Before the Book Launch Comes a Million Waves of Doubt

  This is a rushed blog post because I don’t want it to run tomorrow. You know. April Fool’s. Or is it Fools’? Whatever. I don’t want to publish something tomorrow because publishing and getting a book published is no joke.

There are many avenues to self-publishing available and viable to those who choose that route. I am actually a co-author of a devotional that was self-published, and you are more than welcome to let me know if you are interested in buying a copy God’s Graffiti Devotional from me.

But the other book I co-authored with four other amazing women just entered its 8th printing. More Than Serving Tea is not going to be a NY Times best seller, though IMHO has more wisdom in it that some of the self-help stuff that makes that list, but as I posted a photo celebrating the fact that the book is still in print I was engaged in a short FB conversation with a friend about the lack of writers of color in the recent InterVarsity Press catalogue – the same publishing house that took a risk on and supported More Than Serving Tea.

The road to getting a book published is longer for some than others, and it is connected to privilege as much as it is connected to actual writing talent. It drives me berserkoid when Christian authors say things like, “God opened the door” because it’s weird how many more doors are opened for white authors. Just sayin’. I’m pretty sure God isn’t sitting in heaven waiting for more authors of color to pray, “Lord, open those publishing doors for me.” I am not saying that all white authors have those connections. #notallwhiteauthors I am saying that Christian publishers are still set up within the cultural norms that were established for and by white authors and readers and for their success and reading pleasure.

This post isn’t about all that needs to happen to dismantle that mess. I can’t do that in one post just like we can’t dismantle white supremacy in one post.

This post is about full disclosure, authenticity, honesty, vulnerability so that you, my truly dear readers and folks joining me on this ride, get the whole story, which is more than a lovely IG post celebrating the 8th printing of a book that came out 10 years ago. In the publishing world that isn’t even a drop in the bucket. But I contributed to that drop and it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

So I’m writing this post to share with you a secret I have been keeping because this will help people who are dreaming to keep dreaming, others to start dreaming, and maybe others to support us dreamers.

I have a book proposal.

It’s public now. Usually authors don’t share that part. We share the reprint notices. We post photos of our contracts. We invite you to be a part of the launch team. I’m here to invite you into one of the scariest parts: rejection. I just sent the FOURTH version of my proposal to my editor today, the same day I got the 8th printing notice. I won’t lie. I’m hoping that was a good omen. But I won’t lie. I didn’t think I’d be on my fourth version of a proposal when I started the first version in OCTOBER. At this rate, my daughter will graduate from college before I publish another book. Before the launch is a million waves of doubt. Do I have enough for an entire book? Will I get a contract? Will anyone read the book? Will anyone actually LIKE the book?

One of the reasons this female author of color hasn’t been published again is because I am afraid. Rejection is part of the process, and I don’t know anyone who enjoys repeated rejection. Writing and all other art requires a degree of confidence, ambition, humility, and a sense of humor. It requires more things, but those were the first things that come up for me. As a soon-to-be graduating college student applying for reporting jobs, I kept my rejection letters on the apartment refrigerator numbered and complete with corrections in red ink. That was my sense of humor. But I kept applying and that is where confidence, ambition, and humility come together. You keep trying even though it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. You keep writing because you did get some good feedback. You write because that is what you know to do.

So I’m sharing the secret of my yet-to-be-accepted book proposal to invite more of you into this journey, so that more of us can silence the fear of rejection a little bit, just enough to sit down and write and put together a proposal that has to be revised. I’m letting you know that I’m trying because I think it’s in my DNA, the way God created me, and I’m not going to wait as if the immaculate conception could take book contract form. It’s not glamorous. It’s rather tedious. It’s not waiting for inspiration to hit. It’s sitting at a blank screen day after day after day.

I’m letting you know because some of you need to know you are not alone. Tomorrow is another day in front of a blank screen, and we will love most minutes of it.

