Who’d ever imagine that losing $20,000 and guaranteed publication of my novel with a powerhouse publishing company would be a good thing—a very good thing?
Certainly not me—at least not back in the days when I was one of five finalists for the 2009 Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale Publishing House. That event stood, to-date, as the pinnacle of my writing career. Yes, I’d been published before, but this was the big time. This was the culmination of years of study, the completion of the manuscript I’d worked on for two solid years. Achieving finalist status in that prestigious competition was proof that somebody—somebody in the know, someone besides me—believed I could write.
I fretted for four months. But that all changed about thirty seconds after hearing Jerry B. Jenkins make the announcement at the Writing for the Soul conference last February that someone else (a very deserving man) had won, Misstep had not, and I was officially a loser. (Well, he didn’t say it exactly like that.)
Strangely, after my initial disappointment faded, a great relief washed over me. I was free! No more waking up to thoughts of winning. No more drifting off to sleep worried about losing. It was settled. I could get on with my life. Sure, winning would have been nice; I could certainly use $20,000 and I’d love to have my Christian novel published by Tyndale. But I realized it wasn’t the right time in my career to bypass the hard work of pitching my manuscript. I needed to speak with learned professionals from the publishing industry—the agents, editors, and publishers from around the country who were present at the conference. It was imperative that I hear what they had to say, soak up their knowledge, immerse myself in the atmosphere and camaraderie of like-minded individuals whose collective goal will always be to honor our Lord and Savior through our writing. It was up to me to prove I could deliver what they needed, that I had what it takes to be not only a writer, but also a published author. I had to believe in myself before I could ask them to believe in me.
So I hit the floor running and for the next two days, I pitched and smiled and asked questions and soaked up advice and acted the part of someone who had a product to offer that she believed in. I left the conference energized and optimistic (albeit sans the $20,000), returned home, and sent out requested proposals, manuscripts, and thank you notes. Then I prayed.
Four months later, Misstep and I are represented by Terry Burns, one of best agents in the business, and I’m now officially a proud member of the Hartline Literary Agency family. Through Terry I met Linda Glaz who not only helped me with my manuscript, but brought many a smile to my face in the process. I have a new batch of colleagues who have welcomed me into their midst with warmth and encouragement. Now that’s winning.
And I owe it all to being a loser.
Deborah Dee Harper www.deborahdeetales.blogspot.com