Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Ten years ago, I first felt the desire to write stories. Jesus had just grabbed a hold of my heart, and I couldn’t ignore the itch to write stories that would display his amazing grace.
Months earlier, I had given birth to my second child, and with an active toddler on my hands, I snatched what precious minutes of writing I could during naptimes. I didn’t write at night, or even tell my husband that I was secretly pursuing such an endeavor. But each time my children went in their cribs, I’d take out the big old laptop—or more often than not, real pen and lined paper!—and write. Secretly, of course. This was just a crazy fantasy, after all. I didn’t want to look foolish.
Eventually I joined American Christian Fiction Writers in order to enter their Genesis contest for unpublished writers. This was at the end of 2006. I casually mentioned the small expense to my husband.
Well, those first contest scores came back—along with a no-response to my first agent-targeted query—and I went into a writing depression. I think it was four months before I looked at my story again. But God kept pulling me back. The simple fact of the matter was, I couldn’t imagine not writing. I found a critique group, continued to learn the craft, suffered all manner of rejections, and four years later, in 2010, I won a scholarship to attend ACFW’s national conference, where I met some amazing women also pursuing publication. Four years after that, in 2014, I actually won the Historical Category of the Genesis contest (the same contest that had depressed me for so many months eight years before). This contest helped me land a top-notch agent.
Honestly, at this point, I assumed I was on my way. National contest win, check. Great agent, check. But as my agent submitted my most recent novel at the beginning of 2015, rejections started rolling in. With doubts nipping at those typing fingers, I started Manuscript #6. I assumed by now that I had probably put as many hours into my writing career as a person pursuing their Master’s Degree put into their total college education. I refused to see those hours go to waste. Something must simply come from them.
When my agent read Manuscript #6, she was enthusiastic about the story. But that first draft had some problems. After a conference call discussing what needed to be fixed, she gave me a month to make the changes. I woke up at 4AM to write, homeschooled my kids during the day, and fell asleep before poor Hubby (who was working fervently to finish our major house renovation) had even gotten into the shower.
During this time, I received distressing writing news. My agent was leaving and whether or not I stayed at the agency depended on the quality of Manuscript #6.
My poor family…I’m not sure I even fed them as I worked to finish the book. Thankfully, we were staying at my parents’ for a week while our floors were getting done. My mom made sure my family didn’t starve.
I submitted the story, once again gave its fate over to God, and waited. Meanwhile, I got a part-time night job at the garden center of a popular retail store. This would enable me to be around to school my children during the day.
Fortunately, this time, the wait wasn’t so long. My now-agent (who I had sent that first query to all those years ago—isn’t God amazing?) liked the story and started submitting it to editors right away. I will never forget the night my husband and two boys surprised me by coming into the garden center where I worked. I put down my leaky hose, wiped my hands on my super-attractive blue smock, and hugged them. When my husband told me my agent had left a message on the home phone with news of a contract offer, I almost fainted and fell into the petunias. Really.
A few weeks later, I signed a two-book contract with Tyndale Publishers, my all-time dream publishing house.
My dear writing friends, if you are discouraged or wonder if this dream will ever happen for you, hold fast. Some make it look easy. But for some of us, God has a different timetable, a different plan. Persevere. Throw yourself into the arms of Jesus. And run that race.
Heidi Chiavaroli is an author, runner, wife, mother, and grace-clinger—not necessarily in that order. Ever since taking her first trip to Plimoth Plantation with her sister, mother, and grandmother at the age of nine, she has been fascinated with history and its significance to today’s people and culture. Heidi is the winner of ACFW’s 2014 Genesis Contest, Historical Category. Her debut novel will release next year from Tyndale Publishers. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle. Learn more about Heidi on her website: www.heidichiavaroli.com.