Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Just back in the office from Budapest
In addition to being agents and an editorial assistant, several Books & Such staff are also published writers. Janet Kobobel Grant has co-written books on prayer and breast cancer, along with a number of Bible studies by herself. Wendy Lawton is well-known for her books, particularly the Daughters of Faith Series about young historic Christian women. Our agent emeritus, Etta Wilson, wrote a number of children’s books as well.
In September, we can add my name to the list when Barbour’s A Log Cabin Christmas Collection is released and my story, The Dogtrot Christmas, is published.
As we prepare for and then head to Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference this week, I’ll be writing about my personal journey to publication. Everyone has a different story, but I’m hoping my tale will provide some perspective and information for those who have never been through the process.
My story began early one afternoon last summer when I was on my annual hiatus from work–I usually take off several months in the summer to write for myself and to travel. Janet and Rachel at the office received an e-mail from Barbour Publishing House about an anthology they were planning for Christmas 2011–The Log Cabin Christmas. It occurred to Janet and Rachel that I should consider writing a novella proposal, knowing of my love of history and research. They included a list of what was required: log cabin, Christmas, romance, United States. What did I think?
This opportunity came my way for several reasons: I have a literary agent (Janet) who believed I could write well and knew I love history and enjoy doing research.
It was my chance, now, to prove if any of those things were true.
As a genealogist, I had a couple of family history stories from Texas that might do, and one even included a log cabin. I responded immediately to say I was on it, and I went right to work on an outline. By the end of the day, I had written a synopsis and two chapters. I sent them to Janet and went to make dinner.
She wrote back commending my story and writing but noted I had created a synopsis long enough and with enough breadth for a novel, and didn’t I remember a romance needed to be told in alternating points of view between male and female?
Oh, no! And I had a guest coming to dinner!
I told her I’d have a rewrite within twenty-four hours.
The next morning, I reconfigured the story, lopping off the first six months–including interesting and powerfully emotional scenes–and starting much further in than I had envisioned. My story was decimated! I sat at the keyboard rubbing my forehead and thinking, This is too hard. Maybe this project isn’t for me.
But no, I realized, this was my chance. I had to take it or forget about my publishing dream. I trained as a newspaper reporter; I knew how to write under deadline. So get to work!
By the end of the afternoon, I had revamped the synopsis and written two chapters. I sent them off. My agent congratulated me on a strong proposal. And then it disappeared into the hands of the publisher.
How do unagented writers find opportunities like this one? Where can they look?
Barbour posted what they were looking for on Rebecca Germany’s blog. Harlequin looks at unagented submissions–read the guidelines carefully. Attend writers’ conferences and meet with editors to discuss your projects; check out magazine web sites for writers’ submissions information; read Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide.