A Wait Well Worth It

On Friday I promised an announcement. So here I go.
Journal Entry:
Sometimes I wonder, do I want to keep doing this? I don’t mean writing – but writing for publication. Two rejections in one night and I’m feeling very deflated….

Last January, my book went out on submission. A fun little land, filled with hopes, fears, heartache, and a whole lot of waiting. Nothing too exciting happened until March, when my story made it through editorial committee and was slotted for pub board in April (to learn more about the process toward publication, see this post by my agent).

That entire month, I checked my email an insane amount of times and kept my phone with me wherever I went, just in case there would be news. But news never came. Not that month. Or the month after. Or the month after that. Discouragement crept in. I stopped obsessing over email. I stopped twitching every time my phone rang. The fact that my book could go to pub board at any time didn’t feel real anymore. My hope dwindled.

Fast forward seven months.

Yes. Seven months.
The Story:
I’m rushing around after work, trying to get changed so I can head out the door to a school committee meeting. Hubby’s on my computer, so I interrupt and check my email. Literally, I’m hopping on one foot, shoving the other in a shoe, impatiently waiting for Gmail to load so I can get to the meeting on time. Pub board’s the last thing on my mind.

Up pops Gmail and mixed in a pile of junk, my agent’s name. The subject line reads: Don’t get your hopes up too much yet but….

I must have misread it at first, because my hopes plummet. You see, I’d received some disappointing emails the week prior (hence, the journal entry) and was primed for letdown.

But I read Rachelle’s email, find out my book went to pub committee, and it was met with a very favorable response. My body goes all wonky. Like I’m entering into premature menopause and it can’t decide whether to be hot or cold. In the midst of some serious heart-palpitations, I think. Wait a minute. Doesn’t that mean….?

Nope. Not yet.

There’s one more level of approval to pass through and because of vacations, I won’t hear anything until November.

Fast forward a week and a half. Still October.

I’m sitting at my desk, gearing up for the Halloween party at the end of the day. One kiddo’s beside me doing math – a little guy who looks more like a 1st grader than a 5th. Nobody calls me during the school day. I don’t even know why I have my phone on. So when it buzzes, I glance at the screen, expecting one of those annoying voice-automated telemarketers with an unfamiliar area code.

Instead, my screen says Rachelle.

Everything stops.

It’s just me and that phone.

But I can’t answer it. I’m in school. All I can do is stare at the buzzing while a million thoughts and prayers pop inside my brain. Pop. Pop. Pop. Like heated popcorn kernels. None of them coherent. Not a single, solitary one.

The buzzing stops.

The kiddo at my desk asks me a question, but I can’t process his words.

The screen lights up. Rachelle left a message. Oh my gosh. She left a message. My heartbeat turns manic. My breathing gets shallow. I press the one on my keypad and smash the phone against my ear. I might start rocking at this point. I’m not sure.

A friendly voice: Hi Katie, it’s Rachelle, and this is the call you’ve been waiting for….

Oh. My. Goodness.
I cannot breathe.

I cannot think.

I cannot scream.

I cannot do anything.

I am surrounded by 5th graders.

Poor kid at my desk looks at me funny and backs away, like I’m going to throw up on him. Instead, I put my face in my hands and let this moment wash over me – this absolutely insane, hand-trembling, thick-throated, are-you-freaking-kidding-me moment. I’m going to be published.And I know this is the biggest cliché in the world. But man. That thought? It took my breath away.

Here’s the thing.

There were A LOT of moments, from the time I started writing my first novel, to Rachelle’s phone call, that I had some serious doubts about whether this would happen. I mean, for serious, for real doubts. The journal entry up at the top? It’s not the only one like that. My hopes had run the gamut. Super high when I got some bites. Super low, when rejection followed. But mostly – stuck in neutral. I remember thinking I’d wait forever. That I’d be this gray-haired, wrinkled, age-spotted, ninety-year old woman still waiting on pub board. People would say, “This will happen for you, Katie.” But the small voice in my head would whisper, “Yeah. But what if it doesn’t?”

Yet somewhere in the midst of all the uncertainty, something pretty amazing happened. Something Lina AbuJamra put so eloquently in a recent post.

