(This summer, while there have been a few road trips for our family, I’m also taking a virtual trip down memory lane back to when my writing adventure began. Today’s flashback takes us to 2014.)

The year 2014 was going to be my year. Depending on how things went, I was either going to go down in flames having done all I could to get my fiction published…or somehow God was going to give me a sign that He wanted me to keep writing.

At this point in the journey, I had three completed manuscripts. One women’s fiction set in a diner. One contemporary with a strong romance thread set in a dinner theater. And one romance set around college football. Two of the three had already done well in the ACFW Genesis Contest and not gotten attention from publishers, so I decided to enter Catch of a Lifetime in a variety of contests including the Genesis to see how a romance would fare. (My day job income truly came in handy with all of the entry fees!)

Then, a few weeks into January, I had another crazy idea. If I was going “all in” on this last attempt, why not reshape that Serving Up Love diner book back into a romance and enter it in the Genesis too? After all, I’d simply need to pick the one waitress whose existing storyline already held the most romantic potential…and write half a book’s worth of scenes from the hero’s point of view. And if I made it a short novel or category length book, then that was even less to write.

Simple, right? Not quite. Because I’d never truly explored that heroine’s motivations or even touched the surface of the hero’s journey. My idea of a quick book turned into a mountain of work as I had to rewrite the entire thing from scratch, but I finished the rough draft with just days to spare before contest deadline. Thankfully, I’d already polished up the opening with the help of my critique partner and I could honestly say the book was “complete” even if I knew there were many more revisions ahead.

Except, I had revisions to do on both books…and if I was giving it everything I had to give for another six months, then I’d hold up my end of the bargain with God. With the help of my critique partner, I’d made my way through fixing about half of the first book when I got the call from the ACFW Genesis contest coordinator.

Not one, but both of my stories had made it into the Semi-Finals.

Wow. Now that was a serious step in the maybe-God-wants-me-to-keep-writing direction! So with new energy in my fingers and hope rising in my heart, I got back to work on the revisions.

Then came the next phone call letting me know I was a Finalist in the Genesis contest. (Cue giddy light-headed feeling.) I pinched myself…twice…then asked which manuscript was the lucky one so I could focus my attention there.

There wasn’t a lucky “one” manuscript. Both of my entries were Finalists in the same category. Out of three entries moving on to the last round, I had two of them!

Which actually meant twice as much work to do in the next two days as I filtered through all of the comments and suggestions from the first round and semi-final round judges and polished up the entries even more before being allowed to submit an updated entry.

And then came even more work. Because with a two-out-of-three chance at winning, I needed to get to the ACFW Conference that fall. Day job income wrote the checks for registration and airfare while I made my hotel reservation and found a roommate. Meanwhile, I had two manuscripts to polish until they sparkled. Two one-sheets to prepare for those editor and agent appointments. Two elevator pitches to practice until I could recite them in my sleep. A fancy gown to buy and an acceptance speech to write just in case 

No question about it now. God wanted me to write fiction and I couldn’t wait to see what other surprises He had up His sleeve.

September–exactly ten years after starting my climb up the fiction writing mountain–found me in St. Louis and the entire conference passed by in a happy blur. I soaked up everything I could from all of the teachers, learning even more about the writing craft and also marketing. All four of the editors and agents I met with requested either proposals or full manuscripts of one or both of my Genesis Finalist entries. I even had an agent stop me in the hall and ask me to submit to her! And the various friendships formed that weekend are still precious.

I spent the entire conference thanking God over and over for His blessings…and for the repeated confirmation of His plan for my life. By the time the Awards Banquet rolled around, it was like icing on the cake to hear my name called as Serving Up Love won the Genesis Award. As I walked up onto the stage, knowing the video was being live-streamed as well, I drove a stake in the ground and took the chance to encourage other authors to keep on dreaming.

But the journey wasn’t over yet. A contest win is not the end of the road, so when I got home, I once again got back to work answering the various requests for submission…and occasionally hearing a rejection.

Then came October 15th. I got home from work to find a Facebook message from Sandie Bricker, the managing editor of the brand new Bling! Romance imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her message basically read “this may seem like it’s coming out of left field, but if Catch of a Lifetime is still available, I’d love to see a proposal.” Turns out she remembered my name from the ACFW Awards, knew we were Facebook friends, looked up my website where I had a list of blurbs for each of my novels, and then contacted me. (And all those previous drudgery tasks of a social media presence and updating my website in addition to the actual writing, revising, and submitting to contests…it took everything to come together at just the right time.)

Of course, I jumped right on the chance to submit another proposal…which led to a request for the full manuscript…which led to my first fiction contract from a traditional publisher. The year 2014 was my year to break through.

What about you? Have you ever experienced God’s lavish blessings piled atop one another? Has your obedience in the small things eventually opened a door down the road? Have you ever received a breath of fresh air just when you’d wanted to give up?

My Trip Down Memory Lane – 2014
Tagged on: