurance has paid off.

    Congrats! Great post, just as wonderful today as it was two years back! Brava!

  10. NEEDED this today. And I do believe i'm gonna NEED the answer to Jan's question too. Please answer, you published folks!!

  11. Jan, I had fourteen complete when the call came. Three of those have sold. Some are on hold, they're longer....


    Lovin' the lemon bars. Sweet!

  12. Jan and Joanne, I wrote one that'll never see the light of day. Two that might have possibilities of re-writing if I could get them off old computers (doubtful). And a women's fiction that's put permanently in a drawer. So I guess I wrote 4 before selling the 5th. I worked very slowly back then, writing and re-writing the same stories when I should have been plowing through starting new ones. So that's my piece of advice for the day! :)

  13. Sweet, sweet story, Glynna. Thank you for bringing this one back. Quite encouraging.

  14. Great reminder, Glynna
    And the story of Rebecca sends a LOT prettier mental picture than the nagging widow story in the Bible ;-)
    Sometimes I've felt a little too much like the nagging widow instead of the prayful servant girl going about the business of her life until God 'calls' her out.

    Thanks so much!!
    And I'd love to be placed in the 5 page crit.

  15. Glynna, I've read that story many times, but reading it today with you gave me the courage to keep on keeping on. Love your writing!

  16. Thanks for the post, Glynna!

    I'm also curious to see the answers to Jan C's question. I'm working on my first novel right now, and while I sometimes think it's going to be the practice copy (like the first of most things when you're learning), other times I think it's like the first child - yes, there will be mistakes, but nothing unsalvageable :)

    Meanwhile, here I am at 7am on a Saturday, trying to get some writing in before family plans for the day start!


    And thank you yet again, HELEN, for getting the coffee going!

    In honor of Sandra's and my adopted home state of Arizona, I've brought a Southwestern favorite -- breakfast burritos! You can have your choice of eggs/cheese/sausage, eggs/cheese/hash browns, or simply eggs/cheese. Banana peppers, fresh pico de gallo and salsa on the side.

  18. JAN C - in answer to your question, I only had a couple of books TRULY completed to my satisfaction. But I had TONS of half-finished ones. And I do mean TONS.

  19. GLYNNA!!! This is hands-down one of my favorite Seeker blogs -- FABULOUS analogy, title and inspiration!!

    When one is watering camels, every day is "hump" day, it seems ... another hurdle to jump to get to our destination, but just like Wednesday is the hump day that takes us closer to the weekend, every obstacle in our path to publication brings us that much closer to our dream.

    Here's to watering camels ... and may every Seekerville friend and writer have their thirst quenched mightily along the way to publication.


  20. Hi, KC! I love that adorable inside cover page of "May on the Way." "This confidential copy of the book has been issued to special agent..." and then a place for the name and date and stamped CLASSIFIED. Clever!

  21. Good morning, TINA! Like you, I have partials of historicals, mysteries, romantic suspense, even a kids' contemporary and fantasy! Took awhile to discover where I fit! So a LOT of camel watering for sure!

  22. VIRGINIA -- Yes, the gal watering camels had to be a hardy soul. Treks across the desert aren't for wimps. You need a lot of muscle and stamina and stick-to-it-ness to be a writer!

  23. Good morning, LAURA! Always nice to have a bit of inspiration at the end of a long hard week, isn't it? Glad this archive post the spot!

  24. Hello, KAV! Tina is the explorer who equips herself with a hardhat, lantern and steel-toed boots to search out our older posts from the cobweb-infested Seeker Archives!

  25. RUTHY -- Yes, Plan B (inspired by God working thru our very own Tina!) was a turning point. Made us rethink things, recommit to the dream in practical ways.

  26. Good morning, JOANNE! Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder that most of life is faithfully showing up. Putting one foot in front of the other and not giving up.

  27. Hi, DEBRA! This is a post I needed myself the day I wrote it -- and I STILL need it!

    MISSY -- Yes, I spent too much time rewriting things, too. Or jumping in with a great "idea" and having it die on me only a few chapters into it. I had SO MUCH to learn about story premise and laying a solid foundation and framework. Had I been able to learn that sooner, well, who knows...? College didn't teach how to write commercial fiction or write a query. There was no internet with on-line how-to articles or workshops. No contests to receive critiques when I started writing. I think that's one of the reasons all of the Seekers feel so strongly about Seekerville being place of sharing what we didn't have available when we started out.

  28. Happy Saturday, PEPPER! I think the nagging widow (or widower!)probably fits most of us more often than we care to admit. The litany of WHY GOD WHY? And WHEN GOD WHEN? Thank goodness he loves us and bears with our impatience. Looking back, I'm so thankful I didn't sell one of those earlier manuscripts!

