Thursday, March 15, 2012

How I Got My BIG Break! Part 4 of How to Become a Published Author

    The mountains called to me, so I drove east.  In our city, most major roads lead straight to the mountains.  As my car bumped along, I took a deep breath and smiled.  Yes, this is where I was meant to be.
    I ended up at the mouth of a big canyon.  I'd brought a notebook and a pen.  I hiked up the icy trail, wishing I'd worn more than a jacket.  Cade watched the kids so I could take a few hours alone.  The cold wind nearly froze my cheeks, but I wouldn't complain--this was fate and a break from the children.
    So, I hiked, up and up until the city no longer sat beneath me and all I saw was snow, ice and a beautiful river on my right.
    As I walked, I thought about how strange life is.  I grew up in a home with threadbare carpet.  Paint cracked from the walls.  We weren't poor--no we were far from that.  My mom used to tape scriptures and notes on aged mirrors, telling each of us kids how amazing she thought we were.  My father worked construction for years on end, providing for us.  Yet still, I remember friends coming over and saying the house was embarrassing.  Didn't they know how silly they sounded?  Sure the house was falling apart--but that was the same place that held so much love.  Why would someone be embarrassed about that?
    My mind turned to other things--recent things--how God has given me so much and I'm not sure how to thank Him enough.
    You see, several times I've considered giving up writing.  It hasn't been easy.  I've shared so much of my life--myself. . . .  People either love my honesty or hate it.  Someone has tried breaking into our house and I worry it's because of something I've written.  My kids have had to help out more with chores.  I've gotten PILES of rejection letters.  But despite that, amazing things have happened.  Like last year, when God brought me an angel.
    I clutched my notebook then, as I hiked.  I couldn't continue thinking about that--it would make me cry, it always makes me cry lately.  
    When I was a little girl, my grandma was always there for me--a tower of strength encouraging me to write and be myself.  

    "Grandma," I said when I was in elementary school, "I keep going to church to get saved over and over."
    My grandma was a different religion than me and she thought that was hilarious. "Wasn't once enough?" she asked.
    "Maybe," I said.  "But maybe not.  God's punishing me.  When I close my eyes, I can't make the words stop.  I keep seeing stories in my head.  I pray that God will save me AND stop the words.  He's punishing me because I have a blanket . . . If I sleep with the ugly side up, it makes me ugly on the outside and real nice on the inside . . . If I sleep with the pretty side up, the next day I'm gorgeous but real yucky inside."  I took a deep breath.  "Grandma, I've been sleeping with the pretty side up a lot lately.  That's why God's punishing me.  That's why He's making me see the words."
    She laughed so hard.  "Seeing the words?"
    "On a keyboard," I said.  "Someone's typing them."  It was always the same.  I'd see these crazy hands typing more . . . AND more.  A stupid red mug--with swirly paint--sat by the keys which never stopped clicking.
    "Maybe it's you . . .," my grandma said.  "Maybe you're meant to be a writer."
    I laughed.  "No.  It's just God's punishment."  But as the thought sunk in I did smile.  "If I am meant to be a writer, there's just one thing I'll need."
    "What's that?"
    "Someone who's really good . . . I'll need that person to teach me." That's when I found a dream.

    I stopped in some shade and stared at the river.  My hand went up to a frozen tree limb and I held it tight.  My grandma died years ago.  She's the only grandma I've known.  Whenever I wanted to give up on anything, she would be there cheering me on.  She's the reason I went to Hawaii with Cade.  She's one of the reasons I stayed strong after Zeke died.  And to be honest it's hard now that she's gone.  
    One day--months ago--when I thought of giving up, I remembered my grandma.  Where was she?  Where was she to cheer me on?  Pitying myself wouldn't help though.  She isn't here--she left just like my son did.

    Watching the river, I remembered how months passed and I didn't give up.  Some hard knocks came at the beginning of this year.  Deadlines were lost.  Serious financial issues came into play.  Although "The Golden Sky" did so well, this year it wouldn't be realistic for me to keep writing. I told a friend about it and she paused before saying, "If you want to send me your manuscript, I'll help you." I was thrilled.  Maybe everything would be okay.

