Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy  Lawton

I just arrived home from a whirlwind tour of publishing houses in Nashville. Janet Kobobel Grant and I had six meetings in two days. After that I had the privilege of spending time with a group of veteran authors. I don’t mind admitting that I’m exhausted but I’m brimming with ideas, information, and opportunities. I’m more optimistic about the future of publishing than ever.

It was worth all the preparation and the effort. There is nothing like the face-to-face connections we make. At the Howard (division of Simon & Schuster) offices we had a yummy lunch in the boardroom with the publisher and the whole editorial team as the three youngest editors introduced themselves and each told us how they worked their way into their dream jobs. (If you think it’s hard to get a publishing contract as an author, try to get a job as an editor with a top publisher.) What a superb team they’ve put in place.

On our second day we had lunch with the amazing Daisy Hutton, vice-president and fiction publisher at the newly reorganized Harper Collins Christian Publishing (formerly Thomas Nelson and Zondervan). We met the whole team, from marketing through editorial. I later had the luxury of spending an afternoon with Ami McConnell from their team. We came away with a renewed enthusiasm for this publisher. What a brain trust.

Meeting after meeting—from the gorgeous offices of Worthy Publishing, to the city block that houses Lifeway; from the innovation of Hachette’s new Jericho imprint to a sidewalk coffee break with the FaithWords team—we reconnected in a way that telephone and email just can’t deliver. We presented projects, talked about our authors, listened to what they are looking for and gossiped about the industry.

Later, we watched wild turkeys outside the window while we ate a delicious dinner at the home of our much-loved, now-retired colleague, Etta Wilson.

Much as we think we’d love to hunker down in our cozy little offices, nothing replaces those face-to-face connections.

What about you? Do you tend to cocoon yourself in your own world or do you make the effort to get out and connect face-to-face? If you could arrange a face-to-face with anyone involved in the writing world, past or present, who would it be? Where would you meet? What would you talk about? Pretend that money is no object. Forget time and space restrictions if you’d like-don’t worry about the fact that Jane Austen has been dead for a century or two if you’d like to arrange tea at  Pemberley.

Note: I may be a little late in commenting today because—guess what?– I’m heading up to the California wine country town of Sonoma to have lunch and a face-to-face with Lonnie Hull Dupont of Revell, one of my favorite editors.

39 Responses

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  1. Hmmm. Wendy, this is a really tough question! A few names popped around in my head, Anne Frank, Paul, Elizabeth Elliot and even King David. But for me, one of my great heroes, both literary and real life, is Corrie ten Boom. She was a Dutch spinster who hid Jews in WW2 and who lost family members and friends to the Nazis.
    I would meet her in a tea shop and ply her with questions about her life in a POW camp, about life after, about HOW she began again when her country and life were blown apart.
    I remember reading about when she , all white hair and powder, stood before a massive crowd at a men’s prison and endured the snickers and mockery of hundreds of hardened men who saw nothing but a little old Jesus freak. She uttered the words “My name is Corrie and I survived a Nazi prison camp”. The room went deathly still and every single man listened to her as if she alone understood their struggles.

    I don’t think I’d be worthy to be in her presence, but I’d sure bring a digital recorder, a pen and paper and a film crew!

    I understand whirlwinds and being filled up by fully engaged peers and being ready to take on the world. Being face to face with like minds and hearts has a way of raising the bar and readying the horses. (I just got back from being DEEP in the Bolivian Andes.)

  2. Lisa says:

    I love communicating face-to-face, the results and connection are always so much deeper!

    I would love to sit down with the late Henri Nouwen. I love his gentle and so-wise words of faith.

  3. I love face-to-face meetings. Sounds like you had such an enriching trip!

    I don’t live far from Wally Lamb and I have fun imagining bumping into him at the local festivals or the library. Besides Wally, this list could get long……

    I would likely ask what inspires them. Love asking that one.

    ~ Wendy

  4. Sarah Thomas says:

    I actually have a “Best Dinner Party Ever” board on Pinterest. C.S. Lewis, Wendell Berry, Jane Austen, Jan Karon and Atticus Finch (no boundaries, right?). I would mostly listen.

    “Much as we think we’d love to hunker down in our cozy little offices . . .” I’m SO susceptible to this. I get cozy and quiet and productive and, well, comfortable. But then I spend an afternoon like I did last Saturday with other writers talking and eating and laughing and brainstorming and I remember the whole point of writing is COMMUNICATING. You know, with PEOPLE.

    Glad you had such an encouraging trip!

