Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Adventure to Getting Published

     It's been a long road.
     I've been writing for as long as I can remember. It runs in my veins. Grandma wrote a lot. My mom writes so much, having self-published many books of her poetry; she also writes the many stories of her childhood and compiles it for us kids.
     In high school, I had written a lot of stories that my teacher had for grading. The day I was to pick them up from the teacher, I was home sick. A friend went to get them for me, but the teacher had already thrown them away. My mom is still sick about that. (And it was a long time ago...) I don't remember what they were about. So chalk that up to an "oh well" moment.
     When my daughter was three, which was 1983, I took a home study course on writing from The Institute of Children's Literature. You've probably seen the ads in magazines. Since I was now a mom, staying home to raise her, I thought learning more about the craft of writing might help in getting published.
     That class led to my first magazine article getting published. Sunshine Magazine printed my story, "What's the Best Pet". Wow, that was a long time ago. but the taste was put in me and I got bit bad for more. I even received FAN MAIL after that article came out. A few letters came, including an inmate at a prison that kept writing to me for a while.

My first published article! *ahem* 1985...
     Time passed, life with a daughter and husband kept me busy with little time to write. I dabbled, but nothing substantial. We made a huge move from Minnesota to Colorado. I'm not even sure when I got back to it seriously. It slowly built as life and time allowed.
     I finished a book, which I had prayed hard to do. But nothing ever came of it. I made a decision then to pray to get published and not just finishing a book. I had found some interest in it at writer's conferences. One of my writing heroes, Tracie Peterson, was an acquisitions editor at one conference. She was so encouraging and delightful to meet with. When she asked to take my manuscript with her, I was ecstatic. She had encouraged me to join a writer's group called the American Christian Romance Writers, which I foolishly didn't follow through with.    
     It didn't sell.
     So I kept rewriting, learning, studying publishers guidelines, anything I could find.
     I was prodded by a couple of close friends to start writing a community news column for our local newspaper. I summoned up the courage to go meet with the editor. It went really well and she signed me on as a columnist. She warned me that I was about to become "famous" in a sense. I laughed. Little did I know that my byline with a photo in my well recognized cowgirl hat would indeed become well known in our mountain community. I had folks recognize me uptown, at the store, out walking... I wrote about many things: town events, church events, dog bites, student accomplishments. One time I even got to interview one of the producers of a Perry Mason episode being shot in our little mountain town at the old, then empty hotel. "The Lady in the Lake" had one scene here. That was quite an experience.
     I tried to get an interview with Gary Hart, a local resident, when he was running for president (this was proir to his surrounding scandal). I didn't get that one. But I did write about the onslaught of media in our community. Helicopters circled overhead. National media outlets were interviewing six-year olds on the street about what they thought. Really? Desperation I guess.
     I also experienced the down side of being a community columnist. When I wrote about upcoming new county rules about a non-running vehicle on your property getting ticketed, I took the blame. Yep. Got chewed out by one resident. Trying to explain how to not blame the messenger was a challenge I did not succeed in.
     Ah, those were the days. Twelve years I did that column.
     When that ended (not by my choice), I got back to my books. And conferences. And networking. And studying. But most importantly, writing.
     I had a few articles published in Country magazines, but that was about it. One of those articles was read by an old friend I had lost contact with. She found me again.
     I had attended the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference (CCWC) for several years learning through workshops offered. One year it even led to being on a radio interview with two of my favorite radio personalities around here. (Thanks Roy and Joy) That was fun!
     I rediscovered the writing group that Tracie had told me about, but now it was called the American Christian Fiction Writers or ACFW. Smartest thing I've ever done. I quickly joined. Great organization where on line writing courses are free with membership. Networking and just finding people of like-mind (you know...kind of crazy and wild thinking processes...) helped me so much. I began to learn more about the business of writing as well as the craft.
     I attended my first ACFW conference in Denver. What a blessing that was. I met many of my favorite authors which was a real treat. Made new friends that I still cherish. Made connections that help a writer move along the path.
     During all of this, I had written another book titled Red Gold. I had the worst time coming up with a title. While pondering the whole thing with my hubby, he actually came up with the name. It was perfect. (Hope the editors will agree.)
     You know that old saying, Write what you know. Well, I know four-wheeling, I know Colorado, and loving both, I devised a story about a couple owning a guest ranch that caters to jeeping, wildlife, ghost town tours, fishing, hiking and since I love mysteries, I threw some of that in too. Guests check in and find adventures they never would have expected. I had a bunch of fun writing it.
     Then you try to sell it. Or find an agent to sell it. Neither of which is an easy thing to do.
     I'll skip most of that struggle, and just cut to the chase. After twelve rejections, I found another publisher that I didn't have to have an agent to submit to. I sent it off with an accompanying prayer.
     However, the editor sent along two pages of advice to fix it. What my problem areas were and what I should do about it. I held in my hand pure gold. I rewrote applying what she had said. I knew I wasn't getting it totally right, but I worked hard at it. I emailed her if I could resubmit which she welcomed.
     I thanked her profusely, but then said it was time to put it aside. She agreed. Truly the nicest rejections I had ever received, and I've got a file FULL of rejections.
     I worked on other projects. Got involved with three other gals and we are working on selling a set of four books under the same theme.
     But Red Gold kept calling me back. So I returned. I rewrote it AGAIN. Then I attended the ACFW conference in Dallas. I met with an editor from Pelican Book Group and told her all I had done and the rejections from the other editor. She looked over my One Sheet (a single sheet that basically tries to sell your book with a short blurb about it and my bio), and invited me to send it in again. Pelican has the imprint of White Rose (for Romances) and Harbourlight (for other genres).
     So off it went again on December 10, 2012. Then the waiting begins. But I just kept working on my other story. I spent more time in God's word and praying. I meet once a week with a writer friend and we mull over what we learn.
     I saw in my email inbox one day the editors name. I sat back into my chair staring. I couldn't click on it to open. I sat there steeling myself for the rejection. I prayed, I took a deep breath and clicked.
     It started out with much about areas still lacking. My shoulders dropped and I continued to read wondering if I'd ever "get it". But then...she said if I'm willing to work with them on some heavy edits, she'd like to offer me a contract. I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing for a few moments. And again, I stared. I reread it and reread it. She mentioned that she could see the work I had put into it after her other two rejections. She saw merit in that.
     For so many years I dreamt about how I would react. I didn't live up to those expectations. It seemed so unreal. I had so much to process. Instead of reacting, I took until the next day praying, seeking, wondering. And I told my closest family and friends. And...I did a little Snoopy Happy Dancing. Oh, and crying. Then I emailed her back that I was more than willing to do the work to make this story the best it can be. This opportunity is my gold. My treasure. My total blessing from God. I know it's from Him. There's no doubt.
     So on March 27, 2013 I signed my first book contract. I have a lot of work ahead of me as the edits start coming, but I can't wait. I love this story. I love my characters and now I feel like they will come to life even more.
     Stay tuned. You will definitely hear when it is due to be published. I so look forward to holding that baby in my hands. Whoo hoooooooo! Thank you Jesus!