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Seekerville: The Journey Continues

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First Chapter Dropout

First Chapter Dropout

Once long ago I jokingly said to a friend who finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart, like, 10 times and won 3 or 4 times, that I aspired to be her when I grew up. She replied, very sadly, that no, I did NOT want to be her. Yeah, put that way, I could see her point.


Here in Seekerville we’ve talked about getting up the nerve just to ENTER a contest, entering simply for feedback, then getting to the stage of entering because we’ve been consistently finaling and we’re pretty sure our current WIP can make the cut and land in front of an agent or editor.


All of that is well and good, but what’s the ultimate POINT of entering contests geared toward unpublished authors? I mean, past the point of getting your work in front of an editor or an agent? The point is to become ineligible to enter those contests. Right? Right!


And, we don’t get to that point by working and reworking chapter one of a manuscript (or even multiple manuscripts) just for the sake of entering contests. I could have easily become a first chapter dropout because I was a contest junk … uh … queen, as many of the Seekers were. They were more like princesses; I was fanatical!


I know of more than one aspiring author who fell by the wayside because they could never stop tweaking that first chapter and entering it in the next contest to see if it would final. I distinctly remember the first aspiring author I ever met. It was so much fun to have a like-minded person to brainstorm with, to ride to chapter meetings together and talk writing nonstop.  And the fact that she lived fairly close to me at the time made it all the more sweeter!


After two or three years of rewriting the first chapter of her story and getting more and varied feedback from contests, she lost her zeal and couldn’t even remember where she was headed with it in the first place. It was a hodgepodge of contest feedback and she completely gave up writing. And here’s the kicker: She was a good writer and had great ideas!


I’ve had my share of doing the same thing, so I know what I’m talking about! But I saw what happened to a few of my friends, and I didn’t want to be a first chapter dropout. I made myself finish a manuscript, then another, and another.



Don’t be a first chapter dropout: Finish the manuscript.



First Chapter Dropout

And you know what? If you’ve never actually finished a manuscript, you’ll be surprised at all the things that will happen during the course of writing the story that will change the opening scene or make the goals and motivations of your characters that much clearer as you write the closing scenes. It can be a real eye-opener, even if you had a detailed synopsis to go by.


At some point you’ll know you need to “retire” your current award winning manuscript from the contest circuit. Only you can decide when to do this, but I would say that if it’s been in front of most of the editors and agents who are judging, and if it’s won every major contest running, then it’s probably time to retire it. If you spot an editor or agent who’s judging that has never seen the manuscript, by all means enter it in that particular contest, but don’t just keep sending the first same chapter to the same final round judges over and over and over. After an editor has seen it in contests 2 or 3 times, unless there’s a major overhaul, that’s probably enough. That’s not to say that they won’t buy it later on. Far from it. They just might. And… for the record, that manuscript might not be your first sale. But with work, it might become a sale.


I imagine at that point they’re ready to see something else from you, so write something else. Write the first chapter and a clear synopsis of the sequel to your first book or something totally new and enter that in a contest and get back to FINISHING your first award winning manuscript.


So, the goal is to start your manuscript, enter a few contests, FINISH the manuscript, and start something new. All this time keep entering contests, making connections, submitting to agents and editors, and somewhere down the road, something will click, and you’ll move one more step up the publishing ladder.


Keep working, keep moving forward to the goal, and publishing will happen.


Now, having said ALL that, I’m a BIG believer in writing contests. I love them all, from the first line ones, to the synopsis ones, to the first chapter ones, and the ones that require a full manuscript. As a published author, I sort of MISS being able to enter those contests anonymously. So, don’t take today’s post as reason NOT to enter contests. Take it as a reason to enter them all (like someone who shall remain nameless… ahem), but always remember the goal….



Don’t be a first chapter dropout. Finish the manuscript!



But while you're writing toward the finish line, check out ACFW's First Impressions Contest. It's for unpublished authors, and all you need to enter is the first 5 pages of your manuscript and a 200 word blurb. Deadline to enter is October 15th!



First Chapter Dropout




Checklist for Entering Contests

 

Checklist for Entering Contests

Hey kids! Do you know what time it is?

It's contest time!

One thing almost all published authors have in common is that we got our feet wet in the publishing industry by entering contests. 

What does that mean? I believe that learning to navigate the writing contest world is great training for becoming a successful author!
Opportunities abound for entering contests! One reason for the timing of this post is because the deadline for ACFW's First Impressions Contest is THIS FRIDAY! OCTOBER 15th!

So this post is your head's up!

