Friday, February 5, 2010

My Writing Journey by Carla Stewart

Earlier this week on Seriously Write, Carla Stewart gave “Ten Tips for Engaging Your Readers.” We’re thrilled that her debut novel, Chasing Lilacs, releases this June and that she’s returned on this Fortifying Friday to share her journey to publication. Enjoy!


But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

In 2001, when God nudged me to follow my writing dream, I had confidence in my instincts—my better-than-average spelling and grammar, my ability to put together a coherent sentence. I read voraciously and understood the power of story. I pounded out a novel in three months and skipped off to my first writing conference. Even though one of the speakers warned it might take several years to have a book published, I had a feeling he was misinformed and that I would be soaring with eagles in no time.

My first novel did get an editor request at the conference and it was possibly the quickest rejection I ever received. The book, a poorly plotted mystery, went to the bottom of my closet, and I switched genres, trying my hand at women’s fiction. The only problem was my protagonists were unsympathetic, my premises boring.

The bottom line was that, while I had some skills, I had no idea how to put them to work to write a novel, so my season of waiting began. And while waiting implies a certain passive attitude, I’m convinced Isaiah didn’t mean that at all. They shall run and they shall walk indicates we are to be engaged in the work, gaining strength and wisdom as we wait.

I immersed myself into learning the craft and instead of expecting a quick sale, I aimed for excellence. I was invited to the Guideposts Writers Workshop in Rye, New York and had the joy of working with editors of that wonderful publication. I entered and won several contests (and lost my fair share too).

In 2004, I began a new story—one that grabbed hold and wouldn’t let me go. When I finished, I began querying agents and received over thirty rejections. I wrote other things, but didn’t forget the story of my heart. Then in 2006, I learned about ACFW and applied for a paid critique at their annual conference. I’m still stunned at the encouragement I received. Over the next six months, I had a freelance editor look at the manuscript, did a complete rewrite, and entered the Genesis contest in 2007.

It was tricky because my story, set in 1958, didn’t qualify as contemporary or women’s fiction, but according to the guidelines fell into the historical category. No one was more surprised (or delighted) than me when A Dandelion Day (my novel’s title back then) won! Over the next several months I waited to hear from those who had requested my proposal, and in April of 2008, signed with an amazing agent. Seven months later, the manuscript sold to FaithWords (Hachette Book Group).

This June, you will find me soaring, maybe not as gracefully as an eagle, but flapping my wings nonetheless, when Chasing Lilacs—my debut novel—releases. NINE years after I began this journey toward publication.

Perseverance counts. So does learning the craft. You may grow weary and feel faint, but don’t lose heart. Run toward your goal, and God will provide direction and strength. It’s an awesome calling and privilege to be a writer. So is waiting on the Lord.

Thanks so much, Dawn and Annette, for having me here. Blessings to you and your readers.

A two-time ACFW Genesis winner, Carla Stewart is a Guideposts Writers Workshop alumna and has been published in Guideposts, Angels on Earth, and several regional magazines and anthologies. Her debut novel, Chasing Lilacs, releases in June 2010 with FaithWords. Carla enjoys a good cup of coffee, weekend getaways with her husband, and the antics of their six grandchildren.

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  1. Thanks, Dawn and Annette, for letting me share my story. It's my joy to share this writing gig with friends and fellow authors.

  2. Carla,I love your story. What a wonderful reminder of how hard work and perserverance pays off. You didn't give up!

    I think so many people believe it's easy to get published, especially when they feel they could do a better job writing some of the material out there.

    But reality is that it takes a lot of work to be a great, or even a good writer.

    Congratulations on your debut novel! :-D

  3. You're an inspiration, Carla! So glad to call you friend!

  4. Carla, I love your journey to publication story! So glad to have you here this week. I'm encouraged and I know our readers have been, as well. And as we walk and run, I know God guides us. Thanks for that reminder.

    Wishing you all the best! And looking forward to your book's release.

  5. Thanks again for having me. Myra, so glad you're on this journey with me.

    Have a great weekend!

  6. You ARE an inspiration and I am so blessed to have you as a sister in women's fiction!


  7. Thanks, Patti! Your encouragement is one of the perks along the way!

  8. Carla, It's been good to get to know you a little better. In cyberspace, blogging is so much more personal that Twitter. :)

    Thank you for this article. It says exactly what I need (but don't want) to hear. I'd much rather you tell me I'll be published immediately. Nevertheless, your words are a great encouragement to me. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I agree---Carla is a precious inspiration and I am so proud of you for pursuing and persevering. And thank you for this key truth: Wait on God, he's the one who gave the joy, the call, the desire & ability to write, the special ability tick off our family & friends with our pounding keys late into the night.

    I love what you said about waiting being active, writing has taught me that I can and must wait in earnest and with patience.

    Habakkuk 2:3 says:
    For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day. (Amplified)

    I will be patient and wait for the day my writing is at its best, but I will wait in earnest---pursuing excellence, writing, studying, honing, reading, listening, receiving instruction and correction and advice, working harder every day to reach my nose-bleed inducing high bar.

    Thank you for sharing this, Carla. You amaze me.

  10. V.V.- my new friend from Twitter! Agree, blogging gives a better chance to show our hearts and find solace when we flop on our face. You, V.V. have an amazing gift (love those riddles!). I'll be rejoicing w/ you when you're published.

    Camille, my friend! don't know what I'd do w/out you. You flatter me and I'm so fortunate to have you along to rejoice w/ me and listen to my rants. Waiting (not patiently) for your first book. So glad to have a Savior who has the timing perfect.

  11. Thanks for sharing - gives me encouragement to keep "running" while I'm in my own "waiting" period. :)


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