While I've always written, I began writing seriously in May of 2005. Since then I've typed THE END on six novels, and I've penned the first scenes in book number seven. I contribute to two separate blogs, Spire Reviews and Inkspirational Messages, and I have a website (Brenda Anderson Books) that's currently under reconstruction.
Also, during those seven years, I've attended five writing conferences where I've learned from Angela Hunt, Ted Dekker, James Scott Bell, Tim Downs, and many more accomplished authors and teachers.
I'm in two critique groups with the best partners anyone could ask for (Thanks Lorna, Shannon, Jerri, and Steph). I've entered a handful of contests but never advanced past round one. I've met with numerous agents/editors; twice, I nearly signed with an agent. I've paid for several critiques, gaining improvement with each. And I've received some strange advice: frequently, I've been told that women won't read books with a male protagonist. (Really?) One editor told me that my characters were too messed up, they needed counseling, and should never get together. She said I should take out all the messy stuff and write something sweet. (Not gonna happen.) Once, when pitching to an agent, I told her my protag had previously lived with his girlfriend-- The agent stopped me right there and told me that women who read Christian fiction don't want to read about that. (Oh my!) It was a mutual decision that we weren't right for each other.
During these years, I've cheered on three critique partners as they published and have happy danced with friends as they signed with agents. But, I couldn't stop the niggling thought, "I've been giving it my all. When is it my turn to win?"
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24In 2010, I attended the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. The conference began with a very encouraging paid critique from a well-respected, multi-published author who told me she loved my writing and that she fully expected to stand in line for my autograph someday. Oh, I was flying high at that moment.
Then I crashed.
After pitching to editors and agents, no one requested I send more. That had never happened before. Even at my very first conference, with a terrible manuscript, an agent requested a proposal.
It left me wondering, "What do I do now?" After years of perfecting and even completing a novel in the romance genre in order to appeal to a wider audience, no one wanted me. I had no where to run.
But I couldn't stand still--I kept running, this time without seeking outside approval. While I still worked with my critique partners, I didn't attend a conference or enter any contests. I just wrote. I didn't write for the market, but rather what was on my heart, and I completed two more novels. In the process, I rediscovered my voice.
A voice I'm ready to share again.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14And I shared by entering two stories in the ACFW Genesis contest, one in women's fiction, and one in contemporary romance. To be honest, I didn't expect much, and my gut told me I wasn't going to semi-final, but then last Wednesday, April 18, at 12:16 pm (yes, I recorded the time), I received a call from the coordinator for the contemporary romance category who told me I semi-finalled. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! I called my husband right away, then I hurried an e-mail to my critique partners.
Then at 12:34 my phone rang again. I peeked at the caller I.D., and my heart started palpitating. It was the coordinator for women's fiction! After managing a thank you amid my shock, I called my husband again and flung off another e-mail to my critique partners.
I don't think my feet touched the ground for two days. After the Genesis contest coordinator announced all the semi-finalists later Wednesday evening, my Facebook page and e-mail were flooded with congratulations. My celebration was tempered, though, with the knowledge that several talented friends did not advance--I know too well how that feels and wasn't about to offer them the platitudes. Believe me, empty encouragement doesn't help immediately after a rejection.
Now, does semi-finalling mean that a publishing contract is around the corner? Nope. This is just the first lap in a multi-lap race. The precentage of finalling in this contest, of being in the top three in either of my categories, is a mere 15%. Not great odds, but not impossible either. With help from my critique partners, I know I did my best.
What this does mean is that working hard these past seven years has finally paid off with confirmation that I'm running the right race. To advance this far, I must have talent worth harvesting.
And so, regardless of the outcome of the Genesis contest, regardless of the results of the ACFW Conference in Dallas this fall, I'll persevere. I'll keep running this race, and I will continue to give it my all and leave the results in God's hands.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE 2012
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us... Hebrews 12:1