This is a rewrite of a post Pam Hillman did *way too many* years ago – but contest time is here again, so I thought it was time to bring Pam’s fabulous post out of the archives, dust it off, update it, and bring it out again!

So with Pam’s permission, here’s her updated post:

Checklist for Entering Contests
by Pam Hillman/Jan Drexler

My former boss always said that my attention to detail was what made me good at my job. And just for the record, I quit my former job a few years ago to write, work in the Christian publishing world, and manage the books on the family farm. It wasn't like I was fired from that day job! Just sayin' :)

So, this slightly OCD trait also comes in handy when preparing manuscripts to send out, whether to contests, agents, or editors. But if you’re not detail-oriented, not to worry. Here are some tips to help keep you on track.

Checklist for Entering Contests


Keep in mind that some of the tips below do not apply to all contests. This list of tips is to help you get in the habit of doing all the steps every time you enter a contest, so that you can whip out an entry in a matter of hours. If something doesn't apply, you just mark it off your list.

Once you’ve got the content of your manuscript and your synopsis polished to a shine and the deadline is approaching, then:

1) Review the big picture rules

a. Does your manuscript fit neatly into one of the categories?
 
b. Do you know who the finalist judges are?

c. Have you looked at a sample score sheet if available?

d. When is the deadline?

2) Review the rules specific to your manuscript and your synopsis

a. Check the margins

b. Check font and font size

c. Check to see if there is a title page. A lot of online contests have moved away from title pages, but it never hurts to check the rules, just in case.

d. Check header. What exactly does the contest require in the header? What does the contest forbid in the header (like your name or pseudonym)?

e. Double-check the contest's formatting rules. Do they have a formatting example? Check it out!  


3) There are few contests, agents, or editors that require you to mail in your entry but keep these things in mind in case you hit one of those.

a. Did you include enough books or copies of your manuscript? If books for a published contest, did you sign them?

b. Did you double-TRIPLE-check the mailing address?

c. Pay a bit extra for Delivery Confirmation. You'll be glad you did. 

d. And especially if you are mailing in your entry, you might want to print out the mailing address for one last check when you get to the post office. In your excitement, it’s much too easy to get to the post office and seal that sucker up, forgetting all about the return postage and/or your check.

Checklist for Entering Contests


Entering unpublished contests have changed a lot over the years as the bulk of them have gone online. On one hand, the process is much, much easier and cheaper, especially since you don't have to print or mail anything. Isn't that a blessing? Contests with 3-5 print copies of a 20-25 page manuscript added a chunk of change to someone's contest budget. Also, for you young whippersnappers, us oldies had to pay for printing, postage to mail our entries, and a SASE envelope with enough postage for the contest to return all our judged entries. I like online much better.

But online contests don't come without problems. Slow internet, incompatible software, corrupted files, and failure to confirm your entry or payment can knock you out of a contest.

Checklist for Entering Contests


A year or so before I sold, I found out about a contest that was low on inspirational entries, so with hours before the deadline, I entered two manuscripts. One went through fine, but for some reason the other one kept converting from 35 pages on my computer to 39 on the coordinator's computer. Same two computers and the same coordinator as the other manuscript, minutes apart. It was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen and neither of us could fix it. The coordinator bent over backwards to help, but in the end, I had to make a decision. In desperation, I chopped 5 pages off the end, and sent it in with 2 minutes to spare. The manuscript was within the page count at that point and wasn't disqualified. (It finaled and actually won the contest. Go figure...)

Once a contest lost my digital entry. Just literally lost it. I can't remember if they gave me a refund or if they had someone read for me. In the course of writing this post, I found another one that I'm still not sure I ever got the results on. Let it go! Let it go! It never bothered me anyway....

Always, always, always make sure you use an email address that you check regularly and especially check your email after the fact if you end up entering a contest with mere hours to spare. Contest coordinators are amazing at bending over backwards to let people fix issues, but in fairness to other entrants, once the deadline has passed, there's nothing they can do. Stay on top of your entry and don't be disqualified for something that could be prevented just by being aware of your email trail.

Generally when you enter a contest, you will receive at least two emails. Possibly more.

1) Payment confirmation. Most of the time, this email will come from PayPal as that's the go-to for most online payments these days. PayPal allows non-users to pay with a debit or credit card, but the email will still come from PayPal.
2) Entry confirmation receipt. This receipt will be from group/chapter hosting the contest OR the contest coordinator's private email, depending on the software the contest is using. It confirms that the contest coordinator received your entry. Again, generally speaking, #1 and #2 go hand in hand and are automated responses when you complete your entry. This email will usually let you know if you need to look for additional emails.
3) Additional emails might land in your inbox once contest coordinators have laid eyes on your manuscript pages and made sure they meet the guidelines.

