Orphan Trains & Wild Stallions

by Allen Arnold

I recently read about the unexpected publishing success of Orphan Train.  It’s a novel set in present-day Maine and Depression-era Minnesota. This fifth book from Christina Baker Kline has turned out to be a sleeper hit of the year, with more than one million copies sold.

I’m intrigued by the book’s premise.

But it’s the subhead of the article that caught my attention.

 “Unlikely Tale Punches Author’s Ticket to Top”

Wouldn’t you love for this to be describing your book?

Me too.

A former publisher, I now find myself waiting for the right publisher to say yes to my proposal.

The other side of the desk felt much more comfortable.

 I realize an author not only feels alone while writing…but maybe even more so as long as the book’s future is uncertain.

Maybe that sense of alone-ness is why the title of Kline’s book hit me on a personal level. Symbolically, the words “Orphan Train” describes the ride many writers find themselves on.  It’s not usually a ride to the top.

But often a ride they take by themself.

The Orphan Spirit

And yet this is the great paradox.

 As Christian writers, we write by ourselves

but we are never truly alone.

 God is with us.

He invites us to create with him.

 But so often we run with our calling and try to do it on our own.

We write for God. Even about God.

But if we’re not actively approaching our calling with him, then we are acting as a spiritual orphan rather than as his son or daughter.

 God says, “I want you all for myself. I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to me.” (2 Corinthians 6)

  It’s true. The primary reason he gives us our gifting is to spend time with us.  He’s far more interested in the story you’re living than in the story you’re writing.  While he may have huge plans for your book, his main plan is for your heart…and for relationship.

 Trust me. The glow received from a great review or a bestseller will fade quickly.  I’ve been around hundreds of authors as a publisher and seen just how brief the joy can be. But the glow from being in God’s presence during the creation of your novel? That will echo into eternity.

Do You Want to Ride?

Imagine stepping out of a forest clearing and seeing a small corral.  Inside are two stallions.

A seasoned rancher is smiling at you. His worn cowboy hat cocked to the side. His boot propped on a rail.

His eyes twinkle as he asks, “Do you want to ride?”

 That’s the invitation.

To ride.

With him.

 That’s why there are two stallions.

Because he’s calling you into something you were

never intended to do alone.

 He doesn’t invite you onto a train with pre-set tracks.

Who needs a guide for that?

He presents you with a stallion and shouts “follow me” as he heads into the wild.

You can’t ride with him and still be an orphan. He only invites and initiates his sons and daughters. And if he’s called you to write, he will see you through.

The Staying Psalm

That’s why I love Psalm 27:14.

I call it the Staying Psalm.

Stay with God!

Take heart.

Don’t quit.

I’ll say it again:

Stay with God

(The Message)

Staying is active in this context.

It doesn’t mean stay still. It means stay close.

Remember, you’re on a stallion following God.

Sometimes he’s riding at your side.

Sometimes he’s leading the charge.

And sometimes, he falls back a bit to see where you head.

It’s how a good father trains his child to ride well.

 The psalm starts and ends with the same plea – stay with God.

In the middle, we’re told to take heart – because nothing great ever happens without great heart. Then he urges us to not quit.

Don’t give up. Don’t lose your unique voice. Don’t be disheartened.

 It’s time to step off the Orphan Train.

There are two stallions waiting.

And one has your name on it.

 

13_Nov_Arnold-168From the mountains of Colorado, Allen Arnold leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart – a ministry founded by the New York Times Bestselling Author of Wild at Heart, John Eldredge. Before that, Allen worked at several top advertising agencies in Dallas (think Mad Men without the sharp suits) and then spent 20 years in Christian Publishing at Thomas Nelson – the last decade as founder and publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction.

Allen is passionate about helping artists tell better stories from an awakened heart. He will be keynoting at the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference August 4th – 7th – speaking on how to create with God.

Represented by Steve Laube, The Creative Motive is Allen’s first book.

Leave a Comment

Fun Fridays – July 25, 2014

When grown men have too much time on their hands and have lost patience waiting for the next “Star Wars” installment. [Warning: there is definite guy-humor in this...explosions and other fun things.] The ending is hilarious.  

Read More

Naming Names

We recently received several excellent questions that I would like to answer: 1.) Should (you) repeat a book name and how old should it be? I believe you are asking if it is okay to use the same title for your book even if it has already been used before. …

Read More

One Author’s Journey: A Tale of Publishing

With all this talk of publishing and where it’s been and where it’s going, I thought I’d tell you a story. One that happened not years ago, in the much ballyhooed Golden Age, but recently. So gather round, settle in, and listen… Once upon a time, there was a young …

Read More

Acquisitions Director: God

This subject has been covered before by smarter people at our agency, but I am hoping that Steve Laube considers imitation truly the greatest form of flattery! Every aspiring or experienced Christian author is alerted to avoid mentioning that “God told me to write this book” when speaking to an agent …

Read More

What is on Your Summer Reading List?

Since we are in the midst of Summer and I’m on a brief vacation I thought I’d ask you to tell us what books you are reading or planning to read this Summer. I’ll start… My list is intentionally eclectic because that is the way I graze with my reading: …

Read More

Enclave Publishing News

A couple major happenings over on the publishing side of my world. Enclave publishing has two events that happened this past week. First is the launch of a Kickstarter campaign as a means to have fans of Science Fiction & Fantasy have pre-publication access to the new titles at a …

Read More

Fun Fridays – July 18, 2014

Amazing what they can train some animals to do! You know this is real because it is on the Internet. Right? Bonus Fun Friday for you avid viewers… Why we are glad World Cup Fever is over:

Read More

When Your Agent Appointment Flops

In keeping with my conference posts, I want to talk a little today about agent appointments. I’ll use agents as the example for brevity but this post can also apply to editor appointments. That is, what if the agent or editor doesn’t like your work? Don’t despair. Seriously. Here’s why: …

Read More

Test Your Genre Skills!

Today feels like a writing day, so let’s try an exercise together. Write a scene, up to 150 words (no more!), about making a sandwich, but do so in a way that makes the genre clear. I’ll go first. Guess the genre: Almond butter. She hugged herself. Oh, he loved …

Read More