My Journey Into Print

Once Upon A Dream…

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4

Today we’re going to do something a little different, and dream about dreams.

Some of you shared your dreams of breaking into print.  By pulling back the curtain of my own adventures, perhaps I can inspire you to embrace something new.

As a child, I knew nothing about authors, just that I wanted to be one.  God’s call came like a whisper, a flutter of possibility.  Maybe I could influence people and make a big Kingdom difference.

I started journaling in elementary school.  I wrote for my high school newspaper.  I entered contests.

“Do not despise these small beginnings…” Zechariah 4:10

Enter Contests

Contests stir excitement. They train our fingers to kiss our stories goodbye, teach our hearts to rest our prayers in the hands of God.

My elementary school featured a writing contest, and I couldn’t have done worse.  In high school, however, my English teacher encouraged me to enter a poetry contest for a national magazine.  I nearly hyperventilated when I won.

Seeing my name in print gave me the boost I needed to apply to York University and major in Creative Writing.  College, however, isn’t what did it for me.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:2

Brave a Writer’s Conference

When I joined a writers group, they told me about the Christian Writer’s Market Guide and the Guide to Literary Agents.  I purchased them, and couldn’t sleep.  I slid out of bed and prayed, “God, I think you want me to attend a Christian writer’s conference, but where?”

I flipped through my Market Guide and circled my choice conferences, and did the same with agents in my agent book.  I noticed one of my circled agents would be at Mount Hermon, one of my choice conferences ~ in less than a week and a half!

Taking this as a sign, I registered, bought my ticket, and hugged my family goodbye.  I was on my way to San Jose!

“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

Make Appointments

The good thing about fear is it keeps you on your knees.

I gave my butterflies a workout as I packed a children’s book manuscript I’d written in high school (the one my writer’s group insisted would become a classic), along with a collection of poems I wrote for a dying friend.

I didn’t see a lot of children’s book editors at the conference, but everybody was friendly and encouraged me to practice my pitch.  “There once was a skunk named Chews…” 

As for my circled agent lady, it wasn’t my time.  However, I made appointments and mingled with agents, editors, and authors at every turn.  New friendships took root.

The keynote speaker encouraged me to turn my poems into a comfort gift book.  Something fluttered inside, and it wasn’t my butterflies.  Maybe this would be my chance to influence people and make a big Kingdom difference.

Launching in a new direction, I threw myself into writing poems and gathering quotes and Scriptures, then returned to the  conference the following year with a unique proposal and manuscript. The combined trio told the story of God’s unshakable love and friendship in the midst of our storms.  Little did I know how much I’d need to read it.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Listen to Tough Love

Conference professionals showed me what was right and wrong with my book.  I listened, gave my manuscript and proposal another facelift, and returned to Mount Hermon for a third year.

Rejections hit harder this time.  “Your book looks great, but it’s not what we’re looking for right now.”

“That’s it,” I told a new friend on the last full day, “I’m going to cancel my final appointment.  Might as well free up the spot for someone who’s actually going somewhere.”

“Don’t,” she said. “It’s all good experience.”

I listened, and a wonderful editor from Zondervan, one I will always love and appreciate, poured over the pages of my proposal and manuscript, and said, “I want to do this.”

After pinching myself, I floated out of the room in a daze.  It was happening!

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

Get an Agent

Returning to Minnesota, I didn’t waste time promoting my gift book.  I heard the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference was coming to town.  I had a publisher; it was time to seek an agent.

Each time I attended a conference, I asked friends to pray for divine appointments.  Each time God answered.

I met with two agents and shared my gift book, along with a short sample of my fiction.  I floated back to my cloud.  They both wanted to represent me!

I mostly didn’t have a clue what I was doing, all the more proof this wasn’t about me.  Not even the best secretary in the world could have arranged the divine appointments God arranged.  I could tell you of multiple times when I looked more like a fool than an author.  How about this one:

On the last night, in the afterglow of my interactions, I stepped out of the elevator on the wrong level (nothing particularly unusual for me), rounded a sharp corner in a daze, and nearly collided with one of my choice agents.  After we finished laughing and talking about it, this morphed into our moment.  The moment we agreed to work together.  She’d send the contract.  Again, God watered my kernel of hope with his favor.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Expect the Unexpected

Things change fast as wind in the wide wild world of publishing.  Authors, editors and agents move from positions and companies.  But change is good because it teaches us to lean on Jesus.

If someone wrote, “Trusting God for Dummies” I should have read it back then.  Since nobody did, I needed to learn from experience.

Shortly after I got an agent, my beloved Zondervan editor moved out of the gift book department.  “A Friend in the Storm” no longer had a publishing home.