  29. Hi, JAN D! I think there's always something extra special about that first book we complete, even if no one else thinks our "baby" is as beautiful as we do! Like you pointed out, few things are unsalvagable, so maybe on down the road I can use my better-honed skills and experience to bring back to life my first, much-loved manuscript!

  30. Leave it to JULIE to bring out a little more camel humor! :) You're so right, each obstacle "hump" we scale when we're so tired we don't think we'll ever make it brings us one step closer to our destination.

  31. Loved this post! I'll keep watering the camels!
    On my most discouraging days, I know sitting in front of the computer at least keeps me off the streets (& out of Target)!
    Thank you.

  32. Thanks to those who answered my question. (How many novels did you write before a publisher gave you a contract?)

    I'm encouraged in many ways by your answers. First, I have at least a dozen or so books started and one finished (rough first draft only), so I can relax knowing that I'm not a "quitter" because a book was started, but not finished.

    Second, I can push on to my next book...and my next and my next, knowing that with each one I will improve and eventually have one published.

    Having breakfast at Cracker Barrel with my family, then time to water the camels...this is hump day, after all!

    Would still love to hear from more of many books did you write before one got published?


  33. Thanks so much, Glynna. I remembered reading this before. Glad Tina reposted it. Just what I needed this weekend. Your faithfulness and perseverance in watering the camels and that of all the Seekers paid off. Your stories are examples of the importance of showing up and doing the work. Seekers is the best place to receive encouragement while I water the camels.
    Like to be in the drawing for the five page critique.

  34. Thanks for the inspiring post, Glynna.

    It's always such a comfort to hear about other writers' struggles and how they overcame their obstacles. Means we can do it, too!!

    I'd love a chance at the critique!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  35. LARISSA -- Nice to know writing keeps you off the streets and out of Target!!! LOL. I guess we could have a lot more 'dangerous' addictions than writing, couldn't we? :)

  36. JAN C - Getting a book FINISHED is an incredible accomplishment! As I shared with another aspiring writer this week, so many people "want" to write, but few ever start let alone finish anything.

    But even the unfinished manuscripts we have help teach us to be more skilled at the craft. We learn what works and what doesn't. We explore new routes to our desired destination. For most of us, it doesn't happen overnight. We exercise and tone the writerly parts of our brain through practice--strenghtening it like we might a muscle used for an athletic endeavor. It's that daily, faithful exercise--the camel watering--that often pays off in the long run.

  37. ANONYMOUS--Wish I could help you, but I rely on techy friends--or professional paid "gurus"--to answer my more serious computer-related questions or run "diagnostic" tests to spot where a problem might be. Sorry. I know how frustrating computer problems can be.

  38. Good morning, Pat! (Or at least it's still morning in my part of the country!) I think one thing about watering camels is we just never know what's around the next corner, so we can be tempted to give up.

    While I was really enjoying writing the book that won its first contest outing and then sold as a result, I couldn't know during the summer of 2008 as I got up at 4 or 4:30 each morning to write before work that six months from then I'd get "the call" for it! Just like Rebekah didn't know the day she went out YET AGAIN to mess with those smelly camels that her future would come riding up over a sand dune that very day.

  39. SUSAN--I think it really does help to hear how other writers have hung in there. How they kept themselves motivated. How they managed to not give up despite years of hard work, disappointments, and rejections. It gives us hope--and HOPE keeps us watering the camels even when every day may LOOK on the surface just like the last.

  40. Great post and encouragement Glynna.

    Jodie Wolfe

  41. Oh boy. Sometimes I'm so tempted to just crawl back into my comfy hammock. But... sigh. Those camels need watering and I've got a jug.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Glynna.

  42. Glynna Kaye, "Watering Camels" is a motivating article. What insight you have!

    It took my eyes off my goal, and onto the "Author of my faith".

    I'm guilty of two things (well, not only two things, but...): One is focusing on getting my characters to live happily ever after -- rather than putting them through a trial where they must grow. The other is forgetting that I, too, am the protagonist in Someone else's story.

    Thanks for reprinting this article for us, the newcomers.

  43. Glad you found a nugget of encouragement in there, JODIE! That's what Seekerville is here for! :)

    PATTY -- even now, with 3 published books, a 4th completed, and a 5th in progress I'm sometimes tempted to crawl back into that comfy hammock and snap my fingers for Captain Jack to bring me chocolate. Then take a nap. :)

    PEGGY -- Wonderful way of putting it...that we need to be reminded we're the protagonist of Someone else's "story."

  44. This is a thoughtful and helpful article. I think too Rebekah had a servant's heart- having worked around dairy cows I know their care can be gross and humiliating. God paints good stories for us of real, imperfect people. We can do the same w/ His blessings. Congrats on all your books!