Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Okay Listen Here Welcomes Melanie Dickerson

Okay Listen Here is pleased as punch to have Melanie Dickerson with us today! She is one of our Heart of Dixie sisters and we are so very, very proud of her. Join her on the bench under the magnolia with us as she tells about her path to the publication of her first novel - The Healer's Apprentice.!

I’m so honored to be here today! Thank you, Heart of Dixie sisters, for inviting me!

Cheryl said, “I would love to hear about the whole process of you getting published - like writing the book, submitting it …” That’s when I thought, Oh, she doesn’t really want to hear that sad story! Except, it does have a happy ending!

Here’s a “writer quote” I just love. Dorothy Parker once wrote, “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second-greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of ‘The Elements of Style.’ The first-greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

When I was still unpublished, that made me laugh. Out loud. Hysterically.

Okay, Cheryl, here’s my (long) story. I wrote two novels in high school and even submitted to an agent, but I quit writing when I started college. And since I’m such an all-or-nothing kind of person, I quit writing and even READING fiction for the next 15 years or so.

When I started writing again I had a baby and a toddler and I mostly wrote while they were napping. I was taking a correspondence course and actually sold a few stories and articles that I was writing for my class. But I really wanted to write novels, like I had in high school. So I focused my time and energy on learning all I could about writing novels.

One day, while I was still revising my first novel and gradually coming to the realization that I probably wasn’t going to be able to sell it, I was watching Sleeping Beauty with my daughters. The prince's reaction to the beautiful peasant girl seemed far-fetched to me. This prince is responsible for his people's safety and welfare and is already betrothed. Would he simply throw off his duty to his betrothed and forget about her? What if he falls in love with a poor girl but is torn? Duty and the respect of his people are just as important to him as love.

The story took off from there as I added characters and plot twists and voila! I titled it The Woodcutter’s Daughter.

I wrote the first draft in about five months, with three critique partners reading it as I wrote it. I finished it just in time to pitch it at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in 2006. It was my second ACFW conference, and I was thinking, I really need to sell this book, because I wasn’t sure how many more conferences we could afford for me to go to, and my husband was wanting results! (He’s a finance man, and he wanted to see a return on his investment. Poor guy.)

Unfortunately for both of us, I found out that the last thing any Christian publisher wanted to take a chance on was a medieval YA romance. Everyone told me, Medievals don’t sell. Oh boy. I’d done it again. Written something nobody wanted.

To make a long story not quite so long, after two years I found an agent brave enough to take on my book. She sent it out to a LOT of publishers but they all eventually turned it down. We discussed how the book would work as a Young Adult book. Up to this point we had been submitting it as an adult romance. Months went by and I asked her to send it to the YA editor at Zondervan. By this time I’d been trying to sell this book for three years and I was thinking it was time to move on. I didn’t really have much hope that Zondervan would publish it as a YA. They’d already turned it down as an adult book. That’s why I was shocked when I found out they were interested in it. Frankly, I tried not to get my hopes up. The previous year, exactly a year before, an editor at Thomas Nelson told me she loved it and was taking it to committee. It got rejected. So it was very much like déjà vu, and I didn’t want to be crushed again!

In November I was alone in the house and I was actually in bed doing my Beth Moore lesson, reading the Bible and praying. I remember saying, God, please let Zondervan publish my book, but if they don’t, please let me not get too depressed. (I was crying at the time. Writing is not for the faint of heart.) Then I fell asleep. The phone rang, waking me up, and it was my agent telling me that Zondervan had said yes to my book. I just calmly asked her, What does that mean? Is there anything that can go wrong at this point? (I’m such an optimist.)

My agent thought I was crazy, I’m sure. She kept asking me, Aren’t you excited? All I could say was, I think I’m in shock.

This story is so long! And I didn’t even tell you that I wrote a book, in the meantime, that I thought would be much more likely to sell, and it still hasn’t sold! Or how I got a scholarship to the conference last year at the last minute, practically, all because Cecil Murphey, who co-wrote 90 Minutes in Heaven, decided to give money to ACFW for two scholarships and they gave one to me. How I tried three times to cancel my appointment with my editor because I figured she had probably already rejected my book and my agent just hadn’t told me yet, but I couldn’t swap that appointment out for love or pizza! How I went to that appointment feeling completely hopeless and she shocked me by telling me she loved my book and had been meaning to email us for a week, and that she hoped Zondervan was going to publish it.

