Results from Mount Hermon and Revelations

We came to Mount Hermon with three simple goals: to learn, grow, and connect. With a manuscript representing months of hard work, we took the immensely difficult step of presenting that work to two fiction intensive groups, two agents, two editors, and three best-selling published authors.

And the results are in.

James Scott Bell (best-selling CBA author): “This is good. This story is too big for the CBA. Take it to the ABA.”

Janet Grant (literary agent): “I liked this story very much, but it would be hard to convince readers to buy a book about Amazons and Scythians. So while I appreciate your writing–which is very good–I don’t see a market for this book.”

Steve Laube (literary agent): “Very creative but almost too creative…You have a unique setting but it may be too far out of the norm for today’s market…Also the first scene in the bedroom is a little titillating–maybe too much for the traditional Christian reader…And then you reveal he’s also a cannibal. I wanted to stop reading at that point…The writing is fine, but is applied to a challenging storyline. Hope that helps (excerpted).”

Vicki Crumpton (executive editor – Revell/Baker): “Love the story, but we don’t publish historical fiction unless it’s biblical or 18th century. Do you have anything else I can read?”

Julie Gwinn (marketing manager – B&H): “I loved it. I see a market for this as a YA novel.”

Brandilyn Collins (best-selling CBA author): “Excellent story. Excellent writers. But you will face significant challenges, maybe insurmountable challenges, to publishing this novel in the CBA.”

Randy Ingermanson (award-winning CBA author): “I loved it. I would read it. But you’re in no-man’s land–you’re not in the CBA, but you’re not quite in the ABA. You’re closer to the ABA. Stay in touch. You don’t need to remind me who you are (ie. we met at Mount Hermon). I’ll remember you.”

The Look

At writer’s conferences, every meal has people asking you what you’re writing. So, gluttons for punishment, we sat at Steve Laube’s table, after we’d received his note of rejection. We didn’t want to change his mind, we’re not that obnoxious (not publicly anyway). We were just curious. All we said was, “We wrote the Amazon story.” Apparently our story, while rejected, stood out in his memory–clearly. The look on his face was one we’d come to recognize.

“Oh, you’re the ones.”

Our story has made us unforgettable among those who read it. So, mission accomplished…

Dejected Meeting

After receiving our notes of rejection (which we’re not strangers to after all this time, but they still stung), we happened to meet Janet Grant directly after leaving James Scott Bell. She took one look at our name tags and said (again), “You’re the ones.”

But she continued.

“I’m so glad I ran into you. I loved your story. I couldn’t put it down, it kept me up late reading, and you don’t understand how rare that is, but I’ll never be able to sell it in the CBA. Have you considered the ABA?”

That made our day.

The problem wasn’t the writing, but the same obstacle we’ve continued to butt heads against for our entire fiction writing adventure – we don’t fit. We’re misfits. Even when we tried to obey all the rules of the CBA, we failed. This time, not only did we fail, we did it with such flaming gusto that not only did we miss the market conventions, we jumped all over them with glee. We write stories that no conservative Christian wants to read or buy (so they tell us).  Looking back, we agree that this novel isn’t a good fit for the CBA, but in all honesty, a week ago we really thought we’d hit on a winner. Oops.

The advice was unanimous. We should take our newest work to the ABA.

It all left us feeling . . .

Misunderstood. Misplaced. Mistaken. Second guessing. Underestimated.

That’s when we had two surprise encounters with fellow Canucks that gave us fresh hope. We ate breakfast with author Grace Fox, and she listened to our dilemma and ‘gave us permission’ to write for the general market (ABA). She really is good at “leading women in fearless faith.” Her prayer had both of us in tears. How silly to need permission, but we did for some reason. We needed to know we weren’t traitors or betraying our faith by wanting to write for the general market.

Simon Presland, another fellow Canadian, ran into us and asked how our conference was going. Having just finished a critique group where some called our manuscript (we’re paraphrasing) socially depraved and morally reprehensible, our self-esteem had reached an all-time low. We said we were thinking of going to the general market.

He nodded. “Good for you. The CBA has become a little like incest. These conferences should be places you come to learn, to grow, and to be encouraged. We need Christians writing in the general market, that’s what we’re called to do–go out into the world.”

