On March 2, 2015, which happened to be my birthday, I got an email from my wonderful agent Julie Gwinn: “The publisher at B&H Kids is looking for an author to work with Priscilla Shirer on a Middle Grade fantasy series. Pray!”
You bet I prayed.
First of all, this email came ON MY BIRTHDAY, which was like a SIGN, right? I had been doing Priscilla’s bible studies for years and adored her teaching. And the story she was working on, it turned out, was on spiritual battle, which I had been studying for the past three years for a YA series I’d been working on.
Sometimes God just does something you never expected, even though you should have been expecting it, because He is the God of the Unexpected. Like bringing me, an unknown writer in Buffalo, New York, into a partnership with Priscilla Shirer, famous Christian speaker and author in Dallas, Texas.
Only God does stuff like that.
I know this, because a few months before that day I had decided to quit writing. I had spent years trying to get an agent to no avail. I was tired of living in the Realm of Polite Rejection. I needed to move on. Then my husband had lost his job, pushed out of his own family’s business after twenty-five years. There were some days I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed.
I had self-published two novels and felt maybe that was enough. I wouldn’t die with my books still stuck in my laptop. If no one ever read them, so be it. Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, and I think it was to his sister.
So I told God I was quitting. I didn’t ask for His opinion, but He gave it anyway. He reminded me of a story. God usually answers my prayers with stories. I guess it’s my love language.
You know the story of Peter and the disciples fishing all night and not catching anything, and then Jesus comes along and says, “Cast your net on the other side of the boat?” And when they do, they catch literally a boatload of fish? It’s in John 21.
God was telling me to cast my net on the other side of the boat.
I pondered this for a few days. I decided it meant I had to try one more time to find an agent. So I bought a one week subscription to the Literary Marketplace and did a search of all the Christian agents listed there. Not sure why I picked only Christian agents, but I did. Maybe that was the “other side of the boat” part.
There were only four agents that I hadn’t yet contacted. One of them, Julie Gwinn, was at an agency I had queried the year before and gotten no response at all.
So I cast my net. I sent out queries to these four agents.
Three days later I got an email from Julie. “Please send me the first three chapters.”
Okay, I’d been THERE before. You get your hopes all built up only to be smashed like a sandcastle under the feet of seven year olds. So I sent three chapters and tried not to get my hopes up. And I prayed for God to be in this, whichever way it went.
Three days later, Julie sent me a contract.
To say I was amazed would be an understatement. I think I understood exactly how Peter and the gang felt when they hauled in that boatload of fish. The first time I talked to Julie on the phone I knew she was perfect for me. She was so enthusiastic for my book it made me want to cry. Because that’s really what we writers want, right? For an agent who loves our “babies” as much as we do.
But here’s the really amazing part, as if all that wasn’t amazing enough. Julie had previously worked at LifeWay with the publisher of B&H Kids. So when he called her to ask if she had any authors she could recommend for Priscilla’s project, she told him about me (as well as some others.)
You get where I’m going? God did not just give me a great agent, He gave me the RIGHT agent. If it hadn’t been for the story of Peter fishing all night and not catching anything, I would never have written to Julie in the first place. If it hadn’t been for Julie, I never would have known about The Prince Warriors.
You have to admit, our Lord has a flair for the dramatic. Yes I had to wait. A LONG time. Longer than I wanted to wait. I had to fight despair—that little voice that every writer has in his or her ear: “You suck. Give up. Stop trying. You’ll never make it.”
Priscilla told me later that she had been trying to get her stories published in some form for six years, and it seemed there were always obstacles in the way. She had to wait too! We both learned to never doubt God’s timing, even when it all seems to take way too long. Talk to Abraham and David and Joseph and pretty much everyone else in the Bible about that one.
Working on The Prince Warriors was most definitely a dream come true. I thought that if I never got anything else published, I would still be happy. Shortly before the last book was finished, I received a contract from Vinspire for my novel Forlorn, to be published in November 2017.
I’m writing this today, on the anniversary of that wonderful email, in hope that it helps someone out there hang in a little longer. Never stop believing. Never stop trying. Miracles happen. Even when you least expect them.