I received a request to see a bicycling article I had spent weeks on perfecting. Excitedly, I sent the article and numerous photographs to the editor. Not a week later, I received the manuscript back in the mail with a note rejecting it. I was devastated. My heart and soul had been poured into those three pages of text. I am ashamed to say that I cried for days and thought seriously about giving up my newfound career.
I wondered if I really was cut out to be a writer. Sure, I’d had rejections before, but never had I worked so hard on an article as I had on this one.
If you get stuck in a rut, as I did, here is some advice that has helped me along the way:
- Pray. In late 2000, I committed my writing to the Lord. Pray that you will use the gift for the written word that He has given you to glorify Him. Ask that He direct your path and give you wisdom and guidance.
- Seek out family and friends. My husband was ultimately the one who told me not to let this one editor be the one to make me quit the career I had dreamed of since I was seven. I am grateful that he sat me down and gave me the “you listen here” speech, and I am grateful I listened.
- Join a local writing group. Years ago when I walked into my first writing group meeting with my four-month-old daughter on my hip, I never realized just how valuable the Range Writers would be. I have gained insights, confidence, and lasting friendships from this group of people with whom I share the same goal.
- Attend a writer’s conference. The classes offered, the presentations of the speakers, the networking with agents, editors, and other writers all add to the immense value of attending a writer’s conference. While some conferences can be pricey, many offer scholarships. One of my friends wrote an essay that won her a scholarship. Another friend, who, while able to afford the conference, was unable to afford the transportation. Amazingly enough, her physical therapist was traveling to the city where the conference was to be held and offered her a ride there and back. For more information on how to prepare for a writer’s conference, please see http://pennyzeller.wordpress.com/sticking-with-writing/
- Find an editor. Every writer has an inborn antennae to “catch” things others may miss. When I heard that my new neighbor was a retired teacher who had once taught English, my antennae went on full alert. Now was the time to find out if I should be writing as a profession. With several manuscripts in hand, I walked over to her house and asked if she would be willing to edit my work. She was honored. Since that time, I have learned extensively about punctuation and have had many typos caught by this woman who I am proud to call my editor. She gives me honest and constructive criticism – and that’s what a good editor does.
- Discover your niche(s). So maybe writing about bicycling wasn’t my niche. What about other topics? I believe there are as many topics as there are writers to write about them. So, I found my niches. When I look back on the articles sold, I find that most of them fall under one or more of the following categories: they are geared toward teenagers, include some type of spirituality, or deal with health and fitness. Does that mean I can’t write about other topics? No, it just means that for now I am perfecting, focusing, and honing a few niches.
- Develop a “happy file.” I have never kept my rejections (there is a reason why my outdoor garbage can is next to my mailbox!) But, I DO keep thank-you notes from people I have interviewed, congratulatory notes, newspaper write-ups about me, and “atta girl” letters from editors. I place all these in a file to revert to whenever I need that extra motivation.
- Examine your motives. There is a reason why a person wants to be a writer. For me, it was my dream before I could use a computer. The idea of dreaming up new things to write about and then proceeding with the written project is exciting and challenging to me. Examine why you wanted to be a writer in the first place. Write down the three main reasons. File it away in your “happy file” and read it whenever you feel like giving up.
- Keep an “idea file.” Ideas always come to me while I am taking a shower or suffering from insomnia. I quickly write these ideas down and file them in my “idea file.” This is a highly motivational tool. If you don’t write those articles and stories, who will?
- Realize opinions are subjective. I realized that everyone has his own opinion and what may not look good to one editor may look acceptable to another. Keep this in mind when you receive a rejection letter. That was one editor. Big deal! There are a million more and they all have different opinions. The chances are good that one of them could easily like the article you are proposing.
- Look back to the past. Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I look back at old query letters I wrote at the beginning of my career. I am amazed at how far I have come. Keep copies of the queries you send – this is a great way to track your progress in the future.
- DO NOT GIVE UP. I am a firm believer in perseverance. Stick with your dream, and someday your dream will be realized.