Still surrounded with my editor’s love and support, I wondered where I’d end up.  What would happen to “A Friend in the Storm”?

My agent worked hard and shopped it around for nearly a year.  That’s a lot of time for a lot of my friends and family members to ask a lot of “how’s-the-book?” questions.

“God, if you’re teaching me to walk by faith and not by sight, please help me learn faster so I won’t have to walk around another mountain…”

Time dragged on, then a funny thing happened.  The new Zondervan editor wanted to publish “A Friend in the Storm”.  I was back where I started.

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Connect with Friends

Now that I had a publisher, I could hear the clock ticking.  I needed a website (like yesterday) so I could reach out to readers, friends, and fans.

I met webmaster Thomas Umstattd at Mount Hermon, and he blew me away with his first couple paragraphs of all things social media.

Thomas loves God, and enjoys helping non-techies like me maintain our own WordPress websites as well as our sanity.

He integrates our sites with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social avenues because he wants to extend our reach.

Thomas is a big advocate of blogs and platform-building.  He coached me to write my blogs with a what’s-in-it-for-them attitude?  Everything needs to focus on helping others.

Sound familiar?  How can I influence people and make a big Kingdom difference?

Bathe your Book in Prayer

I wasn’t one of those writers who kept silent until clutching her contract.  (It’s a good thing too, because my contract got delayed, then lost in the mail.  I didn’t see it until about four months before my book released!)

I needed to clutch Jesus.

Prayer is more than something to do while waiting.  Prayer makes waves ahead of us.  God uses it to open our dream-doors.  As we yield to him, he also makes good things happen in us (like trust).  “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

Just as I collected business cards and made new friends, I began to collect prayer partners.  Yes, just as I grew my list of blog and newsletter subscribers, I grew a list of trustworthy friends who could pray through my twisting, turning ministry journey.

When we pray for each other’s journeys, we also partake in them.

I pray these simple words ripple hope in your dream-journey too.

Thanks for tiptoeing through my ups and downs in this story-land of God’s ever-after possibilities.  In light of His power, goodness and faithfulness, there’s always hope.  May you feel the flutter of its wings today.

May the God of all hope fill you afresh with God-sized dreams.  His dreams for you.  As the two of you unlock them, may they  unlock you ~ to further trust and dream.  This is my prayer.

Journey blessings!

As you make a big Kingdom difference.

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16

“What’s On Your Heart?” Contest

Wherever you’re at in dreaming your dreams, we’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.  Perhaps something surprised, challenged, or encouraged you, and you’re willing to share…

Good news!  Each comment will be entered in a drawing to receive your choice of either, “A Friend in the Storm” or “Kernels of Hope,” a new collection of miracle stories that features one of my pieces.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to my devotional “Fresh Air” blog and you’d like to, you can double your chances of winning by simply entering your name and email on the signup on the top right of this blog page.  (In the comment section of my blogs, I also post free inspirational Kindle books while they’re still available.)

The contest closes on August 26, 2012, at midnight.  I will draw names for two winners, and notify you so you can choose either a free copy of “A Friend in the Storm” or “Kernels of Hope.”

34 Comments

  1. Thank you for your post today. This type of work has been on my heart for awhile so it was encouraging to read about your success.
    I would love to win your book.
    Blessings!
    Sandy

    • Sandy, how exciting to hear this has been on your heart. God is good. He leads us in the way we should go. Since I only shared a small part of my story, I didn’t share how God led me to a new agent in an equally amazing way. I love all the people He graced in my path, and I can’t wait to see what He’ll do in the future. For you too.

  2. Very interesting post, Cheryl. You inspire me to slow down and set a calmer pace. I love the design of the book, A Friend in the Storm…absolutely beautiful. Can’t wait to read it. Cheers, j

    • Thanks Julie! Zondervan truly did an amazing job on the cover and design. I feel blessed beyond measure to be with them. Just love those people.

      The photos you see, I just took them last weekend at my friend’s cabin on the lake. Loved the backdrop. So thankful God gave me cool cloud reflections around “A Friend in the Storm.”

  3. Cheryl, I’m so inspired and blessed by your publishing journey, and most of all by your beautiful heart. Thank you for sharing the path God has you on!!!

  4. Such wisdom planted deep in your words, Cheryl. I pray other aspiring writers will pass by your blog and be encouraged today. Blessings!

  5. Pauline Melvin Logan |

    Cheryl, I loved reading how God orchestrated people, places and events to help you down the writer’s path! Your words, coupled with scripture, encourage me to press into the writing goals God has given me, seeking His wisdom and direction.

