I was eight in the Brushy Mountains of North Carolina where my siblings and I had gotten over chicken pox. My mom rubbed on calamine lotion, ran warm oatmeal baths, and hit rewind on the worn-out copy of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast we all could sing by heart at week’s end. Soothed by the creek, and the cooking of our great aunt Hessie, (with whom we were staying), we survived the tumultuous week and were grateful.
It was a breakthrough week and I knew it. I sat in the navy blue Chrysler minivan the day we were supposed to head back home to Virginia and waited patiently while my mom gathered all our things. The sun glistened through the big trees beside Aunt Hessie’s trailer on the mountain and I missed it already—the fun my sister and I had turning the Elvis bust on the back of the toilet every time we used it, fearful his marble face would sing as we took a moment of privacy, the warn dirt paths to great uncle Jonah’s huge apple orchard, the barn, or the magnificent cherry tree beyond the field.
Happy and content to wait, I sat holding a new stuffed animal, one of the many from my collection at home and began telling a story called Fred the Frog. I knew when I was done I had a great story on my hands. Once home, I asked my Grandma to write it up on her electric typewriter. She did and she suggested I make copies to sell. What an idea!
I gathered my fine-tipped Crayola markers and illustrated Fred the Frog within a few days, eager to hustle it to my Grindaddy (on the other side of the family tree) who owned a business in Norfolk, Virginia. He liked the idea of my developing entrepreneurship (never even read the story, he was too busy for that) and ordered his secretary to make copies.
That afternoon, I eagerly awaited as copies came hot off the Xerox copier, stapled together, and ready for sale. I sold nine copies, keeping the original for myself, before I left Grindaddy’s office floor, thrilled at the joy of it all. A quarter a piece, plus an extra quarter if the reader wanted their copy colored by yours truly, I was, in my mind, a published author.
I would like to tell you that my love of writing began then and there and I never stopped. That’s not true though. I had a lot of learning to do, plus the challenges of spelling and grammar kept me bashful about the dream.
Somehow though, even in our insecurities and imperfections, God finds a way to use us. I started writing again with this blog in 2013 and then self-published The Unseen and God & Bees. One more manuscript, God & Dogs, which has faced many rejections, still challenges my resolve. Timing? Good enough? So I hit pause on that project and began a new manuscript over a year ago. After countless interviews, calls, letters, and visits with my grandpa, who grew up on the very mountain I wrote my first book on at eight years old, he walked me through his life. And thus began the start of my fourth manuscript, In the Letting Go.
Last summer, as I helped Grandpa take care of my grandma (who is wheelchair-bound) while my aunt was on vacation, I got to walk, once again, in his shoes. (I’m literally borrowing Grandpa’s boots in the picture below.) This time it wasn’t through his past, but in his present, caring for his wife with dementia and a body giving way.
The book is inspired by their story, but Grandpa and I decided I should write a lot of it my way. He and I know what’s true and what’s fiction, both still revealing a powerful story of love.
I finally finished the manuscript, with the help of some awesome early readers and my outstanding editor, just as 2023 began. I sent it off to literary agents in hope that this manuscript is the one to get traditionally published with a larger publishing house. The only way to make that happen though is through the gatekeepers, the literary agents of the book publishing world, the liaisons between authors and inundated publishers. Saying it is hard to get an agent is an understatement. I know this firsthand with the over fifty rejections I’ve received for previous manuscripts.
I sent off a few queries to agents the second week of this month and, by God’s grace, as of Monday, I received a positive reply!
“I would like to read your manuscript in full…”
I sent that attachment within an hour of the request. Desperation? Nah. Excitement! Why wait?
By the next day, the agent wrote back offering me a contract!
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I would like to announce I have a literary agent!
Soon she’ll knock on doors to sell it to a publisher. That can take months, if successful. She and the publisher will negotiate and then send it to me for final sign-off.
Then the publisher takes 15-24 months to market, print, and get it on the shelves. So we have hurdles ahead, but getting an agent is huge! I’ve spent years and years trying to get an agent. Some never get one. I know we have a lot to still achieve, but I’m excited to have made it this far.
If you would, please pray the manuscript sells quickly to just the right publisher. Then the real fun begins (and potential pressure because deadlines and money are involved, but so are readers which is the point of all of this!).
From one mountain to the next, Fred the Frog or In the Letting Go, I’m believing for God to show me the way to share these stories.
Thank you all for being with me on this writing journey.