So…

This has led us to a decision that one moment makes us feel silly and like traitors, and the next minute absolute relief and freedom. We’re going to the ABA. 

What our adventure to publish this story in the general market will bring, we don’t know. We have the names of several recommended literary agents who represent successful authors in both markets, so that’s a start. We’ve made some contacts here who believe in us, and believe in our story. We believe we’re doing the right thing. Stay tuned, and we’ll give you the details of our new adventure.

We may be misfits, square pegs in round holes, but we’re going to stop denying who God’s made us to be and see what happens.

Thoughts?

Marcy & Lisa

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15 comments on “Results from Mount Hermon and Revelations

  1. You did what you set out to accomplish. Good for you to take the chance! Come home with the new information that you have aquired and prepare for the next stage of your journey.

  2. Wow. Well, my thoughts–coming from someone who knows absolutely nothing about anything–I’d love to read the book!

    And, I don’t see a problem in either camp, really. God works anywhere He wants to, and He places people where He wants them to fit in the body. We’re not all lumped into a big, giant blob around the eye or the ear–that would be a tumour. So, I’m thinking you’re just finding your place.

    I also think, as we all find our places, we should be careful (on either side) not to discredit where we don’t fit, but leave room for God’s Grand Design to be acted out according to His script.

    I’m also feeling very blessed and privileged to share this ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into something I would never have, otherwise. God bless you!

    • Thanks for the comment, Heather. You make a really great point. Our dream was to write for the CBA, and we both still hope to be able to do that someday, alongside our writing for the ABA. It’s important for Christians on both sides to work together for the advancement of the Kingdom.

  3. Wow, Girls with Pens, your post left me with tears in my eyes as I travelled along the ups and downs with you. People actually called your manuscript socially depraved and morally reprehensible (or words to that effect)??? Zowie!

    God bless fellow Canucks Grace for sharing that prayer with you, and Simon for encouraging you, just when you needed it most.

    You know that The Word Guild http://www.thewordguild.com has always encouraged members to write for the mainstream market. It’s a huge part of our mandate. We want to do no less than impact the Canadian culture. And you can’t do that by just staying in the Christian subculture and “preaching to the choir.”

    It happens that a lot of our members do write for the Christian market. But we deliberately chose the words “writers who are Christian,” not “Christian writers” because we want people with a Christian faith perspective writing in many genres and markets. (I was going to say writing in all genres and markets, but I guess I can’t since that would encompass some areas that truly would be morally reprehensible.)

    So consider it all a great learning experience, where you made some good contacts and increased your profile. Go for it, Girls with Pens!

    Wendy Nelles
    Co-Founder, The Word Guild

  4. Marcy and Lisa–you have your direction, you have your permission (and I understand how it seems silly but it feels needed), and you have some contacts. The nos are as important as the yesses in identifying your novel’s market–the niche where it’ll be appreciated and where it will impact readers.

    Sometimes a single thought-provoking line in the middle of a mainstream book can have greater spiritual impact than a whole novel that’s overtly Christian. (Says she who would read more mainstream if it was cleaner, and who does enjoy Christian fiction that shows-not-tells how to mature in the faith.)

    Go for it! And God go before, beside and behind you.

  5. I commend you for following what seemed to be the logical route for publication of your book. I believe you are clearly being led to another possibility and since you have a product that is clearly of good quality, you will find the place for it. I believe the Lord has great plans for the two of you and will honour your obedience.
    Blessings,

  6. Ladies, I’m excited at how God has clearly directed you. He closed a door, and opened up before you a whole new option. I’m excited to see how He leads through that door. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  7. Thanks for the encouragement everyone. Thanks NJ for your comment. You have to read where you want to be published. That message was repeated several times in both mine and Marcy’s fiction intensive classes. Marcy and I read a lot of ABA fiction. We are able to find lots of great authors writing fabulous stories without graphic sex or obscene language – perhaps that should have given us a clue long ago where we should have directed our efforts. (We do read select CBA authors, but find more of them publishing in the ABA now. James Scott Bell no longer publishes in the CBA, neither does Ted Dekker.)

    We still have lots of other story ideas that we hope to see published in the CBA, but this one clearly isn’t one of those. It’s a question of audience.
    Lisa

  8. You have Him as your guide. Failing is not an option. Waiting with anticipation to hear about the next open door.

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