Monday, April 26, 2010

"The First Time Ever. . ."

I remember my first kiss. I was 13. Casey Troy caught me off-guard and I will never forget the experience. It felt like falling into a velvet-lined well.
I also remember just what I was doing when I got the letter from Zondervan telling me that they would publish my first book The Mormon Mirage. My husband brought it in and read it to me while I was changing a diaper. The changing of a diaper that changed my world. (I've thought of it as somewhat symbolic because I wrote my next ten books while my children were still at home.)

I've asked each of our other NovelMatters ladies to describe a "first time" for each of their first books:

No fair! I can remember things from the year I gave birth to my first son. (And I can certainly remember my first kiss.) I still had snapping synapses back then. But where was I when the call came? Hmm. I remember the feeling. Pure panic. Three books! They want three books! Writing one book was hard. Yes, yes, I'd proposed a three-book series. I never dreamed they'd take me up on it. THREE BOOKS! One page at a time, I told myself. Bird by bird. You better start NOW.

When I got the call that I finally had a contract for
Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, we had just said tearful goodbyes to our son (our baby!) at the Marine recruiting station knowing he would go through 13 weeks of intensive training at bootcamp. God is so good and His timing is perfect. We officially had an empty nest and I felt like God was telling me it was my turn to focus on writing. You know how it is to balance writing and family and jobs, etc. No more supermom - I turned in my cape.

Debbie, you still wear a cape as far as I'm concerned. This is one of those times I wish I was a journaler to help with the recall. I love journals. Love looking at them in stores, running my hand over the cover, the paper ... but filling them up? Not so much. But getting to the point, I'd presented another project to an editor at Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2006. Within just a day or two of the conference I received a call from my agent
saying NavPress had turned down the manuscript. That was no surprise. I had a long history of rejection letters. But what was really surprising was that same editor turned around a couple of weeks later and took another one of my manuscripts to committee, and I received my first contract. It was for two books, and I was ecstatic when I got the call from my agent Wendy Lawton. Ecstatic. And when I received that first copy of Every Good & Perfect Gift, I wanted to show off my new baby to everyone. I still have that copy, with the sticky tab note from my contact at NavPress on the cover. That will always be my copy. Same thing with that first copy of Lying on Sunday.

I remember my first kiss. Reminds me of that saying, 'You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince charming.' Ribbit. I still get jelly knees, however, remembering the first time my hubby kissed me. It was a movie moment to be sure. Where was I when I got the news I was going to be published? It was Saturday night, the kids tucked in. I figured I check e-mail one last time that evening. When I saw the name of the editor I had submitted my work to, I nearly stopped breathing. Then I told myself, "It's a no. Just relax, she said no." (I mean no one gets a yes from the first book they have ever written submitted to the first publisher they send it off to, right?) I read the e-mail telling me that, yes, they would be publishing my non-fiction Your Best You in the spring. My husband and I spent the rest of that Saturday night looking at each other and saying things like, "Wow." and "Can you believe it?"

When I submitted my first manuscript, I had the perfect plan. I put it in the mail one day, then boarded a plane the next. Two weeks in Ireland. What better way to distract my nerves from the fact that I'd just dropped my heart into a mailbox to make its own way in the world? Besides, at the end of two whole weeks, the editor would surely have an answer for me, right?

He didn't. Hardly a word for five months. Then I received an email that said he was taking the book to committee. I had to ask all my writer friends what that meant. Once they told me, I poured my energy into talking myself down from the rooftops. After all, like Bonnie, I'd only written one novel, and I'd only sent it to one publisher. Things didn't work that way and there was no sense getting myself in a lather.

Nonetheless, when I arrived at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference having not yet heard anything about that committee meeting, I decided to keep an oh-so-casual eye out for the editor, Jeff Dunn. When I spotted him (five minutes after my arrival), I oh-so-casually waited for something like an afternoon (or was it just ten minutes?) for Jeff to finish his conversation with author Mary DeMuth. When he at last turned his attention to me, he said I had a contract.

I'd done such a good job of talking myself down from the rooftops I almost couldn't grasp what had happened, not for a whole week.


Terri Tiffany said...

I really enjoyed reading these firsts! I could feel all of your excitement with you:))

Wendy Paine Miller said...

These made me smile. Glad I haven't been asked to share about my first kiss. ;)

Patti, did you catch Lamott on the cover of Writer's Digest? Picked up on your bird by bird reference.

~ Wendy

Latayne C Scott said...

Yes, Wendy and Terri! We want you to feel with us that excitement -- because we hope that our humble efforts to include you in our insights about the writing life will lead to that "first time" in publishing for many of our readers! Nothing in the world quite like it.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Wendy, Anne Lamott also has an article in Sunset magazine this month. (She sold me the magazine, because I don't usually buy it)

Patti Hill said...

Wendy, Anne's advice to write only a tiny part of a novel at a time helped me get past the "I-can't-do-that" stage to "Hey-I-can-write-an-itty-bit" stage. Otherwise, I would still be staring at a white screen. I'll have to pick up that Writer's Digest.

Jan Cline said...

What would life be without all those firsts?? They are memories that shape our lives. Thanks for sharing.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Latayne, I'm hoping on that same thing.

Debbie, I'll have to check into that. She's my hero.

Patti, Itty-bit stages are good. :D

Love this running conversation with you ladies!
~ Wendy

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thanks to all for sharing your firsts in getting a publishing contract. I can feel the excitement you had in receiving the awaited good news. I appreciate Lamott, too. Sorry I let me subscription elapse to WD.

Cynthia Schuerr said...

Thank you all for these "firsts". My heart is racing right now and as excited as I am for all of you, I am trying to imagine what I will do when it happens to me.

Anonymous said...

Jan and Wendy and Pat Jeanne and Cynthia:

May He grant you according to your hearts' desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
We will rejoice in your salvation!
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

(Ps. 20:4-5, NKJV)