Hello Seekerville and Happy Thanksgiving week.
Are you all like me, preparing for the big day?
Are you having fun with visiting family members? My family has been enjoying the beautiful Southwest Desert weather. We have been hiking the Superstition Mountains, swimming every day and playing pickleball. Yep, we have some family hooked on it also. And yesterday we had a fun picnic at Saguaro Lake.
|Sandra hiking Hieroglyphic Trail |
Today I’d like to talk about how writing what you know can bring about surprising results. I have put out a big pot of chocolate velvet coffee and I have been baking pies. There are pumpkin, pecan, apple and cherry pies so help yourself. Oh yes, there is tea and hot chocolate for those non-coffee drinkers.
Last month I talked about the Seven Reasons to Keep on Writing
. The main reason I was motivated when I started writing was to escape a stressful job as a kindergarten teacher. I loved the little darlings, so they weren’t the cause of my stress. The cause stemmed from my school’s involvement in a revolutionary (at the time) paradigm shift in methodology that was proving quite successful.
|We saw ancient petroglyphs on the trail|
Our inner city bilingual students were achieving quite well and the Arizona State University professors that were helping us wanted to promote the methodology so our classrooms became showcases. This of course upped the student success ratio because who won’t perform for an admiring audience? (We’re talking five year olds-chuckle) And this led to more observation, which btw, included the governor of Arizona, teachers from all over the United States and even teachers from other countries. Our success was amazing, but so was the stress level.
|Siphon Draw Trail in Superstition Mountains with a coyote sundial in foreground|
The key element of this holistic approach to teaching was the writing process. Before we started using this method, the professors told us we needed to write so we could teach writing. When we asked what we were supposed to write, they told us to write what you love to read. Hello. I devoured romance novels at the time. I started my first novel (which still gathers dust) and fell in love with writing. I discovered writing romance is more fun than reading romance.
It took about five years before Harlequin Temptation offered me my first contract. And by then, I was so exhausted from the madhouse of our popularity that I took sabbatical leave and wrote full time. This was in the eighties. And since we are naturally going to write what we know, I wrote my second Harlequin Temptation about Angela, a teacher who was defending her revolutionary teaching method.
Ricardo, the hero and big-time news reporter in Phoenix, had made it out of the barrio. His goal was to help others out of the barrio so he became a school board member. He hears about Angela’s radical changes within the system and decides he better check this out.
|Balance Rock at top. Teddy bear cholla look fuzzy but they are SHARP|
If any of you have ever been in a whole language classroom, you know that it looks like chaos if you don’t know what you are looking at. Ricardo is immediately attracted to Angela, but is horrified with her teaching methods. Angela must defend and prove her methodology to the attractive board member.
|Pickleball at Prospect Park|
Now I did not write this book to promote the whole language methodology. I wrote it to make money as a romance writer so I could quit my day job and write. But here is what happened. Several University professors used this book in their methodology classes to show what the whole language classroom should look like. Is that hysterical or what? My Harlequin Romance became required reading.
The problem with this scenario is that at that time, before e-book and print-on-demand publishing, those books were only out there for about six weeks. Then they were unattainable. Because the professors wanted to use them, I obtained the rights back and printed them in a vanity press.
|Picnic at Saguaro Lake|
During this sabbatical, I had my epiphany and thankfully renewed my relationship with the Lord. Therefore, when I reprinted A Flower For Angela
, I changed the title and took out all the graphic sex. Now I have to admit, one of the professors was not happy about that. I think he would read from the book and “accidentally” quote a sex scene instead of a scene with the methodology and of course would get him the laughs and attention. But I am forever thankful that I now have a sweet romance with my name on it. And I am forever thankful that I wrote my Harlequin Temptations with a pseudonym. And I’m not telling. Smile
Another point of interest about this book is the cover art. At that time, all covers were made from a painting. Publishers hired artists to paint the cover, so it would have the quality to photograph and print. My dad was a painter and I asked him to paint the cover. Roses play a big part in this story so I asked Dad to paint roses on a black background. He did a beautiful job, but informed me afterwards, that roses are the most difficult flower to paint and couldn’t I have used another flower? I love this cover. In fact, I have the original painting hanging in my office.
