Friday, May 22, 2009

Taking a Leap of Faith

It's officially Summer tomorrow around our house. That's right. Tomorrow the pool opens.

We've been counting down to this day since February, but I never actually thought it would get here so soon. That, and I thought it would be warmer by this time. I'm not sure I'll be getting in that water, but by golly I'll be there!!

I took this picture last summer. Hard to believe that is the same boy who ten months prior wouldn't get his face wet at all... not in the pool, the ocean, the bathtub, with a washcloth. The boy was scared to death of water touching his face.

Then suddenly last summer he decides he's going to jump off the diving board. I admit, my husband and I rolled our eyes a little and gave each other that, "oh yeah, right."

But he did it. He got up on that diving board, took a running leap and just did it.

In December it was time to start writing again. I'd written, revised, edited, queried, and now had three agents with my full. (As a totally weird aside - although not weirder than the fact that almost every agent who requested had a name that started with J - I have always had three out at a time. When one gets rejected, the exact same day another request would come in. Very Strange. Two weeks ago the tides turned and I got a fourth. I'm not sure what that means...)

Anyhoo - my "baby" was out there, and it was time to start writing again. I tried a bit of YA, got sidetracked by the death of my friend, then started something new in January. At which point I really started praying. Because I'd been wondering if I should maybe write Christian fiction. Specifically.

To preface the next remarks, I need to get something clear. I don't hear God. I have lots of voices in my head - stories, characters, past friends, soundtracks, myself narrating myself through the day and debating myself - but never God.

But every day I prayed, I got a VERY clear voice saying "WAIT."

I knew it wasn't me, because I would never ever tell myself that (unless it had to do with cleaning a bathroom). Patience is not even in my top 100 qualities.

I tried writing a different book, and I heard, very clearly, WAIT.

No matter how much I tried to write, no matter how many plots I planned out and characters I bio-ed, the voice was still there. WAIT.

I can't say I was patient with the voice very long. I thanked God for talking to me finally, but I made it clear I wasn't too excited with the message. For one, couldn't he be a little more specific? What was I waiting for? And to what purpose did waiting serve in writing? I could wait for an agent, but for writing? What was the point in that?

So I pushed on. Eventually I crowded out the voice.

And I lost loving writing as well.

So I finally sat back and said, FINE. I will wait. (But I probably didn't say it very nicely.)

And then came the request from the Christian agency that seemed like a really good possibility. I can't tell if I think it's a good possibility because I just really want it, or because I just know. But still, it feels like a hope I haven't had in a while. And suddenly I realized, somewhere in there, that it wasn't about just getting an agent or getting published. It was about getting a Christian agent, and being able to write what is really, truly in my heart. To write about my faith.

But - and I've blogged this before - there are not that many Christian agents taking on new writers. There is a whole world of secular agents. And to choose to go in this direction crosses off all of those other possibilities. Along with the one agent who I adore, who wrote such wonderful things to me, who told me to send anything else I had that wasn't faith oriented, who is, in any other situation, a dream agent.

So I prayed. Again. And this week, clear as day, in the middle of laying all of this out to God, actually (and I blush writing this) weighing my options with God, he spoke again.



And I knew what it meant. It meant I needed to get off my fence. I needed to stop waffling between two sets of odds and plant my flag with him. I needed to stop making my fiction what it isn't, and write what I really, truly want to write.

So I made that leap. But a private leap is easy to go back on, so I am making it official here. With no promise of an agent; no publishing deal. No better odds than I had last week. It is truly a leap of faith. God gave me a talent. I am going to use it for him.

Kimberly Derting always asks debut authors on her blog, "Would you rather be a bestselling Rockstar Author or an Acclaimed Literary Author?" I love that question, and I've thought about it a lot. But I've also decided that for me, it's neither. For me, all I want is to make a difference somewhere, with someone. I want to change the world, or at least one person's view. I want to give someone a character they can identify with and say, "I know how that feels. I've struggled with that too!!"

In the moment that I decided I would take that leap of faith, all of the scraps of papers and lists of plot ideas, book themes, characters I've been scratching down for months that seemed random and undoable, all of a sudden came together. Every one of them.

Last week, they were random bits of stories that had no grounding. Today, they are a whole series of books about the lives of the people who go to the First Baptist Church where Babs and Travis and Ashley and Logan (from my last book) go.

It's not about the Babcocks. They are just the first family. Each family will have its crisis, its own book, told from its own point of view. And through them, the lives of these Texas women will be woven together in a tapestry of love and forgiveness and grace.