Waiting, she said, is part of the process. It makes you who Christ wants you to be.
I love these words. I experience these words. While waiting for an agent. While waiting for pub board. While waiting for the contract. And for all the waits that are sure to come. God meets us in the waiting. He blesses us. He keeps us on our knees. He draws us nearer to Him. He molds our character and teaches us to trust. He asks us to be still. And in that stillness, He reminds us why He gave us this passion in the first place. A reason that has nothing to do with book contracts and advances, and everything to do with telling stories that matter.
So if stories burn in your heart, keep writing. No matter what happens, no matter where you are on this journey, no matter how long the wait, keep telling those stories. Write what matters, and trust God to take care of the rest.
The Details:
Later that night, I spoke with my stellar agent, Rachelle Gardner (who’s making all kinds of dreams come true these days). She assured me this was real. It was happening. She got excited with me. And she filled me in on the details. Waterbrook Multnomah, a division of Random House, offered me a 2-book contract. Sometime next year, I’ll get to hold my very first published book in my hands. And that, my friend, is absolutely insane.

The happiest trip to Staples I’ve ever taken!

Had to stare at this awhile. Just to make sure it was real.
Fun Give-Away: The ever-lovely Keli Gwyn (who just snagged a book deal of her own) offered to kick off the celebration with some chocolate! One random commenter will get this bag of yumminess. Thanks Keli!

Let’s Talk: What are your dreams? What makes them worth chasing? Have you ever struggled with waiting or feeling discouraged? What have you learned on your journey?

And THANKS for coming to celebrate with me! I’m so humbled and grateful to have such a supportive, encouraging group of people to share this moment with. It makes this journey all the richer!



Warning: Due to extreme excitement, this post is abnormally long.

Over the weekend, I’d been battling a nasty case of the blah’s. I was feeling discouraged about my writing. I wrote two things in my prayer journal, and here they are, word-for-word.

1. “Sometimes I feel like this won’t ever happen for me, Lord. Will I ever get the call? Will I ever snag an agent or publisher’s interest? Right now I just can’t imagine that ever happening.”

2. “I’m in need of guidance. I’ve completed three stories. I’ve revised them until I can’t see straight. I’ve done all I can do with them on my own. And now I have all these other story ideas zooming through my mind. Do I continue with the second book in the series I’m writing? Or is my time better spent on a different idea? I need somebody to come alongside me and help me on this writing journey.”

So that was this past weekend. Let’s fast-forward to Monday….

On my drive to work, guess what I saw in my rear view mirror? Flashing blue and red lights. Serves me right. Just this past weekend, hubby was scolding me about my led foot. I admit, I deserved the ticket. But still, what a lousy way to start a Monday.

When I got home from work, I changed into my running gear and opened my email, expecting the usual onslaught of junk. Which was all there, only something else was there too. Sitting in my inbox was an email from Rachelle Gardner, the subject line titled “Requested manuscript, Beneath a Velvet Sky”.

My chest collapsed. Oh goodness gracious, what is it? A thanks, but no thanks? Blood pounded through my ears, drowning out any logical thoughts. Except for the desperate “Please God. Please God. Please God. Please God…” that comes before such an email, my mind was pretty much blank.

I opened the email and skimmed over it, heart rate spiking. Rachelle wanted my phone number! Doh! How could I have not sent her my phone number? Note to writers: make sure your phone number is somewhere! I quickly shoot her an email with my phone number.

Had a conversation with my husband that went something like this:
“Ryan! Get in here!”
“Look at this!”
“This!” I point at the computer screen, high-pitched, animal-like sounds emitting from the back of my throat. “Read it!”
He squints at the screen. “She wants your phone number.”
“Why does she want my phone number?”
“I’m guessing she wants to call you.”
“Why does she want to call me?”
He gives me a peculiar look. Like, could I really be this dense. To which my answer is: Yes! When excitement and nerves and what ifs are pinging around inside my brain, yes, I can really be this dense.

Still, I don’t want to get my hopes up. With shaking fingers, I open up Tweet Deck. Scroll down. See a tweet from Rachelle that says: Imagine my heartbreak when I was all ready to make The Call to an author but couldn’t find a phone number anywhere!

Then I see another tweet from her that says: Of course I emailed the writer and asked for phone number. For some things, I think an actual conversation is best.

