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When I was still unpublished, that made me laugh.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