10 Tips to Avoid Getting a Dog Like Henry

Henry and Fragments
One of the great things about writing a book is hearing from those who’ve read it. I get notes saying stuff like, “Gee, I thought our dog was bad, but not compared to Henry…” Or “I loved your book but I’m SO glad our dog isn’t like Henry…” Or “Your book made me laugh, but OH MY. I’m not sure I want a dog of my own now…”

Seeing as how I have so much, er—experience with a bona fide canine catastrophe, I thought I might be able to give some guidance to folks in the market for a dog. Let’s call it: 10 Tips to Avoid Getting a Dog Like Henry.

Tip 1
If you want to be absolutely, positively sure you won’t get stuck with a dog like Henry, then don’t get a dog at all.

Really. No dog.

Tip 2
Think goldfish. They are very happy in little bowls and do not bark, nip, or careen through your house, busting holes in your drywall.

Tip 3
I’m saying no dog. Ever.

Tip 4
In fact, you need to avoid dogs. All of them. Run. I’m serious. Otherwise some stray dog or cute puppy will find you and steal your heart.

All that said, you might still want a dog. I mean, there are only so many Henrys in the world, and what are the chances you’ll get stuck with one?

So…

Tip 5
Understand the breeds and types of dogs out there and know what’s right for you and your family. There are tons of beguilingly cute dogs out there. They’ll look at you with sad puppy eyes. Get over it. Temperament is your main concern.

Check out dog breed encyclopedias, websites, or books like The Right Dog For You by Daniel Tortora. Do you need a dog that can be happy while you’re gone at work, or do you want one that lives for your company? If you live a couch potato lifestyle, don’t get a boxer. If your life is a constant sprint, don’t get a pekingese. And realize that even among dogs of the same breed, there will be variation. Half my angst over Henry could have been erased if I hadn’t expected a clone of the perfect boxer I was remembering from my rose-colored childhood, who may or may not have actually existed.

Which brings me to…

Tip 6
The perfect dog is not actually out there. They all have issues. Some issues are just easier to manage than others. Expect some trials going in, then you won’t be blindsided. Your puppy will chew stuff he shouldn’t. Important stuff. Like furniture. Carpet. Curtains. Or maybe just your TV remote.

Tip 7
Your dog will get sick, have accidents, barf on your carpet, and in general require vet care. He’ll also have a neurosis or two, and probably a fondness for something weird. Be okay with that.

Tip 8
Think about getting an older dog. One who’s done with all that whippersnapper stuff and just likes to hang out with you and sleep. Consider adopting a shelter or rescue dog and take advantage of online resources like petfinder.com to help you find a social dog and successfully navigate the adoption process.

Tip 9
Come to the party with an attitude of what you can give rather than what you can get. You can give love. You can give a good, stable home. You can give food and care and friendship. It’s amazing how easy contentment is when you don’t focus on yourself. (Click to tweet this)

Tip 10
Here’s the truth—you really might end up with a dog like Henry. But you might not. No matter what kind of dog you find, or what kind finds you, be patient, be calm, be encouraging. You’ll likely learn a thing or two about yourself in the process.

And if you do get a dog like Henry, I’ll tell you a secret. One day you could find yourself learning the same lessons I did—lessons about tough love, and growth, and change.

Lessons about faults, and hopes, and grace.

Lessons about life.

And you won’t trade your Henry for anything.

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Little Things

Cable car

I’m riding with my mom and dad in a crowded cable car suspended 900 feet in the air. We’re swaying gently in the breeze, but it isn’t exactly comforting. I mean, “Rock-a-Bye Baby” does not have a happy ending.

The cable creaks. The wind huffs. The car jitters.

Worst time ever for a blood-curdling scream.

So I probably shouldn’t have done that.

Granted, I’m only two years old.

Still.

My parents, like the rest of the riders, take two horrible seconds to decide whether death by plummeting is immanent.

It’s not.

So everyone turns their mortified gaze to the hideous shrieker.