15 Authors in 15 Minutes (or as fast as you can…hurry!)

This is slowly making its rounds through Facebook, and I enjoyed thinking about the list of authors and about the folks I wanted to “tag”. I love to read, and there have been seasons in life when reading was limited to the directions on the powdered formula can or prescription bottle for yet another antibiotic for one of the kids.

While I was putting this book together it dawned on me that though the value of and space for reading was encouraged by my parents (my first paid job where a social security number was required was as a library page – I could alphabetize a cart of books like no other), it was through teachers and friends I met some of these authors. I don’t recall my parents ever suggesting a specific book or author, which now makes me wonder what their favorite books and authors are…

So much of my book shelf real estate is taken up by books from my college years that I cannot part with – James Joyce’s Ulysses and Susan Faludi’s Backlash (sorry, the AP style guide is in a box in the basement) – and books that I have read during my years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – business books, Christian spirituality, biblical reference books, etc. I was staring at my books the other day wondering what, if anything, could someone learn about me by looking at my bookcases. It wouldn’t take long to figure out that I don’t like to dust books!

So here is my list and a little explanation behind the author. Please join in!

The Invitation Guidelines: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note.)

In no particular order…

Anne Lamott – A dear friend and colleague, Greg J., gave me a copy of  or suggested Lamott’s Operating Instructions. He mentioned that he wouldn’t recommend her to just any Christ-loving new mom, but he thought that I would appreciate her voice. I remember laughing out loud and crying as I read this book.

Madeleine L’Engle – My elementary school librarian recommended L’Engle’s time trilogy to me, and then took me and a few other students to hear L’Engle speak at Wheaton College. I still have my autographed Scholastic book paperbacks in the shelf in my room. Decades later Jenny L. would give me a copy of one of L’Engle’s journal series and I have since wanted to sign my checks as “Jane Austen”.

Victor Hugo – After seeing Les Miz, I wanted to read the book. It was a wonderful summer.

James Joyce – I took a class my junior or senior year in college on Joyce. I think I eeked through with a “C” after failing the midterm. Gratefully my father was also taking seminary courses at the time and had a rough time with one of his classes. But despite the “F” on my midterm, I thoroughly enjoyed the class because the professor loved his subject, knew the work and made pages and pages of run-on-sentences interesting.

God through the hands of some crazy dudes like Peter, Paul, Luke, John, etc. but this really counts as one – I have had several Bibles through the years, but the one I am most in awe of is the Living Bible I had as an elementary school student. I will never forget the first time I really met God in that book.

Jane Austen – Oh, Jane. How I wish we could have tea together…

Amy Tan – Before June and Waverley hit the silver screen (and I had a chance to preview the movie before the release), Tan’s Joy Luck Club told the stories of girls and women and of friends, mothers and daughters I could understand, relate to and knew in a way that didn’t require the kind of translation I had to do when encountering Judy Blume’s Margaret.

Shel Silverstein – The Giving Tree still chokes me up, and his poems now make me and my boys laugh out loud.

Alice Walker – Possessing the Secret of Joy and The Temple of My Familiar filled out an entirely new literary voice for me.

Stephenie Meyer – Don’t judge.

William Shakespeare – I wanted to hate Shakespeare but Ms. Johnson in high school wouldn’t let me.

Sue Monk Kidd – I don’t remember who recommended Kidd to me, but I remember crying in the airplane on the way to San Jose reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I was so moved and confused and blessed by that book, and changed part of a talk that I was giving the next day to include a snippet of what I had read. Women, you are created in God’s image and He sees us as very good.

Toni Morrison – Her writing haunts me like no other. I don’t know what it is…

Alex Kotlowitz – The beginnings of my wrestling with the injustice in our immediate present happened in a new way for me after reading There Are No Children Here and then having the opportunity to hear him at my alma mater.

Elie Wiesel – How can such a short book cover so much?

Who are some of the authors who have left a mark on you?