Monday, February 27, 2006

The Difference a Year Makes

It’s been almost a year now since I had a life changing experience. Actually, I’ve had so many in the last 16 months, I can hardly keep my vision straight, but that’s not the point.

After the WORLDview fiction contest (a nightmare I don’t want to revisit anytime soon, yet one that led me here so I can’t complain), Westbow surprised and delighted the non-winning finalists, myself included, by inviting manuscripts from us. In the uncertain time between the finalist announcement and the winner announcement, I built a friendship with another finalist and eventually an awesome crit group out of the contest bloggers. Supersappygirl and myself both fasted sleep, food, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and families for about six weeks and pounded out our novels. Not surprisingly we sent them in within a very short time of one another and hoped for the best. (The best has yet to happen, by the way, but that story is for another day.)

Anyhoo, several weeks later, as I waited in the frustrating silence that every submitting author knows, I visited my local Christian Book and Gift at their grand opening and noticed that, the next day, one of the authors, whose book was one that I “won” by being a finalist, would be at the signing. Now to be honest, most of the books I got are suspense, or at least look creepy. I don’t do creepy. I like to sleep. I perceive books as real events and I have an active dream life. But I girded up my loins and faced the lion. I went home that night, grabbed the book of the shelf and read it. It was Colleen Coble’s Without a Trace. Yes, I had bad dreams. But it was worth it. Now I'll read Colleen's suspense, but I try to do it early in the day and when I know my hubby will be home. Man did she make me want to go to Hawaii when I read Distant Echoes ...Again, not the point.

The next day I drove over to the bookstore specifically to see if I could visit with Colleen for a few minutes. I walked in, lined her up in my field of vision, and walked straight past. Totally freaked out. What was I doing?!? And then my husband’s voice echoed in my head. Something along the lines of, “Don’t be a wimp. Talk to her.” He’s always bossing me around. He calls it encouraging me to grow. Whatever. But I knew I would have to talk to her or he would never let me live it down. Besides, I left him home with the kids and I wouldn’t get away with “because I’m scared of that very nice looking lady over at the book table.”

Colleen was a doll. She signed my book, offered me a dog treat, and then, when I didn’t leave, she just waited for me to ask whatever it was that left me pale and trembling. “I need to pick you brain,” I said.

Her eyes lit up. “Are you a writer?”

I laughed. “Um, not quite, but let me give you the situation.” (I’ve since learned the answer would be yes, but newbie un-pubbed writers have to learn that from the old pros.) I really can’t delve into the situation because it might be unfair to people who can’t defend themselves, but basically I wanted an inside scoop to an editor’s mind. Colleen pulled her cell phone out of her purse and started dialing. Now, let me just say that if memory serves me, it was Easter weekend, a Saturday, I’m a peon in the writing world, and there was this very nice lady that might have to, in mere moments tell me that my manuscript was a pile of rubbish. “NO!” I yelped. (tags, how I love them!)

“Are you sure?” Still smiling.

But she sent me to and told me it was “hands down the place to be if you want to be published in Christian Fiction.” She even wrote it down for me. I went straight home and signed up. I’ve never regretted it. Life changing in so many ways.

Later Colleen made the call for me anyway and sent me an email or twelve with advice and the “inside scoop” I so desperately needed.

I’m still not published, but ACFW is hands down the place to be if you want to learn from the best. Colleen won mentor of the year last year at conference and I sat there reveling in her glory because I can’t imagine they could have picked better.

Now I’ve been included in the group that gets to help her promote her newest book, Alaska Twilight, and I couldn’t be happier to help. If this hadn't gotten so long winded, I would have talked more about the book (which I just finished--late at night--it's a good thing the bad guys always get locked up in her books so I can sleep!) but I will have to reserve that for morning. Too much to say.

I wish you much success Colleen.

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