Lil’ ole me.

“What’s wrong?” Mom sounds like she doesn’t know whether to comfort me or spank me.

I point my sticky little finger at the window. “Dere’s a bug.”

A gnat, actually.

The whole car goes quiet, like everyone aboard is telepathically messaging my parents, willing them to tan my hide.

In my defense, the bug is right by my face.

Well, okay, it’s outside the glass. But still. Really close to my eyeballs.

For this I nearly sent an entire cable car of people into cardiac arrest.

I should be ashamed of myself.

Except the more I consider the fiasco, the more I’m, well…not one bit sorry.

Because little things matter.

I know, I know. There’s that saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and we shrug off the seemingly inconsequential.

But sometimes the small stuff matters most.

Jesus says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10 NASB).

He’s not talking about an impossible perfectionism. He’s talking about understanding that character is built on small actions and daily choices that become habits. Those habits, in turn, become the fabric of who we are.

So what if we focus on the little things we can do today? A kind word to someone. A moment of thankfulness for God’s creation. Obedience in completing one of the many small steps in a project God has given us.

Faithfulness in the little things brings glory to God and molds us into vessels he can use for his purpose.

What about the flip side? Where does one little white lie take us? Or that rude gesture to an annoying driver on our way to work? Or the complaint we couldn’t resist voicing?

One small disobedience leads to another. And another. And then a hardened heart.

Little things.

Building into big things.

For our good or harm.

Those are gnats worth paying attention to.

Just maybe don’t scream on a cable car.

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The Unfailing GPS

Where On The Map

Remember the days before GPS’s? When a seemingly innocuous day trip could result in a scene like this:

Hubby hunches over the steering wheel and scans the upcoming intersection. “Where am I supposed to turn?”

Wife squints sideways at the guidebook map. “I don’t know.”

“You have the map.”

“Yes, but I don’t know where we are on the map.”

“The light says Adams. Turn or go straight?”

“Adams and what?”

“I need to know NOW.”

“I don’t see—”

“Too late. We passed it.”

“What street are we ON?”

“I don’t know. You have the map!”

“But where ARE we on it?”

“Here’s 15th. Turn?”

“I. DON’T. KNOW.”

“Look at the MAP.”

“It’s not ON the map. WE are not on the stinking map.”

“Find the park.”

“The park is on the map. Got it. No problem.”

“Good. Where do I turn?”

“Depends on WHERE WE ARE!”

Welcome to one of Alan’s and my biggest fights ever. Oh, what I wouldn’t have given for the comforting blue you-are-here dot on a smartphone GPS. And did I mention our destination was the happiest place on earth—Disney’s Magic Kingdom? I think the kids were in tears about this time.

The fact is, you can never find your happy place without a clear understanding of where you are now.

I guess that’s because you can’t leave yourself behind. Your problems, your personality, your ability to deal with stress—that comes with you. Your flaws too.

I think I finally get why Jesus, when a paralytic is lowered through the roof and plopped right at his feet (Mark 2), didn’t just heal the guy right off the bat. Clearly, the paralytic and his friends had a destination in mind—they wanted the guy to walk again. To work and not beg. To live life normally.

Happily.

Purposefully.

But he couldn’t get there in his condition—his spiritual condition.

He, like the rest of us, needed an awareness of our inward brokenness. And then directions to the person who can fix us.

In front of the whole crowded room, Jesus claims to be that fixer. Then he deals with the guy’s inner situation first—the state of his soul. When the naysayers question Jesus’ authority on soul-matters, that’s when he heals the outward problem.

And yeah, the guy did get up and walk in front of everyone. But that wasn’t the point. That was just the proof—both then and now—that Jesus knows what he’s doing.

Like an infallible GPS, Jesus puts a big ol’ blue dot on our map showing us exactly where our heart is.

But more than that, he knows where we need to go, inwardly and outwardly. He’s got our true happy place already pinpointed. And chances are it’s in an entirely different location than we thought.

