How I Really Landed a Book Contract

BlackberriesAs a child visiting the family homestead, I went on numerous blackberry-picking adventures with my Missouri cousins. Toting buckets, we ventured deep into woods thick with brambles while keeping an eye out for iron pyrite nuggets to load down our pockets.

We returned, hours later, to be met by Aunt Ethel and her various soaps and ointments. Despite our bites and bugs and itches, we had little to show for our efforts but purple stains on our face and hands. I still remember the taste of sun-warmed berries cramming my mouth, handful by greedy handful. I remember, too, the sting of berry juice in the long red welts I collected.

Exchanging pain for sweetness seemed a reasonable trade to me as a child. I’m more circumspect now.

My life as a writer has had its share of thorns. I’ve tried hard to make my dreams come true, which means that I’ve gathered my share of rejections. When my golden moment finally came, and I held a contract for my first nonfiction book in my hand, it seemed surreal.

The contract fell through.

Looking back with the knowledge I have now, I probably had a lucky escape from a disreputable offer. As I learned in my childhood, all that glitters may be fool’s gold.  I knew none of this then. All I understood was that I had held my dream in my hands and watched it crumble to nothing.

I gave up writing. For life. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail again. My scratches wouldn’t have to sting.

But I tasted no sweetness either.

Years went by and still I did not write. Had I not made time for daily devotions, I might not have returned to writing at all. I prayed to understand God’s plan for my life, and a funny little question formed in the back of my mind: I’m not supposed to be writing, now am I? I pushed the irritating thought away, but it returned. No matter how I tried to ignore the idea, it would not be stilled. To appease my conscience, I gave lip service to writing again but avoided doing so. And when several people invited me to join the same writing group, Northwest Christian Writers (NCWA), I expressed an interest but put it off.

And then, one morning while in prayer, I surrendered my fears to God.

At the first NCWA meeting I attended, I felt lost. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what they were doing while I had no plans beyond showing up at meetings. After several months, I’d identified a goal. I would finish writing the epic fantasy series I’d abandoned so many years ago. This January I signed a contract with Harbourlight Books for publication of DawnSinger and WayFarer, the first novels in my Tales of Faeraven series.

In risking the thorns again, I’ve learned to approach my desires with more caution. I no longer have writing ambitions; I have a calling to write, something altogether different. Although I’ve attained it, my first goal is no longer publication, but rather to tell my stories with truth and grace. If I succeed in this, I’ve accomplished a different and better dream, one that’s worth a few scratches.

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About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates imaginative fictional worlds for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, her epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams. Janalyn is also working on a romantic mystery novel. She is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of Wordserve Literary. Janalyn mentors other writers through her popular website, Live Write Breathe. Her memberships include American Christian Fiction Writers and Northwest Christian Writers. When she's not writing, Janalyn loves to find adventures in the great outdoors.

41 thoughts on “How I Really Landed a Book Contract

  1. Janalyn, your story is so close to my own. I gave up writing and then returned when my relationship with God strengthened. Once I was ready to do His will, He led me down the path I was made for. And it included you and writing. 🙂
    I’m so thankful that I didn’t move forward with my writing without a strong relationship with Jesus. Because I may not always have writing, but I’ll always have Jesus. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Love this!! Thank you for sharing your story. It is important to let go and met God no matter how hard it is. I like how you defined it as a calling to write and not an ambition. And how your goal is no longer for publication.

    May you blessed with much success and happiness! Such a great reminder.

  3. Janalyn, Thank you for this post. It is right on target. I beleive God does plant desires in our hearts, desires that are His plan for us. For writers, it’s obviously the desire to write. My experience is similar to yours: I resisted writing. In my case, I figured I would never be good enough. But He wouldn’t let go of me and constantly reminded me and brought people across my path. Now, I can’t imagine not writing. I’m reminded of something McNair Wilson once said that still resonates in my heart: “If you don’t do you, God’s plan for creation goes unfinished.”
    Blessings on you and your writing.

  4. Excellent post. You are right, we need to tell our stories with truth and honesty – publishing is my desire, but telling the story, my testimony, is vital – and my goal to have my story reach others and help them is the ultimate goal.

    • Heather, I truly believe that setting your sites on telling your story often leads to publication. It’s kind of like dating. Appear needy or desperate, and you can drive potential suitors away. It’s when you’re not looking for love that it can happen.

  5. It is only by knowing the bitter that we can truly appreciate the sweet. Sometimes what seems to be bitter disappointment leads us to greater happiness down the road. It appears that God’s hand was in having your first book deal fall through to save you from the disreputable offer. He was there again when it was time for you to try again. Thanks for sharing your story, it gives me faith to continue on.

    Also, happy Pi day (3.14)! I hope you can celebrate with something sweet.

    • True, Ann. We wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine as much without having experienced the rain. It always amazes me to see God’s tender care of us.

