Sunday Devotion

Hold Up Traffic If You Must
Janet Rubin

It’s mating season for the gangs of wild turkeys loitering in my neighborhood.

This time each year, the male turkeys start acting goofy. While females peck about the lawn, males strut around them, spreading their feathers until they look like big, puffy balls resembling over-developed body builders.

They hold their little blue heads high, showing off that dangly skin beneath their beaks. The females don’t look remotely interested, but each year fuzzy baby turkeys do appear, so the guys must score.

Watching them is amusing until you’re trying to get somewhere like I was last night, and you get caught in turkey traffic. I breezed along a Connecticut back-road when the three cars in front of me slowed to a stop. Craning my neck, I saw the holdup—six male turkeys putting on a parade. Drivers in the opposite lane watched and grinned, too.

Two full minutes later, grins were gone. Cross the road already and quit showing off! We have places to go! At least this craziness only lasts for a season.

There is a time when it is for writers to strut their stuff too. Once we’ve written, rewritten and polished, there comes a time when we must begin pursuing publication—writing queries and proposals that display our best possible writing.

Many of us, who are insecure, might feel like turkeys as we seek the attention of editors, agents and publishers. Promoting ourselves feels unnatural and we’d prefer to crawl back into our cozy computer chairs and spin tales. Persistently spreading our feathers is par for the course though, if we want to be published.

In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable about a persistent widow who kept coming to a certain judge pleading for justice against her adversary. For awhile, the judge puts her off, but eventually gives in saying, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice…”

While we seek publication, not justice, the same principal applies: persistence pays off. If the process of seeking publication is getting you down, if you’ve collected enough rejection letters to wallpaper your house and the publishers aren’t looking any more interested than the girls turkeys on my lawn…. Just keep on spreading those feathers.

Lord,
This process can be wearisome, but I know that if You’ve given me this talent and You want my work published, it will happen. Please help me to persevere through the parts of being a writer that don’t come easy. Thank you for using all of this, even the waiting and the discouraging times, to teach me and help me grow.
Amen.

S’up Saturday

It’s almost here… Ane Mulligan and Jessica Dotta are coming on board next week! Woohoo. What shall I do with my free time? Lay in the sun reading Pullitzer prize winners perhaps? Maybe I’ll actually get some writing done.

Next week’s line-up includes quite possibly our most informative interview yet with editor/author Karen Ball. Karen reveals what Zondervan is looking for, why she believes publicity is so important, and the secret to writing from your heart.

She also reveals Zondervan’s new line of
_________ novels and what they’ll be looking for.

(You’ll have to read the interview to find out.
But this will interest many of you!)


Ane Mulligan will be interviewing editor/author Eva Marie Everson.

And last but not least, publicist/novelist Jessica Dotta will share some fascinating and useful piece of information on her publicity expertise. (I’m very much looking forward to learning how to publicize my own book!)

So, as you can see,we’re working hard for you! I couldn’t be more excited about the things to come.

Please pray for Davis Bunn as most of you know he sustained a serious shark bite and though he and his hundred plus stitches are healing, he has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of him. He will no doubt go through frustrations. Par for the course.

Congratulations to these Christy nominees:

Contemporary (Stand-Alones)

Grace at Low Tide
by Beth Webb Hart (WestBow Press)

Levi’s Will
by W. Dale Cramer (Bethany House Publishers)

Wrapped in Rain
by Charles Martin (WestBow Press)

Contemporary (Series, Sequels and Novellas)

Living With Fred
by Brad Whittington (Broadman & Holman)

Moment of Truth
by Sally John (Harvest House Publishers)

The Road to Home
by Vanessa Del Fabbro (Steeple Hill)

Historical
Glimpses of Paradise
by James Scott Bell (Bethany House Publishers)

The Noble Fugitive
by T. Davis & Isabella Bunn (Bethany House Publishers)

Whence Came a Prince
by Liz Curtis Higgs (WaterBrook Press)
Romance

A Bride Most Begrudging
by Deeanne Gist (Bethany House Publishers)

Chateau of Echoes
by Siri L. Mitchell (NavPress)

In Sheep’s Clothing
by Susan May Warren (SteepleHill)

Suspense

Comes a Horseman
by Robert Liparulo (WestBow Press)

Last Light
by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan)

River Rising
by Athol Dickson (Bethany House Publishers)

Visionary

Legend of the Emerald Rose
by Linda Wichman (Kregel Publications)

The Presence
by Bill Myers (Zondervan)

Shadow Over Kiriath
by Karen Hancock (Bethany House Publishers)

First Novel

Like a Watered Garden
by Patti Hill (Bethany House Publishers)

The Road to Home
by Vanessa Del Fabbro (SteepleHill)

This Heavy Silence
by Nicole Mazzarella (Paraclete Press)

Author Interview ~ Elizabeth White

Beth White, writing as Elizabeth White, was born in Mobile, Alabama and reared in north Mississippi. A former music and high school English teacher, she now lives with her minister husband, Scott, in Mobile. The Whites have two teenagers, Ryan and Hannah, and are owned by a Boston terrier named Angel. Visit her web-site@ www.elizabethwhite.net.