Of course, since I’m a woman of faith, I believe it was all God! The scholarship, me asking my agent to send the book to Zonderkidz—the only YA publisher/editor we sent it to—not being able to cancel my appointment with that editor. God was orchestrating everything to work out at the right time. I’d had to wait until a CBA publisher was actually looking for Young Adult romances. The market was suddenly right for my book.

With the book coming out on Friday, I’m still basking in the glow of having my dream come true, and it’s truly everything I’d dreamed it would be and then some. I didn’t give up on my dream, and you shouldn’t give up either, even if your dream is to get published! (Although, expect a few tears!) What about you? Have you had a dream come true? What was it? Was it everything you thought it would be? Do tell! And I will give a copy of The Healer’s Apprentice to one commenter.

I will leave you with two encouraging writer quotes that I love.

“The one accomplishment that matters is achieving those moments, in the course of telling a story, when I feel that I am in contact with a higher power, when the very act of creating a story feels like communion with the ultimate Creator. Those moments are exhilarating, full of a quiet joy that alone makes the hours at the keyboard worthwhile, which is why I kept my hands on the keys during all those early years when success seemed unlikely and when a life of genteel poverty seemed all but assured.”
~ Dean Koontz

"Your success as a writer will probably not depend on how well you write, so
much as in how you handle rejection."
~ Gilbert Morris

Please join Melanie at her very first book signing on Saturday, Sept. 4, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at the LifeWay store in Huntsville. The store is located on University Drive in front of Target, just near the Atlanta Bread Company. Please join all of us at HOD for her big event!

And visit YouTube and view the trailer for her new novel! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2m9-Ap4IZE


  1. Melanie, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your inspirational story of fortitude! It never ceases to amaze me how God works things out for the best! I have always lived by the motto of "Let go and Let God." Congratulation on your success!

  2. This post turned out really LONG! Everybody who reads the whole thing should get a prize! Alas, I can't make that promise! :-) But one person will get a copy of my book.

    I agree, Cheryl! I ended up being glad my book didn't get published as an adult novel, because I think presenting it as a YA is perfect and where it belongs. Even though the two reviews I've gotten so far were from mothers past their twenties! God worked it out.
    I have learned so much from this writing journey! That's another blog post in itself!

  3. Wonderful story, Melanie! I too wrote a medieval before anyone told me they weren't marketable, LOL. That was a long time ago, and mine definitely wasn't a YA or an inspy. :) It's still in a box in the closet, and I love it, but it needs to stay there. :)

    Writing is indeed a long, hard, frustrating, and rewarding profession. It can take anywhere from overnight to forever to get published, that's for sure. You reach that point when the time is right for you, I believe. And this is your time. :)

    I probably won't make it to your signing (book due in a week!), but good luck and I hope you have a marvelous time!

  4. Have a wonderful first book signing!

  5. Hey, Lynn! I didn't know you wrote a medieval!

    Yes, some people actually get published almost overnight, but I think most go through the heart-wrenching stuff first! Thanks for coming by! I understand about needing to meet your deadline. I'll see you soon.

    Thanks for stopping by, Ann!

  6. Thanks for joining us on the bench under our tree today, Melanie! All we need is a cool drink and we'll be set. Strawberry Daiquiris anyone?

    What an inspiring post about your journey to publication! God does work in mysterious ways and almost always when you least expect it. I'm often reminded of the Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayer. Sometimes what we pray for isn't necessarily good for us at the time. There is a season for everything under the sun. If we, as writers, trust our journey, no matter how long or defeating, we'll get that Call that someone wants our baby. Your post really offers hope that while we may not get that answer right away, God is putting every element into place as we wait for that answer.

    I have to tell y'all that I'm so excited about getting THE HEALER'S APPRENTICE! After reading the first 8-10 pages, I know Rose will be a strong heroine and that Wilhem will make the right choice in the end. But how do they get to that point after Wilhem is dragged to the Healer's door by his comrades? What a teaser you are, Melanie. ;)

    What other advice do you have for aspiring authors?

    What made you decide to write in the inspirational genre?

    And you haven't eaten all the cheese straws yet, have you?

  7. LOL! No, Kathy, I haven't eaten all of Jean's cheese straws! Bless her! My kids and I tried one little tiny piece each and they decided they like cheese straws! I'm keeping a close eye on them now, making sure they don't raid the cheese straws meant for Saturday's signing!!! An added bonus, if you come to my book signing, is you get to eat some of Jean's cheese straws!