It’s up to us whether to embrace that new destination and follow Jesus’ route guidance.

Or not.

But if we do, there’s one thing I know.

We will never be lost again.

 

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Henry’s “Hikyoo” AKA Haiku

Apparently because I’m a writer, my dog Henry has decided that he’s a writer too. Only he’s taken up poetry because he says that’s classier. Here’s a video of his debut Haiku.

And here’s a link to my debut book, Surviving Henry, which does not contain any poetry but it IS funny.

What reviewers are saying:
“I laughed through the whole book…”
“One of the funniest books I have ever read…”
“Henry’s antics and Erin Taylor Young’s humor had me laughing until the tears were trickling…”
“Put this on your must read shelf!”

Click here to see more Henry Videos!

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How Home Videos Helped Me Get a Book Contract

video camera

Who would’ve guessed that when my son asked for a video camera in third grade, his movies would one day help me get a book contract?

It’s funny how things work out.

Let me rephrase.

It’s funny how God works things. I bet he delights in watching us put the pieces together, in seeing our wide-eyed wonder as we realize how perfect his design was from before day one.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How did my son’s movies help me get a book contract?

After working hard on my craft, writing the best book I could, revising that book a million times, getting an agent and revising some more, the videos then helped garner interest in the book.

They were funny, and I write humor. They were about our dog, and the book was about our dog. They were an innovative way to market, and I needed all the innovation I could get. My platform was, how shall I say it?

Stinky.

Editors who got the book proposal followed the links I provided and watched the videos. And laughed. And said things like, “What a great marketing appetizer.”

Within two months of sending out the proposal, I got an offer.

It seemed strangely sudden after working so long to break into publishing. Those years (yes, years) felt like trying to chip a hole through Mount Everest. With an ice pick.

But God is in the business of doing impossible things. We’re simply in the business of being obedient.

That doesn’t mean we do nothing. It means we keep moving forward with whatever marching orders God gives us. It means we look for creative ways to solve our problems and inventive ways to tackle our tasks. It means we keep growing, working, and trusting.

No matter what mountains rise before us.

We serve a limitless God who daily stuffs our backpacks with the resources we need for each leg of the journey.

It might be a home movie your kid made. Or maybe a craft book you read eons ago suddenly sparks a new direction. Or maybe it’s a conversation with a friend who has just the right words at just the right time.

Today, here and now, with the tools God gives us, we can chip away at our mountain.

Because you know what?

Today might be the day we break through.

 

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Interview With Literary Agent Karen Ball

Karen Ball

As a kid, I loved to watch episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom where they tagged and tracked animals to learn their habits. When I started on my writing career, I wished there were a way to do that with editors and agents. Sadly, they frown on people shooting them with a tranquilizer gun, and tracking these elusive creatures can get you pegged as a stalker.

However, Karen Ball, who’s been in the publishing industry for 30 years, developed fiction lines for major publishing houses, edited the books of amazing authors, is an accomplished author herself, and is now an agent with the Steve Laube Agency, was willing to let me interview her. Perhaps to lower the need for stalking and so forth. Although, as it turns out, she’s more than capable of defending herself.
(Note to criminals: She’s packing.)

Karen ShootingKaren Ball at the Range

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
So, here’s our conversation about agenting, publishing, conferences, and some personal stuff too, because don’t you want to know what kind of mischief this little cherub perpetrated?

Is it just me, or does she still look like this??
Is it just me, or does
she still look like this??

ETY: All right, fess up. What did you do as a kid that got you in trouble?
KB: Made up stories. About everything. Getting a straight answer from me was impossible. In fact, my older brother, Kevin, likes to say, “It’s not fair. When we were kids you got in trouble for telling lies. Now…you get paid for it!”

ETY: Did you come to Christ as a young child or later in life?
KB: I think I did so in the womb. Christ was always there in my home, in my mother’s smile and my father’s hug. In the laughter we all shared and the honesty when dealing with hard issues. In the grace we were given and the mercy we extended. I can’t remember a day without Him.

