Friday, March 12, 2010

Partial Writing Success

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know about my writing endeavors as well as my successes and failures. For those of you who don't, let me take a minute to explain.

It started about three years ago when I was still teaching middle school English. During that time I felt compelled to read what my students were reading, so I dove headfirst into the growing pile of books on my shelves. The more I read, the more I loved YA lit, not to mention the Scholastic Tab book orders that gave teachers free books with student orders. (Thank you Scholastic. I love you. I love you.) Every month, I'd order more books until my bookshelf was overflowing into piles on the floor. Every month, I'd read as many as I could between grading papers, and teaching, not to mention my home duties of being a wife and mom.

A few months had passed and with many books that I read, I found myself saying, "I could write better than that." Then I felt that God was saying to me. "O.k., then. Do it!" So, I immediately shouted back, "You need to give me a subject!" and he whispered back. "Abortion."

Whoa! Abortion? That's a little hefty, God. I've never had an abortion. Actually, I don't even know anyone who has. (Well, I probably do, but it's not like that's the first thing you talk about when you meet someone new.) So, I promptly said, "Choose someone else." You know what he said to me? "No!" He said no! Can you believe that? So, I told him. "Look, you've got the wrong girl, God. I'm not qualified to write this story. I know nothing about what it's like. How the heck am I supposed to write a story like that?" He didn't answer that question, but over and over I heard him say, "Write it. I've given you all the qualifications you need." No matter how many times I told him he had the wrong person for the job, he would come right back with "Write what I've told you to write."

O.k., o.k., so I had no choice, right? I mean, it's not like you can actually ignore things like that. So, I began to write. Not only that, but I contacted the local Choose Life branch for pamphlets or whatever I could get my hands on. (On a side note, God made this very easy for me since about two months prior, my husband was asked to serve on the board of that local Choose Life branch. Tell me that's not a God thing!) Not only did they set me up with brochures and the like, but they also put me in touch with post abortive women who now work with Choose Life.

I interviewed these women to get an idea what it was like to be in their shoes. Let me just say that no one has shoes like these women do. They are amazing people with amazing stories of God's redemption.

Then, after all that work, I decided I needed to write something lighter. I had gotten stuck after a few chapters and didn't know where to turn. So, I wrote another book. (About vampires--Yes, I'm one of those. I can't help it. I've always liked a good vampire story. It had a gospel story undertone to it with one sacrificing life for the other, just as Christ Jesus did for us.)

I finished it. I queried it to editors. I even have some request a partial, but nothing came of it. And do you know why? It was because I had written the wrong book. You may think I'm crazy at this point, but after I had my fun writing that vampire novel, I heard God speaking to me again. It was kind of like this, "So, you got that out of your system. Are you going to do the one I told you to do now?"

I sheepishly walked away from that reprimand with shoulders shrugged saying, "O.k., God."

I got back to work. All last summer, all this fall, I've been writing. About November, I finished the abortion themed book and began querying agents. Most said no. Many didn't respond. Until about two weeks ago when God and I had another conversation.

Me: Look, God, I know that this career is fraught with rejection, but this is getting a little old. I mean, I've sent out about 50 or so letters and not one even asked for a partial. If you really want me to write, if this is what I'm supposed to be doing, then I need a little encouragement. I don't even care if this agent ultimately takes my work. Just give me something. Please.

God: O.k., Jess.

Wow! An o.k.! So that week I get a letter from an agent requesting the next ten pages of my MSS. So, out it went, with a "Thank you, God." and came back two days later with a "No thanks" from the agent. But it didn't matter. I was flying high. God had heard my prayer and had answered specifically. It's funny as I look at that letter because the agent said that she wasn't accepting any new authors and that she didn't want personal growth stories. Why on earth I queried her in the first place, I have no idea, other than it was God's way of telling me I was on the right track.

Now, we are to present: Me continuing to write my next novel and every other day or so going through the Guide to Literary Agents book by Chuck Shambuchino. Two days ago, I got to the 'M's.

Enter Kelly Mortimer. I researched her and found a blog that she had written on, of all things, abortion! This whole time I've felt like I was sending these letters blind. After all, it's not like agents say, "I like YA, Middle grade and children's books, and oh, by the way, my stance on abortion is______." But that's exactly what Ms. Mortimer did. So, I queried her... yesterday... and today I got a response. She said, "I'm actually looking for lighter fare, but I'm going to give you a shot."

Yes! A shot! I'll take it. So, after obsessively going through my first three chapters and synopsis for the umteenth time, I've sent it out to her.

Now, it's waiting time. I wait on Kelly, whose turn around time is about ten weeks with a partial, and I wait on God, who's already been so faithful to me already. Hopefully soon, I'll be able to bring you good news. If not, that's o.k. He'll lead me to the right agent for my book. In the mean time, please pray.

P.S. She was the 72nd agent I queried.


  1. WOw what a great story! I hope your search for an agent is over. I'm rooting for you!

  2. Thank you so much! I hope so too.