By checking your email, you ensure that you've completed the process, sent in your manuscript and received payment. The best laid plans can go awry even after you do everything perfectly, hit submit, but then go off to celebrate your achievement... only to find out that there was a glitch with your PayPal account. 99% of the time, you will receive an email confirmation immediately from PayPal. If you have time to wait 24 hours, do so. If the deadline is looming, it wouldn't hurt to check on the status of your entry.

It never hurts to check and double check everything. You’ll feel better, your package will be neat and tidy, and the coordinator will be forever grateful.

Jan here – I’ll add one more thing to Pam’s great advice at this point. Don’t…please, just don’t…make sending in your contest submission the last item on your to-do list before you head out on a week-long break from the internet! If the contest coordinator needs to get in contact with you, you need to be reachable. (You wouldn’t believe how often that happens!)

Then you sit back and wait for the results...or...

better yet, write another book!!!

Checklist for Entering Contests



Jan here again - I mentioned the First Impressions contest above. You can find out all the details of that contest for newbie, pre-published authors HERE! And that deadline is THIS FRIDAY! 

Another ACFW contest for unpublished/pre-published authors is the Genesis. You have a little while to get ready for this contest, but you MUST have a completed manuscript to enter. The contest opens in early January 2022, and the deadline will be in March. Details for the 2021 contest are here.

And if you're itching to learn about more contests, be sure to sign up for Tina Radcliffe's newsletter. She scours the interwebs to bring us the details! Here's all the info you need: Inside Edition

So, let's talk contests!

Any contest war wounds? Lost submissions? You sent in your fee, but forgot to send in the manuscript/books? You sent in everything except your fee? You entered your manuscript in the least likely category that it could ever possibly final in? 'fess up! :)

Or are you brand new to contests? Would you...could you...take the plunge into the contest waters?

Just remember - contests are how many of the original Seekers sailed off Unpubbed Island!

   

The Christy Award 2020 Winners


In a year when everything feels topsy turvy, many of us are turning to stories (whether reading or writing them) to help us make sense of the world or simply cope by escaping our present reality for a few moments. Even the most contented solitary bookworm among us has felt the tremors of disaster or heard the rumblings of controversial headlines in 2020, it's inescapable. 

The world shouts at us to fear, hate, and divide... yet we, beloved friends, not only have the gift of story but we have the security of knowing and being known by the Author of all stories. Past, present, future, and eternity are in His hands and so are we. Whether you reach for a book or a pen, remember that God crafted and created each one of us for His purpose and glory. 

Be still. He's whispering to His chosen ones through His Word, through songs, through stories, through fellow believers... you were made with purpose and for a purpose. Glorify Him in fulfilling it. Be encouraged and edified, fellow believers! Love wins and Jesus is on the throne.

The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Okay, y'all it's time to let our hair down and celebrate story! I don't know who left that soapbox sitting out but I am not taking it home with me, I'll never get a moment of peace with that thing around. 

Can we just say BRAVO to The Christy Award and The Art of Writing Webinar Series organizers?! That was some tasty lemonade if you know what I'm sayin'! If you were an attendee or a participant of either event, I want to hear all your thoughts and experiences! 

I don't think I can fully express my gratitude to the 28 authors, 58 judges, The Christy Advisory Board, organizational team, sponsoring publishers, partnering booksellers, and extraordinary people behind the scenes dedicated to honoring excellence in Christian fiction. 

If it's starting to sound like I won an award, I obviously didn't but I DO get to read a lot of fabulous books and that's kind of the same thing without all the writing! Clearly, I need to wind down soon so without further ado or shenanigans, join me in congratulating The Christy Award winners of 2020!

Young Adult 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

The Means That Make Us Strangers by Christine Kindberg (Bellflower Press)

Visionary 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Hidden Current by Sharon Hinck (Enclave Publishing)

Historical 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke (Tyndale House Publishers)

General Fiction
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

The Painted Castle
 by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson)

Short Form 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

A Christmas Haven
by Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall (WaterBrook)

First Novel  
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

A Long Time Comin’
by Robin W. Pearson (Tyndale House Publishers)

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

The Girl Behind the Red Rope
by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)

Contemporary Romance 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Now and Then and Always
by Melissa Tagg (Larkspur Press)

Book of the Year
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Whose Waves These Are
 by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)


Were you watching the Winners Webcast? Did you attend the Art of Writing Webinars? Share your thoughts and experiences!


Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast who works too hard and doesn't read nearly as much as she'd like to. You'll occasionally find her on Faithfully Bookish and on social media but mostly she's happily plugging away in the back office at JustRead Publicity Tours. Beth is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories. Plus she's kind of goofy when it's past her bedtime.

Contest Tips

Contest Tips
Hello, Winnie Griggs here. Today I wanted to do a little "Back To Basics" post and talk about writing contests.

All right, I’ll admit it.  I’m a recovering contest junkie.  In the long years before I made that first sale, I entered dozens and dozens of them.  Now that I’m published, I’ve tried to repay not only the entrants but also all those wonderful,  harried contest coordinators by volunteering to judge when I can.

And as you know, the same things that make a full length novel great, make for a great entry as well. 

First, you want to show a clear understanding of the CRAFT of writing
  • Check, double-check and then triple check your grammar and spelling. Errors in this department may signal to the judge that you just don’t care. And yes I know you can probably point me to dozens of examples in published books that have these kinds of errors, but there are few judges who will give you a pass on this, especially if there are more than one or two errors and/or it’s one of the scoring items.
  • Make it engaging. Your dialog should be conversational and immediate, your narrative on point and pertinent to your scene and your characters recognizable, necessary to the story, and distinct from each other. In addition the story stakes should be clear and something the reader will care about.  The last thing you want is for the reader to shrug and think “so what?”.
Contest Tips


Next, you want to make sure you follow the rules.
All contests have a set of guidelines the entrants are to follow. These are mostly designed to give the entries a uniform feel and to make the job easier for the over-worked, under-appreciate, VOLUNTEER contest coordinators. And it’s also good practice for when you want to submit to a publisher. So make sure you have thoroughly read and understand the contest rules and that you follow them to a T. Don’t expect the harried contest coordinator to make allowances for you.

And as a judge, I find nothing more heartbreaking than discovering a manuscript I absolutely love, yet have to score in the medium to low range because of the framework of the judging criteria.  What makes this especially frustrating for me as a judge is that, in many cases, the entrant could have anticipated this problem and taken steps to mitigate it with just a little extra effort.

How, you ask?  By taking the following two steps:

  • Obtain a copy of the scoresheet the judges will be using.
    Depending on the contest, this task may vary from simple to nearly impossible.  Some contests have the scoresheet included on their website and/or with their printed guidelines.  If not, ask the contest coordinator for a copy.  If all else fails, try to find someone who entered in a prior year to see if they will share a copy with you.  (Though this is a bit iffier, since contests occasionally revise their scoresheets from one year to the next).

    Once you get hold of the scoresheet, then what?
    Pay close attention to the areas in which the manuscript will be judged, and the relative weight given to each.  These will differ greatly from contest to contest.  For example, if the relationship between the h/h is a large part of the score, and your h/h don’t meet within the pages of your entry, this may not be the contest for you.
  • Take full advantage of the page count allotted to you.  
    If a contest has as its guidelines that your entry is to consist of ‘a first chapter, not to exceed 25 pages’, then take a close look at your first chapter.  Again, use this in combination with the scoresheet.  Let’s take our above example, where the h/h relationship is a strong scoring element.  Now, maybe that relationship is not evident in your first chapter.  But your first chapter is only 15 pages long.  Suppose you changed that chapter break to a scene break and included the next 8-10 pages in your first chapter.  Would it now contain the missing element to give the judge something to work with?

    Ah, but suppose you need to pull in the next 12 pages to not only round out your scene but to also give you a really breathtaking ending hook?  What now?  Well, review those 27 pages closely.  Are there scenes or even paragraphs whose purpose is to foreshadow or set up something that will happen later in the story, but can be lifted out and not be missed in the context of this entry?  Then by all means, lift them out. It may surprise you how easy it is to whittle out the extra two pages when you view your opening in this narrower context.

    CAUTION:  Longer is not necessarily better.  If the 15 pages of your first chapter hit all the points it needs to, than stop there.  The contest judge will thank you for not taking up any more of her/his time than necessary.
Contest Tips


And speaking of thanks, there’s one final point I want to make.
No matter if you agree with the feedback you received or not, you should always take a moment to write a gracious thank you note to your judges. No matter what score they awarded you, they took hours out of their own writing schedule to read your entry and give you their feedback. If the feedback was particularly scathing, you may want to take a day or two to deal with it emotionally, mentally thank them for thickening your skin and then write a note thanking them for their time.

There you have it.  A few simple tips, but they can make all the difference in the score your entry receives.

