Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Agony of Victory, the Thrill of Defeat


     On the off chance there’s a reader who still gives a fig and has not heard the news by some other means, here’s an update on the Operation First Novel contest for which my book was a contender.
     Mom and I flew to Denver and found our way to the fancy-shmancy hotel hosting the Writing for the Soul conference. Jerry B. Jenkins made the big announcement the first night, with three of the five finalists in attendance.
      After spending the previous month emailing back and forth, Jim, Peter, and I felt like old friends when we finally met face to face. We sat together for moral support, wishing Clarice and Kimberley had been able to join us. In alphabetical order, they called us to the front while our photos came up on the big screens along with the title and tag-line for each book. Just like the Oscars! (Well, ok, maybe not just like. Work with me.)
     The three of us stood there while the CEO of Worthy Publishing, the contest’s sponsor, waxed eloquent. I can’t speak for the others, but I stood there with heart racing and antiperspirant begging for mercy. Nodding and smiling, I pretended to listen. I couldn’t tell you a word the man said to save my life.
     Then they announced the name of the winner.
     Was it mine? Nope.
     Had I expected it would be? Nope.
     Was I disappointed anyway? Yep

     Was I happy for Peter? You bet I was.
      Did I secretly hope my congratulatory hug might strangle him? Naturally.
     Was my mother bummed? Yeah, I think so.
     Was my mother proud anyway? Yep.
     Did everyone back home say all the right things? They sure did.
     Did I learn some things through the experience? Absolutely.
     Does God still love me?
     Well now, let’s think about that.
     While I accused him otherwise, the truth is, he loves me too much. Too much to let me receive things I’m not ready for. Too much to allow my book to see publication before it’s the best it can be. Too much to make it easy for me. Too much to not teach me patience and persistence. Too much to strike me dead for questioning his strange timing. Too much to let my influence outgrow my character.
     Like any good and wise parent, God knows when (if ever) I’ll be ready to handle what might come with such a sizable book contract. For the rest of the weekend, Peter found himself besieged by other writers looking for advice. He told me that while he enjoyed the attention, it exhausted him. Meanwhile, I felt buoyed by folks telling me how blessed they felt to see Jim and me celebrating for Peter.
     “I couldn’t tell who won,” one lady said. “You looked genuinely happy, but I was pretty sure your name wasn’t Peter!”
     And you know what? I was. And I guess that’s one of the things I learned. It really is possible to be disappointed and happy at the same time.
     Been disappointed lately? Maybe God loves you too much, too. Promise me you won’t quit.
     I sure don’t intend to. 

(Photos courtesy Christian Writers Guild)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

De Jour List for Saturday at Writing for the Soul Conference

Mom gave a copy of her book to our new friend, Edina, from Florida

Thanksgiving of the Day: slept so good last night Mom had to shake me awake 15 minutes after our alarm had gone off! (No, I’m not deaf – I was using ear plugs.)
Talk of Day: Barbara Nicolosi on “Where Have All the Heroes Gone?”  Oh. My. Goodness. SO good.
Me and Kim Peterson
Meeting of the Day: Finally getting to meet and have lunch with Kim Peterson, my mentor through my current course and also my first course last year.
Lesson of the Day: Learning visual imagery from the most AMAZING and high energy, animated instructor Dennis Hensley. If you read Leslie Holden’s romance novels… you’ll be interested to know that’s a pen name. Doc Hensley is a former marine, present university prof and writes a lot of other stuff under his real name. Guess they figure nobody would read a romance written by someone named Dennis.
Quote of the Day: “Success with God at its centre is not a goal; it is a daily process.” (Augustine said this; Davis Bunn applied it in his talk this morning.)
Business of the Day: An appointment with agent Rachel Kent and her invitation to send my proposal.
Temptation of the Day: To send off my proposal immediately upon request rather than waiting until I get home and can take time to ensure it meets their individual requirements. RESIST!
Goof of the Day: showing up at my 10:45 appointment at 9:45, then having to scramble to get to the right person. Being late for anything here is considered really bad form.
Affirmation of the Day: Attending a workshop led by Todd Starnes of FOX News and learning I’m doing some things right with my newspaper column!
Musical treat of the Day: singing “Revive Us Again” with the whole group, but changing it to “Revise Us Again.”  Works on so many levels, especially in this crowd.
Moment of the Day: seeing Mom laugh so hard the tears were running down her face at Todd Starnes’ hilarious after dinner talk tonight.
Prayer Request of the Day: for a safe flight home tomorrow!

