My Journey Thus Far

When I visit an author’s website, I always search for a post detailing how this particular writer got published. I’m wired that way. I want to know the how and the why.

It’s probably the sole reason I stink at mathematics. No one can tell me just why something times something else, divided by that thingy-ma-whatty, equals the area of a cone. The idea that “it just does” makes no sense to me.

But, I digress.

Given my own curiosity, I thought I’d throw my story on the stack.

My journey to publication began on a dark and stormy night (seriously). It was November of 2008, and my baby girl was just shy of three months old. She was a beautiful little thing, but she wasn’t nearly as good a sleeper as her big brother. At the time, I had a part-time job working from home for a legal consulting company, but it wasn’t what I really, really wanted to do. I wanted to tell stories, be creative, get back on the stage. I wanted THAT to be my job.

So, as I wandered the house with my tiny insomniac, singing and rocking, I considered the possibility that I could, in fact, tell stories from home. I could write a novel. It was a task I’d started and stopped several times before, but something was different this time. Somewhere along the way, I had picked up an immeasurably valuable nugget: I was learning to be patient with myself.

Maybe it was the gauntlet of parenting, or the sheer lack of sleep, but whatever it was, I knew I had the ability to be patient through the brainstorming process.

That night, I walked and I walked, and I sang a bit, but mostly I thought and thought and thought. Before the night was over, I had a handful of characters and a fairly good idea of just what I wanted to say and where I wanted my characters to go. I had a mental outline and that was enough.

So, I sat down to write–and yes, that’s how I do it. I’m not a big plotter and sometimes that works against me, but I’m learning. Still, by February of 2009, I had a first draft. It was awful, of course, but I was proud of it.

2009 was full of tons and tons of parenting and editing whenever I could. I enlisted the services of a freelance editor, hiring him to give me his honest opinion on what he read. He was nothing but fabulous and encouraged me on my road to publication.

I found a group of writerly souls to bond with, Inspire Christian Writers, and I committed to attending Mt. Hermon Writers' Conference the following year. I even queried a few agents. I got a big round of chirping crickets though, and decided to hold off until after Mt. Hermon.

I continued editing, continued reading about the craft, keeping the conference ahead of me like a crunchy carrot. The time rolled around, and I was devastated when I had to back out. My gorgeous cherub still wasn’t sleeping and things had actually gotten worse. Leaving her just wasn’t realistic.

So, now it’s spring, 2010. I’m several drafts into my novel and no real goal in sight, except landing an agent. But, the idea of sending out query letters and getting only silence in return was gut-wrenching.

And then Twitter! Yup, I said it. Twitter happened to me.

Agents were tweeting. Oh, yes they were. They were tweeting their likes and dislikes, their rants and raves. They were giving the world–and more specifically, writers–an idea of what they were looking for.

I started to pay attention and I got more specific about who I queried. And, I branched out a bit. I started looking for agencies that didn’t specialize in Christian fiction. The reason for this was simple: the agents I was attracted to on Twitter weren’t with Christian agencies. Maybe those guys weren’t tweeting? I don’t know, but after just two queries to general fiction agents, I got a bite.

In August of 2010, Jason Pinter of The Waxman Agency in NYC (gasp!) requested my full manuscript. (Because these things never happen when it's convenient), we had just moved and our internet wasn’t fully operational, and I really wanted to rewrite my Afterword, but it didn’t matter; I had gotten a request! So, I scrambled and got my manuscript to him the next day. The day after that, he offered representation.

Voila! I had an agent.

We made a few tweaks to my manuscript, re-titled it, and started the submission process that fall. We queried a handful of general fiction houses and one Christian house. We had some great feedback, and some interest, but it wasn’t until we submitted to Thomas Nelson that we had a hit. And I'll be honest. They'd always been my pub crush. They had Ted Dekker after all. 

And then, THEN!

I heart you Jason Pinter, but then, my agent left The Waxman Agency. So, here I am, on submission with my dream publisher and I’m left in a lurch. My agency was great and kept me on, but I was in limbo as to which agent I’d be assigned and whether or not she'd even like my manuscript.

After a brief, agonizing interlude, I was paired with the indomitable Holly Root, and shortly thereafter Thomas Nelson made an offer. FOR THREE BOOKS! That’s right. My night wandering the house, babe in arms, was the start of a journey leading to the largest Christian publisher in the world acquiring a YA trilogy from ME. Someone who doesn’t even know how to find the area of a cone!

One thing I think you’ll notice from my story is that there were no magic wands, no magic beans, and not a single sprinkle of fairy dust. And while those things are all very well and dandy, it’s God’s fingerprints that are all over my journey. I’m constantly overwhelmed at how faithful He is, even when–especially when–I’ve been tempted to give up hope.

My debut novel, Angel Eyes, was released in May of 2012 with Broken Wings and Dark Halo releasing six and twelve months later, respectively. It was a crazy whirlwind there for a bit and my experience with Thomas Nelson (now HarperCollins Christian Fiction) was stellar.  I can't say enough good things about the team there.

And so I continue on. The industry is ever-evolving and I'm working to keep up. I've completed two books since the trilogy hit shelves and both are in various stages of the submission process as they look for publishing homes.

I think that's something I'd love you to know if you're a few steps behind me on this road. So much of this journey is cyclical, with hurry-up and wait being the writer's lot.

Keep your eyes on your own paper, place your heart in hands strong enough to keep it safe, and write because you have something to say. Write because you love it. Write because story matters.

And then put one foot down in front of the other, and if we're lucky enough to cross paths, please share your story with me.

Dreamers are my favorite kind of people.

-SD