Tag Archive | growth

When a Rejection Bears Fruit

I started writing in 2009. One novel through National Novel Writing Month. Had fun. Kept writing, clueless about all I didn’t know about writing and publishing fiction.

logoIn 2012 I wrote a historical novella A Wisconsin Christmas Blessing. I submitted it to a company called Pelican Book Group who was putting together a Christmas collection of novellas. The submission process resulted in a request for the full manuscript. Naive me – I thought I had it made. I was going to be published.

Not so fast, Susan. 

I got a rejection letter from one of the editors. But I didn’t get just a rejection letter. I received a 1 1/2 page (when I printed it out) email. She said: “I would like to list the most common errors to point out some things  that might help you prepare your manuscript for re-submission.” Six specific areas of growth to be exact. SIX! Talk about humbling.

fragileblessings1-copyDetailed, informative and time-consuming. As disappointed as I was at the rejection, I felt honored at her willingness to help me, a novice writer, grow. I sent her a thank you note for all the time she took to write that email and help me.

prism-new-logoI sat on that story for a few years. Time can often equal growth and wisdom if we let it! After I became an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group another opportunity for a Christmas series of novellas arose so I rewrote my novella using all the tools that this fabulous and compassionate editor had given me. It was contracted, renamed and Fragile Blessings was published in 2015 to great reviews.

Now this is where it gets really weird. Prism Book Group was recently acquired by Pelican Book Group as one of their imprints. This also means that all my published works are now technically Pelican books (under the Prism Book Group imprint). So in essence, Pelican did end up publishing my novella! To be honest, the editor had given me an open door to resubmit that I had never taken her up on. God knew.

So now I will be part of a team of editors who I get to work with, one of whom was integral in helping me grow in my writing. Since that rejection, I’ve published two novellas, a collection of short stories, three novels (and a fourth coming soon) and have seven more books contracted. And another two with my agent.

Here are some of the lessons I learned that hopefully will help others: 

  1. Listen to the feedback you get from rejections. Not all of it will be right – but you can always learn something.
  2. Don’t give up. Maybe that story isn’t the one that’s going to sell, keep writing. Obviously, I didn’t stop at one novella given how many stories I’ve written. Write long, write short. Just don’t quit.
  3. Trust in God’s timing. My story wasn’t ready for publication in 2012 but after some conferences and growth and writing more stories in between, when I went back to that novella, I had better skills to apply to make it publishable.
  4. Don’t burn bridges. Can you imagine if I had sent a scathing note to that editor? She would have told her boss and do you think that woman would have been as eager to bring me on as an editor? It’s a small world in Christian publishing and while yes, we are commanded to forgive, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be trusted with the bigger tasks God might have in store with you down the line.
  5. Relish the new opportunities for growth. That editor is now someone who I’ll be working more closely with now with the books I edit and I hope and anticipate I’ll learn even more on my journey because I hope I never stop improving my stories or my editing for others.
  6. It’s okay to laugh. I am giggling at God’s path that led me here. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined this journey he’s had me on and the blessings of the people He’s brought in my path. Writing (and editing) is hard. Pouring your soul on paper is not without risk and life itself throws us curveballs all the time. I’m grateful for the people God’s placed in my life to help me get to those next steps.

I’ve kept that editor’s name private for now… she knows who she is and my hope is that you’ll treat every editor you meet, not as your enemy, but as someone who really can help you grow, even when you get a rejection letter.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Fragile Blessings tied for second place as an inspirational short at OKRWA International Digital Awards for 2016. Not too shabby for a story that was initially rejected, right?

How about you, if you write, do you have any stories of things you’ve learned through the “rejection” process?

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Word of the Year

A few years ago on KLOVE radio I heard about the concept of having a “word” for the year in place of resolutions. I don’t like resolutions anyway. F0r the past few years I’ve been doing this. Previous words have been: courage and shine.

I prayed and journalled and tried to figure out what word God would  give me for this year. Finally, I had it.

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Image by Tom Otte Photography, Fond du lac, WI

Dignity.

Proverbs 31;25 says. “She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs at the days to come.” 

I want to be that woman. I think I have, over the years, given away my honor and dignity as criticism, opposition and attacks have come at me from all directions. It’s hard to stand in confidence in who God has created me to be when so many people around have tried to shout down those truths with their own version of reality.

A reality that is really a lie.

