I’m Back!

So where have I been? Good question. I look back and can’t believe it’s so long since I’ve posted. It doesn’t make sense to me. Or perhaps it does. Writers are strange beings. We have a passion, a never-ending itch to write, to spill things on paper. But then there’s also that deep conviction that we have little or nothing to say and that even the things we feel strongly about will never be read. I made a bookmark recently with this “demand”: Three words for a writer: Make me care.

And that, my friends, is a tall order. Hence, the—dare I say it?—fear that no one cares.

Deeper still, however, is the truth. If I believe the Lord gave me this desire—this mission—to write, then I’d best be about it. Sometimes it takes a while to work through the fear and get on with it. And so … I’m back.

To get you up-to-date … Things have been happening. Of course they have. Time didn’t stand still. Life didn’t end after my last post, even though I thought it might (smile).

Soon after I wrote my last post, I lost my job. There were budget issues at the church where I had worked for sixteen years, and I was told that my position was a luxury they could no longer afford. “We can make our own appointments and answer our own phones.” I think that was the most devastating thing anyone could have said to me. All those years of hard work, innovation, and dedication, and I was reduced to a phone-answering, appointment-making assistant? I was a puddle for days. Weeks maybe.

It was especially tough because, truth be told, most of my self-esteem had been tangled up in job performance since I was very young. I gave my best and did a good job. Always. My goal for each employer was to gain the affirmation that I was the best assistant ever. I had failed relationships, often failed as a mother, hadn’t attain my writing goals, but I was an excellent employee. When that was taken away, I wasn’t sure who I was.

Then the silver linings began to reveal themselves.

I wrote a poem about my Mama’s battle with Alzheimer’s (you can find it in the Poetry tab) and won second prize in a poetry contest. I pitched my novel to an agent at a writers conference and was invited to submit my manuscript. Nope. Not interested. Sigh.

In December of that same year, the Cowboy and I moved from Suffolk to Virginia Beach (less than five minutes from where I had worked, really?) so we could be closer to our parents. In addition, we were grateful to have city utilities and pizza delivery, things we didn’t have at our previous home in the country.

I re-wrote the first chapter of my novel and made some changes after feedback from a couple of writers I trust. It was hard to cut parts of the book I liked, but—hey—if it’s broken, fix it.

I wrote a short story and won third prize at another contest. That one was especially gratifying as I hadn’t written a short story in thirty years. (Maybe I’ll post that one for y’all to read.) I pitched my novel to an independent publisher who was interested. At her request, I submitted the entire manuscript.

A couple of months later, I attended an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers/Virginia chapter) one-day conference. Again, I had the opportunity to pitch to an independent publisher’s rep. She asked for a book proposal (aaaarrrrrggghhhhh! I love book proposals, said no writer ever!) and then, after reading the first fifty pages, asked for the entire manuscript. Two publishers were reading my manuscript!

After four months, the second publisher e-mailed and offered a book contract. What?! I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Of course there was a caveat: I had to get an agent. My heart sank. Surely she realized how hard it is to get an agent. I had been trying for years and years. Agents were always encouraging and willing to read my manuscript, but the response had always been that they weren’t enthusiastic enough about it to represent me.

But this publisher was wonderful. She suggested three agents she had worked with who might take me on. She was right. I was able to secure the services of an amazing agent in just a week.

Everyone was so thrilled for me! My Cowboy was over the moon, and my family and friends couldn’t have been more excited. Only one thing was missing: telling Mama. One of the first things my dad said, with such a wistful tone in his voice, was how excited Mama and Aunt Julie would be if they knew. Well, Aunt Julie is in heaven, so I like to believe she knows. But Mama, my sweet Mama, was pretty much just staring those days. She went from the hospital bed in the living room (serving as a downstairs bedroom) to the wheelchair and back again. She barely ate and didn’t speak. But in my mind’s eye, I could picture her dancing around the kitchen and squealing like she always did when she was excited.

A few days after I received the book offer, I knelt in front my mother. She was laying on her side in bed, and I was delighted to see that she recognized me. There was a certain light in her eyes. I couldn’t help myself. Whether or not she understood, I had to share my news.

“Mama, do you remember how I’ve always liked to write?”

She said, “Yes.”

I almost fell over. She spoke. She responded. The blood in my head pounded, and I thought I might cry.

“Do you remember how you always said you wanted me to write something for the glory of God?”

Again, she said, “Yes.”

I could barely speak.

“Mama, somebody wants to publish my book. I’m getting a contract. My book will be in the bookstores.”

And the most amazing thing happened. Her eyes opened wide, her face lit up with the brightest smile … and she squealed. When I told her I loved her, she managed to say that she loved me. That was the last time I heard those words from her.

She might not recognize me the next day—or the next hour—but right there, right then, I had my Mama—and she was rejoicing with me. What a blessing! How good of the Lord to gift me with that moment.

But Mama was fading, and we didn’t know then that she would be with us for only a month longer. For an illness that seemed to drag with changes coming on relentlessly but in slow motion, when the end came, it came so quickly we were stunned. One day everything was as usual, and the next day she wouldn’t wake up. My beautiful Mama was gone.

Soon after, I received an email from the second publisher who had requested my manuscript. Somehow they had not received the email I had sent letting them know I had been offered a contract. They, too, were interested! Wow! What affirmation that was for me. Thank you, Lord!

I entered another poem in a writing contest—this one inspired by my dad—and won second prize.I am so grateful. Maybe I really can do this writing thing.

And so, we’re pretty much up to date. I have an agent, a signed book contract, and I’m waiting to be assigned an editor—something that is exciting and daunting. I’m determined to concentrate on this blog, if only to keep myself writing (though I do pray someone out there is reading this) and to catalog lessons I’m learning.

I hope you’ll continue to come along for the ride. I love roller coasters, don’t you?


I’m Back! — 18 Comments

  1. We don’t know each other…yet, but I’m so thrilled for you and the blessing of having your novel published! What a great accomplishment. All glory to God for His blessings on your hard work.

  2. I think what you have to say reaches past your circumstances out into the lives of many today. God can not fill our hands with new blessings when they are full of our limited dreams. (Exceeding, abundant – more than you can think or imagine.)

  3. Congratulations on your book deal and all your accomplishments while waiting.
    And if it is any help – you could NEVER be just a “a phone-answering, appointment-making assistant” … that boat floated because *YOU* were the entire hull and battens that kept it above water and kept all the rest of us from jumping overboard! Thank you!!

    Praising God for your beautiful gift from God with your mother. So sweet and confirming that He knew exactly what your heart would want and need. Simply Beautiful.

    Speaking blessings over you and your journey… and I care.

  4. Well done, Miss Ev… Well done! I am especially happy that your mom was able to hear and understand you when you told her about your book contract; it brought tears to my eyes. Alzheimer’s is absolutely one of the worst things in the world to happen to a family.

    I am glad you are excited about writing (again and still). Keep at it!

  5. What a great post! I am crying now… the beauty of Jesus waking your momma from her daze to receive and rejoice over your news is beautiful! But, then,that is just like Him!
    I love you.

  6. Thank you so much, my dear friend. Your support and encouragement have always meant so much. I have to keep writing … I need to dedicate at least one book to you!

  7. Evelyn, you are my best forever friend. We have been joined at the hip for over 40 years. I hurt when you hurt and rejoice when you rejoice. When you received your book contract, I was over the moon. My beautiful and talented friend was given the recognition she so richly deserved. It is only the beginning my dear. So many people will be blessed by your writing. I am blessed to be on this journey with you.