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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Genesis Contest Experience

I have been itching to blog about my Genesis contest experience since July, but I felt it appropriate to wait until after the contest was over and I had the full picture. I've been plotting this post in my mind since July, only I had not anticipated being chosen the winner in the Historical Fiction category b/c there was a lot of great talent to compete with.

And while in fiction it's a great thing to build and hold tension, let me release yours right now. When I say I've been itching to blog about my experience, it has not been because I won a contract.

The simple fact is the whole process was so terribly exciting, how can I not write about it? The most important thing I learned is how God has been working in my life--and He has also been showing me how far I have to go as an obedient servant.

Way back at the beginning of the year, I felt a very strong prompting to enter the contest. At one point I got cold feet, but ultimately obeyed. Yet by the same token, after praying about it, I very clearly understood the Lord to be telling me that I was not to go to the 2010 ACFW conference and I was fine with that---after all I'm still reaping benefits from the blocks I began building at the 2008 conference. Even so, being prompted to enter the contest yet also prompted not to go to conference almost seemed at odds.

Then fast forward to May and the announcement that I was a finalist in my category. I admit it, the first few times I read Camy's announcement email, I thought it was a mistake. But sure enough, after several reads and Pam's confirming phone message, I realized indeed that my eyes were not playing tricks on me. 8-)

I was both elated and frightened.

Fast forward to end of June. My entry had been sent to the final round judges and the editor (for Bethany House) requested a full manuscript. You could've knocked me over with a cliched feather. And I was also surprised b/c I'd studied the Bethany House books and didn't think what I wrote fit in with their line. But I didn't think too much of it b/c you never know when a publisher is exploring a new line of books. The editor was most gracious and gave me about 2 weeks to do a final polish and send her the manuscript.

Now if you've followed this blog at all you know I write slower than mollasses going uphill and that I have major problems sharing my manuscript with people---not because I don't want them to read it, but because I'm a perfectionist and I never think it's good enough to show.

Well I spent more time praying during that two weeks then I'd probably prayed in a number of months. I'd had 2 chances before to submit this manuscript to another editor and agent and I didn't follow through. I didn't want to make the same mistake again. So with much intense prayer, and riding a high that was so...well....high -) I finished the revisions and submitted it.

And you can bet it was a God thing. Both because of health reasons and intense workplace stress, I fatigue easily, and there is no way other than through God for me to have completed that full manuscript revision. AND--in my line of work there are only 3 slow periods. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and about a 3 week stretch of time between late June and mid July--which is exactly when this request came so I was able to take several hours off work and pour myself into the revisions.

The editor got back to me a few days later---with a very pleasant rejection. I was elated!

Yes. Elated. My first rejection. That was a HUGE accomplishment for me, because that meant it was my first SUBMISSION. I'd worked on this novel part time over the course of 6 years and FINALLY! I'd submitted it.

She very kindly told me that her readers needed a romance thread, even if it wasn't the primary aspect of the story. And, as she rightfully surmised when reviewing more of my manuscript, no romance took place in my story.

That was simply a disconnect in how I perceived a term vs. how she and her readers perceived a term. I'm very literal. When I see "historical non-romance" category, I mean historical NON-romance category. But that's to be expected because that's what I love to read. And it showed me that if I ever wanted to submit something to Bethany House, I needed to be mindful of the romance element, even if it was secondary. That is a very important thing to know.

Was it slightly disappointing? Yes, of course. No one likes rejection, even if it comes so kindly done as this one was. But the fact was, I was able to ride the high of finally submitting my work, and that was the more important element of that experience.

So all that was left to do was wait until the Conference and the Awards Banquet and pray for all the finalists. I didn't think I'd win. I'd even picked 2 other fellow finalist names as those I thought would win or be runner up.

A few weeks after that, the Genesis buzz faded and the work situation became worse and worse (long story, won't drag it out for you).

Then fast forward to last night, and reading the Awards Banquet live on the LiveBlog. Again, when my name was chosen, I thought it was a mistake. But then they mentioned Cathy Richmond on the blog, who had graciously agreed to stand in for me in the event I should win, and I realized I'd read right. 8-)

My whole Genesis experience has been truly wonderful--and yes, I would have said that even had I not been chosen the winner of the historical fiction category.

But going back to the earlier part of this blog post, I mentioned that God is showing me I have a long way to go in being obedient and faithful to Him. There's a reason I say that. I look back on how God gave me my slowest time at work to revise and send the manuscript, gave clear direction both on entering the contest and whether or not to attend the conference. But while all that has been going on, the job situation has steadily declined to the point that going in to work now physically makes me sick to my stomach---and it feels like there is no relief in sight. The only one on whom I can depend for release from this situation is my Almighty Father. Yet nothing seems to happen, and in fact it only gets worse. And creativity?

Did you ever see the old Black Flag pest spray commercial, where the black flag gave a sharp snap to a bug and it keeled over on its back dead? That's exactly what work has done to my creativity.

I have cried, questioned, and even ranted at God about this. What is the purpose for all this torment?

But then I think---can't I have patience that the God who picks a rare slow time at work for me to work on my manuscript, the God who prompts me about contests and conferences, can not this same God bring me through these work trials to and into a greater creativity than ever before?

Of course He can. But I need to live like it. And that is my goal moving forward. That He knows, cares, and will provide, and that this writing course He has set for me will finish out to the ending He has planned, when, where and how He has planned it.

That's what I pray for.


Britt Mitchell said...

Hi. My name is Britt Mitchell. One of my critique partners, Kathleen Maher, introduced me to your blog after we had an email discussion on the winners of the ACFW. She thought I might like it.

And she was right. This post touched me. You're so sincere, so honest about your struggles. And I understand your elation over a rejection. To be rejected is to know you at least TRIED. I can't WAIT for my first rejection.

For I have not yet TRIED.

I'm looking forward to watching your writing career as it progresses. And I pray God will bless you and your job situation. He sees your path clearly, like a road lined with bright gold.

~Britt Mitchell

Patti Shene said...

Oh my goodness, Brenda! I am beyond over the top thrilled for you! How in the world did I miss this???? I was on the live blog Sunday night, but only saw the Carol awards.

Do you know how proud I am of you? I can't even put it into words! I know how you have cried and worked and struggled through this manuscript, and my heart is bursting with happiness for you. I knew when I read your full as your crit partner (and I think you have revised since then) that you had a fine, publishable story!

Wahoo! I want to be one of your influencers when the book comes out!

Praise God for rewarding you for all your hard work.

BK said...

Britt, thanks. When to submit is definitely a tough call. We wrestle with ourselves, and we're getting lots of advice from writer friends. I'd be curious to task that question to multi-published writers--to see if the agonizing over when to submit gets easier. I'm thinking it probably does.

Patti--thank you. You've put in a lot of woman-hours helping me tweak that manuscript and I appreciate it.

Kathleen L. Maher said...

What a touching post, Brenda. I feel your heart. And you have my prayers, that God will move on you in such a way that you will know it was Him who resurrected you from this death of creativity. Just remember, unless a seed falls down to the ground and dies, it abideth alone, but if it dies, it will spring forth and bear some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.

May God resurrect your creativity with an exponential reward.

(((hugs,))) sister!