    As I continued up the trail, I thought of how strange it felt not having my violin.  Normally when I go into the mountains, I'll hike to a cliff, so I can play my violin at the edge.  But it was a good thing I hadn't brought it.  The trail ahead got so icy, I couldn't keep going unless I used both hands.  I looked up.  Was it even worth it?  I wouldn't have my violin or my paper and pen to write with.  To continue the course, I'd have to give everything up.  I tucked my notepad next to a snowy rock and decided to bravely move on.  It reminded me of my journey to publication. . . .
    Now, when this woman said she would help me, I had no idea who she really was.  I'd only known her a short while, and I already loved her as a person--she's one of the kindest people I've ever met.  I didn't realize she'd been an editor for various big name publishers or worked with famous authors.  I didn't know she's sold thousands UPON THOUSANDS of copies of her book--in multiple languages.  
    Climbing that mountain reminded me of what this woman--my Yoda--did for my book.  I had to leave everything behind.  It was me, bare and with nothing to give.  I was the student and I still have so much to learn.  She called me every day.  She'd read the chapters earlier and then at night we'd spend between one to three hours revising them together.  I went from knowing little about writing, to learning more than I'd ever hoped for.

    I made it to the end of the hike and stood in front of a huge waterfall.  Half of it was ice, but the other section bubbled over itself falling down the mountain.
    The sight was amazing, so worth the hard work, the slippery climb and the fact that I'd left everything else behind.  In that moment, I thought of one of my last conversations with Yoda.

    "I started helping you edit your book.  I was amazed with how fast you learned."  I'd wanted to reply and tell her I soaked up everything I could because this is my dream--having a mentor to teach me.  "And I'm amazed with how wonderful your story is," she went on, believing in me more than I believe in myself.  As if hearing me, she continued, "You need to believe in yourself.  I've read many, many authors. . . .  You really have something special."
    "You're so good to me." I couldn't fathom that much kindness. When someone has given so much . . . it's proof that true angels exist.
    As she spoke to me, I wrote some of her words down.  I looked at the keyboard.  My crazy hands typed more . . . AND more.  Then I noticed the stupid red mug--with swirly paint--sitting by the keys which never stopped clicking. 
    I tried to keep my emotions under control, but it was so hard.  I stood, remembering the whole time how I'd seen that same vision as a kid.  I thought of my grandma and how much I miss her every day.  She'd always been there to believe in me--to cheer me on.  Somehow I wished she could see me and give me a sign that she's proud of what I'm trying to do.  Would she be proud?
    "Elisa," my mentor paused, taking me from my thoughts, "I told a friend the other day . . . you've endeared yourself so much to me.  We started editing this and we were good friends, but now I feel as if I have a granddaughter."
    I cried then because it meant more than she could possibly know.  She felt like family to me too--but for her to say that meant so much!  She's given more than I've ever deserved.  But that's how angels are . . . and people who moonlight as Yoda.
    "I'm so proud of you," she said then, and I could almost see my grandma smiling, reaching down from Heaven.  I swear she brought this woman into my life.  
    Somehow I always thought God was punishing me, but He wasn't, not really.  He showed me a piece of what was to come--to confirm that I was on the right path.  And then, to top everything off, He let me meet someone who would change my life forever--He let me meet my dream.  
     I'm still in awe of the kindness shown to me.  I want Yoda to know I will never forget this, and I will NEVER give up.  Because where I thought my grandma stopped cheering in my corner, I've realized she's still there even if I can't see her.  But she isn't alone.  She's standing with a selfless editor who gave me one of the greatest gifts I've ever known--a chance.

    As I came down the mountain, I picked up my supplies and started writing this story.  The trail was so much easier to navigate coming down--that's how it is when you know what blessings await you after you've survived the journey.  
    When I finally started driving home to my wonderful husband and four rambunctious kids, the whole drive seemed bright.  I saw clearly how beautiful life is.  The gas prices . . . the potholes in the road . . . even the old burger joint that has terrible food.  They all reminded me that I'm alive.  How many people in the past would have done anything to see the future--this future--the one we're living in?
    So, I'm sorry this post is long, but I just wanted to tell you, that if you have a dream--go after it and don't quit.  Everyone has something to offer.  Everyone has something special to share.  
    This is the story of how "The Sword of Senack" got a chance.  Imagine what your story could be. . . . 

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