ETY: I hear you took Karate lessons as a kid. What drew you to that?
KB: Actually, no, I took them as an adult. A few years after Don and I married. I’d heard it was a great way to get fit, as well as a good way to protect yourself. Since I was doing a lot of traveling by myself for work, I wanted to have that ability. LOVED it. Competed in tournaments and even won a few.

(Right. So y’all might want to take note of that. Even if she doesn’t shoot you, she can still hurt you with her bare hands.)

ETY: What do you love about the publishing business?
KB: The sheer chutzpah it takes to write or publish a book. There’s no way to know if a book will do as well as you hope, or if it will take off and become a blockbuster, or if it will die on the vine. ANYTHING can happen, regardless of how hard or how little you work. In fact, I wrote a couple of blogs for the Steve Laube Agency blog on that very thing…
When You’ve Done Everything Right
When You Don’t Do Anything At All

ETY: Describe your typical day.
KB: First thing I do in the morning is read the Word. I need to immerse my head and heart in God before I step into the day. Then I need COFFEE! Once I have coffee in hand, I map out what I’ll do for the day. And 9 times out of 10, as I’m doing that, something happens to make the map moot. There really is no typical day. Since I’m doing both editing and the agenting, I’ve got a multitude of things going on at once. So in the course of a day I could be on phone/video calls all day long, or working on proposals, or editing several projects at a time, or getting ready for a trip. I’ll say this for it all: I never get bored!

ETY: What do you like best about agenting?
KB: The synergy of working with my clients, helping them refine their projects, and finding the right publishing homes for them. It’s like I get to be a matchmaker, and I love that!

ETY: What do you like best about teaching at writers’ conferences?
KB: That I’m serving those who love words and want to share God’s truth in their stories.

ETY: Have you always liked speaking and teaching?
KB: Good gravy, no! I used to be terrified of speaking in public. I threw up every time I had to do it. Now, it’s as comfortable as sitting in my recliner at home. Amazing how doing something over and over can make it a part of you.

(All righty then, pay attention all you writers who hate speaking—there’s hope, ’cause y’all know how great Karen is at speaking.)

ETY: What do you feel are your strengths as an agent?
KB: The fact that I’ve been on both sides of the desk, as a traditionally published author, as an in-house editor, acquisitions editor, and executive editor, and now as an agent. Also my ability to tell when a book or writer has promise. I’m also strong at strategizing and brainstorming.

ETY: What one thing do you wish every unpublished writer knew?
KB: That being a writer isn’t about getting published. It’s about being obedient to the task God has given you, and that’s to write.

ETY: Number one problem in manuscripts people send you?
KB: The writers haven’t put in the time to refine their craft. I’d say around 95% of what gets sent to me is rejected because the writer’s craft is not at the level it needs to be for me to offer representation.

ETY: What do you wish everyone knew about you before they submitted to you?
KB: If I say I don’t represent something, like children’s books, that means I really and truly don’t represent them! Please don’t think that if I’ll just read yours I’ll change my mind. I won’t. The issue isn’t how well you do something, it’s how well I do something. I don’t know the market for picture books or children’s books. Never had kids. Have never worked with those categories. Have no interest in them as an agent. So I’m of no use to you if you write books that are in the categories I don’t represent. So please, please, PLEASE don’t send them to me.

ETY: What is the most challenging thing about being an agent?
KB: Dealing with clients’ disappointments. I so want my clients to find good publishing homes and to be able to focus on their craft and not worry about anything else. But the course of publishing seldom runs smooth, and too often people are disappointed. That’s hard, for them and for me.

ETY: What do you wish your clients would start doing, stop doing, and/or keep doing?
KB: I wish they’d stop doubting themselves. They are gifted writers and I’m blessed to work with them.
I wish they’d start resting in the fact that God gave them this task of writing, that He’ll equip them to fulfill it, and that their careers are in His hands. They just need to do what they know to do, and be patient.
I wish they’d keep writing the wonderful, emotive, powerful books they’re writing!

