Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How I Became a Published Author

Monday night our Reno Christian Writers group met again for the first time in many months, and it was refreshing to re-establish those connections. I'm excited to see where God will be leading each woman's writing over the coming months.

A friend recently asked me, "I'm curious about something if you don't mind answering. If you don't have a platform like speaking, how in the world did you get Nav Press to publish your book in 2005?"

Since I'm frequently asked how I became a published author, I thought I would share my answer with all of you too:

LOL I don't mind you asking, but the simple answer is God! The longer version is very long! I am not known for brief answers. ;)

In 1994 my husband and I began what we thought was to be a "small local support group" for families facing infertility and pregnancy loss, called Hannah's Prayer (HP), and almost before we knew what was happening, we were in charge of an international ministry with multiple chapters and an unmanagably large newsletter mailing list. Rick started a basic website for us in 1996 when I was still terrified of computers and a yahoo search for the word "infertility" brought up only 7 results with HP being the only Christian-based resource out there!

Our first living son was born at the endo of 1999. In 2001 I had another two miscarriages (before our first son's birth we had already lost our first daughter to miscarriage and endured 7 heart-breaking adoption attempts) and we began seriously talking with agencies about adopting a daughter from China. By early 2002 one of the Hannah's Prayer Board members, Kathe Wunnenberg, who had already published 2 books through Zondervan, called me up and said, "Zondervan just told me that they wanted a book proposal from me on the topic of infertility. You have been saying that you wanted to write a book for as long as I've known you, so I want you to be my compitition in this proposal because I want at least one of us to write this book!" I had no writing training (dropped out of college after one year because of health stuggles causing me to sleep 18-23 1/2 hours out of every 24 at that point), am dyslexic, and had never even seen a book proposal.

The one benefit in my favor is that I was a homeschool graduate and my mom had really emphasised reading and writing and I had even taken 2nd place in a California state science fair my freshman year of high school for a research paper I wrote. But that was the extent of my real writing experience. I had a vague idea of a book outline based on the verses in First Samuel 1 and part of the text of one chapter written out, and I now had about 2 weeks to have a full book proposal, paragraph chapter description outline, market research and two sample chapters together for one of the largest Christian publishing houses on the market!

In God's timing and humor, I dropped the proposal in the mail to Zondervan on Saturday and found out the following Tuesday or Wednesday that I was pregnant with our now-6-year-old. (Yes, she disproves "Just relax and you'll get pregnant," because she was conceived during one of the most strssful 2 weeks of my life!) This surprise came after having been told just a couple of months prior that I would never again be able to conceive another child even with medical aid, and if my any chance I did conceive, that I certainly couldn't carry another baby to live birth!

I was actually angry with God about this pregnancy and was scared to love her or "get attached" because I feared loosing yet another child. And on the other hand I felt that if I could somehow give birth, that it not only "disqualified" me to write on infertility, but it also meant letting go of the dreams we had to adopt a daughter from China. So I left my manuscript untouched, went through a high risk pregnancy including many months on bedrest, gave birth, struggled with undiagnosed post-partum depression and hormonally-related chronic migrain headeaches, and 13 1/2 months went by with absolutely no word from Zondervan.

Finally a very kind, personal, encouraging rejection letter from Zondervan stating that my book had great potential but that they had just contracted with two other authors on this same topic. The other authors turned out to be Kathe Wunnenberg who had challenged me in the first place, and another friend/HP Board member, Sandra Glahn, so I really couldn't feel bad in light of the names they chose! :)

Then in a whirlwind, the very month I got that letter, God put me in touch with another author, Jan Frank (author of the wonderful book, A Graceful Waiting) whom I had been trying to contact for years without success. We ended up getting to talk by telephone for over an hour and by the end of the conversation she had given me the name of her acquisitions editor at Nav along with her personal recommendations to Nav to consider my book. I revamped my proposal and had it back in the mail to Nav within a week.

Six weeks later I received a phone call from one of Nav's senior editors offering me a book contract, we negotiated back and forth, and when our daughter was about 8 months old (and I was still dealing with depression and migraines) I had a signed book contract around Oct. 2003! My manuscript (that was still basically untouched since her conception) due date was our 12-year wedding anniversary in the summer of 2004, and Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss hit store shelves a week after Mother's Day in 2005.

In April 2005 we learned of yet another God-surprise with the conception of our youngest son. He was a total gift from God, being conceived for the first time in our entire marriage that we were specifically trying NOT to get pregnant (because my health had been hit so hard by my last pregnancy and I was just coming out of a 2-year battle through depression). Though his pregnancy was physically my hardest yet, and definately confirmed that I should never try to carry another baby for the sake of both of our health, he has been God's joy-restorer in our home, bringing much laughter and healing to our lives!

As far as platform, I think Hannah's Prayer is considered a built-in platform even though I don't do much outside speaking. The book has sold about 8,000 copies so far since May '05 (I honestly have no idea how that ranks in the world of sales) and I think most of that happens because of Hannah's Prayer, my online presence (I always include my book link even when posting about Christian jewelry or mineral makeup I sell, and I post all over the internet) and a lot of word-of-mouth because it is such a heart-felt topic. Because of the book I have had several speaking doors open for me, but because travel is so very taxing on my body, I have turned down far more opportunities than I have been able to accept. I've done a lot of radio interviews conducted via telephone ever since HP started in the 90s, but as for in-person speaking, this is very limited and probably always will be.

So back to your question, really the only reasonable explanation is God! I break all the rules for how I "should" have never been published, but God had a plan and purpose and I'm awed and humbled all over every time I get to share this story! As I did with Hannah, I want to write a similarly-styled book on the life of Paul and his "thorn in the flesh" but get overwhelmed just at the thought of such a monumental project, so for this season of life I know God has this dream on hold. When He gives me the go-ahead, I know He will open all of the right doors in His perfect timing!

1 comment:

Savannah said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I started writing a book a while ago, and while i don't expect it ever to be published, just goes to show how God is in charge and His way takes us by surprise a lot!