So that is the story of my debut into writing and also the story behind this “new” release on Amazon
. A Flower For Angela
hasn’t been used by universities in years as the professors moved on to other methodology, but I thought since it was written, I should put it back out there as it was originally intended—a sweet romance.
WHAT I LEARNED AND CAN SHARE FOR YOUR USE NOW
I thought I was supposed to write. I wanted to write. I was highly motivated to write. I did write and get published, but as it turned out, I was still working in my profession. I thought since I’d had my epiphany, that God would let me write about Him. He would take me out of the classroom. Wrong. I learned to never assume what God’s plan is for you. You will follow His plan whether you want to or not. Smile
As it turned out, my writing skills came in handy. I went back to teaching but changed grades. (I couldn’t bend down and tie shoes anymore. LOL) I finished my last years teaching Language Arts in Junior High. My students won writing awards and did publish their own books.
But I had some serious questions. You would think that this was all about the methodology. By the time I went back to teaching, a new methodology was getting attention. I asked God and He did not fail in answering. And this is the verse He brought to mind. Mark 11:23 “Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.”
I said out loud that those students would succeed. I believed those students would succeed. I had no doubts and they did succeed. In fact, it really didn’t matter what methodology I was using, it was my belief that they would succeed that encouraged them to do well.
This is a lesson that applies to our writing as well. Say out loud “I will succeed as an author.” Do not doubt in your heart and do believe that what you say will happen. Or you can say, “I will be a best selling author.” Or “I will be a full time writer.” The secret is to believe in your heart and do not doubt. These words and beliefs will be your motivation and your inspiration to write.
Those of you finishing up your month of Na No Wr Mo and those of you like me, who are lucky to eek out a few minutes to write with all the holiday family gathering, lets use that verse from Mark and lay claim to our success as writers.
Do not doubt.
A Flower For Angela
is once again available on Amazon. I would be happy to send a free copy to anyone who will write a review for Amazon. Please remember that writing a review does not mean to write a book report. It simply means giving the book stars (hopefully 4 or 5) and then writing a couple of sentences or more about why you like the book.
If you would like to have a copy, please email me via the Seekerville addie and I will gladly send you a free copy to review.
As Debby mentioned yesterday. Keep Seeker books in mind for Christmas gifts.
And look at all the others. Woo hooo
Debby Giusti here!
Thanksgiving brings to mind friends, family and blessings. I’m especially grateful for Seekerville and the wonderful people who are part of this online community – my Seeker sisters and the extended family of writers and readers who visit each day. Sharing the ups and downs of the writing journey with all of you has been and will continue to be one of the highlights of my life.
Since most of us are writers and in keeping with the season, I decided to revisit a few of the turning points in my road to publication and beyond. I invite you to do the same. Think of the events, whether planned or happenstance, that have spurred you on, turned you in a new direction or impacted you and/or your writing for the better. Together, let’s find those special moments for which to give thanks.
Often we focus on the big successes, which are so important, but we also need to consider the small stepping stones that have merit and help guide us to our destination.
1. Writing a book.
Early on, I published a number of fillers and slice-of-life vignettes. Because I wrote short pieces, I never thought I could pen a full-length manuscript. With encouragement from an instructor at a one-day novel writing workshop, I started to think of each chapter as a short story. If I put the chapters together, I could end up with a complete manuscript. The instructor stressed the importance of finishing the work. Four-hundred-plus pages later, I typed “The End.” Writing that book was an important first step and a significant turning point in my journey to publication.
Pam Hillman talked about contests in her blog last week, which brought back memories of the many writing contests I have entered over the years. Each critique, as well as any final or win, boosted my morale and motivated me to keep working. A turning point came when I won three contests, and the final round judges were all editors at Steeple Hill, later renamed Love Inspired Books.