ETY: What do you want your epitaph to say?
KB: We saw Christ in her actions, heard Christ in her words, felt Christ in her love.

Folks, I’ve only known Karen for a couple of years, but I’ll say this. I truly have seen Christ in her actions, heard Christ in her words, and felt Christ in her love. She’s the real deal.

 

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The Book Contract Story Part IV

Surviving Henry Book Cover

“PubCo” (AKA Publishing Committee, or Pub Board): A big scary meeting at a publishing house.

Remember the editor who first receives the book proposals? Who sifts through her boundless stack, pores over the writing, debates a book’s marketability, scrutinizes the premise for defects, and then brings a “yes” proposal safely through a tough editorial committee where only a few select book ideas can move on?

Well, they move on to the last gauntlet: PubCo. A Himalaya of a hurdle that makes all the others seem like speed bumps.

PubCo is where the editor presents a proposal to all the publishing company big wigs—VPs over sales, marketing, editorial, etcetera, etcetera, right up to the head honcho himself—who make the final decisions about what is published and what isn’t. Everybody important who can ax an author’s dream in two is there to, well, ax an author’s dream in two.

And lots get axed.

But a very short list of proposals live on to receive a beautiful, wonderful, exhilarating offer of publication.

Just getting a chance in PubCo is a huge deal, so the editor often informs an author’s agent before the meeting. The agent then gives an appropriately polite, diplomatically pleased response.

Then the agent tells the author, who gives this response: PUBCO!!!!???? REALLLLLLYYYY??? AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

And then the author and agent celebrate together because there just might be a contract coming at the end of that meeting.

In light of the months and months and months all this takes, I’m not even thinking about my proposals when my agent Karen calls me for a video chat three weeks after we’d pitched the books at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (read the whole story here). Karen has this I-told-you-so grin on her face and informs me that the dog book is going to PubCo. Then she sits back and waits expectantly for my jubilant yell so we can celebrate together.

I frown at her. “PubCo? Why?”

Karen stares at me like I’m daft. “Because the editors love the book and want to publish it.” She has that make-the-slow-person-understand tone.

“Huh.” My grunt is half-studious, half-baffled. After all, the book has that fatal flaw (whatever it is). Surely it’s doomed to sayonara city.

Karen gives up on a normal response from me. I feel bad that I let her down, but my bewilderment is constipating my emotions.

A few weeks go by and I’ve forgotten all about PubCo. I mean, these meetings happen like once a month. Or maybe once a quarter for all I know. No telling when I’ll hear something back. Then I get a video call from Karen when we’re not even scheduled to meet. I have no clue why she’s calling.

When I answer, she’s grinning. “Hey there! We’ve got an offer on the dog book.”

I’d like to say I respond with appropriate hoopla.

“An offer? Why?” I’m genuinely puzzled.

Karen squints at me like she’s trying to see if my brain is still behind my eyeballs. “Because they love the book and think it’ll do very well for them.”

I give the same baffled grunt as before. “Huh.”

Now Karen looks like she’s going to launch herself right through my computer and slap me silly.

In my defense, I’d somehow totally missed the fact that this particular publisher had put out several collections of dog and animal stories.

Karen hadn’t missed that. Not only that, she knew we’d get interest from other publishers as well. And we did.

But here’s the kicker. In the process of providing some extra information that one particular publisher wanted, I SOLVED the fatal flaw problem, which apparently wasn’t fatal after all.

So there you have it. The dog book is not only publication worthy, it gets picked up before the fiction.

Who knew it had a chance?

Karen did.

But even before that, God knew.

He set my path in motion long ago, orchestrating my writing and my rewriting, my rejections and my encouragements until I have the right proposal at the right time at the right publishing company.

It’s funny how we can see these things in retrospect. How we can retrace paths we thought were fraught with dead ends and detours, only to see that they led exactly where we had to go.

