I had some pretty big news last week. I signed a contract to publish my picture book “I Made the Earth” with End Game Press.
When I started this journey, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I never expected to publish a picture book. If you know this story, bear with me. My Grandma died in 2013. I was 37 weeks pregnant and although her battle with dementia was finally over, I was grieving the loss of one of the most precious souls this earth has ever seen.
In those heart-breaking final months of Grandma’s life, the family often asked her to read from her story. She had written an account of her life years before. Although she no longer knew us, she could read and we treasured the moments when she came alive telling us about her life. I remember her reading this section:
“We always called our Mom and Dad by their names. I never knew just why, but I guess that’s the way they wanted it, or we wouldn’t have. That has always been hard to explain to the people down through the years. It wasn’t that they thought any less of us, or us of them, but that’s just the way it was. So it was always Basil and Nora”
On the way home from that visit, I was quiet in the car. I was thinking of card games I played with Grandma as a kid and Doctor Pepper in a gold Tupperware cup. (It's weird which memories stay with us.) Ryan broke the silence and said something I’d also been thinking, “Nora would be a great name for the baby.” I laid my hand on my swelling bump and agreed.
Then he said something I hadn’t been thinking, “That story should be a novel.” And just like that, a dream was born.
It was a few years before I started writing the book. I was adjusting to the exhausting and sometimes lonely routine if being a stay at home mom and the thought of writing a book felt like a mental exercise I wasn’t fit to complete. Then, an expected change in Ryan’s job gave him more flexibility with his time. He sent me to our local library for months of Mondays so I had enough quiet to hear my characters speak to me. I say he “sent" me because at first I was paralyzed in my own fear and feeling of inadequacy. I needed a nudge. And my loving husband gave me both the nudge and the time and I needed.
Once the manuscript for Silvery Moon was complete, I waited for someone to magically fall out of the sky and demand I let them publish it. It was silly. But then I googled, “how to publish my book”. I don’t recommend that. Vanity publishers pounce on hopeful authors who search that phrase. I still get junk email from some of them.
So, I put it away and moved on. One night, my dad and I went to our local library because Beverly Lewis (who writes Amish fiction) was doing a book signing. I won’t say who invited whom, but I will say I’d never read any of her books before that night. She talked about how she got started writing because she wanted to see more faith-centered chapter books on the shelves for her kids. They were hard to find, so she wrote some. That stuck with me. I had the same desire which is part of the reason I wrote Silvery Moon in the first place.
A few days later, when I was still thinking about it, I decided to send Mrs. Lewis an email. By the way, I often reach out to authors and, if you're wondering, they almost always respond. Except, she didn’t...at first. A full six months later, I got a wonderful email from Beverly Lewis. She apologized for the delay, but she had been on a book tour and was catching up on correspondence. (Sounds like a Jane Austin novel right?) Anyway, she suggested attending a writers conference. I didn’t know that was even a thing, but I got online there happened to be a conference coming up in Cincinnati. I signed up.
I didn’t quite know what to expect, but the first workshop of the conference was designed for first-time conferees so I figured that was a good start. Two friendly women lead the workshop and they talked about how we have the opportunity to make appointments with literary agents and publishers. One of the women was Michelle Medlock Adams. She made us feel confident by explaining how to pitch our ideas. I only had an “idea” (singular), so I was afraid someone would ask me what else I’m working on. Then, she said something sort of in passing that I held onto. “Make sure you’re always writing. Keep coming up with fresh ideas. Sometimes you’re hoping to sell something, and in the waiting, you write something else. And that may be the thing that gets published first.”
I’ve attended lots of conferences since that day. And I’ve kept writing. I started this blog and I turned Silvery Moon into a series. And then one day, God put it on my heart to write a picture book -specifically an Earth Day book from His perspective. I laughed it off. I woke up the next day with the same urge. By day three or four I gave in and began work on something I never thought I’d write. At the time, I actually wrote a blog post about it never thinking it would come to anything.
Almost a year later, I signed a contract to publish that little picture book and the person publishing it? Michelle Medlock Adams. That first workshop was given by the person who would issue my first contract. God works in amazing ways.
I still want to publish my series and I’m working with my agent to make that happen, but I’ve learned to lean into God’s timing because it’s always good.
I’m reminded of something I learned from my uncle Jim. His life has been a study in beating unbeatable odds and he’s so wise. He recently told me that there are doors we need to go through on our creative journey. And often that door is closed. But if we’re not leaning on it, we’ll never be where we need to be when it does open.
So, I’ll be here. Leaning on the door. Waiting for God’s perfect timing. I hope you'll do the same.