I freaked out. Absolutely, one hundred percent, freaked out. Made my husband come back in the room. Made him read her tweets. Buried my head in my shirt, and cried. Actually cried. Hubby told me to stop because I was making him emotional.

I went running (with my phone). Sprinted the entire two miles. Probably lifted my hands up in the air at some point just to show God how filled with praise I was. Probably freaked out some drivers passing by. Probably had them thinking, “Who is that psycho sprinting like Phoebe from Friends with her hands up in the air?”

Got home. Paced. Thought: Maybe I should send Rachelle another email. Wrote one, deleted it. Wrote another one. Hubby told me to just sit tight. So I did. Then my phone rings. And it’s Rachelle. I rambled like an idiot. I told her I had dreams about her. Probably freaked her out. I’d be freaked out. I’d probably be thinking, “Who is this random person stalking me on the Internet and having dreams about me?” Despite my inability to shove a cork in my mouth, she still offered me representation. Shaking. Yes, I was shaking.

I had my proposal out to another agent. So I got off the phone with Rachelle with things up in the air. I continued my deranged pacing. Here’s what my conversation went like with my hubby:

Hubby: So, are you going to give this other agent an opportunity to respond to your proposal? (Keep in mind, this other agent is a wonderful, wonderful agent and I admire her deeply).
Me: I don’t know what to do!
Hubby: Why don’t you pray?
Me: That sounds logical. (I stopped deranged pacing. Opened prayer journal. Revisited my top five goals I wrote after Debbie Maccomber’s key note speech at the ACFW conference. Number one goal I’d written: Acquire an agent, somebody like Rachelle Gardner.)
Hubby: Okay, best case scenario. Other agent loves your stuff. Offers you representation. What do you do?
Me: (without hesitating) I accept Rachelle’s offer.
Hubby: You have your answer then, don’t you?

I email other agent. Let her know how thankful I was for the opportunity to send her my stuff, but that I was offered representation by somebody else and that I’m going to accept the offer. I email Rachelle. Tell her I’d be honored to work with her. Try to assure her I’m not crazy, and ask what do we do now? Get email from other agent, congratulating me and saying Rachelle is wonderful.

I take a deep breath, thank God for the one millionth time, and bask in the knowledge that I have an agent. Not just any agent, but the agent I’d been dreaming about (literally).

So, to sum up the day: It started with a ticket. It ended with an agent. I’ll take it. Ticket and all.

I realize having an agent is by no means a guarantee for publication. I know that I have some serious work to do. I also know I will give it 110%. But still, it’s a major step forward in this writing dream of mine. One that just two days ago, I thought would never happen. I tried to take Debbie Macomber’s advice and think positive. But I found myself struggling to hold on to confidence. I found myself asking God if this would ever happen. If I’d ever get somebody to believe in me enough to help me climb the mountain, as Billy Coffey puts it. I’m still dumbfounded and humbled that He (God, not Billy Coffey) answered my prayer. That I do have somebody to help guide my steps now.

All this to say: Never give up hope, friends! If I can get The Call, a person who highly doubted it would ever be “my turn”, than you can too. Keep running the race and fighting the fight that the Lord has put before you. After all, this writing journey is a race that never ends. There will always be more to learn, more to hope for, more to wait for, no matter what stage we are at in the journey. Keep believing in yourself. It’ll be your turn someday too. And who knows? Maybe that day is a lot closer than you think!

A special thanks to Jeannie Campbell, Jody Hedlund, and Erica Vetsch, for squeeing with me! Jody, the emails we sent back and forth are hilarious. Thanks for being there when I needed to freak out. Jeannie and Erica, thanks for letting me blabber in your ear and thanks for squeeing with me. It’s such a blessing to be able to celebrate with people who really understand this journey.

Next steps? We’re going to polish up my proposal. Rachelle hopes that in 2-3 weeks, we’ll be ready to start submitting!

Questions to Ponder: Do you find yourself doubting that it will ever be “your turn?”? Maybe you’re waiting for an agent, or a publishing contract, or a million and one other things that we all long for and wait for on this side of eternity. Do you stay positive, or do you struggle with doubt? And how do you react when God answers your prayers?removetweetmeme