Friday, February 17, 2012

De Jour List for February 17 at Writing for the Soul conference, Denver, CO

Tears of the Day: Sammy Tippet’s talk on “Five Reasons for Suffering.” (The first and most important? “I don’t know.”)
Challenge of the Day: To read one classic a month for five years - from Visual Imagery instructor and Hollywood screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi. (I’m considering it.)
Lesson of the Day: Learning the “Snowflake” method of novel plotting from Randy Ingermanson.
Quote of the Day: “Difficulties and setbacks are inconsequential to people of destiny.” – Dr. Dennis Hensley in his talk on what life is all about.
Business of the Day: My appointments with agents Blythe Daniel and Terry Burns. The first took my only printed copies of my manuscript and proposal; the latter wants me to email my proposal.
Encouragement of the Day: When agent Blythe Daniel told me she was moved to tears to see how happy Jim and I were over Peter’s victory at the big announcement.
Moment of the Day: praying with an extremely nervous lady named Trish while we both awaited our appointments (and being thankful for my acting/public speaking experience!)
Thanksgiving of the Day: my lungs are doing just fine.
Toast of the Day: “Champagne to our real friends and real pain to our sham friends.” – International Punster of the Year Richard Lederer.
Musical treat of the Day: exquisite piano playing by 10-time Carnegie Hall pianist Randy Atcheson. Even better than Schroeder.
Prayer Request of the Day: for a decent sleep tonight.
Mother of the Day: Norma Klassen. The best 80-year old trooper ever.
Honour of the Day: Lunch at Jerry Jenkins' table

Thursday, February 16, 2012

And the Winner is...

Congratulations to my new friend, Peter Leavell, for winning the top spot on the Operation First Novel contest! (Don't be sad, friends. God's timing is perfect!)
This sign is front of the main doors.

Me and Mom at "the sign."

Jim and Peter

Jim, Me, Peter before the announcement. (Kimberley & Clarice can't be here.)

I get to sit at Jerry B Jenkin's "by invitation only" table at lunch tomorrow!

The winner, Peter, with the gorgeous cover already designed by the publishers.

I have already had conversations with two of the judges who told me they loved my book and I've got some appointments set up with agents tomorrow and Saturday. Meanwhile, much to learn and do. Mom and I are completely exhausted. Off to bed now.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Final Stages

It’s time to share the disturbing news with my blog readers: I regret to tell you I am now experiencing advanced and possibly final stages of Operation First Novel Finalists Stress Syndrome. I have all five of these classic symptoms:

·         You’re convinced you are stuck in some sort of freaky time warp, since February 16 never seems to get any closer.  At best, the month between the announcement and the conference must be the longest in the history of the world.
·         On the flip side, you don’t really want the 16th to arrive because the longer you’re stuck in this warp, the longer you can indulge in occasional fantasies where you actually walk away with the grand prize.
·         You are already waterlogged, trying to increase your daily water intake in preparation for Mile High City. Altitude sickness is just as fun as it sounds.
·         You’re convinced you are WAY out of your league. You learn you are up against History and English majors and you think “I haven’t graduated from anything since high school, about 150 years ago. This has to be an administrative error. Maybe someone else with my name wrote another book by the same title. Or maybe they needed a token foreigner.”
·         Your new prayer is: “Lord, thank you that you love me too much to allow my novel to be published before it’s ready, or before its author is ready. Thank you that you know when that will be. Hopefully, not posthumously. Amen.”

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Competition Heats the Warmest of Ways!

     “Rocky Mountain High” plays consistently in my head these days as I anticipate my trip to Denver on February 16 for the Writing for the Soul conference. Mom and I will soak up a flood of excellent teaching from topnotch writers and editors, and finally find out who wins the “Operation First Novel” competition!
     Connecting with the other four finalists via email has been like a delightful road trip so far. We’re all experiencing the effects of “FSS” (Finalists Stress Syndrome) and comparing symptoms as though we belonged to Hypochondriacs Anonymous. Here are our top five: 
1.      Friends say "Congratulations, you must be so excited!" and you look at them and think "OK, how they feel probably represents how I should feel, but I'm still too stunned."
2.      Friends say "I'm praying for you to win" and you feel the need to apologize to God for them.
3.      You worry that your friends will throw up if they see one more link to Christian Writers Guild on your Facebook page.
4.      You’re afraid of winning because then they’ll expect you to follow your own act.
5.      You pray "God, may the book the world needs most be the one to get picked," and then you cry because you're pretty certain it's not yours.
     We tease and taunt each other, but what has impressed me most is the warm camaraderie, genuine encouragement, and humble helpfulness I see among this group.
     Peter Leavell from Idaho (author of Songs of Captivity) said, “I'll admit it openly, all of those sum up my exact experiences. I've thought about contacting others who have been through this process, because I was feeling alone. Glad you emailed. We do need to pray for one another. Can't wait to meet all of you!”
     Jim Hamlett from South Carolina (author of Moe) said, “You've hit at least half the nails on the head. You made me laugh. And you've reminded me that our communion is not around a contest, but a cause. What a joy to be in such a crowd.”
     Kimberley Gardner Graham of Memphis (author of The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia) said, “Ah! I love this list so much. Yes, I’m feeling all of those emotions. What a gift to know we’re all in this together.”
     Clarice James from New Hampshire (author of Party of One) said, “Thanks for giving me a laugh and helping me to understand my ‘symptoms.’ Knowing that using our gift is an offering to God is what keeps me going.”
     Does this sound like cut-throat competition, trash-talking, or psyching out one’s opponents to you? Certainly, all five of us would love to see our own book published and take home the 20 grand. But we belong to the same team and will celebrate the victory no matter who wins.
     I like to think this difference is because of the first word in the Guild’s name: Christian. Not all Christians make me proud to call myself one, but these folks do. What’s more, I am pleased to learn from them and to call them my friends.
     By the way, my favorite line in John Denver’s somewhat mysterious song? “Seeking grace in every step he takes…”