The book I am writing now will be about a sexting scandal that rocks the church and its youth group - how something that starts with seemingly innocent fun ends up in the court system, with the possibility of ruining not just the lives of the two kids involved, but their families and the church as well.

The others that follow will involve a manslaughter case, drug abuse, a suicide, a financial scandal. The possibilities are endless.

And what I love is that each will be completely independent of the others, and yet at the same time take place in the same town, with the same peripheral characters, some of whom may get their own spotlight, while others, like Brenda and Yolanda, will remain the doing backbone of the church without their own storyline.

I feel good about this. Really good. Really right. The way I haven't since I wrote SKON. I am excited about the possibilities that lie with this.

Possibilities that may or may not come with immediate success or with an agent representation offer right away. And I feel okay with that. I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Wherever that leads, that is up to God.

I love the pieces of the puzzle. In January, when God was saying WAIT, I didn't think I needed to be in Christian publishing. And the agency that set me on this path of hoping, wasn't even on the Internet anywhere yet. When super-dream-agent told me I should look into finding a Christian agent with the contacts necessary to publish SKON, just that week their listing showed up, even though they've been around for a long time. And meanwhile all these book ideas were floating around with no anchor, piling up but looking rather hopeless. Until I told God okay. Okay I'll leap. And suddenly they all made sense.

God's timing is perfect.

I know not all of you out there are fans of Christian fiction. I know not all of you are fans of God. I know some of you don't believe in God at all. So if you have stuck with me through this post, thank you. I hope I haven't scared you away. And I hope I'll write things you like to read anyway. Because I'm all about the struggle.

So there it is. My big reveal.

I'm leaping as we speak...


  1. I don't read Christian fiction but I do believe in God and good for you to wait and follow your heart. It took me a while to figure out what to do and I think I chose YA because the book just came to me not because I loved reading YA.

    I love reading adult books as well but maybe my future is not in them like I originally thought. Only time will tell.

  2. I love Christian fiction. It's the first section I check at the bookstore. I've actually been reading it since high school (over ten years now) and am amazed at the explosion Christian fiction has undergone.

    My favorite authors are Kristin Heitzmann, LL Chaikin, Francine Rivers, Lori Wick and Dee Henderson. I started to list favorite books but the list continued on too long :)

    Good luck on your journey! You've got some awesome ideas going for you!

  3. Patti - I'm not sure I waited very well; the hardest part was just letting go and doing what seemed right, even if it didn't sound like the logical way. I know what you mean about choosing the book because the book chose you. I've tried to write YA - I love reading it - but it's just not me. I think maybe I'm just not that creative! So I'll just continue to enjoy reading it. :)

    Megan Rebekah - I haven't read a few of those authors. I'll go to the library and see if I can find some this week. I love historical Christian fiction, but somehow I've just kind of missed out on the rest until recently.

    thanks for your encouragement. Even though it feels like the right thing, it's still scary taking that leap.

  4. I could just hug you right now.

    I'm waiting for an answer like that too and it makes me feel so hopeful that you got yours!

  5. I love your idea. And I love the struggle that brought you to it because it is real. You should embrace that struggle--that's where greatd ideas come from.

    The idea has endless possibilities. I don't think it matters whether the reader believes in God or not. The stories you've begun to outline will pull them in. Good luck with the journey because you have surely started a journey!

  6. This was a great post. It is hard to trust in God when you don't understand the answer. I'm glad that you have found your calling.

  7. Sitting at the office and decide to take a five minute break and I read this! Clearly this deserves a better, more thoughtful response. But, I am happy, scared and excited for you. I can't really say that I am surprised.

    I've spent some time talking to people about listening to the message to wait. It is so hard. You are ready to go and do something and you just get told to wait. But, God makes use of us when the time comes.

  8. Thank you all for your kind words!

    heidi - I hope you find your answer, too. Honestly, getting the answer wasn't quite the euphoric high I wanted, but deciding to finally listen to it was!

    Tony - the fact that you said you weren't surprised was probably the nicest thing you could have said.

    I'm not scared anymore. If it's the right thing to do (which God has made abundantly clear that it is), it will all work out for the best.. no matter how it works out. There's a tremendous peace in that.

  9. I am so glad I am checking up on your blog. I love this post and this is all very exciting.

    I love your idea and the fact that you are going to do what your calling is - to write about your faith and change lives in the process. Congrats!