My first book deal was with Thomas
Nelson publishers, almost 20 years prior. At that time, I was a graphic
designer and illustrator, and had just completed a class at the Art Center in Pasadena.
My final project was a handmade book called So Far From Eden and, as part of my
final grade, I presented the book to the class as if they were the marketing
committee of a publishing class. I got an A on the project and in the class.
I didn't have an agent, but I had
done my research on Thomas Nelson and knew that they would be the perfect
company to publish my little gift book. So, I packaged my little book in a
handmade box, filled with handmade paper leaves—which tied in with the theme of
the book—and sent it to an editor.
I didn't realize at the time that I
was breaking all the rules. I only knew that I had a strong feeling about this
Three months later I got a call from
the editor. She loved the book. In fact, she loved it so much she wanted me to
make it into a series of four books. Ecstatic, I said, yes.
I signed the contract, then set off
to write, design and illustrate all four books. They were turned in on time, I
was paid (very handsomely). Then I waited. And I waited.
What I didn't know was that
unexpected things were going on behind the scenes. Thomas Nelson Publishing was
in the process of merging with Word Publishing. Right about the time that my
little gift books should have been shown to book store managers so they could
order them, I learned that my books would never be made.
Apparently, I was a mid-list author
and Thomas Nelson was dropping all of its mid-list authors.
It took me awhile to understand it
all. Meanwhile, an agent came to me, asking if I wanted representation. Again,
that never happens, right? Well, it did. I worried that I would have to return
the money Thomas Nelson paid me, but my new agent assured me I wouldn't.
Surprisingly, she was right—my gift
books never did get published, but I got to keep the money. In fact, I used to
it stay home for two years and write. (You can see two of the projects I worked on during that time period, to the left, an illustrated novella written like it was Queen Esther's journal and, below, an illustrated children's book, told from the perspective of the unusual fish in the story of Jonah.)
This time was like an intensive creative
writing program—over the following two years, I wrote a novel, an illustrated
children's book, an illustrated novella and a baby book. Unfortunately, none of
my other projects sold.
That was when I made the segue from
graphic design to editing. I had worked in publishing for many
years, but up until then, it had always been in the art department. My next job
would be as the publisher for The Word For Today.
It may seem like a big leap, but I
was surprisingly prepared for it. Since then I've worked as the editor for
several national magazines including Victorian Homes, Vintage Gardens, Cottages
& Bungalows, Zombies (yes, I love fantasy and science fiction as much as I
love old homes!), Bedrooms & Baths, and Kitchens magazines. I've also
co-authored a number of how-to draw books like How To Draw Zombies, How To Draw
Vampires and How To Draw Grimm's Dark Tales....
But, for me, the best part of it all
was when two of my novels—Afterlife and Feast—were published by HarperVoyager.
That had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. Later, I went on to
self-publish my first YA fantasy, Fathom.
For me, it hasn’t been a straight
line from book contract to published book and it definitely hasn’t been a short
journey. But I've come to believe that the journey is really about the joy of
writing. If I focus too much on the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect,
or even the financial aspect, I can get discouraged.
If I stay focused on the pure joy of
making something out of nothing—inventing people, building worlds, developing
conflict and instilling hope—then I am satisfied.
How about you? What part of writing
(or reading) do you find most worthwhile?