(This summer, while there will be a few road trips on our family’s horizon, I’m taking a virtual trip down memory lane back to when my writing adventure began. Today’s flashback takes us to 2006.)

The year 2006 dawned with a feeling of expectation. After all, my first book manuscript, Pigskin Parables, had been accepted by The Writer’s Edge service and I just knew that publishers would find the idea captivating. Someone was sure to call and my writing career was poised to launch. There’s plenty of great guided tours available for The golden circle. It’s the most visited route on the island! But to be brutally honest, it’s sooooooo much better to do it on your own.

Of course, as I found out later, acquisitions editors at the major publishers are already more-than-swamped with quality book proposals from literary agents and authors they’ve personally met at conferences. They’re too busy to actually read the report…and despite their good intentions, most of these types of services simply take money from hopeful writers without truly screening the product.

But not knowing any of this, I continued to babysit the phone waiting for the call to make my dreams come true. The first to call were the high-priced editing services offering to help me shape my book. Except with my husband’s teaching and coaching salary supporting us, I could only laugh at what they considered a “reasonable” investment.

However, one day I got a different call. This time it was an editor at an online magazine wondering if I’d be interested in co-authoring an article with my husband about the impact of Fellowship of Christian Athletes on students. It wasn’t a paying assignment, but by that point, I was willing to try anything to put my foot in any door. I wrote the article, added my husband’s name to the by-line, and sent it off.

The editor’s gushing response is printed out and sits in my office to this day. First, she was impressed by the lack of editing she needed to do the submission. Then she emailed back twenty minutes later still in awe over my “gifted” writing ability as an “undiscovered gem” and strongly suggesting I attend the Christian Writers’ Guild Conference later that month.

The price tag was large but the opportunity to meet editors and agents face to face made the conference a better investment in my overall journey than those previously-offered editing services. My husband and I squeezed the budget again so I could go.

Once there, surrounded by the Broadmoor Hotel’s opulent setting and hundreds of other writers with dreams larger than mine, I truly got a taste of what this journey would require. For the first time, I heard about non-fiction author’s needing a platform, discovered the possibility of writing for more magazines (on purpose), and walked away not only inspired to continue writing but also enrolled in a two-year apprentice course to hone my writing skills under the direction of best-selling author Jerry Jenkins.

Every other week I emailed a lesson to my mentor who would then grade and return my assignment. The first lessons focused on general writing craft, but soon delved into the types of potential articles I could write. And since I’d already taken the time to write the pieces for my homework, I also learned how to research markets and query magazines. By the end of 2006, I had a total of six articles published. Me! Multi-published with a growing stack of “clips” to prove my merit and pad my resume.

However, through the conference and the whole magazine-query process, I also discovered the Christian Writers Market Guide full of potential publishers for that book manuscript. By now I’d also learned that most authors received multiple rejections before ever getting their first offer, so I deliberately chose a publisher who promised an answer in three weeks. I’d rather get that first true rejection out of the way fast!

To my surprise, I instead received a contract. Except this relatively-new publisher also asked for an author’s “contribution” that would be refunded once I’d sold a certain number of copies. Not sure what to do, I called that first magazine editor to ask her advice. (Lesson to all: It’s a good idea to ask advice of those who have more experience in the industry. However, editors of ministry magazines don’t often know the ins and outs of book publishing…and forum sites like Predators and Editors weren’t commonly known back then.)

While I had a few reservations, my husband and I decided to make yet another investment into my writing. I signed the contract and soon experienced the publishing and editing process up close. (While I now realize I’d been lured into a “vanity” press that has since been harshly criticized and blackballed, I still consider this leg of my publishing journey a vital learning experience and my “contribution” amount the tuition payment for my lack of patience.)

By the end of 2006, I had caught a glimpse of how much I needed to learn about the writing industry, but I was on my way.

What about you? If you could go back to change a moment in your life, what would you do differently? Do you truly regret a decision or can you now see it as a valuable learning experience?

My Trip Down Memory Lane – 2006
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