What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

Fireworks is my first project to release from Zondervan. It will come out in May, 2006 (I believe CBD has it listed as April 7). It’s a humorous romance with a little twist of mystery/suspense, set in Alabama. It features a pyrotechnics designer who accidentally blows up the Mobile Convention Center, the former ATF agent whom the insurance company sends to investigate him, and her hard-of-hearing black Lab named Montmorency.

Click here to read a review.




Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I have been writing and drawing since I was big enough to pick up a pencil, but I finished my first novel while my son was a baby—that was nineteen years ago. When I got a “bite” from a Christian publisher with that first book—though it was ultimately rejected—I set my mind to learning how to write a publishable manuscript. I joined Romance Writers of America and started going to workshops and conferences. I also took a college fiction writing course. In 1998 (ten years after that first novel) I met an editor from Tyndale House who took an interest in my work. I sold my first novella to Tyndale in December of that year. I remember being home alone when I got the message on the answering machine—nobody to share it with but the dog. She was thrilled.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

I challenge myself to write a more complex book with every project. Without fail I start out thinking I am far too ignorant, too inexperienced, too spiritually immature to write about whatever the given elements are. And I get terrified. Half the time I think this is the adversary poisoning my joy in serving with God’s good gift; the other half of the time the process seems to be the Lord’s way of making sure I’m weak enough to rely on His everlasting strength. I’ve written about the complexities of protecting our national borders; fireworks design and explosives investigation; prostitution and animal rights, and many other topics that boggle my mind if I think about it too hard. I’m working on a story involving judicial politics at the moment. Yes, I’m scared. But God is big.

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made while seeking publication?

That first publisher who expressed interest in my very first novel said “we like your writing and your characters—send us something else in another genre.” I didn’t realize they were serious. I thought they were just being nice. So I didn’t submit anything else for another two years!

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Submit only your very best work.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

There are some hills not worth dying on.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Just this morning I read a devotional in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, based on John 4:11—the story of the woman at the well. The gist of it is, we often question Jesus’ ability to provide whatever it is we need for the life He’s called us to. That speaks to me as a writer. How dare I be frightened (as I mentioned in one of the above questions) of the story He’s graciously planted in my imagination? His well is plenty deep, and He’s got living water ready to pour out and transform not only me but the lives of unknown men and women who will read my work. That’s a big thing. A humbling thing.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

Yes, there was a setback a few years ago. I had a three-book contract cancelled because of an unsatisfactory first draft manuscript that couldn’t be revised into shape. That was rather humiliating. But I learned from it; stringently rewrote the two rejected manuscripts and wound up selling them to other publishers for a total of five sales.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers. In My Enemy’s Arms by R. T. Stevens. Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. One Good Turn by Carla Kelly. The Mysterious Rider by Zane Grey. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Have you got all day?

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I love “The Trouble With Tommy,” my novella from Sweet Delights, a HeartQuest anthology from Tyndale. I think it’s funny and true and really southern. I’ve gotten more mail on that little novella than any other book so far. Actually, the upcoming novels Fireworks and Fair Game are both spin-offs of “Tommy.”

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Not really. Unless it’s the “hurry up and wait thing.” Seems like you submit something and spend months or years waiting to hear back on it—then, once you’ve sold, the publisher wants material from the author yesterday!

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

It’s embarrassing. I get up and make coffee, feed the dog, have breakfast and Bible study. Then read email until I can’t put off opening up whatever document I’m supposed to be working on. There is no typical day.
For weeks at a time I might be scoping out research materials—either on the internet, in personal interviews, books, newspapers, whatever. During the research period I’m formulating character sketches, “hero’s journeys,” “snowflakes”—trying to structure the backbone of a plot. Closer to deadline (three or four months out) I slowly start writing, spending about three hours a day hacking out a scene or two at a time. Rewriting as I go, getting frustrated, chunking it in a “leftovers” file, maybe even starting over. Once I even got halfway through the novel and started completely from scratch. It’s not pretty.

Maybe a month from deadline it’s getting serious, I’m having panic attacks (figuratively), my children think the Wicked Witch of the North has moved in, and I write eight to ten hours a day. I do not want to do this. I promise not to do it next time. I am a sick person.