I must be really important for people spend so much energy criticizing me. But being created in the image of God is a terrifyingly beautiful thing. When someone attacks me and tries to tear me down for my personality, or my gifts or even my appearance, they are really attacking the Lord of the Universe, Jesus, who created me in HIS image.

I’m far from being as much like Him as I long to be, but I’m growing. And I’m trying to scrape off the dirt that has buried parts of me and slowed me down in my journey to do all He has called me to do.

I’m still scared of some of these things, but if I weren’t I wouldn’t need God to walk me through.

More attacks will come from people who don’t know me. They already have.

I think a large part of walking in dignity is not only realizing my value as a child of God, but also recognizing that in others as well. I’ll admit my own thoughts are not always as edifying as I would like them to be and I am at battle within to stifle those internalized attacks so as to level them at others. Usualy this is a battle no one, other than God, really knows about. But they are stains on my own dignity when I hold on to them.

I’m going to stumble and fall and I expect to be challenged repeatedly by the Holy Spirit through this year which will be a turning point in my writing and one I have labored and prayed for.

Do you choose a word for the year? If you have, what is it? Please share in the comments below!

You are a WIP (Work-in-Process)

My pastor made a cool statement in church recently. He had been talking about the respectable sins and how we all struggle with some of these in certain ways (i.e. materialism, pride, unbridaled passions). He finished up the series by saying words any writer would latch on to. He said “We are all a work-in-progress.”

Sigh.

It’s true, isn’t it? A writer goes through a long arduous process to get published. You will often hear a story that is being written as a WIP (work-in-progress). Because it is. The initial ideas gets written down, research needs to be done, extraneous adverbs deleted, plot twits tied up neatly and if you write romance like I do, a happily ever after that will satisfy. Ultimately though we want a character who starts out one way and grows through the course of the novel in spite of or maybe because of the challenges he or she faces.

God is working on us too. We are set apart as a story of His grace in our lives. He is the author that decides the plot twists we will experience and how we will grow through it all. The difference is that we don’t get a rewrite. We cannot edit or delete misspoken words.  In one story I wrote I ended up deleting close to 8,000 words, taking my character back to one decision that changed the trajectory of the story. We don’t get to do that in real life although God, through the righteousness of Christ, erases our sins. We are still left with the consequences but he doesn’t leave us alone or without help to deal with them.

And like a loving author of a beautiful romance, we do have a happily ever after to look forward to.

Sometimes when life is hard I forget all of this and I need that reminder. Life isn’t whipping me around – but God is sovereignly writing His story of redemption and I get to be one of His characters, loved and important for the particular role He has placed me in.

Going Deep: Becoming a Person of Influence (book review)

I wanted to read Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald because I love the idea of becoming a person of influence. I enjoy reading leadership books. This one, however, was very different, at times frustrating and at times rewarding.

First of all the book is written like a work of fiction. I contains a journey towards developing deep people, but not in a clinical way. It details conversations and meetings and thoughts about the “big idea” of “cultivating deep people” (CDP in the book). SO where does reality begin and where is it end? If you like Patrick Lencioni’s style of elaborating leadership ideas in a fiction format, you may like this as well, although their styles are distinct.

The first part of the book where Pastor Mac comes up with this great idea, moves slowly. As a leader and a person with limited time, it seemed to drag. I wanted to yell, “Get to the point already, will ya?” But I read on. He elaborates the painstaking process of developing the idea and finally bringing it to reality.  The fact is, none of what he is saying is really all that new. The challenge to disciple others has been around since Jesus gave us the command. The methods used may have at times changed but the principles are laid out well in Scripture. Gordon goes through an elaborate process of meeting with business people and an a Rabbi and staff to flesh things out and gain buy in with the leadership of his church.

The actual implementation of the CDP was where the reading was more fun. To see people challenged, lives changed and the methods used and described on the page was good. At times it made me want to cry because I came to like these characters who were being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. To see authentic community develop at such depth made me realize how much of that I am personally missing and longing for as well. How much so many of us are missing out on and longing for in our church communities. I felt more keenly how desperately we all need it. And even if we are not to be leaders in the church we all can become persons of influence.

The church would do well to be more intentional in selecting people and developing to be the leaders for the future. To use specific training and mentoring and the kind of plan Gordon lays out has merit. I still think that parts of this book could have been a bit shorter. The book is 383 pages and most leaders really want to meat to chew on and not all the fluff because we tend to be busy. But for all that it is a book I would recommend if you are trying to figure out a way to help your church prepare the younger generation to be quality “deep” leaders for the future.