In the 1800s, there was nowhere for a woman to go if she found herself in an abusive marriage. Her choices were limited. The story of Kaydie takes place in 1882. While Kaydie felt so alone and helpless at times while being married to an abusive man, she sought the Lord through prayer. Though she didn’t yet have a personal relationship with Him, she did know that God would hear those prayers and that He would help her. God is not unaware of what goes on in the world He created and His heart breaks at the painful experiences His children go through at the hands of another. In Psalm 139 we are told “before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” God knew Kaydie’s choice in a husband had led her to a life of manipulation and abuse, and He loved her, cared for her, and protected her and her unborn child.
I also wanted to show throughout the pages of Kaydie that wounds from an abusive marriage do not heal overnight and there is no “quick fix.” Such painful scars from the physical, emotional, and mental turmoil take time to overcome. But with God’s unconditional love and help, revealed through the people He placed in Kaydie’s path, she would ultimately find peace and healing.
Sounds like a very powerful book. Can you share an excerpt with us?
Jonah knew something of Kaydie’s past and of her marriage to a cruel husband named Darius. He knew she’d suffered at his hands, and that he had died in a bank robbery gone awry. From what McKenzie had told him, Kaydie’s married life had been anything but peaceful. However, reclined in the chair—which looked completely out of place in the otherwise rustic, sparsely decorated living room—she had an aura of peace about her that tugged at the deep recesses of Jonah’s heart.
He glanced at the fireplace and saw that the fire had gone out, save for the small glow of an ember hidden in one of the black logs. Kaydie must have been sleeping for some time. Was she cold? Should he cover her up with a blanket? Jonah gulped at the unexpected concern he felt, and he debated whether to go back outside and return later so as not to continue violating Kaydie’s privacy. Where was everyone else? His mind returned to the noises he’d heard in the barn. No doubt Zach and McKenzie were out there with Davey. McKenzie took as much delight in swinging from the rope in the barn and falling into the hay pile as Davey did.
As quietly as he could, Jonah walked over to the table and set down the box of goods. He then turned and tiptoed toward Kaydie, pausing for a moment to pick up the large crocheted blanket from the wooden chair next to the fireplace.
When he reached Kaydie’s chair, he carefully lifted the small baby quilt she had been working on and replaced it with the larger, much warmer, crocheted blanket. He spread it gently over her shoulders, hoping not to disturb her, and made sure it covered her completely. Next, he would stoke the fire, he thought as he smoothed out the blanket. He knew next to nothing about pregnant women but figured it was important to keep them warm.
The blanket nearly covered Kaydie’s legs when she opened her eyes and gasped. “What are you doing?” she exclaimed.
Jonah stood up straight and held up his arms defensively. “Kaydie! Uh, you were sleeping, and I…uh—”
“Get away from me, please,” she said, her voice trembling.
“I…uh, all right.” Jonah took a step back from her and watched as she leaned back as far as the chair would allow and pulled the blanket tightly around her. “Kaydie…” he began, intending to explain himself.
“I don’t know what you were doing, but please leave,” she said.
“I walked in and saw you sleeping. The fire had almost burned out, so I thought I’d cover you with a warmer blanket. I—I didn’t want you to be cold.”
“I wasn’t cold,” Kaydie insisted.
“That’s good,” said Jonah. “I was going to get the fire going again, too.”
“Do you make a habit of sneaking up on people, Mr. Dickenson?” Kaydie demanded…
Excerpt from pages 27, 28, & 29 of Kaydie by Penny Zeller, © 2011, with permission of the publisher, Whitaker House (www.whitakerhouse.com).
Love that excerpt. Thanks for sharing. Do you have a book trailer?
Link for book trailer: http://youtu.be/Vwihs6rsqDk
Bio: Penny Zeller is the author of several books and numerous magazine articles in national and regional publications. She is also the author of the humor blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” (www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com). She is an active volunteer in her community, serving as a women’s Bible study small-group leader and co-organizing a women’s prayer group. Penny devotes her time to assisting and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His kingdom. Kaydie follows McKenzie in Montana Skies, her first series with Whitaker House. When she’s not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family and camping, hiking, canoeing, and playing volleyball. She and her husband, Lon, reside in Wyoming with their two children. Penny loves to hear from her readers at her Website, www.pennyzeller.com.
Penny, I'm glad you stopped by today to share your inspirational writing journey and to let us know more about your book, Kaydie.
I hope everyone sticks around for a while and chats with us because anyone who comments will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Penny's new book, Kaydie. Thanks for joining us today.