Conferences

The Morals of the Story

As promised, here are the morals—and names—of the story of our young writer from last week. If you missed the post, please go back and read it.

The young writer? None other than the gifted Lori Benton. Her second novel, The Pursuit of Tameson Littlejohn, released in April 2014.

LoriBenton_Headshot

Lori Benton

The first editor, who read her story from far, far away, and then became friends with Lori? Yours truly. But Lori isn’t just a good friend—she’s become one of my favorite authors!

The talented agent? Wendy Lawton, who signed Lori as a client in 2010. When I asked her what it was that drew her to Lori and her manuscript, she said, “Lori is an amazing writer. When I read her manuscript I was blown away. I love historical fiction but writing great historical fiction is much more difficult than it looks. The author needs to anchor the story in the time and the place, give us authentic detail but not put in detail for detail’s sake and . . .  well, you know. Lori delivered on every single aspect. And no one is more serious about writing or works harder and more consistently than Lori Benton. She’s put in her time and she’s earned every accolade. It is a joy to present her books to publishers and it’s hard not bust my buttons when reviewers and the ChristyAward judges agree.”

The wise editor? Shannon Marchese, who signed Lori as a Waterbrook author in 2012. I ran into Shannon at a conference not long before Lori’s book released, and she asked me, “Have you read Lori’s book. It’s amazing. She’s very, very good.” High praise, indeed!

The story that won the agent’s, editor’s, and readers’ hearts? Burning Sky, which released in 2013 and just recently earned a Grace award and three Christy Awards for excellence in writing (First Novel and Historical Categories) and the 2014 Book of the Year award. Never has an author won three awards in one night during the Christy Award presentation.

So what are the morals of the story?

First, traditional publishers are still looking for beautifully written books. Platform, social media presence, marketing acumen…that’s not all they look at. Lori didn’t have an impressive platform, nor did she have sales history. She wasn’t a speaker and didn’t have a bunch of followers in social media. What she did have was a masterfully crafted book. That really and truly is enough, friends. Of course, writing a book that well isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen.

Second, the road to publication usually takes time. Lots of it. Writing one book is seldom enough. Lori wrote eight books before Burning Sky was published. And she did so over 20 years. TWENTY years. But with each “no thank you,” she moved on to the next story within her and brought it to life on the page. As Wendy said, Lori has put in her time. And she’s still doing so. She works all day on researching, writing, editing…that’s the job of being a writer.

Third, keep writing. While Kindred, the first novel Wendy pitched to editors, was being considered, Lori researched and wrote Burning Sky. When there were no bites on Kindred, Wendy sent out Burning Sky. And even as it landed in editor’s email boxes, Lori was hard at work on her next book. As I tell my clients, sending a manuscript to editors doesn’t mean you’re done. It means you look ahead, start working on the next project. Keep creating. Keep bring stories to life. Because if the book you’ve sent out doesn’t find a home, the next one just might. Don’t get so focused on getting a contract for the book you’ve sent out that you stop working and writing.

And last, but certainly not least, remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. That the stories within you came from the heart of the God Who loves you and your readers. Yes, publication is wonderful. But it’s just the icing on the cake. The eternal God of the universe has invited you to join Him in the wonder of creation. If we refine our craft, are patient on the journey, work hard and diligently, and keep our focus on God, our stories will end as all good stories should…

And they lived—and wrote–happily ever after.

 

 

 

 

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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 …

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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: …

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Making Friends at a Writers Conference

Conference time is exciting for everyone, especially those who are looking forward to meeting people they’ve only met over the Internet and reconnecting with old friends. For certain, strengthening relationships is one of the best benefits of any conference. But what about the person who’s new, who hasn’t had a …

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Yes I Said That, But…

In light of the fact that many of us are getting ready to go to conferences, or have just been to conferences, I thought I’d spend the next couple of blog posts on conferences. Today I’d like to talk about what you hear, what you think you hear, and applying …

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The Writer’s Pod

When I was at the Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference a week or so ago, I went to one of my all-time favorite places: The Santa Cruz Wharf. It’s one of the best places to see the sea lions, which are draped all over the pilings of the wharf, as well …

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4 Tips for Surviving a Writers Conference

by Steve Laube I’ve had the fun of teaching at nearly 150 writers conferences over the years. In that time I’ve noticed a number of common things that all writers face. Let’s explore a few tips that may help you survive at the next one you attend. Relax The most …

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When You are on the Bench

by Steve Laube The NCAA Basketball Tournament is upon us with lots of drama accompanying March Madness. As you watch a game, of any team sport, the focus is on the players in the contest. The camera follows the stars and their every move. What you rarely do is watch …

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A Weekend with C.S. Lewis and Friends

by Steve Laube

This past weekend I had the privilege, once again, to attend and participate in the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Fall retreat in Houston.

Not a typical writers conference it focuses on the extraordinary contribution of Lewis and his fellow Inklings and ultimately a celebration of the Arts in light of the incarnation of Christ. The speakers were extraordinary. They included:

Devin Brown (one of my clients), professor at Asbury University and author of The Christian World of the Hobbit
Diana Glyer, professor at Azusa and author of The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community
Malcolm Guite, Chaplain and Fellow, Girton College Cambridge and author of The Singing Bowl. He is also an accomplished musician
Louis Markos, professor at Houston Baptist University and author of Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis
Max McLean, president of Fellowship for the Performing Arts and is best known for his audio recordings of the Bible and for his theatrical presentations of The Screwtape Letters

I sat in two workshops on writing given by Malcolm Guite, the first appropriately titled “The Word and the words.” (the capitalization is intentional). During his presentations I heard more extemporaneous quotation of Shakespeare, Gerald Manly Hopkins, George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Bob Dylan than I have ever heard in my life. I felt my mind and soul swell as they were slowly filled with so much art and incarnation that I could barely stand it.

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Five Myths About an Agent’s Rejection

1.) The agent hates me. Unless you approached her and said something along the lines of, “You and your kids are ugly and you have lousy taste in manuscripts,” a rejection shouldn’t be personal.

But if you are worried that you unintentionally offended an agent or other publishing professional, take action. Email to let him know you have been worried about why you may have been the cause of offense, followed by an apology. Chances are good the other person had no idea he should have been offended, and has been enjoying the beach, not thinking a thing about the “incident” that has you worried. Or, if he really was offended, he should accept your apology. Then you can make a fresh start.

2.) The agent was making up an excuse to reject me.  Except when writing blog posts, we don’t have time to wax long and poetic. But if an agent says anything beyond a catchphrase such as, “This work is not a good fit for me,” then I would consider the advice. Those phrases might include allusions to the quality of writing, slim market for your type of work, or other hints as to why your work was rejected. This hint could help you learn what might work better for you in the future.

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