Anyway, mixed in with these jags of composition I answer lots of email, try to exercise an hour every day, go to lunch with a friend once a week or so, try to remember to update my website, shovel junk off the kitchen counter periodically, say hello to my teenagers and my husband. Oh, and on Sunday mornings I get to go play with the second-graders in Plugged-In Bible Study at FBC North Mobile. What a blast that is! They make me laugh and teach me about God.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I’ve read Francine Rivers’ description of her notebook system of writing, and how she disciplines herself with daily page count. I admire that organization and discipline so much, especially considering her awesome production. That’s the Lord’s anointing. I also admire her humble spirit.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

Honestly—I just want to be a stronger writer with every book, to make less plotting mistakes, to get out of the way so that the Lord will have something to say through me. I don’t think I can dream big enough.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Favorite: reading and answering fan letters. I like connection with readers, finding out what the Lord is doing with my work. Least favorite: the first draft. It’s way slower than I like for it to be, which makes me feel stupid.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I write back to the people who have written to me. Before a book releases, I send emails and/or postcards to people who have indicated an interest in hearing about them. I visit bookstores and give away autographed copies of books when it seems appropriate. I arrange a couple of book signings for every book that releases, show up when people ask me to speak (I never seek those out—I’m not fond of public speaking), and do these kinds of written interviews. My best advice is simple manners and common courtesy. Be open and friendly, excited about my work, but not pushy. That works best for me.

Parting words?

If God has called you to write, it’s a wonderful and challenging job and ministry. Don’t be afraid of hard work, and don’t expect success to fall into your lap. And don’t expect success to look like what you think it will. I know that’s obscure, but it’s the best way I can say it. I’ve walked with the Lord long enough to know His economy is often backwards and wrong-side-out. He may call me to write one book that reaches one person—and then that’s it. And I have to be okay with that. On the other hand, if He chooses to bless with lots of books and lots of sales, I’d better be ready to share in whatever way, through whatever doors He opens—and some of those doors are going to look pretty weird.Thank you for giving me a chance to share my heart here. I hope I’ve said something useful.

Author Interview ~ Melody Carlson


Melody Carlson has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults, many of which have appeared on ECPA bestseller lists. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards, including the Romance Writers of America’s Rita Award, Romance Writers of America’s Readers’ Choice Award, and the ECPA Gold Medallion Award. She and her husband have two grown sons and live in Central Oregon.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?



On This Day is a novel about five very different women attending a destination wedding—all set within one day. With a focus on romance and relationship, the reader is exposed to a variety of situations and all the various emotions that can be found at a wedding.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the five central women, and the action flows naturally from woman to woman as each tells her story. From one woman’s pain of postpartum depression to another’s discovery of her husband’s affair to yet another woman who plans to end a 25-year marriage, On This Day relates to readers the events of not a perfect day, but a day that, like life, is filled with all the difficulties and discoveries the world has to offer.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I was one of the lucky ones who got published relatively quickly. Within my first year of writing I sold several short stories—I think the first one was with Ideals (a memoir about my grandma’s house). But entering the book publishing world was a bigger challenge. It took a couple of year’s worth of rejection letters. And, while I had lots of interest in a variety of my fiction books (primarily juvenile and YA) I finally had an editor ask me if I could write a nonfiction book (she thought she could get the publisher interested in nonfiction) so I wrote a proposal for How to Start a Quality Childcare Center in Your Home.

The editor was right, the publisher (Thomas Nelson) bought it. I was working at an international adoption agency at the time and the editor called me at work with the good news, and I was so excited I ran around and told some of my fellow “writing friends” and we all celebrated. Now, more than 100 contracts later, I have to chuckle about how thrilled I was over what turned out to be the smallest advance I ever got on anything. But it was my first.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Of course! I usually have great, big doubts at the beginning of a book—and I’ll make up any excuse I can think of to procrastinate (including things like cleaning under the refrigerator). Then I force myself to sit down and get going on the book and I don’t allow myself to obsess over it. But then when I’m finished with the book, I’ll often think it was the worst thing I’ve ever written. Then some time passes and I get feedback from the publisher and I realize that it’s not so bad after all.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

Early on I think I devalued my own abilities and consequently let some publishers take unfair advantage of me. I didn’t have an agent then and I probably agreed to some things that I shouldn’t have. But it was a good lesson and I don’t regret it.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

It’s probably the old “write what you know” bit. I know it sounds trite, but it’s so true. You need to write about things you understand, have experienced, are passionate about…and then you’ll write something that others want to read.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