      The idea of my celebrating Pi day has me smiling since I am so right brained that I had to have a tutor to pass college algebra. It’s as funny as the fact that I once played a math maven in a theater production. I always prided myself on memorizing my lines but I couldn’t remember the formulas I had to spout. Fortunately, I was able to write my problem lines down and keep them on a clipboard I carried as a prop. 🙂

    • Thanks for the link to your post, Joe. You described the trials of picking blackberries well. Somehow, we both forgot about bees! I must not have been stung while picking berries or I’d probably have remembered them. I love your spiritual analogies. It does take effort to follow Christ.

      • You know, although I have often seen wasps and other stinging insects in berry patches, I have never been bothered by them. I’ve come to view them as simply fellow partakes of the harvest. I leave them alone, they leave me alone, and we both enjoy the berries!

  6. You brought back so many sweet memories to me: picking blackberries with Mom and my brother and sister; the chigger bites, tick checks, and eating sun-warmed berries; pigging out on Mom’s blackberry cobbler, and yes, even hunting for fool’s gold and arrowheads in Southwest Missouri and Colorado. Words have such power to evoke times and places long forgotten. Thank you for taking me back home.

    • I agree with Barbara. Thank you Janalyn for whisking me back to thorny and sweet memories from my childhood in Missouri. And I didn’t know we shared the wonderful heritage of being Show-Me State girls. How fun!
      As far as writing goes, my journey’s been a bit different, but no matter how the sting of rejection comes, it still does. Thankfully, we can run to the sweet field’s of God’s grace, where He sits us down, and says, “Now are you ready to listen?” Great post — thanks for the memories.

    • Oh yes, the tick checks and arrowheads. 🙂 Although we brought back such poor harvests, Aunt May always presented us with a plump blackberry pie after our forays. She must have picked them while we were out exploring.

      I’m glad my words gave you a special gift.

  7. Very encouraging. Thank you for sharing this story. I’ve recently come back to writing fiction after having given up years ago, so it’s nice to hear your tale.

    • Heather, it’s more like I’ve “landed” at a momentary resting place. 🙂 I’m glad you came through your own shadowed valley and climbed into the sunshine.

  8. I agree that for some people writing seems to command the person – not like a slave but like something one is supposed to do. There are so many types of professional writers. There is tons of money in the industry, it is just crazy – like 50% of writers earn a real living at it, a small percentage of these are downright rich, but even many of the success stories have crazy tales to tell about how they got there. For some its the first novel they ever wrote. For some its 15 years into a marriage and childrearing and suddenly they become successful authors. Others, such as myself and the lady here, had some experience and feeling with it, but even after ages it doesn’t seem to be doing what the hopeful author expected it to do…I think some of us are more like flower bulbs or something…It seems like nothing is happening, but it is….Its weird, and individual and so far from what the other professional writers have told me: its not rational. The process is not rational.

    • Miriam, thank you for commenting. Becoming an author is a counter-intuitive process. Most writers feel a deep desire for publication. That’s because we’re communicators who need someone to hear us. Usually, in the beginning, we haven’t mastered the skills needed to pull in an audience. Hope differed makes the heart sick, so we experience angst. It’s when we place our hope in perfecting our skills rather than in being heard that we draw others to listen.

  9. Great analogy in your article about berry picking and the taste of the sweet berries along with the bitter experience of the welts. There is the sweetness of achievement in my writing and then the bitter taste of rejection to cloud my vision of what God is calling me to do. I have written poetry for many years but in the past couple of years, have become serious about writing with purpose and creativity. My writer’s group spurs me on to write with clarity and even have me writing a fictional work. It is a bittersweet experience challenging me to do all in the name of the Lord to glorify Him in all I write. I may not be published but I am finding fulfillment as I pursue His calling on my life. Thank you for your insights encouraging me to keep on writing.

    • Kathy, I smiled when I read that your writing group spurs you to write with clarity. Because I lyrical prose and dabble in poetry, I have a sign in my office that reads: That people don’t understand you doesn’t mean you’re an artist. 🙂

      Good for you in pursuing success by a higher definition.

      .

  10. I’m glad my post inspired you. In reacting to a competitive marketplace, it’s easy to become driven rather than purposeful. It’s all in where we place our focus.

  11. Great, encouraging word! Being from Alabama, I understand the blackberry picking 🙂
    During my own transitional journey, I’ve learned tons in my now six years of serious writing, and am finally arriving at a point where I have clear direction. Thank you, God! Now comes implementing and following through with what I know…

  12. Very interesting and inspiring story of your writing journey. I’m tweeting. Loved the analogies of the berry picking and pyrite. I could relate. God bless!

    • Thanks, Naomi. I have many memories of long summer days whiled away in such a manner. Ah, childhood!

  13. I spent my summer days during childhood blackberry picking with my mom, dad, sisters, grandparents and cousins, such great memories of a simpler time. Congrats on your publishing contract and best of luck with your novels.

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