From Back Patio to Bookstore Shelf – The Journey of a Book

Everbloom, Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives is the new book from Redbud Writers Guild which launches next week. How did it happen?EverBloom_Cover_04 On a sweet summer night in 2015 my hubby and I were sitting on the patio talking about the transforming work God has done in our lives which led to us chatting about how God has transformed the lives of many folks we know. He casually mentioned, “You know that writing guild you are part of must have some pretty incredible stories of transformation.” I thought to myself, yep and it would be fun to know some of those stories. The next night happened to be our quarterly Redbud Board conference call and at the very end of the agenda I threw out the idea that maybe we should do a book about how Christ has transformed us as writers. The response was milky, lukewarm as in “Hmmm, interesting. Let’s think about it.”

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The next day I got a call from Shayne Moore a.k.a. our Redbud founder, dynamo, powerhouse get- it-done kind of gal saying, “Let’s do the book. Let’s you and I write the book proposal.” It took a few months and then we sent it to our fab agent who shopped it around. We waited and waited, for months to hear anything. In publishing, if you don’t like to wait, then this business isn’t for you. A year after our first phone call, we learned that Paraclete Press wanted the book. Insert—— screaming, dancing erratically in the living room, taking selfies with Shayne, more screaming and then the real work began.images

I wrote my poem for the collection while sitting out in a fading September sun. Looking over the finished product, I cried realizing my deep gratitude for a community of women who truly, genuinely love the Lord and desire to serve him with their words. We solicited the whole Guild for essays and/or poetry to a tight turnaround if the collection would launch in the Spring of ’17. A small ocean of high caliber work flooded our inboxes which we took to the giant whiteboard in my classroom and sorted through. We love all these women, how could we say “no” to any of them? Fortunately, the final say comes from the publishing house editor which made our job a little easier. Most of the submissions I read while sitting outside, crying my way through several of them. Submitting to God’s work of transformation is painful. People die. Children get kidnapped. Suicide crosses our threshold. Miscarriages, again. Families break. The broad reach of media brushes these stories across our screens everyday, but when you know all the participants who’ve experienced them, you feel the pain deep down.

In about two months we completed the compilation and editing, then the Paraclete designers brought their art and beauty to the project. We know and trust their work. They designed my website and the Guild’s website and many of our authors’ sites and what is pure joy about Paraclete? They LOVE the arts and they LOVE Jesus. For the first time emails were coming in from “Sister A.” and “Brother B.” people who’ve turned their entire selves over to the Lord exclusively, as sons and daughters for life. Supporting our book with prayer and their talents is their first nature. What a gift.

So here’s a behind the scenes look at the folks at Paraclete Press  who made Everbloom come alive and our book trailer . We received gorgeous mugs and complimentary copies of the book, both of which I will give away on launch day, April 25th to the lucky winner who  answers this question via my Contacts page or in a comment below. And the question is…..How has your relationship with God enabled you to bloom in a dry and fallow season? Happy Spring!

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Geeking Out at Book Expo in Chicago

Imagine lines three people wide as far as you can see for Jonathan Safran Foer to sign his forthcoming novel, Here I Am. Think people rushing the entrance to get the coolest book bag swag from Sourcebooks, the free measuring spoons from Capstone. There were so many people in line to get in at noon when the Expo opened that I cut in, haven’t done this since grade school. It was easy. A group of unsuspecting book buyers were sitting on the floor studying the exhibitor map when everyone else stood up. I slipped in between them unnoticed. Bad girl! After two hours, my feet throbbing, I descended the 500 foot escalator for refuge on the second floor where I took off my black boots and looked over the almost dozen books I acquired free. Yes, new books – FREE! Books that haven’t come out yet – FREE!  I’m salivating. These booksellers are hawking their fall offerings with gusto. You can smell the ink of ARCs drying on pages. The enormous McCormick Place West arena filled to the gills with little elevated tables surrounded by four high chairs (not the kind you feed your kids Gerber Sweet Potatoes in, much cooler looking), with reps in suits talking books with even bigger Ingram reps with breast pocket kerchiefs. I actually met John Ingram who started the dominant world of book distribution ten years ago. If you haven’t heard of him, he is to book distribution what Michael Jordon is to basketball.Think every imaginable book nerd checking out the fall catalogues of everyone from HarperCollins to Double Dragon who publishes blood dripping horror.

I kept seeking out thick carpeted booth spaces to give my aching feet a break, not daring to sit in one of those high chairs out of fear of being identified as a bookselling poser. I’m not a seller, rather someone who is looking at trends in the industry and looking for something breakthrough beautiful. I’m already sick of adult coloring books so what is new out there? Surprise! What’s new is death and dying. Hasn’t that been around for awhile? But the Boomers are dying and they want to die well. End of life, preparing for end of life, what happens in the afterlife, are you ready to meet the “monster” of death books everywhere. Also, the look and style of creative visual compilations like John Derian’s (Artisan Books). He transports the nostalgia of 19th century flea market postcards into singular works of contemplative art, one gigantic image at a time. An eye. A pear. A paperweight per page draws the reader back in time to a restful place of savoring an object of beauty without looking at it on our phones.