    • Larry says:

      It’s always great to see there are people out there familiar with the Curmudgeon of Kentuckys’ work (as much as I enjoy Wendell B.s’ work, his essay on why he wouldn’t get a computer was marvelous in its’ hostility towards technology. If anyone knows of a link to his take on social media, I would gladly appreciate it! )

    • Sarah, I love that you didn’t restrict yourself to one person. Great! Narrowing it down to one is a nearly impossible task. Also, I like the idea of the dinner, reminiscent of Steve Allen’s television show (I can’t remember the name right now) where an interesting and diverse group of historical notables would have a discussion. Oh, now I remember–Meeting of the Minds, wasn’t it. At any rate, great idea and great group.

    • Lisa says:

      I will check out your board what a fun idea!

  5. C.S. Lewis
    I’d love a dinner and chat with him.

  6. Jeanne T says:

    Wow, Wendy, you’ve been busy! It sounds like a rejuvenating sort of busy, though! 🙂 I love face-to-face connections. Getting below the surface, watching faces when I converse with someone…love it.

    There are so many people I’d love to meet! One person would be Francine Rivers. I’m not sure of all her likes and dislikes, but since you got me in a California frame of mind, I’d meet her in Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco for some coffee and chocolate. I’d love to hear her story of coming to faith and how she comes upon such amazing ideas for her fictional stories.

  7. Hm, fun question, Wendy. In high school I was introduced to Edna Ferber and Edith Wharton and read a number of their books. They were quite the names in their day, and they’re kind of forgotten now. I’d love to spend a day talking to them.

    And then there’s Francine Rivers. Love her. The Scarlet Thread, Leota’s Garden, A Voice in the Wind, The Last Sin Eater. Mm, mm, mm.

    Now where to meet? I think I’d meet them wherever they wanted. 🙂 But if I’m picking, then maybe a white, sugar sand beach on the Gulf. Or maybe we’d hop on a plane and talk beneath the Eiffel Tower.

    In the real world, I do try to connect face-to-face. We have a fabulous ACFW chapter less than an hour away, and I get there every month that I can. Those men and women used to be strangers, but now we’re so close. It’s worth the drive and the time to connect with fellow writers, even if most aren’t pubbed yet. We all feed each other in ways no one but a writer can.

    Wendy, I didn’t realize all these publishers were in the same area. Quite the publishing hub. Question–are the names Zondervan and TN gone now?

    Hope you’re having a lovely day.

  8. Ooo…this is a fun one! My top three: Maeve Binchey, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Erma Bombeck – beautifully crafted family sagas & the humor it takes to endure them. I cocoon more in winter months, (my social hibernation), and cutting off from contact tends to leave my writing staler than an open bag of week old raisin bread. People give me inspiration – contact keeps me sane. (Or close to it!) Enjoy your lunch! And remember – a nice Pinot makes a lovely blog contest prize!

  9. Larry says:

    I wouldn’t mind listening to a conversation between Camus and Flannery O’ Connor.

    Oh, and if it were to turn into some sort of collaboration project between them on a manuscript!…..

  10. Hope you’ll manage to get a little R&R in between all the face-to-face meetings, Wendy.

    There are two women I would like to meet: Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Maud Montgomery. They inspire my work as much as my children do. I would like to meet Wilder at her home on Rocky Ridge Farm, sit and have a cup of tea, and talk about her books and why she thinks they have remained popular all these years. As for Montgomery, I would travel to PEI and hope we could find a place not unlike the movie version of Green Gables to chat about Anne and Gilbert and the world she created for them.

    Thanks for reminding me to think outside the box.

  11. Hi Wendy,

    I’m glad you’ve had a little one-on-one with these important faces and voices in the industry. There’s nothing like spontaneous conversation, even when there’s an agenda, to REALLY know what’s going on in the field.

    I can’t WAIT for the day when I get to meet my online writing/critique buddies, Heather and Jennifer, one-on-one and face-to-face! ACFW, watch out!

    I would LOVE to have a sit down with Rahab, post Jericho. I can imagine the light in her glorious eyes as she talks about her transformation after the utter and complete destruction of the world as she knew it.

    I’d also like to talk to Beatrix Potter – her real life story is so poignantly lovely.

    The list of writers? I don’t even know where to begin. Lucy Maud Montgomery – did she love Anne (with an e) as much as we do? I could go on and on…..

    Fun question – enjoy wine country!

  12. I vote for tea at Pemberley, but only if Mr. Darcy is there also!

  13. Lori says:

    Oh what an interesting blog entry. There are so many authors I would love to meet including Margaret Mictchell, Rumer Godden, Collen McCullough, Agatha Christie, Mary Ann Shaffer, and Dan Brown. And that’s just fiction.

    I have met and spoken to my favorite non-fiction author who is Paula D’Arcy. When I met her a retreat she was leading, I had listened to three of her CDs including her book “Gift of the Red Bird along with a couple of pre-recorded lectures she gave. Since meeting her I have read all of her books and I would love the chance of meeting her again and dicussing her books with her.