3. Meet the editor!
Long before those three contest wins, Steeple Hill senior editor, Krista Stroever, visited my Georgia Romance Writers’ chapter. The Love Inspired Suspense line was expanding from two books a month to four, and Krista was looking for new authors. She encouraged me to rewrite my secular suspense into an inspirational story. I vividly remember my hesitation before making that first editing change as I weighed whether the Christian market would be a good fit for me. Once I started to include a faith element, the story came alive, and I knew I’d found my home in the inspirational genre.
4. The Call!
As we all know, getting “The Call” is a huge turning point. Like many of you, my dream was to have one of my stories (I’d written six by that time) accepted for publication by a traditional New York publishing house. My pre-pubbed journey had been long and many of my peers had already received contracts, while my forward momentum seemed to have sputtered and stalled. I attended the RWA Conference in Reno that year, knowing I was close because of the positive rejections I’d received and the feedback on my various submissions. It was in Reno that I won the three contests judged by Love Inspired Editors. A few days after returning home, Krista called and asked to buy my debut novel. NOWHERE TO HIDE was published in 2007 -- certainly a significant turning point, but my journey didn’t end there…I had other roads to travel.
5. Book Ten!
In the beginning years when I freelanced for magazines, I often wondered if I would ever intuitively understand "story" and how to craft a novel the way I could mentally envision a magazine article before I started the writing process. After publication, the number “ten” took on significance as if that would be an important milestone, which indeed it was. That inner sense of how to craft a story was in place by my tenth book, which provided another turning point.
6. Say “No!” to Fear!
The thought of creating an entire work of fiction can be daunting. A tight deadline makes the task even more of a challenge. Frequently, I would be nervous midway through a story and grow even more anxious as the submission date drew near. In scripture, we hear Christ say, “Do not be afraid.” Unwilling to let anything negative have power over me, I prayed to lose the fear and put my writing totally in the Lord’s hands. Although I never missed a deadline, I hated the stress. Anytime I felt anxious, I turned it over to him, and eventually, the fear lifted. Some months later, I began to focus on living “in His perfect time.” It’s a mindset of sorts, but when I give him control of my schedule and ask his help, I am working in accord with his holy will and living in his perfect time. Now, the many tasks and projects that need to be done are achieved not only on schedule but also without fear.
My most recent turning point came during RWA 2014. I attended a number of workshops that focused on the business side of publication and came home with a newfound confidence. I can’t explain exactly what happened, perhaps an acceptance that this is the road I have been called to travel. Up until then, I sometimes wondered if writing fiction was a bridge to the next stage of life that might not include the written word. Whatever I experienced at RWA left me firmly committed to my writing career. There will always be more to learn and new ways to improve my craft, and while the various stories may take time to develop, I am a writer. I can trust the process and my ability—with inspiration from the Lord—as I continue on my journey.
What have been the turning points—large and small—in your writing life? Look back on 2014 or farther. Are there moments that seemed insignificant at the time, which have turned into major breakthroughs to success? What about today? Are you struggling to find your way and unsure which road to travel? Perhaps you’re being called to write a bigger book or to change your genre or to break into the independent market and go hybrid. Could you be standing at a turning point, not yet ready to venture forth and take that leap of faith?
Today and throughout the week, I’m giving thanks for all those who have touched my life and have joined me on my writing journey--to the wonderful readers who buy my books and share my stories with friends and family, to my agent, Deidre Knight, and my talented editor, Emily Rodmell, and the entire editorial staff at Love Inspired Books and to all of you who bring joy to my heart. Thank you for being such an important part of my life.
Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a copy of HOLIDAY DEFENDERS and a special surprise gift.
The breakfast bar is loaded with goodies: eggs, ham, biscuits, coffee cake, fresh fruit and grits. The coffee’s hot, thanks to Helen, and tea is available. Fill your cup and your plate, and let’s talk about our thankfulness for turning points on our road to publication and beyond.
Think of Seeker books when shopping for Christmas!
Watch for A RECIPE FOR ROMANCE, a collection of short stories and recipes from some of your favorite Love Inspired Authors. Proceeds benefit children's charities. Details to be announced on Black Friday!