Once Upon A Dream…
[box] Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4[/box]
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.
I started journaling in elementary school. I wrote for my high school newspaper. I entered contests.
[box] “Do not despise these small beginnings…” Zechariah 4:10[/box]
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.
[box] “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:2 [/box]
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!
[box] “Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3[/box]
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.
[box] “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[/box]
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!
[box] 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[/box]
Get 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.
[box] 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[/box]
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.
[box] 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[/box]
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.
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.
As you make a big Kingdom difference.
[box] “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16[/box]
“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.)