  8. I love reading your story again--and how honored I was to see you immediately after your editor appointment last year! I'm still rejoicing with you and can't wait to read it!

  9. What a great interview. I'm impressed with the way you've approached Melanie's book and I love her ability to conversationally email answers to questions. She is a new friend and I feel I've known her forever. I'm blessed to have her in my life and was so hoping to meet her at the conference this year. God has different plans for me (wish He'd let me know what they are) so I hope to do some recreational reading while everyone else is enjoying what He has for them in Indy. I'd love to win this book and to be able to cross it from my "WANT LIST". Praying for successes at the book signing too! Wish I could be there ~ wish I could taste the cheese straws. :) Will keep praying.

  10. I wish I could be at your book signing! But unfortunately I am a little far (Italy). Great interview! I have your book on my wishlist. Thank you for the chance to win it! ^_^

    Giada M.

    fabgiada (at) gmail (dot) com

  11. I'm so close to your book signing, and still so far away!! :P (At least with hauling a child along)
    bluerosesheart at yahoo dot com

  12. Lynn, Ann, Anne, Joy, and Giada, thanks for stopping by to help us celebrate Melanie's book release TOMORROW! Yay!

    Giada, I used to live in Italy. What a beautiful country inhabited by warm, courteous people. I've always wanted to go back and every time I see Under The Tuscan Sun, I'm swiftly taken there. ;)

    Hands off the cheese straws, Melanie! Tsk.. Tsk.. Seriously, I knew y'all couldn't resist that's why I mentioned them. But they will be a wonderful addiction/I mean addition to your book signing. Also, a very nice ice breaker with your newfound readers. :D

  13. Hi Melanie!! I love your post and of course I watch the book trailer over and over. I hope I can get to the book signing but if not hopefully I will see you the following Sat! Congratulations again! :-D

  14. Hey, y'all. I am sorry I am so late to the party. My Internet has been down. My cable guy came today to set up my pay per view for the game Saturday and, suddenly, I had no Internet.

    I love you story Melanie--and that it was long. You know, I love a detail--so much so that I write too much. I know God has a plan for us, but I love her hear it confirmed.

    I can't wait to read you book. I love medievals. (I seem to be full of love today--you post, that it is long, a detail, and now medievals.) Remember Jude Deveruax's Velvet series?

    I will definitely be at the signing. I should have made something medieval instead of cheese straws. I have probably twenty medieval cookbooks. Oh, well. Next time I'll do some cardamom cakes or honey almond candy.

  15. I really enjoyed reading about your journey to publication. It really gives hope to aspiring writers like myself. Thank you!


  16. Melanie, thanks so much for sharing your path to being published. I'm not entirely sure why, but it made me cry. And I'm not a crier.(Just ask my husband, the poor guy has had to see me give birth without drugs. >.<) I think I've needed to hear something about God's timing in relation to ever being accepted in the writing business.

    I'm totally going to be there for your signing, baring any unforeseeable disasters. And I promise to do my level best to -not- be the one jumping up and down whilst squealing, "I know her!!!"

  17. Sherry, where have you been? ;)

    Jean, so glad you got your internet up and runnning again. I know this brief disruption will bring great pleasure to you and your friends in the long run as you soak in Bama juice.

    Hey, while our lovely Melanie already has cheese straws, you and the Guy could arrive to the booksigning in full Medieval regalia. :D

    Stina Rose, may your journey be successful and the road to publication worth the prize. :)

    RedPeril, hearing about an author's journey always chokes me up. Each one is individual, offering hope and encouragement for writer's everywhere. I thank my lucky stars for being a member of Heart of Dixie and the lovely ladies at Okay, Listen Here. My writing career has been better for it and my circle of friends has immeasurably grown into a sisterhood.

  18. Bluerose, kids are always welcome! Bring everyone you know to the booksigning. The more the merrier, that is if you don't mind having your child with you or cramped spaces because I have a feeling LifeWay is going to be packed. ;)

  19. Actually, I'm planning on wearing some medieval-ish clothes I just bought!!! So don't laugh!

    Giada! I am so glad you stopped by! Italy isn't far from Germany. The setting of this book is "The Holy Roman Empire." Cool, yes?

    Hi, Ann! Thanks for coming by!

  20. D'Ann!!!!! How sweet of you to come and say hello! D'Ann was with me at the conference right after my editor told me she loved my book and was hoping they were going to publish it! And since then she has gotten her own multi-book contract from Bethany House! (I was praying for her!)