Best of luck and above all, believe in yourself!
Contest Tips

Do you have any other tips or thoughts on this subject?  Leave a comment to be entered for your chance to receive your choice of any book from my backlist. 
You can find a list of those titles HERE.

Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea

Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea


Christy LaShea

Happy, Happy Monday! Wow! I hope you all are well, wherever you are in this world. I am so excited to be here in Seekerville today. As a new writer, I stuck close to this blog. I had the honor of meeting several Seekers at ACFW conferences… this would have been sometime during 2007 to 2012. I was also a guest here in 2009. Search the archives and you’ll find me!
I’m telling my writer age here… I’ve been around a long time.  
Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea

Y’all, (can I say y’all? I am from the south, you know ;)) I’ve been trying to get published for about 20 years. If you count the stories I wrote in middle school, well, that’s longer than 20! I believe being a writer takes talent, imagination, and a whole lot of faith. That’s faith in yourself and, more important, in God. 
 I’ve got to be honest. I’ve struggled with fear for a long time, but only recently have I admitted the issue. I’m stubborn and red-headed. My salty stubbornness only got worse after I turned 40. Oh, I’m a nice person. If we meet, you may think sugar won’t melt in my mouth, but there are two sides to every story. For me, I’ve got several sides. I love the Lord and I pray a lot – usually while driving in the car or in the shower. I’m stubborn. I’m sweet. I’m scared. I started getting honest with myself about fear when in 2017 so many of my writer friends, even those that started after me were getting published and I wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I try to be cheerleaders for all of my friends. I am thrilled for them, but I had to look at myself and ask why I was parked in neutral. I’d push the gas, but doggone it…it was like the emergency brake was on, and stuck!
My problem, I finally figured out after nearly 20 years of contest wins and final spots, but no publication, was that I feared rejection. You see, I would pitch my heart out at conferences. I’d get requests! Then, I’d get home, look over my work in progress and I’d point out all of the things wrong with it. Or, I’d polish the first 3 chapters a million times and when I sent the full manuscript to the publisher, the rest of it was like an uncooked casserole! Who wants that let down?
Here’s an example of that half baked casserole… In 2009, my manuscript, The Bridge Between, won in the Contemporary Romance category of the ACFW Genesis Contest.  
Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea

Mindy Obenhaus and I at ACFW Conference Denver 2009 – Mindy’s a wonderful roommate and has a stunning fashion sense! And she’s got a great way with words! Love her stories!

Wow! I just knew my publishing career was set by that win. Plus, a New York publisher had requested it from the Genesis Contest. So I sent the full manuscript, and by 2010 I got a rejection letter. The editor said she wanted to like it, but…
Hey, y’all, if it’s not in God’s time, in His plan, then it’s not going to happen. 
Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea

Ane Mulligan and I were both Genesis Finalists in 2009. Awesome and funny writer!

Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea

Missy Tippens and I after the ACFW awards gala 2009.Missy has always been one of my sweetest cheerleaders, mentors, and she’s a wonderful writer!

