Saturday, July 26, 2008

What's Around The Bend Of The Road?

I didn't set out to become a writer. I'd had a very successful career as a physician: clinician, researcher, educator. Now it was time to retire--enjoy life, travel, play more golf. But things don't always work out the way we plan them to. My wife of forty years had a fatal stroke two weeks after her retirement. I had planned to retire right after she did. Instead, after sustaining that loss, I stayed on at the medical school for three more years before stepping down. In the intervening time, God had blessed me with the love of another wonderful woman, and this time I was determined to enjoy my "declining years."

There was some travel, some speaking, a bit of golf. But I also began writing. For two years after Cynthia's death I had journaled, using emails and notes to chronicle my journey through the minefield of grief. One of my friends read those raw journalings and was so touched by them that he urged me to publish them. Of course, I hadn't the faintest idea how to go about it.

Fast forward a couple of years, to a Christian writers' conference, where caring professionals began what has been an ongoing education for me in the business--and yes, Virginia, it is a business--of publishing. Finally, seven years after Cynthia's death, my book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse was published. So that was it. I'd had a non-fiction book published. But the story didn't end there.

A well-known writer at that conference was impressed with my ability to "put the words together," so he introduced me to an editor. The editor, in turn, challenged me to try my hand at fiction. He even told me what he'd like to see--a novel about a former baseball player turned doctor. The resulting novel made it as far as the pub board at his house before being turned down, but that was enough to get me interested. I felt God nudging me toward more writing.

After that came numerous meditations and article in various periodicals, most often the devotional guide, Upper Room, but I was also writing novels, none of which met with any success when I shopped them to editors. I even acquired an agent, but that didn't seem to help. By the time I'd finished my fourth novel, I was bathed in self-doubt. I prayed long and hard, and had decided to put aside my writing for good.

Then an agent, Rachelle Gardner, held a contest on her blog , seeking the best opening line for a novel. I won that contest with this line: "Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled up everything." The first prize was a critique of the first few pages of a novel. I submitted the opening from my most recent work, and Rachelle's critique went something like this: "Send me something that needs editing." Rachelle is a former editor, now an agent, and she liked my work. Maybe I shouldn't quit. At least, not yet. More praying. More deliberation. And I began writing again.

The last chapter in this saga hasn't been written. None of my novels has been picked up yet, but this week I got a notice that another of my articles has been accepted. Apparently I'm doing something right. So I guess I'll keep on going down this road.

Why do I post this? Writers need encouragement. If you're about to quit, think again. Pray about it. Maybe you're on the brink of something good. I hope so.


Nicole said...

Richard, my gut tells me it's just a matter of time before the right publisher finds your books. You have a good voice, you've studied the craft, I'm sure you'd be a gem to work with, and I believe it will happen for you.

You could be me and have seven complete and two self-published, working on number eight. Ah well, it could always be worse, huh? Praise the Lord for the privilege of writing, it's a gift no matter what happens with it or to it.

Yvonne said...

I just read your post on Rachelle's blog (loved it and commented on it there..sorry) I followed your link to here.
I'm glad God is leading you to write about the lessons He has taught you through your experiences. Those type of writings are the best because they come from the heart.

Rachelle is also reading a proposal of my historical novel, based on a lot of my emotions and experiences. I've just started my own blog and have published various articles.

Thank you for sharing with us. It is such an encouragement. Thank your for being a Barnabas.

Chatty Kelly said...

Thank you for your encouragement! I enjoy your writing very much.