Why do we always need hindsight to see how God was working all along?

Maybe it’s time for a new view. Foresight.

God’s got this all under control.

“The Lord Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.’” Isaiah 14:24

Enjoy the ride.

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The Book Contract Story Part III

Proposal

Typing “the end” feels amazing (when it’s the last page of your novel and not some tragic note about the demise of your Oreo package).

Both my proposals are done, my novel manuscript is complete, and my agent and I are at another conference—the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference—ready to pitch my work. Yes, it seems like going to conferences is all I do, but really these shindigs are months and months apart. Everything just moves slowly in publishing.

Anyway, Karen sets up a couple of appointments with some editors and we pitch the dog book and the novel. I enjoy the meetings, which means I’m making progress in not sounding stupid when I talk about myself and my writing. Yay me.

I don’t expect to hear any feedback about the proposals for several months. (I mentioned the glacier speed of the publishing industry?)

This is my understanding of what has to happen next: The editors will put my proposal in their big honkin’ pile of 800 other proposals, and they’ll get to it when they get to it.

Mostly editors sift through their mountainous proposal piles pretty quickly.

The process, I hear, looks like this:

No…no…no…no…definitely not…oh, why would someone even send that?…no…no…no…hmm, a possible maybe…no…not a chance…yikes…never…

It’s not that editors are mean. They’ve been doing this for a long time, and they have a good idea of what can work and what can’t. After they get a stack of maybes, they sift that pile. It goes like this:

Never mind…no…no…what was I thinking on that one?…no…nah…we’ll never be able to sell that…another no…flawed premise…no platform…no…ooh, wait. This one’s a yes.

When they’re done, the yes pile is really, really small, and the rest of the proposals get rejection letters. Then they take their yes stack to editorial committee, where all the other editors in the company bring their yes piles and they decide as a group which ones they’ll pursue and which ones they’ll kick to the curb. Everyone has to be on board, or you get the sayonara story.

And yes, lots of sayonaras happen in the editorial meeting. The surviving proposals are an elite group that have great promise. They move on to the next committee, known in many publishing houses as “PubCo,” where there will be yet more sifting.

It feels like getting a book published with one of these houses is impossible. But then, a lot of things feel that way. But people do get published. They stick with their task, move forward, learn more about the industry, meet people, make connections, work harder yet on craft.

It’s a battle.

But the world is full of hard fought battles. Of feats we’re determined to accomplish. Of trials were resolved to overcome.

There’s no glossing it over. They cost.

They make us think and work and persevere.

But isn’t the sweat and struggle the very thing that makes our victory so sweet?

That makes our feats and trials and ideals so valuable?

That makes us ready, even excited, to face the next challenge?

Bring it on.

(Read more of the book contract story here)

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The Book Contract Story Part II

Erin and Karen at the awards banquet
Erin and Karen at the awards banquet

 

Proposal: A big long document I have to write to convince the publishing company that they should spend thousands and thousands of dollars publishing my book. And just an FYI—when I say they spend thousands, it’s not me they give that to. It’s the managers, editors, sales reps, marketing folks, cover designers, interior designers, administrative assistants, the paper company, and on and on. I mean, they might give me a teensy slice of it in the way of an advance, but writing is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not even a get-rich-slow scheme.

It’s a do-it-because-God-is-calling-you-to-do-it scheme.

I’m okay with that.

Not that some writers don’t make a stinking fortune in this business, but those are the folks whose name on the book cover is WAY bigger than the title. At this point, I’d be happy to see my name in any size on a cover.

So, my agent and I work on getting the proposals for my novel and my dog book all spruced up (read the beginning of that story here). I need to revise the dog book, but only if anyone should want to make an offer. I still think it needs…uh…something, and honestly, based on the prior feedback I’ve received, I kinda don’t expect anything to come of it right now.

In the meantime, I’m working like crazy to finish my novel and loving every bit of it.