After the 2010 rejection, life went on. My second child was born and my family rejoiced. Then, I changed positions at work. Soon I found myself in a spiral that involved high stress at work, little time for family or anything else, and a lot of confusion as the years plodded ahead. Despite all of the difficulty, I continued to think of new storylines even though my writing time was less and less. When I was able to write, creating the manuscripts helped me escape that stressful time in life. Eventually, unable to take the pressure of the job any longer, I transferred out of the department. The relief of stress on me was a true blessing. 
By 2018, I received more nods from contests as the manuscript finaled, but fear kept choking my creativity. I didn’t have the finances to self publish. I wanted to be a traditionally published author but I didn’t write cookie-cutter stories. My stories were a little gritty. Where did they fit in? I started considering maybe I shouldn’t write Christian fiction. I could write sweet but not have the spiritual arc… That voice inside my heart started talking: 
“I’m not good enough.”
“No one wants to read my stories.”
“I should just quit.”
I’d started praying more. Instead of praying for a publishing contract, I prayed for God to take the desire away from me. I’d be happier if I could focus on something else if I wasn’t meant to be a published author. 
 As I have struggled with fear, I’ve also struggled with knowing when God is speaking to me. God has never told me to do something or go somewhere. I’ve never heard his powerful voice from Heaven. Instead, He speaks to me by pressing something upon my conscience that I can’t release until the deed is done. Sometimes the feeling is so heavy it’s like someone is sitting on my shoulders. I will do anything to get this off of my shoulders and if I don’t, I feel really bad about it! 
In the spring of 2018, I had something bothering me about my health that I had been ignoring for quite some time. I had not seen a doctor in four years.  As a busy, working wife and mom of two, I made sure everyone else went to the doctor. That pressing feeling began to infiltrate my thoughts that this lump I felt in my left breast had been there for a long time. It wasn’t going away and it wasn’t getting smaller. Still, I ignored it a little while longer.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to write new stories, but a story I had worked on for a long time, the same one that won Genesis, would not leave my heart. I couldn’t put “The Bridge Between” in a drawer and move on. I kept shopping it, kept pitching it, kept tweaking… By March of 2018, I had an email from an editor which indicated interest in the story, but she requested changes. A revise and resubmit letter! I’d never gotten one of those! I agreed with the changes and knew the story needed something but I couldn’t understand what...
By May of 2018, that nudging, annoying, pressing feeling would not let go of me. I saw a new doctor and told her about the lump that had been bothering me. I’d never had a mammogram as women at 40 are instructed to do. My family didn’t have a history of breast cancer. Following a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound on the same day, the radiologist came in to the ultrasound room and somberly advised that the results were very serious and he would notify my doctor immediately. In July of 2018, at 43 years old, I began treatments for Stage 3 breast cancer. 
Earlier, I mentioned I was stubborn. Well, this is the time when my stubbornness jumped to a whole new level. A cancer diagnosis was not going to be the end for me. Irritated worse than the Tasmanian devil, I put on my big girl pants and I faced those cancer treatments. On the first infusion, I took my laptop thinking I could revise while I went through chemo. That didn’t work out too well, but what I learned was that God is at work everywhere! 
God has put some of the kindest nurses in those infusion centers. He has sent friends and family my way to pass on what they learned from their own journeys. He also showed me through this journey that I have friends everywhere. Friends across the country that I did not even know that were praying for me. Y’all, I received so many cards and letters, it was humbling.  People from my church brought food. Others were at the hospital waiting with my family to offer them comfort. I am truly blessed and forever grateful.
Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea

I had to take multiple forms of chemotherapy from July 2018 until June 2019. Radiation followed in the fall of 2019. My body went through many changes.  Some of those changes were painful – emotionally and physically. In the photo below, my daughter and I are in the pre-op room in July of 2018 on the day I receive my chemo port. This was the first of many trips to the hospital, but as you can see, we try to remain in good and goofy spirits.

Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea


Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea

No hair, don’t care! September 2018

Despite chemo treatments, continuing to work full time, and stay involved with my children’s activities, I finished the revisions for my story. Those past rejections seemed small after being slapped with a cancer diagnosis. God had given me another chance and I was determined that cancer was not going to take over my life. Life is precious, it can be short. If you want something, you have to go after it, each and every day. So, I did…
Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea

Christmas 2018, before my first mastectomy.
By the end of 2018, I had my first surgery, a left mastectomy. Prior to surgery, I sent the manuscript back to the requesting editor. She rejected it again with an invite to resubmit if I made additional changes. By this time, I felt I needed a different editor to look at it to help me figure out what was wrong. 
Here’s another nod from God… About that time, my good friend and fellow author Patty Smith Hall posted that she was looking to edit manuscripts on the side and needed some clients. I sent Patty some of my chapters, but I never ended up hiring her. Instead, Patty told me about a contest her publisher, Winged Publications, was holding. By August of 2019, my manuscript was a finalist. And by September 2019, Patty called me to tell me I’d placed 2nd in the contest, but Cynthia Hickey at Winged Publications wanted to publish my book! 
We made a round of revisions, we moved the black moment (I had it happening too early), and by November of 2019, two things happened. I had a right mastectomy and six days later, my first book, Hope Between Us, was released. Talk about multi-tasking… I never imagined I’d be recovering from surgery while celebrating a book release! That’s life! My crazy life! 
I praise Jesus that I am cancer free today. I give all the glory to God. He heard the prayers of my family and friends and He answered! 
He also ignored my prayer to take away my desire to write! 
As God had a plan for me and my crazy dreams, He also has a plan for you. If you’re afraid of something, pray about it. Keep your ears, your eyes, and your mind open to Him.
 Stay strong in your faith, because God’s plan is bigger than any of our fears.
Thank you for having me on Seekerville today! If you’d like to find out more about me, visit me at my website. While you're there, please sign up for my newsletter! I’d also love to give away an autographed copy of Hope Between Us. If you’d like to be entered in the drawing, let us know in a comment here. I’m headed to my day job now, but I’ll jump in to chat later this afternoon and evening.

Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea
Hope Between Us: A Christian Romance
Aimee McClain returns home to Point Peace, Georgia, hoping for a fresh start. She wants to find a new treatment for her seven-year-old son’s Aplastic Anemia. After the devastating loss of her parents and her husband Aimee can’t lose someone else she loves, but as a single mom with limited resources, she’s running out of time and her son’s life is at stake.
Ever since being behind the wheel the night his best friend died, Seth Garrett works hard to help people. He is a coach and a teacher, he helps his parents, he feels like his debt of sorry will never be paid. At first, Aimee is just another person who Seth can help, but soon he realizes her trouble is a lot more than fixing an old car. 

The Kevin Ridley Walk/Run, an event Seth started ten years earlier to honor his best friend, has garnered statewide attention and continues to raise money for underprivileged youth. When Aimee’s family asks Seth to help her organize a bone marrow drive and fundraiser for her son, he jumps at the chance to help the pretty widow and her adorable child. 
Aimee, fighting to make ends meet in the face of Luke’s illness and single parenthood, doesn’t like this interception with Seth. He may not remember her now, but Aimee knows in time the truth of Seth’s accident will come out. How can they continue a relationship, build a new life together, with this between them?
Author Bio:
Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea
Claims adjuster by day, writer all other times, Christy wrote her first book, a mystery, while in seventh grade. Currently, Christy writes heartwarming southern romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, Christy has a daughter, a son, and four fur-babies: Thomas: a nosey German Shepherd; Josie-Bobo: an adorable English Bulldog; and last but never least, Twitter and Ranger, two very loud Parakeets. Connect with Christy online:

An Inspiring Mother-Daughter Story

Missy Tippens


It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now. 
-- Hugh Laurie, English actor, musician, and comedian


I loved that quote. And it reminded me of someone I met the week before last...

An Inspiring Mother-Daughter Story


I recently attended the ACFW and Moonlight & Magnolias Conferences and was inspired by great workshops, time with writer friends, and conversations with writers I met for the first time.


At the M&M Conference, while waiting for an appointment, I met Crystal Ramos and noticed by the ribbons under her name tag that she was a finalist for the Maggie Award (unpublished). In the discussion, she mentioned her mother being at the conference with her. I commented on how fun that was that they had writing in common. So she filled me in on their story...


Crystal's mom, Colleen Baxter, used to write many years ago. Crystal has memories of waking during the night to go get a glass of water and seeing her mom at her computer writing. It didn't happen just once or twice, it was her mom's routine, part of her dream of publishing. Her mom eventually attended a writing conference and came home excited that an editor was interested in her work. Crystal says she doesn't know exactly what happened, but because of some family conflict, her mom never followed up with that editor and she quit writing altogether. So when Crystal decided she wanted to start writing, she knew she might be on her own and might not find 100% support, just like her mom hadn't had support. She also knew that if she ever got The Call, it wouldn't feel right to get that call before her mom did.


But Crystal started writing anyway. The third book she wrote finaled in The Daphne. She decided to attend her very first conference, the 2018 RWA conference. She was blown away by the support and encouragement of other writers and knew it was time to heal an old wound.
An Inspiring Mother-Daughter Story
Colleen and Crystal (and Crystal's son)

She went home and told her mom she was going to pay for her to go to the Moonlight and Magnolias conference that year and that she should have a book ready to go. So her mom began writing again. She kicked it in gear and wrote an historical romance novel in 6 weeks. Though it was too late to enter the Maggie Awards in 2018, Colleen did attend the M&M conference with Crystal. And though she didn't feel ready to pitch her story (we all know how scary that can be!), Colleen ended up revising it and entering it (along with two other stories!) in the 2019 Maggies.


And guess what. Both Crystal and Colleen finaled in the 2019 Maggie Awards! Yes, Colleen also wore that finalist ribbon at this conference she attended with her daughter.


Crystal, who finaled again in The 2019 Daphne, is still working to find a publisher but got requests at the conference. Colleen has decided to indie publish a three-book sci-fi series next year.


As Crystal told me their story, I was so moved I nearly cried. What a wonderful thing to encourage your mother like that. Now, she has no worries about having a writing career without her mom. They're on this journey together!


An Inspiring Mother-Daughter Story


I hope this story will inspire y'all to encourage someone you know, to help them hold on to their dreams. Like the Laurie quote above said, we may not feel ready, but the time is now.


I'd like to give a big thank you to Crystal and Colleen for letting me share their story with Seekerville!


Today, I had also planned to talk about story ideas. We had a blog reader email to ask us about where we get story ideas, and whether ideas can be copyrighted. But I think I'm going to save that for a future post to have space to go into more detail.