“Why try? You’ll never get published.” It seems funny now, but I remember some well-meaning people saying various forms of that. It’s like they didn’t want me to get my hopes up because the possibility of actually publishing a book was so remote—like winning the lottery. Guess I proved them wrong.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I think the biggest challenge that myself and most unpublished writers face is not being familiar with “the market.” I know this gets preached at writers’ conferences, but “understanding the market” is a hard concept to grasp. I actually went to work for a publisher just so that I could learn what this meant. The funny thing is that “the market” is constantly changing, and it differs between publishing houses. But do your best—and perhaps more important than knowing the market is to know yourself and what can you write the best.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

I’ve been thinking about Proverbs 3:5-6 lately (an old favorite that’s always a comfort). Here’s my own paraphrase, “Don’t rely on your own limited knowledge, but trust God with your whole heart. Include God in all areas of your life and He’ll show you which way to go.”

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

I know that it doesn’t seem fair, but my writing career has gone pretty steadily upward and forward and I’m as amazed as anyone. If it makes other struggling writers feel any better, I’ve had some pretty tough challenges in my personal life (two grown sons who’ve gone through some extremely hard trials) and I would gladly trade some of my writing success to take away some of their pain. Of course, God doesn’t work like that.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you)

Most books by Elizabeth Berg, Anne Tyler, Jane Austin. I really like books written by women that focus on relationships.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I really like how Finding Alice turned out (it’s a novel about schizophrenia). The book’s been optioned as a movie and is currently looking like it might possibly happen (although it’s still a long shot).

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I’m not crazy about public speaking. I can do it (and know that I need to) but one of the reasons I was sold on fiction (when I first started writing) was that I heard that fiction authors didn’t have to do publicity. Well, that changed a few years ago and I’m dealing with it.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I head to my office (upstairs in the guesthouse about 30 feet from our house) at about nine in the morning. I do my email and office work for about an hour. Then I start writing. I always quickly review the last chapter I wrote and then head right into the next and go for it. I try to take a midday break to go workout or take a walk. Then I come back and write some more. I usually quit around four. Because my schedule is flexible, I can take a day off if needed, and sometimes I write on the road (when we take the motorhome out for a few days).

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I really admire how Jane Kirkpatrick so thoroughly researches her historical novels. I know she enjoys the researching almost as much as the writing and she makes wonderful discoveries along the way. Sometimes I wish I could take the time to do this. Unfortunately my writing schedule doesn’t allow that. And, lucky for me, I don’t do historicals that require that kind of research.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I’m still very interested in film and TV. I’ve written one screenplay and taken one class. But I don’t have a lot of time to explore this. I do have some Hollywood connections (a manager for optioning my books) and a couple of producers who are already involved with my work. But when/if time allows I’d like to pursue this a bit more. Still, it’s like the Proverbs verse above. I need to trust God for the timing of this. In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing what He puts before me.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Not seriously. Sometimes I jokingly consider other careers that I might look into if I was unable to contract another book or just suddenly went blank. So far that’s not been a problem. But it could happen and if it did, I have no doubt that there’d be something exciting around the next corner. Although I suspect I’d keep writing just for the fun of it.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite part is that I love to write. I love to create. I love to explore characters, relationships, conflicts, etc.. Hmm, my least favorite part? Oh, yeah, the publicity. I wish I could clone part of myself to handle that and I’d tell my clone to go out and be funny and smart and clever, and just leave the writer part of me alone. Okay, maybe not. And the truth is, once I go out and start talking to people about my writing, I usually have a pretty good time. But I am a bit of a hermit too.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

Right, weren’t we just talking about this and how I don’t enjoy it? Anyway, I try to be a responsible author and I do pretty much everything the publishers set up for me. But the truth is I don’t go out of my way to set things up for myself. My publishers understand that I am first of all a writer and that marketing and publicity are secondary. I do have a wonderful publicist (she works with several houses) and she understands me and does a great job of setting things up that aren’t too overwhelming. However, I know that publishers love to get their hands on an author who is good at self promotion. So if this is your gift and you can write too—well, you’ll be a hot commodity.

Parting words?

I didn’t start seriously writing until I was in my mid thirties. The reason I put it off was because I took my ability to write for granted. It came easily to me, causing me think it wasn’t very special. The reason I started writing seriously was because I felt like I was either going to write or burst, and writing seemed less painful. My point is that we often take our gifts for granted. We don’t see ourselves in the same way that others do. So, if you have a gift for writing, accept that it’s from God and put it to good use. Then develop thick skin and send your work out—and don’t despair when you’re rejected. It’s simply paying your dues. My reaction to rejections was to simply write more (eventually it all got published). So, write, write, write. And God bless!