Monday, March 22, 2010


There was something inspirational--magical if Katy were telling the story--behind the creation of Novel Matters and the union of the six of us who co-author the blog. It was the brainchild of Books & Such agents Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton, though the specifics of who, what and when would come later. When I received the phone call from Wendy, who wanted to run the idea of such a blog by me, I was immediately interested. And when Wendy mentioned the names of two authors I knew well as possible blog mates, I was sold.
Initially, seven of us were introduced to each other via phone conference hosted by Wendy and Janet. The rapport was instant and dynamic. Three months later, after another phone conference or two between the seven of us, Novel Matters was launched. Almost immediately one author opted out, and it's been the six of us ever since. We have developed a strong friendship and support system in the year and a half since we first came together. For me, these women have become my closest friends.
One of our top goals has been to provide a support system, a teaching venue, and a network of assistance to aspiring authors. So last spring we decided to host a contest for un-agented fiction writers, the grand prize of which would be a reading of the winning entry by Wendy Lawton. Thus, our Audience-with-an-Agent Contest was born. We spent 3+ months promoting the contest and accepting entries, and another few weeks carefully judging each one. Then we sent six finalists to Wendy. She ultimately selected Lori Benton's Kindred as the winning entry. That was exciting in itself, but this past week Wendy offered Lori a contract for representation with Books & Such Literary Agency! We here at Novel Matters feel like we've given birth! We're all thrilled for Lori, and deeply appreciate Wendy's participation in the contest.

Congratulations to Lori for being signed by one of the best agents in the CBA (I'm not biased!). It's exciting to play a small part in your success. It didn't surprise me one bit to hear how you have been working on your craft for years now, and how dedicated you are to continuing to learn as you go. All signs of a excellent writer - ones who understands this is a journey.

I can't think of a more valuable kind of contest anywhere for unagented fiction writers. The publishing industry is in constant flux, and a great agent is critical in order to transverse the sudden peaks and valleys.

Sharon mentioned how our agents put us together on this blog. That is what all writers need - a home team ro
oting for you, coaching you, cheering you on, calling your bluff, and offering you a tissue and a shoulder to cry on when things don't turn out the way we expected. That's part of what an agent will do for you. Thinking you're ready to make the leap to publication? Enter the Audience with an Agent Contest!

Oh boy. This is what it takes to make me happy.

Lori, CONGRATULATIONS! And welcome to the Books & Such clan. (We call each other Bookies, btw.) I want you to know, you are signing with an amazing literary agent.
Wendy will take excellent care of you, and I'm going to love watching you blossom.

Now, all you other writers: let me remind you that we have another contest going now just like the one that brought us to this happy event. We want to read your manuscripts! So hop over to our promotions page, and get to work.

That's good advice, Katy! If you're unagented and you have a polished manuscript looking for a home, stop reading this and head on over to the promotions page. Publishing houses aren't taking unsolicited manuscripts these days, so you must make an impression at a writers conference or query agents to represent you. It's a long and arduous journey. Our Audience-with-an-Agent contest may be your shortcut.

Lori, congratulations on writing a beautifully crafted story. I'm not one bit surprised Wendy signed y
ou. What Wendy can do for you that you can't do for yourself is this: She knows who's looking for a manuscript like Kindred. She also knows who will provide strong editorial support, and who will market Kindred in a manner worthy of its potential. In short, she knows which publishers are most likely to say yes to Kindred, and those are the houses she'll present to, raising your chances of getting a contract.

We'll be on the sidelines, cheering you on!

We are so happy to have been part of the chain of events that brought Lori in contact with an agent. The truth is that it's hard to send a manuscript out into the world - sometimes even for published authors. There is always the chance of rejection. We write what is on our hearts and we strive for excellence and we take risks for our dreams. Our stories will languish untold and their spiritual truths will lay fallow unless we take action. We applaud the courageous writers who have and will submit entries to our contest, and we wish you all the best

Congratulations, Lori!

I believe in contests! My first earnings for writing (a whopping $5) came from an essay contest in grade school. My first publications in magazines were from winning contests. And my scholarship to college was from a writing contest.

So now I know that Lori is a true believer in contests -- and you can be too! Congratulations to Lori for an excellent story, and for being an excellent storyteller. May God bless you, Lori, with a long and successful time of ministry of words, a service to the Lord!


Kristen Torres-Toro said...

WOOHOOO--Congratulations, Lori! That's great news!

Lori Benton said...

Here I sit totally overwhelmed at the awesomeness of these Novel Matters ladies. Patti, Katy, Sharon, Latayne, Debbie, and Bonnie... thank you for being so supportive and providing yet another door for writers to knock on in pursuit of their dreams and calling. It still hasn't quite sunk in that not only did my knocking get an answer this time, but I got invited in. Nearly twenty years of writing, getting close, having doors shut, illness, struggle, and a lot of waiting, has made me to understand that God has a time for everything concerning his children. He also knows the circumstances that will be best for each of us. I'm awfully glad I waited for these.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Lori, I'm so very happy to hear this news. I've been following your blog just to see if you were contracted by Wendy for Kindred. Yes, His timing is perfect. God bless you in the days ahead. A big thank you for the excellent posts here and the opportunity to enter the contests.I visit frequently.

Steena Holmes said...

WOW! I have tears just reading this post! Congrat's Lori! What an awesome opportunity these ladies offer!

Carla Gade said...

This is wonderful news! I have goosebumps!!

Jan Cline said...

Congratulations Lori. Your patience and determination is inspiring.

Nichole Osborn said...

Woot, woot, Congrats Lori!

Judy Gann said...

Last April, not long after Mount Hermon, I had lunch with Lori at a food court in a shopping center in Medford, OR. I remember listening to her talk about her experience at Mount Hermon; that she wasn't sure about agents, concerned about the length of her book, etc. I told her about my wonderful agent, Wendy Lawton.

You can imagine my excitement when Lori won the "Audience with an Agent" contest. How fitting that the agent would be Wendy. :-)

Lori, I hope you heard my cheers coming down I-5 when I read that you'd joined the Books & Such Family. Woo! Hoo!

Lori and I share some of the same type of writing journey--an unexpected curve of illness that delayed our journeys for a time. I consider Lori a kindred spirit and I'm thrilled for her, and for Books & Such.

Lori Benton said...

What a wonderful thing to wake up to, all the new messages here. Thanks, everyone. Lifting my spirits... which aren't really low at all but the flesh is being a little weak right now.

Judy, every time I see you on line I think of our lunch and wonderful conversation. I'm so glad you let me know you were passing through Medford that day. It's fun to look back and see where God has led from that moment. And I remember you, too, were excited about embarking on writing fiction. We sure did have a lot of points of connection. :)

Karen B. said...

I first read Lori's writing back when I was working for Multnomah. I'd taken notice of her because she was from my hometown area, but that only got the manuscript a glance. What drew me in was Lori's writing. She's gifted in so many ways (you should see her wildlife paintings!), it's just not fair. And she's so lovable, you can't even hate her for it!

Congrats to both Lori and Wendy, two of my all-time favorite women. You're going to make a great team.

Now...where's the proposal??

Karen B.

Bonnie Grove said...

Wow Karen - things just got a whole lot more interesting for Wendy and Lori!

Hey, it could happen!

Lori Benton said...

LOL, Karen. You crack me up (and bless my heart at the same time--talk about talented :-)). I love you back, you know. Wish I was heading to Mount Hermon with you and Julee again this year! Be blessed (I know you will).