    • That’s powerful, Pauline! Great word, “orchestrated.” Helps me picture God as conductor. Makes me want to stay in tune with His will, and follow all his notes.

      Peace, as you seek Him.

  6. Cheryl,
    Thanks so much for sharing your amazing story. I especially liked the elevator scene. Being an author takes so much faith and patience. Thanks for being a great example for us.

    • Wow. Humbled, Dianne.

      You make me glad I took my husband’s advice and included the elevator story. My post would have been skinnier if it weren’t for his persistent nudges to write real and flesh it out. I’m always tempted to play it safe. So here it is… At least a part of it. ; )

  7. LOVE your post, Cheryl! Love your “A Friend in the Storm” book (it’s on my bookshelf right above my head). Love you! Thanks for a great post!

  8. Thank you for reminding us through your heartfelt words and through scripture what really matters in the publishing business.

    You are an encouragement!

    • It’s a joy, Gillian! And you nailed it: “what really matters.” Things can get complicated super fast in this business. But when we look to Jesus… we’re washed afresh with hope. He takes the “im” out of impossibilities! It becomes all about Him. Not about me and what why “I’m” wanting.

      Lord, dream new dreams inside our dreamers…
      Your will be done.

    • Congratulations, Gillian! You win a free book! Please email me with your choice, and we’ll get that in the mail, ok? Yay!!!

  9. Thank you for these reminders, the one that clicked today is to bathe your book in prayer. I subscribed to your site and look forward to reading your books. Have a blessed day.

    HM at HVC dot RR dot COM

  10. Your site is beautiful and your book is too. And matching mugs- wow!

    Thanks for inviting me over!

  11. I am a dedicated fan. God bless.

  12. “How can I influence people and make a big Kingdom difference?” That’s the heart of all we do as Christian authors, isn’t it Cheryl? Thank you for your beautiful post, and letting us follow you on your publishing journey.

  13. Hi, Cheryl. I missed the giveaway but just want to let you know how much I enjoyed your post.

    • Thanks Janalyn! I appreciate your comment. Some of my email subscribers leave blog comments in my personal inbox. Although I appreciate those comments too, I especially like to read them here where everybody in the community can also see… I’m thankful you enjoyed my post! Bless you!

  14. Congratulations to our book winners: Gillian Marchenco and Gail Kuku! Thanks to all who participated.

    I do regular giveaways on my blog, so if you haven’t already subscribed, it’s not too late. You may be our next winner. I’m sure you’ll be encouraged by the devotionals! God bless, and thanks again!

  15. Hi Cheryl,

    I know your contest is over, but I wanted to say “Congrats” on how God has honored your desire to write for His kingdom purposes.

    Blessings,
    Dolly

  16. Lynda Christman |

    Cheryl,
    thank you so much for sharing. You are very inspiring.

    I was inspired also by another author and speaker who had a trying and sad up bringing, but God has turned it around for the good. She is a Director of CASA. I bought her memoir/book.
    “JoyRide” Life, Death and Forgiveness, by Pamela Koefoed. I read her 300 page book in 1 1/2 days and that even included walking the dog and cooking breakfast and dinner. LOL I am not a big sit down and read a book kind of person. I love to read true stories though. This true story reminded me of my childhood.
    Now, I have the desire to write my memoir…… I have had this dream for many years, but just didn’t know how or think I could ever write a book. If it is God’s Will, then it will happen.

    My goal is to help other people/women see that they can also be VICTORIOUS in JESUS.

    Here I am on the computer researching how to begin to write. The good Lord brought me to your site. I am claiming your prayer – “May the God of all hope fill you afresh with God – sized dreams. His dreams for you as the two of you unlock them, may they unlock you- to further trust and dream.”
    Thank you.
    Lynda

    • I love your goal, Lynda. To help women be victorious. That’s awesome! May God bless you in every way as you step out in Christ’s name and follow your God-given dreams. He is able. The great door-opener is able. God bless you!

    • Cheryl, A Friend in the Storm looks like a good book to have on our resource table at our annual conference. Thank you for writing about your journey.

      Favorite quote from your post, “Prayer is more than something to do while waiting. Prayer makes waves ahead of us. God uses it to open our dream-doors. As we yield to him, he also makes good things happen in us (like trust).”

      I love this and will quote you when I have an opportunity. Thank you for reminding us to keep Jesus first.

      There was another blessing in visiting your site, today–discovering Lynda Christman’s comment concerning “JoyRide.” This encouragement is what I needed at this moment.

      I’m signed up to receive your inspirational posts.

      Blessings on all you do for Him,
      Pamela

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