And something cool happens. I enter the novel in a big contest—the ACFW Genesis—and make it to the finals.

Yay! Except one tiny frightening possibility—the winner has to give an acceptance speech in front of 700 people at the conference banquet.

And I’m stuck wearing a dress.

SO not me, but it’s kinda inescapable.

The night of the banquet, I can barely eat three bites of my dinner. Here’s an idea. Feed us AFTER the awards.

When they finally get to my category, I truly don’t mind when my name isn’t called as the winner. It was all in the hands of God, and I was smart enough to save my dessert, which I can now chow down.

The best thing is a boost in my confidence that pushes me onward. Finaling in this contest feels like a very cool seal of approval. I’m finding my stride with this novel, and my writing journey is gaining traction. I’m excited and growing with every chapter I write, and it feels like my direction in fiction has been well set.

Of course, a curve ball always looks predictably straight until it, well, curves…

(Read more of the book contract story)

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The Book Contract Story Part I

question mark 2

After months and months of writing work, God has led my writing career exactly where I didn’t think it was going. In a good way, though. I mean, it’s like aiming for Disneyland and realizing you’ve arrived at Disney World instead. They’re both happy places.

When we last left my writing journey, I’d signed an agency agreement with the wonderful Karen Ball of the Steve Laube Agency (read the whole agent story if you want to know about that). The plan was to finish my novel and send the proposal out to publishers.

“We need to send your dog book out too,” Karen says during our video chat one day.

I frown. “Technically it’s complete, but it needs a revision. I can’t work on that and finish the novel at the same time.”

“That’s okay. We can still send out a proposal.”

“It needs a BIG revision.”

“If we get an offer, you can revise it.”

Clearly I’m not explaining the situation properly. While the dog book has a great start—enough that even Mr. NY Times agent thought it had promise—it has some sort of fatal flaw that I’m not sure how to fix. I’m not even sure what the fatal flaw is. I only have vague notions from vague comments on previous rejections.

Hey, why don’t I just tell my agent she’s an idiot for taking me on because in reality I’m too dumb to figure out what’s wrong with the dog book.

Umm…No.

“I thought you liked my fiction?” I say.

“I like both.”

“I don’t think any publishers are going to be interested in the dog book in its current form.”

“Yes they will. It’s a great idea and great writing.”

“You’ve only got the first twenty pages.” Right before it crashes and burns because of that fatal flaw I don’t have a handle on.

“It’s good.”

I’m about to disagree, but it occurs to me—should I really be arguing with a person who’s made her living in publishing for 30 years?

But I do need to fess up about my shortcomings. “Okay, we can send out the proposal, but can you please read the manuscript and tell me what it needs in terms of revising? I’m really not sure.”

She agrees, but here’s the funny thing. Before she even gets a chance to read it, I stumble into a fix for one of the issues early in the book. At least it feels like I’ve stumbled into it. But maybe the answers were there all along, waiting for me to discover them.

I just didn’t know if I could.

Why do I doubt myself?

Am I alone in that?

Or do we all, deep down, question whether God has really given us gifts? And if he has, don’t we still doubt that we can use them effectively?

Like God is somehow going to tell us he wants us to do something, and then not give us the ability?

Sounds ridiculous when I put it that way. Yet it’s easy to slip into that mindset. We think we’re doubting ourselves, but now I wonder…isn’t it God we’re doubting?

Maybe, rather than doubting, we simply need to trust those gifts are there and trust God will enable us to use them according to his purpose.

So how do we do that?

I admit I still don’t know what fixes need to happen before the rest of the dog book takes shape into something with life and purpose and hope. But here’s my plan, and you can use it too, for whatever it is that God has put in you to do that you’re doubting you can do.

We’ll focus on being faithful, on moving forward, on doing our work everyday as best as we know how.

And then we’ll simply believe answers will come in time.

Ability will come.

Fruit will come.

Because this is what Jesus said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:16a

(Read more of the book contract story)

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