So, for today, let's hear your inspirational stories of how someone encouraged you, or how God gave you a boost when you were ready to give up. Or maybe you have given up at one time or another. Tell us your story. And if you need encouragement, please let us know so we can help. We want to support you!


As I promised in the Weekend Edition blurb, I'll be giving away a dot journal! (U.S. entrants this time). Please let me know in the comments if you'd like to be entered. Let's chat!

**********


After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, https://twitter.com/MissyTippens and http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.

What if I had Given Up Then?


Missy Tippens

I recently did a blog interview where I was asked about my first Seekerville post. I thought I would do something fun today. I'm sharing that first post from October 23, 2007! I think it can be encouragement for new writers or any writers having a hard time.

So, here's old Missy (or should I say YOUNG Missy?!)...



Okay, admission time. I'm nervous about this post. Let's face it, I'm in very good company among these Seeker ladies. They're funny (as in Julie's hormonal story), clever and great writers. So as I've been thinking and worrying for the past week about what to write (and checking out the other posts to see what I have to live up to!), it hit me that what I'm having is kind of like first-contest jitters.


Photo of Missy from 2007!
How hard was it to send out your first contest entry?



Oh my goodness, I can't even begin to describe the terror. For one thing, at the time, I printed my entry, then went to the store or the church to make copies. Don't ask my why I never thought to print 4 or 5 copies. I made those trips to a copier for at least a year or two. And of course, that meant checking each copy to make sure everything had copied correctly (it didn't always).


So on that first trip to make copies for my first contest, I spread stacks all over the floor, checking the pages as I went. Then I bound everything with the exact kind of binder clips the contest required. Then I filled out and signed the entry form, once again reading each and every little rule to make sure I had complied--margins, font, spacing, page numbers, headings, name nowhere in sight. Then I labeled the package (mailed in the required envelope with no signature required), inserted the return envelope (no metered postage!), and finally read and re-read the address I was mailing it to. By the time I finished, my stomach hurt from the stress. Then when the postal man took it, I really thought I might throw up on him. What had I done? What if I had 26 lines on one page?! What if my name was on the synopsis?! Mary has a term for this--Senders Remorse (or something like that).

What if I had Given Up Then?


Well, I eventually got over the trauma of mailing that thing off. And my positive nature took over. Surely, everything was perfect. They would love my baby. My heart and soul had gone into the story, and I just knew it would final, an editor would love it, and I would make my first sale.

WRONG! When the time came for finalist calls (yes, at the time I posted sticky notes on my monitor that had the date of each contest announcement), did I get a call? No. I didn't. I was disappointed, but not devastated. Maybe next time. I bet I came close.


Wrong again. Eventually, the packet came in the mail. I was actually a little excited to see the feedback. But nothing prepared me for finding a sheet of paper that told the standing of all the entries (by number, of course, not name). I tied for 35th place out of 37 entries. Or gosh, there may have only been 36 entries. (See, Janet, I feel your pain with the similar results!)


I can't begin to tell you how humiliated I was. I remember my face burning. And I cried. I told myself I would NEVER, EVER enter another contest again. Of course, I wasn't going to ever write again anyway, so it wouldn't even matter. Surely, if I was bad enough to fall that low in the pack, then I didn't need to be writing anyway.

What if I had Given Up Then?


Obviously, I managed to keep going. I'm too hard-headed. And I just loved writing too much. So I tossed that envelope in a pile in the basement and moved forward. It was a good while before I entered another contest, though. I joined a critique group, then entered a couple of contests soon after revising the story. And it wasn't long before I finaled in the Laurie. What a thrill! And what a reward for staying on the course, even through the devastation. I remember that at the time I finaled in the Laurie, I was once again considering quitting (I don't remember why). I decided at the time that God had placed that final at the just the right time to encourage me. So I kept going. (But, hey, that topic is for another post.)

Anyway, tell us what mailing your first contest entry like. Did you nearly throw up on the poor postal worker like I almost did? :)

****
New, older Missy again (notice I didn't say old!)...

So writers, tell me about your first contest entry! And readers, can you share a time where you put yourself out there and took a risk? Something I keep thinking about after reading this post so many years later: WHAT IF I HAD GIVEN UP THEN? I hope this can be a call for all of us to push through the discouragement and hard times and KEEP GOING.



What if I had Given Up Then?
Current photo!
After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.comhttps://twitter.com/www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.
First Chapter DropoutChecklist for Entering ContestsThe Christy Award 2020 WinnersContest TipsStay in Faith by Guest Christy LaSheaAn Inspiring Mother-Daughter StoryWhat if I had Given Up Then?

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