Guest Blogger: Karen Witemeyer

Persevering Through Roadblocks

As I began my publication journey, I expected the road to be arduous. So I prepared. I put my craft muscles through years of intense training and stretched myself in critique groups and contests.

Then in 2007, I had a completed novel, my first, and I took it to the ACFW conference. I arrived a day early and worked at the volunteer station stuffing envelopes. A woman worked beside me who shared my first name. That’s fun, I thought. However, as time ticked on, I picked up clues to her identity from others in the room. This was Karen Schurrer, an editor from Bethany House, my dream publisher. Only the Lord could have orchestrated such a meeting.

I resisted throwing my pitch at her or asking her to look at my one sheet. I didn’t even mention that I wrote historical romance. I simply smiled, walked with her to the elevator when we finished, and waved at her whenever I saw her during the sessions. Two days later, I sat at her lunch table. After everyone told her about their projects, one brave writer asked if we could send her our proposals. I owe that dear soul a great debt of gratitude. Ms. Schurrer said yes.

After the conference, I sent in my proposal and soon had a request for a full manuscript. Surely a contract was right around the corner. Then came the roadblock. Not a zigzag in the path, not a small obstacle to hurdle, but an impenetrable, brick wall. The acquisitions editor rejected my manuscript. She considered the plot too unoriginal for launching a new author. Nevertheless, she complimented the writing and said there was one component to the story that she did like—the dress shop. Could I come up with a new idea surrounding a dress shop?

Now, in the original book, the dress shop burned to the ground in the prologue. It didn’t even make it into chapter one. Yet she wanted me to create a 95,000 word story from scratch based on this inanimate object. That was a lot to ask. Maybe I should just seek publication elsewhere.

But I couldn’t turn away. She had opened a crack in my brick wall, and I had to see if I could find a way through. So I began brainstorming, and the acquisitions editor offered wonderful feedback, convincing me of her genuine interest in the project. By January 2009, Bethany House offered me a three book deal set to launch with The Dressmaker’s Proposal (working title) in summer 2010.

Roadblocks signify different messages to different travelers, but before you choose an easier path, consider that it might be a test of your perseverance. Don’t be so attached to your current words, that you are unwilling to set them aside and scale the wall. Your dream might very well be waiting on the other side.

Karen Witemeyer is an author of historical romance novels who believes in the power of happy endings. Learn more about Karen and her books at: http://www.karenwitemeyer.com/
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  • Jody Hedlund

    >Thanks for sharing your story, Karen! I’m amazed at all of the different ways new authors find their way to publication. It’s encouraging to know we can find a way if we keep persevering and are flexible.

  • christa

    >Karen:
    Your story is testimony to God’s remarkable blessings. Thanks for sharing.

  • Judy Schneider

    >Thanks for the sound advice, Karen. Writers can be inflexible when it comes to suggestions that require major revisions, rewriting, or reworking of plot, mostly because they have so much invested in the work at hand. We all need to be as open as you were, forcing ourselves to view suggestions, not as criticisms, but as seeds of opportunity.

  • Chatty Kelly

    >I love a story with a happy ending. :-)

  • Lisa Jordan

    >Karen,

    Your story is very encouraging to those of us still working toward publication. Congratulations on your book deal! I look forward to reading the series. Thanks for sharing.

    Lisa

  • Debra E Marvin

    >Karen,
    My stomach dropped a bit when you told about your brick wall. The idea of rewriting the entire story over again around the dress shop. Wow. That’s painful.

    But you did it, knowing that it wasn’t by accident but by design. Thanks so much for the encouraging story!

  • Sharon A. Lavy

    >Good post, good advice for all of us.

  • lynnrush

    >Amazing story. Thanks for this.

  • Kim Kasch

    >I always like to think of scaling walls – like rock wall climbing – it’s a challenge to meet.

    Great inspirational story – especially at conference time.

    Rachelle: Love the new profile pic – the Pacific NW coastlines are amazing

    :)

  • Anonymous

    >Karen,
    Youre words of inspiration couldn’t have come at a better time. After my first round of submissions came back with all passes, just yesterday, my agent discussed the need to possibly rewrite my my entire MS. Until reading your interview, I felt horribly discouraged. Now, I feel up to the challenge. Thanks, again!!!

  • