Updated: Oct 17, 2018
Putting in the Work
Maranatha Christian Writer's Conference was definitely a mountain top experience for me. I felt enormous pressure to have every last duck in a row before getting there. I wanted each book in my series of 8 to be perfect, my book proposal flawless, my platform at least respectable, my one sheet breathtaking, and my pitch so captivating that each editor, agent, and publisher would extend me their golden ticket to getting published. I put in the work, mind you. I think each book had been edited and revised at least 19 times. I followed Michael Hyatt's guide to writing a Christian book proposal to a T. I consulted a graphic design artist on my one sheet and had multiple editors review each document.
Fasting and Praying
Three close friends and I committed to praying and fasting for three days the week of the conference. Each evening, I spent an hour in prayer over every agent, editor, and publisher I would meet. I prayed for God's guidance, and that He would be glorified in all of my interactions. I confessed the desire to manipulate or grasp at success. Don't be fooled, I was often distracted, and certainly struggling to fight off my to-do list that ramped up as I was getting ready. However, I wanted to lay each and every part of this in God's hands. He is the one who can do this. If He chooses not to, I must trust that He has something better for his kingdom in store.
This conference far exceeded my expectations. I'm not exactly sure what I envisioned. Perhaps it was schmoozing and brown nosing. Perhaps great writers showing off their works of genius. Perhaps it was an untouchable staff of professionals in the industry who lord it over us little peons like the Wizard of Oz. These speculations couldn't have been farther from the truth. The atmosphere was full of warmth, encouragement, humility, and collegiality.
The faculty took the time to eat with us. I had multiple people agree to meet with me for a one-on-one appointment even though I hadn't been on their schedule. The participants were incredibly encouraging and looking to make friends not fans. I met Nancy, a published children's book author and former writing professor . She and I became instant friends. She mentored me through the whole conference. Mary rescued me with food when I had a dizzying caffeine/adrenaline rush. Laura taught me how to hold a school assembly and sell all sorts of my books. Oodles of new friends blessed my time there.
The Top of the Mountain
I suppose no one really knows how their book or series will be received by others, especially by professionals in the industry. I certainly did not. The response was overwhelming. I started my pitch with the story of God building me a platform in less than a week.
Then I just told them my story of memorizing Snuggle Puppy with Samuel when he was first learning to talk. We had read the book over 100 times and both new every word. I would recite it to him before bed. Then a thought captured my attention. Why wouldn't we have a single Bible verse in a board book that we could read again and again? My little one might know that Brown Bear sees a Red Bird looking at him, but how about that 'God so loved the world?' I set out to make him a book with a single Bible verse as the text. Baby sign language was our favorite, so I put pictures of young children doing baby sign language to the words in the verse. Before long, I had written a little melody to go with the verse. Now each time we nestled in with a book and a cup of hot cocoa, we were interacting with God's word in such an engaging way that we couldn't help but memorize it...couldn't help but fall in love. Now when I put my boy down for bed I was singing God's word over him. It was magic. He couldn't help but want to sing and move along.
It could really only have been God's hand. Remember how God gave Joseph favor in the eyes of the prison warden? Or Abigail favor in David's eyes? Or Daniel favor in Nebuchadnezzer eyes? It had to be one of those times. I am zero. These people are the big shots. Yet somehow, every one of them offered to either represent me, take my books back to their publisher, or give me a contract for the series directly. Could this really be true?
Riding into the Sunset
A certain gentleman, publisher of a Christian publishing company, (like the for real top guy, owner, head honcho, you get the idea) sat and listened the most thoughtfully. He was willing to eat a late lunch in order for me to be his final one-on-one of the conference. I shared my pitch, and then we headed to lunch. What happened after that, I'll never forget.
I'm standing with National Park Mysteries Mary, and Mr. Smith (we'll call him) walked right up to me, shook my hand, and said, "Congratulations. Check your email." Then he rode off into the sunset. Well, in a manner of speaking. He literally walked out of the meeting room, across the lawn, and headed to the airport. It was like a scene out of a movie.
I did what every aspiring author would do in this situation, withheld the incredible urge to run after him and embrace him with thanks, and instead checked my email right there on my phone with National Park Mysteries Mary by my side. Sure enough, my first contract for the entire series.
Three days later I received the second contract. What's a girl to do? I was on top of the mountain.