Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rejection as a Stepping Stone

Good morning, everyone! Today I will meet with more than a dozen aspiring authors at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis. While I’m away from my home in Nashville, I thought it would be fun and beneficial to invite some of my talented Abingdon Press authors to share their experiences and inspiration with you.

Author Rita Gerlach
Today’s guest blogger is Rita Gerlach, author of the historical romance Surrender the Wind. She and her husband Paul live in the Baltimore area with their two sons.

Recently, I had the pleasure (along with my husband Mike) of having dinner with Rita, her husband Paul, and Larry and Loree Lough. Paul and Mike kept us in stitches the whole night. Rita and I compared notes and agreed that living with them is a bit like living with Robin Williams, only our husbands are Christians. I think they are gifts from God to encourage us when we forget that the Lord is directing our careers.

The next day, Rita and Paul drove us to Harper’s Ferry, and we toured the area where her next series—Daughters of the Potomac—takes place. Did you know the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers flow together at that point? You could actually see the change in water.We stood on a high cliff above Harper's Ferry, and I could almost see Rita's main character sitting on a bench and dreaming about her future.

Later we had lunch at a little outside cafĂ© with faded red umbrellas and red-checked tablecloths. Since our Chihuahua Riley is such a well-behaved dog, he was allowed to have lunch with us. Not that he ate anything. That’s how he keeps his svelte figure. ;-)


Now for Rita’s guest blog . . . be inspired!

On a recent forum post on ChristianWriters.com an aspiring writer wrote about her feelings and view on rejections. I thought I would share my response to her in hopes that it will encourage those of you who are in the doldrums.

Dear Cowgirl Poet,

As I read your post, my heart went out to you. I've been in that exact same place where rejections seemed an endless circle. Please be encouraged and know that the piece on rejection that you wrote may only be temporary. There are two things a Christian writer must have in order to succeed besides a tough skin—persistence and patience. Persistence is continuing to write, improving the craft, sending out queries. Patience comes out of humility to God by turning over your writing career into His hands.

You wrote that rejection is a “non-stop part of a writer's life.” It is true for the moment. You will face rejections. However, the day you land your first publishing contract, rejections will fall to the wayside. Oh, you might get a rejection from your editor on a new proposal, but you can ask what you can do to make the manuscript better, what can you change to meet her expectations. As you grow as a writer you'll begin to view rejections as stepping stones to something better—to make you a better writer, to make your manuscript the best it can be, and to put your work into the right hands.

I had been writing for several years and found a print-on-demand company to publish my first three novels. Easy. They'll accept any book that comes their way. There were downsides to POD, and they almost, if I had allowed them, defeated my career. I refused to give in and prayed that God would release the works of my hands out of the hands of ungodly men. A few weeks later I had my contracts canceled, and it was one of the best things to happen to me.

I started a new historical and thought I had finished it. So I started sending out queries. One Christian agent whom I highly respect told me, “In my opinion, this is not finished.” Those were all the words he gave me. Of course, I wished he had said more, but I had to revisit the manuscript.

Then one July day a year later, I sat down at my desk and asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do with this book and with my career. I have a little verse sitting in a frame on my desk that says, “Commit your work to the Lord.” And so, that is what I did. If He wanted this novel published, it would be, and I had to be patient for the right door to open.

Fifteen minutes later I saw on Brandilyn Collins' blog that her friend Barbara Scott had been hired as the new acquisitions editor at Abingdon Press and that they were starting a fiction line. Barbara was only announcing it on Brandilyn's blog at the time. Historical fiction was one of the genres she was looking for. I sent her a query, and she requested the manuscript.

I was offered a contract and Surrender the Wind came out in August 2009. In November I was offered agent representation. Last week I signed again with Abingdon for a three-book series. Oh, and one of the books that I had begun to write as a standalone, Barbara rejected initially, not because the writing was bad but because of how it would not fit in their line. I asked her if I could make changes and resend. She said yes. In the shower one morning (I pray a lot in the shower) the Lord showed me I needed to tell the story in three novels. Thus the series. Barbara looked at the proposals and loved them.

I'm not posting this to toot my own horn. I am nobody special. I just want to share my testimony and hope it encourages you to look at rejection in a different light. Rejections are stepping-stones to something better. When an agent or publisher turns you down, tell yourself they were not the right fit for you and move on. Commit your work to the Lord and He will direct your path.

I want to send my thanks to everyone that has read Surrender the Wind, to those who were gracious to host me on their blogs, and those who wrote reviews. It's been a great year! Watch for the new series due out early in 2012 . . . Daughters of the Potomac.

Blessings,
Rita Gerlach

* * *

It's been one year since Abingdon Press officially released Rita’s historical novel of intrigue and romance entitled Surrender the Wind. Recently, a reader in the UK sent Rita this message.

Hello Rita, just finished reading your book Surrender the Wind. What can I say? It was absolutely amazing—the best book I've read for a long, long time—[with] intrigue, suspense, passion, love. I've never ridden so fast on a horse as I did with Seth. God certainly gave you a gift. Keep using it. From Deborah (England)
* * *

Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

And please visit Rita’s website at www.ritagerlach.com/ and her blog at: http://inspire-writer.blogspot.com/.

8 comments:

  1. You are right, "rejections are stepping stones". I like to think that rejections are part of my growth as well.

    I love how you committed your writing to God. As Christians we need to commit what we do to him and that includes our writing.

    Love this post.

    Thanks Barbara and thanks Rita.

    Teresa

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  2. Well, Rita always has insight into God's grace and peace in the midst of rejection. I really appreciate her story and how can it help but bring hope to those of us waiting on God's timing. Thanks to both of you for this post.
    Jan

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  3. Your words today have encouraged me tremendously. This week, I sent out a query and the kind agent said she already had too many Florida-based books. I could have cried because that's what I wrote and had ready to query. It made me wonder if I will be a step behind in the market no matter when I query. So instead, I pulled out a book I'd written last year and am revisiting it as well as writing something new. Rejections are par for the course but each time I get one, I am learning to keep on the course that I know God set for me.

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  4. No one wants to stand in line and not get picked for the team, that is just being human. The ability we have in Jesus is the strength to stand in line after line after line, accept rejection after rejection after rejection and continue to do so; if that is what He has called us to do.

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  5. No one likes rejection, and this piece was not only inspirational, it was true. Rejection can be a stepping stone to a better story. Especially when you commit your works into God's hands.

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  6. Wonderful post! Thanks so much for sharing, Rita! I have a few fulls out and that rejection is even scarier than a query because if the stories are rejected, I know it's not just a bad query or not fitting in the agent's line up, you know?
    This is such a rollercoaster of a ride that I agree, it's definitely best to place our lives and writings and dreams and everything in God's hands.
    Congrats on your sales!

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  7. Hang in there everyone! I can't share the story, but someone I know who has waited forever for a big breakthrough scored this weekend at ACFW. One publisher offered her a three-book contract; another wants to publish a single title she's had swimming around for about ten years, and another also wants another single title. We can't second guess God's timing!

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  8. Barbara - I LOVE this report. How AWESOME for her - and encouraging for each of us who hope God's timing is drawing very near.

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