  21. Joy, I wish you could be here too, my friend!!! But I will be talking to you!

    Bluerose, you are right. It's a little far for you to come just for a booksigning! Although you could turn it into a sightseeing trip and go to the Space and Rocket Center with you hubby and child!!! (Just a suggestion!)

  22. I got my author copies today, you guys! I saw the UPS man stop at my driveway. I was pretty sure it was my books. When I saw him hauling two big boxes, I knew it was them!!! I greeted him at the door with a bookmark! I said, I have to give you this! It's for your wife and kids, and these are my books!!! He laughed, probably the same laugh he uses when he visits his crazy Aunt Melba in the mental institution!!! LOL LOL LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    No, he was really nice. :-)

  23. Jean, I'm glad you didn't bring me medieval food. It's really not that great! Remember the eel pie? The peacock? I'm planning to make some yummy cookies and some glazed pecans! Mmmmm

  24. Melanie!! They are here at last! Yes, I was at B&N today just hoping to leave with a scalped copy set out before its time. LOL! No such luck. Guess I'll have to get one tomorrow or wait for Saturday's booksigning. Hmmm... Decisions, decisions... ;)

  25. Thanks for saying that I encouraged you, Stina Rose! I really love encouraging fellow authors!

    RedPeril, that's really Angela, right? I will be so happy to see you Saturday! Even if you do jump up and down and scream, I know her!!! LOL

  26. Oh, Kathy! You must go to the book store every day! I hope you're asking the clerks and the managers where my book is! LOL!
    I plan on getting out tomorrow to see if the stores have it! And if I see it on the shelf I'm going to take a picture!!!

  27. And then you must frame that picture and hang it on your wall near where you write.

    Yes, I work next to B&N. LOL! And, Mary and I checked YA and Christian sections for the book. I'd previously checked romance too. Is this too nerdy or are you happy to have groupies?

  28. I keep checking Amazon. It's still listed as available for preorder.

  29. You totally need to take a picture, Malanie. And frame it.

    Yes, tis' Angela. I suppose I really ought to sign my comments. >.<

  30. No, I'm extremely happy, Kathy!!! Not nerdy at all! And you might ought to grab one from B&N (tomorrow is the official release date!) if they have them! Because I just heard that LifeWay only got 40 copies in for the booksigning! Yikes!

  31. Arrr! We must call to the brethren for help!

    Avast! Make way ye scalawags and raise the flag for a new adventure.

    Anybody? No?

    I'm befuddled. Where is a pirate's crew when you need them? They could round us up some extras for the signing to be sure. ;)

  32. But just in case, I may have to venture unchartered waters on me day off to collect me bounty. :D

  33. Melanie,
    Great post!!! Thanks so much for visiting with us today. We are so lucky to get you the day before your book comes out!

    I can't wait to read it.

    I won't be able to attend the signing but I know it will be great. Maybe there will even be a few cheese straws left for it. :-)

  34. Have a GREAT book signing! :)



  35. Thanks, Wendy!!!

    Kathy, you are too much fun, girl!

  36. I do me best, Milady! ;)

    Sent out a one-legged pigeon to signal me gang of jack-o-naps. It's to the horizon we sail on the morrow for a bounty of strapping YA books written by Melanie Dickerson. Twill be an excellent adventure to be sure.

    Welcome, Wendy! Please come again. :D

    Now where's Jack and why is the rum always gone?

  37. What a great inspirational story! I plan to get back into writing very soon. I will be trying to get started on a children's fiction correspondence course that I have been putting off for a long time. Thank you Melanie for your dedication to your dream and maybe having your inspiration to think about will help me to persevere, and I would live to read your book.

  38. Melanie, beware I am cyber stalking you, because your book is just too good looking to pass up! I have been wanting to read it ever since I first saw it. Wish you great success!!


  39. Welcome Anonymous, Karen and Casey!

    I'm glad Melanie's journey has given you hope and it is my hope you'll get even more inspiration by reading Melanie's book. ;)

  40. looking forward to reading melanie's masterpiece...thanks for the chance :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  41. Melanie - your story is such encouragement to stick with something and not let the ever-changing winds of 'the market' deter you. You knew this medieval story was right and it was!
    I'm so excited for your success and look forward to reading it very soon!

    hugs, Deb

  42. This book sure is generating a lot of buzz! Everywhere I look there you and your book are right now, Melanie. That is so exciting. The book sounds really great. I don't care if it is YA, sounds like a good read for us old folks, too!