I called home from Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference on the second to the last day.
“What’s it like?” my daughter asked after greeting me.
“It’s like church summer camp but all the people are authors,” I told her.
“Mom, that’s perfect for you!” she giggled.
Without a doubt, it was the best week of my life, once I got over myself.
See, the Christian publishing industry is an interesting thing. They strive to publish quality material, yet it has to be marketable. There has to be a demand for your genre because, well, publishers want to make money, which is understandable. But if you don’t look good on paper or can’t fit into their box, you aren’t considered.
The process started for me eight years ago. I pitched my ideas. I wrote queries and summaries. I attended writers’ conferences and prayed for an open door. With each book, I repeated the process. When doors didn’t open, my husband encouraged me to self-publish.
“You have a story worth telling,” he encouraged me. “We need to publish it so the world can read it.”
I reached more people every year, gained more experience and a deeper passion for writing. So, as I prepared for Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, excitement grew inside me. This conference would be different. I was going as faculty, with published books and confidence. Or so I told myself.
The truth is, seven years ago self-publishing was a nasty word in the writing industry. You were looked down upon, deemed not good enough. I can’t tell you how many times someone asked who my publisher was and the moment I said I self-published, they were no longer interested in my books. For someone who struggles with self-esteem, that was the icing on the cake. But I continued to write and we continued to publish. I found myself praying more and more with each novel, for God to write the story on my heart, to give me the words, the characters, and the wisdom to write the stories to change hearts and lives. As reviews and testimonies came in, I knew I was in the middle of God’s will.
Here I was at Mount Hermon, four published books later, with more stories than time to write them. So, when a friend told me I should attend the Love Inspired workshop, I went. I went because I decided if my goal is to write full-time, I need to write books publishers will accept. I need a contract that promises the same amount as my teaching salary. The problem? God wouldn’t leave me alone from the moment I sat down.
“What are you doing here?” He quietly asked my heart.
“I need to make money writing,” I thought. “I can do this. I’m a good writer.”
“I’ve given you the stories to write,” He told me.
“I need to make more money,” I silently told Him as I opened my laptop to take notes. “If I’m ever going to write full-time, I need a contract that guarantees me a salary.”
The presenter began as my internal struggle continued. First, there was the word count. 50-60,000 words. Freedom in His Love is my only book that length. My last two books have been 100,000 words. But that’s okay because I self-publish.
Next, was the formula. Boy meets girl. Conflict keeps boy and girl apart until the end. Then they get together in the last chapter the book.
“Well,” I thought, “one of my books followed that pattern.” Then God brought to mind the four stories I need to write next, none of them focusing on romance, yet I’m excited to tell them all.
There is also the “no preaching” rule. I receive review after review that commends me on sharing the gospel without preaching, however, my latest book, Angel Reconstructed, has over 160 verses in it. Somehow I don’t think they would be okay with that.
The final obstacle was the hook. Cowboys. Amish. Historical.
“Why are you here?” the Lord started up again. “I didn’t call you to write this.”
I wanted to argue but had no ground to stand on. They wanted stories of surprise twins who belong to cowboys or a historical world where the man saves the damsel in distress. My fictional worlds are filled with modern adults (or young adults) who stumble like we all do, yet end up seeking God. God speaks to them as He does all His children—through His Word. When they seek Him, they find Him and His glory is seen through the miracles He does in their lives.
“They want Amish. Cowboys.” I tossed the information at my friend when I met her in the coffee shop when I finally had the courage to walk out of the presentation.
“Amish cowboys? That sounds interesting!”
Her comment made me laugh, but frustration filled my heart. I just want to be free, I thought. Free from teaching so I can write.
That night the speaker, Mark Batterson, grabbed my attention with his statement, “The first thing I do when I get ready to write is take off my shoes because I’m on holy ground.”
I thought of the nights my fingers couldn’t type fast enough. The nights I ended up on my knees because with each word I typed I watched His grace unfold in such a way it was overwhelming. That’s why I write. Not to make money, but as an act of worship. As an act of obedience. This is the gift my Father has granted me. To do anything less than what He has called me to is disobedience. Including writing stories He hasn’t given me. Stories that are cookie-cutter to please the general Christian audience. God placed a call on my life years ago to inspire others into a deeper faith. This is how He wants me to do it. My job is to be obedient.
There are boxes the world will try to fit you into. And in some seasons, you may fit. I resided in the boxes of teacher and volunteer in children’s ministry for some time. But as I was faithful, He called me to more. Creating a mother/daughter ministry, homeschooling my kids and helping others do the same. My life has been anything but typical for years, so why should my writing be any different?
God promises to provide for us as we are faithful to Him. He promises blessings as we seek His will. He also promises trouble and persecution, but as I’ve learned, His grace will carry us through and His love will heal all the wounds we endure.
What is God calling you to? Will you take that step of faith, trusting in His greater plan rather than what you can see? Each day God multiplies my time and my efforts as I work at my day job and continue to make strides in my writing career. Since He loves you as much as He does me, I know He will do the same for you if you will obey His call… if you will stop seeking the success and comfort the world offers and seek His face. If you do, you will forever be changed by His glory, which is the biggest blessing of all.