  14. Jenny Tavernier says:

    C.S. Lewis, Anne McCaffrey, H.C. Andersen, Natalie Goldberg and Heather Sellers!

  15. Lunch in California wine country? Gee, Wendy, it’s rotten job, but someone has to do it, right?

    James Herriot sprang to my mind first, so if I had to pick just one person, it would be him. I’d love to sit with him on a hill overlooking the Yorkshire Dales, eat homemade Shepherd’s Pie (with beef, not lamb), and wash it down with a pint of Guinness (I know he’s a Scot living in England, but my family’s Irish, so Guinness).

    Sarah Thomas, however, gave me permission to expand my fantasy so here it is. After a one-on-one with Mr. Herriot (and I do prefer face-to-face meetings, by the way), I would have a Big Do in a wonderful Irish castle with the following honored guests: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Mary Stewart, Malory, the current writers of the British television series, MERLIN, Alexandre Dumas, Emily Bronte, Mark Twain, James Thurber, William Shakespeare, Sir Thomas More, the four Evangelists and the author of the Book of Isaiah. Originally I was going to say God (since the Bible comes from divine inspiration), but if He were there, I’d want to give Him my full attention. After a sumptuous feast, we would walk into an enchanted forests and listen to the music of the faeries and watch the unicorns play. Not that I dream big or anything. 🙂 Thank you for the fun question.

    • Sarah Thomas says:

      Man, I may have to expand my list! Or maybe we should go in together on renting that castle for a week and just invite them all.

      Let’s have crabcake appetizers, rost duck for the entree and some luscious chocolate something for dessert. And bread. And champagne along the lines of the sherry Dudley gave to the professor in The Bishop’s Wife. “It stimulates, warms and inspires.
      But no matter how much you drink, it never inebriates.”

      We’ll take lumps of sugar to the unicorns. This is the most fun I’ve had all day!

      • Ooh, Sarah, I like it! Bread is a necessity and I love the champagne idea. The Bishop’s Wife is a favorite of mine as well. Maybe some chocolate mousse with strawberries to decorate it. The unicorns might enjoy the strawberries as well.

        And I’m going to expand the list to include a character or two(Carole and Jennifer did it so why shouldn’t we?) I would like to have a pet dragon there, a baby one that won’t accidentally set guests on fire when he breathes, so maybe little Norbert from Harry Potter. Also I would invite Merlin, but not the old wizard of The Once and Future King. I would want the young Merlin of Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave or, better yet, of the BBC’s Merlin (who I think is based one Mary Stewart’s character). I don’t know if you’ve watched the series, but Colin Morgan (who plays the title character)–his eyes, his dimples and his Irish smile would be pretty nice to have around. 🙂

  16. That’s a hard question with so many answers, depending on the mood. Reading your blog has me in “industry” mode, though, so I think right now, I’d love to have a face-to-face with Alan Arnold. I’m sure he knows more about Christian publishing than just about anyone in the industry. However, having met Daisy Hutton at ACFW, I could be persuaded to spend an hour with her.

    I think I’m a little jealous of you today. 🙂

  17. Megan Sayer says:

    It’s funny reading this today, because I’m preparing to leave for my first ever trip outside of Australia in just seven days’ time. I’m off to the USA to visit some friends and to have a bit of a holiday, but one of the biggest things on my agenda is to catch up face-to-face with three of my very favourite writers.
    I met them through their blog, which inspired me no end, and their books have a lasting impact on my life. It still seems very surreal, and I’m not sure (apart from God) how it happened, but in a little under two weeks I’ll be in the USA having lunch with Sharon Souza, Debbie Fuller-Thomas and Kathleen Popa.
    Who knew? Crazy dreams DO come true!

  18. I’m a get out and meet people person when needed, but I do enjoy my private time. To get comfortable around others, I had to read books on conversation starters, communication and body language. The character “Data” on Star Trek TNG is my hero.

    If I could have a face to face with anyone in literature (barring religious figures because they trump everything don’t they?), I’d say C. S. Lewis. His clarity has given me several life-changing, belief altering moments than any other author. His style is easy to read, but his depth of content always leaves me in contemplation.

    We’d meet at Ambrosia al Gargantini, a restaurant overlooking Lake Lugano in Switzerland. Lugano is my favorite place in the world with its view of the alps, small piazza lined stone streets and tranquil waters full of sailboats. The Italian speaking servers would not recognize the champion of the English language, so our conversation would be uninterrupted and intimate.

