Saturday, October 20, 2012

Surprise Contracts. Priceless

Ginger -
At the ACFW conference this year in Dallas, I got a wonderful surprise. I learned Barbour Publishing was going to purchase something I wrote. I was getting my first publishing contract!

When the news came, my friends, who all knew of the surprise contract, turned to me waiting for the cheers and squeals of delight that usually accompany such news, but all I could comprehend at that moment were relief and thankfulness—relief that all my years of working and hoping had not been in vain, and an overpowering thankfulness to the Lord for finally making it happen.

Like other writers, I spent years clinging to the hopes of one day being published. I knew I had a God-given gift and the desire to use it for God’s glory, but what was taking so long? It’s hard to keep going sometimes when you don’t see any progress towards your goals. I began to wonder had I misunderstood God? Was I fooling myself into believing I could be a published writer? With so many options available today to self-publish, why was I waiting for a traditional publisher to validate my writing? The doubts were endless and my future seemed bleak. 

I was pregnant with my son when I read a newspaper article about another writer who’d sold her first manuscript and suddenly become an overnight sensation. In that article, she stated she’d been writing for ten years. Although I’d been formulating stories in my head most of my life, I’d only recently put pen to paper and started writing my first story and I remember commenting that if it took me ten years to get published then I would give up long before that. That son is now twenty-three years old, and still I persevere.

What kept me writing all those years? Faith. Faith that God had given me something that He wanted me to use. I repeated two verses over and over. Hebrews 11:1 which reminded me that faith meant being certain of what I hoped for but could not see, and Jeremiah 29:11 which promised God had a plan for my life, a plan to give me hope and a future. I had no way of knowing I would ever get a publishing contract. I could not always see how He was working in this part of my life. I only had my faith that God had given me something and that He would someday bring it to fruition in His time.   
The squeals of joy and delight came later. But in that moment, when I learned He had answered my long time prayer, my heart was overcome.

All I could do was praise the one who made it happen.   
Ginger Vaughn. Winner surprise contract from Barbour for Plantation Christmas Weddings Collection.

Cynthia -
“What do you mean I should reconsider going to Dallas?” I looked at my husband astonished as we sat eating pizza. Hadn’t we decided just two weeks before that the trip to the ACFW conference would take too much money and time?
            “I’ve changed my mind. I think you ought to go.” This complete turnaround in my husband’s attitude made me suspect something was afoot.
    Not that I had any reason to believe I would get a contract or even a look from an editor or agent at the conference. My first year experience in 2011 had helped me realize how little I knew about writing in spite of having written and self-published one novel.  I had spent my summer finishing and polishing my second full-length novel and writing two novellas to go in collections proposed by my critique group, the Bards of Faith.
   Convinced at last that they knew more about getting published than I did, I had tried to incorporate as many of their suggestions into my novellas as I could, and I had spent a lot of time studying books on fiction writing and editing. Still, I couldn’t quite believe that I would see results any time soon. But since my husband said go, I trusted him.
    So it was that I sat with my friends near the front at the opening session and heard my name called as one of the winners of Barbour’s surprise contracts for previously uncontracted writers. I stumbled my way to the stage, tripping over the microphone cord and almost pulling it out of President Margaret Daley’s hand. She gave me a letter from Barbour offering me the contract, and then she handed me the microphone. I hardly know what I said. I hope I thanked the Bards for all their help.
      The most surprising thing to me has been everyone else’s reaction. I received so many hugs of congratulation, not just from friends, but from complete strangers. My appointments with agents and editors seemed so different from the year before.  I walked around ACFW in a haze trying to understand what this would mean to my future as a writer.
      Like all mountaintop experiences, this one had to end, and I found myself on Monday morning trudging up the stairs to my office, facing stacks of papers to grade that I had assigned while I was gone. As I searched in my purse for my keys, I turned to look at my door and saw a surprise. The door hung with crepe paper streamers, ribbons, and beads, and a large sign proclaiming, “Congratulations on your contract. We’re proud of you.” This encouraged me so much. Later that afternoon, my colleagues on the whole floor came into my office singing, “Happy contract to you,” and bearing a cake. Having friends who can rejoice with those who rejoice means so much.
    I don’t know what God has in store for me through all of this. My entire writing journey has been marked by miraculous signs of his leading and of his sending people to encourage and help me.  Getting a contract is another humbling sign of his approval of what I’m trying to accomplish by writing down spiritual truths that he has taught me in the form of stories. I praise him for the privilege of being allowed to write.

                                                                        Cynthia Leavelle

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ACFW Dallas Conference Report

 Well normally I come back from this conference filled with hope and enthusiasm that this year will be the year I sell a book. Two years ago I got an agent, Last year we had news of a pending sale on a Heartsong, plus lots of nibbles from several interested editors.

            But this year was completely different. This year I went to the conference with four contracts in my pocket. One from Heartsong, two from Love Inspired and one from Barbour. Wow!  What a great feeling. It changed the way I approached the conference too. No more nervous anxiety about pitching my books to editors or agents. No more trying to determined which editors might be a good fit for my current story. This year I could go simply to enjoy the experience, meet with other authors, spend time with friends and do a lot of networking.

            The first night my agent, Joyce Hart took all of her clients to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant. What a fun night meeting other Hartline authors.

            The next day was one of the most exciting for our group, The Bards of Faith, the Jackson, Mississippi writers group I belong to. Four of us sent a proposal to Barbour for a Christmas novella collection and it sold. Two of the authors were unpublished. One of the highlights of the conference is when Barbour awards surprise contracts to unpublished authors. This year the contracts went to our two members. Cynthia Leavelle and Ginger Vaughn. We’d all know about it for weeks but couldn’t tell them. What fun seeing their faces when their names were called.

            That night I got to attend a meet and greet with Love Inspired editors, Tina James and my editor, Melissa Endlich, and all the Love Inspired authors at the conference. I’m so excited to be part of this wonderful group of people.  

            Friday night was another Love Inspired event. The authors all went out to dinner at an Italian Restaurant and had a great time. One of the editors from Publishers Weekly came with us and wrote a very nice article about us with a picture.

            Saturday night was another big event, the Carol Awards. The of the most prestigious awards in Christian Fiction. Two of our members, our fearless leader Aaron McCarver and Diane Ashley, won for their Christmas Novella. What a way to end the evening. We’re so proud and happy for our members. It made for a very fun and upbeat ride home from Dallas to Jackson.

            Now it’s time to go back to work and produce those books that I have contracted. Three of them are done, and the last one in in the works. Next year when I go to conference I might have real books in the conference book store. That should be fun!