I also went to meet my publisher, John Koehler of Koehler Books and my favorite agent, Don Gates. IMG953723John is a pioneer who realized that he can identify new talent and make deals on all fronts; traditional, hybrid and a recent self-publishing line with Ingram Spark. He is a special breed of publishing entrepreneur, professional boomerangist, Christian author and beach comber. I love his openness to trying new things, like embedding the classical music tracks in my novel. John rocks. He gives hope to the stodgy publishing world, now forced to undergo transformation due to the overwhelming influx of people writing books and self-publishing. Yes friends, several of the big five houses have self-publishing lines now. What a great way to make money when about 5,000 books are being published per DAY!

Books are alive and flourishing. Those silly doom predictors who said print was moribund, in permanent decline can forget it. In these days of Trump insanity, “HUGE” deals are still being made, bought and sold. Hundreds of readers are standing in line to get a signed copy of a yet to be released book and writers are dreaming up their next big story arc, all on the shores of Lake Michigan. Ha! Book Expo left New York for the Windy City. Perhaps the Cubs really are going to win the World Series.

Who’s Your Agent?

My dear friend signed a contract with an agent today. We met during a writing prompt session in the intimate library of the Margarite House in Evanston, four years ago. A handful of us writing strangers with no established trust hunkered down in red leather chairs to write our response to the prompt, “Write about your father’s eyes.” Outside, the robins serenaded us while magnolia petals dripped onto the windowsill. Our pens ripped across the pages of our red and black Redbud notebooks. When ten minutes flew by, we stared at each other. Who would be brave? Who would share first?

As the responses trickled out, we heard about how we all lived under the hand of dysfunctional fathers. By the time Sheli read, tears poured on pages. We coaxed her along because we shared our souls and she could too. I’ve been in many of these sessions where the author can’t read on and another writer finishes reading her work, but Sheli hung in there. She took breaks, we passed her Kleenex. Her father stalked her in their house while she hid under the bed as a child.  When she finished we all kept silence. The open leaded glass window allowed sunlight to gentle our circle. We prayed for Sheli. We prayed that someday she would share her story with the world, that she would keep being brave. Today I raise my chamomile tea to her terrified determination. Someone else in a small literary agency on the other side of the country believed in her voice.

I spent this morning being brave speaking to a book group at a local country club. When you speak to a large group there will be people there who don’t care about what you have to say. For some reason they came expecting something else. Those women were at the farthest table in the back. While I read from my novel they chattered away and giggled. My junior high students wouldn’t do this in class. I kept going and did what we all must do, ignore them. One woman on her way out said to me, “You were marvelous. You must have a hundred people lined up to be your agent.” I stood silent, too afraid to tell her that I’m agentless because I live in a world where every successful author has an agent. Her question gnawed at me. When things chip at my being I take them to my writing desk and pray. It occurred to me, ask God to be your agent. I did. He said, “yes,” an enthusiastic yes!

So today Sheli and I both have our agents and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Please take in some of Sheli’s raw, unadulterated story at: http://shelimassie.com/

Who’s your agent?

 

The Fear of Submitting

I hit “submit” last night. This time it wasn’t to an agent or a publisher. This time it was personal, to a poetry publication. During the long winter months of looking for a publisher for my novel, A Minor, I grew quite used to hitting the submit button and then waiting for weeks only to receive a polite, three sentence no thank you. The email goes something like this, just to prepare you if you ever decide to venture down this path of pain:

“Thank you so much for considering us for representation/publication of your work. While there is much about the manuscript that we admired, it is not what we are looking for at this time. Writing is a subjective art so do not be discouraged. What we are not interested in may be just the thing for someone else.”

After awhile you become immune to it. Everyone tells you, “The Help was rejected 69 times before being accepted. Harry Potter more than 20 rejections.” I wonder how those know- it-all publishers and agents feel today reflecting on the millions of readers and dollars they said no to. But submitting a poem is different. I’m not a part of the main character in A Minor so there’s distance. In the poem, I am the main character. If the publication says no to my heartfelt word painting, they are saying no to me. I become nothing more than a pesky weed in their garden of literature, one to be pulled out and thrown onto the slush pile. Of course, you can’t take it personally or we would never submit anything to anyone.

This is where being a Christian writer makes the process a bit easier. “He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) My rejection is nothing compared to His reality. While walking our dog at night, my husband kept reminding me that “no” can be a refining, character building experience, all part of God’s plan for my work.  In the end he was right because the way I found my publisher, Koehler Books, was so illogical and other worldly, only God could have put us together. So when you have that fear factor creeping up on you, preventing you from throwing your work out into the abyss, remember that God does know what he is doing. Don’t forget to submit it to Him first. After you’ve done too many revisions to count, take a deep breath, say another prayer, then hit the dreaded key on your computer screen and let it fly!