  19. I agree with so many names listed here already! But I would add Jesus Christ. Of course, we have the Holy Spirit. But the Word incarnate? To look into his eyes, feel his hand on mine, hear his audible voice? And I would ask the greatest storyteller of all, how can I reach readers with the gospel through my fiction?

  20. Well, since you asked…

    My favorite author is C. S. Lewis and I would love to take tea with him in a quaint country tea room near Oxford and chat with Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter Pevensie.
    I’d take a train from there to meet with Beatrix Potter in the Lake District and picnic with her near her cottage, stroll for long walks in the countryside, and garden beside her.
    I’d engage Jane Austin and Mr. Darcy for a fortnight of high teas and dancing before flying home to modern-day America to interview Jerry B. Jenkins in Colorado about all the different genres he writes, his love of sports writing, family, and his Savior, and make a dinner for Jerry and Dianna to share with my husband Joe and me.

  21. Even for an introverted writer, the face-to-face meeting can be rejuvenating. I just told my husband the other day that as I was driving to my critique group, I had this sense of stepping into the real me. Not that my other roles aren’t real and treasured, but that moment was special and even a relief. I’m sure other mom-writers understand.

    As for who I’d like to meet, I’ve loved the Bronte sisters’ work since I was a child. In a college course I learned that Charlotte Bronte was so shy she actually hid her face, turning sideways in her chair, when she talked to people. Ever since I heard that tidbit, I’ve had this fantasy of having a conversation with her and gradually earning her trust so that she eventually looked me in the eye.

    I would love to talk to all of the Bronte sisters, but I’m afraid Emily would throttle me for having written a book about her iconic hero, Heathcliff. Yes, it might be scary to meet Emily all by myself on a barren Yorkshire heath. But maybe when she was finished scolding me she’d answer some questions about why she wrote Heathcliff and Catherine the way she did.

  22. If I could only meet one I’d love for it to be Lloyd C. Douglas so I could tell him how one of his books changed my life. I’m lucky to have met many wonderful authors in real life (mostly at writers’ conferences) and have a whole bookcase full of books by them.

  23. Wendy, you are one BUSY lady! I have to battle my tendency to cocoon. In the past two years, I’ve started meeting weekly with a fantastic group of local authors and it has both reinvigorated my writing and reaffirmed my passion for Christian fiction. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17).

    Let’s see… outside that? Dream big? Hmm. I guess you can add me to the list of people who’d like to meet Francine Rivers, though I’d probably just babble like some fan-girl, so maybe I’d better stay away. 🙂

  24. I am the type of person who loves a good face to face chat, so going to the ACFW Conference was a dream come true for me. I had the privilege of meeting some of my online friends in person – and there really is nothing quite like it. I also had the awesome opportunity to talk to two editors from two of my dream publishing houses during my pitch sessions, again, there’s nothing like sharing the passion behind your stories with someone face to face and having them respond in person. Both editors asked to see my story (which I just submitted last week!) and I know it’s because we were able to talk in person.

    If I could meet any person face to face I would probably choose one of my all time favorite authors, Maud Hart Lovelace. She wrote about growing up in her hometown of Mankato, Minnesota at the turn of the twentieth century and her work, above all others, inspired me to write what I know and what I love.

  25. Amanda Dykes says:

    Oh, what a fun question. …but only 3? That is cruel, just cruel. 😉 I think I’d go with Elizabeth Prentiss (author of Stepping Heavenward), George MacDonald (author of some wonderful classic gothic-type Christian fiction… and C.S. Lewis’s favorite author), and Amy Carmichael (missionary, poet, writer-of-heart-things).

  26. Wow, Wendy! What a wonderful experience. And now to wine country- woohoo! Enjoy.

    I’ve been blogging for nearly 7 years, and it was a lonely little bubble until blogging conferences came on the scene. I cannot adequately describe the strength of the friendships gained and the networking opportunities forged over cups of coffee and chocolate during our meet-ups. Those relationships have changed the Christian blogging world for the better; we have a common goal and serve as cheerleaders for each other. Is it the same in the traditional Christian publishing world?

    I’ll be at another blogging conference in February, sitting on a sunny beach in Florida and gleaning from social media experts and writers like Michael Hyatt. I’ll appreciate the knowledge shared, but I’m especially looking forward to spending time with other bloggers who have a passion to write our hearts to the glory of God! I love these gals.

    I’d love to sit and gaze over Hugo’s shoulder as he wrote Les Miserables. Same with Tolstoy. Their grasp of grace and redemption and their ability to express it in stunning literature would probably leave me speechless and humbled, but that’s okay. I bet I’d leave those meetings utterly thankful.

    And Gary Thomas. I’d like to meet him, too, and that’s probably not a far-off possibility. Could we all meet up at Pemberley? That would be about perfect.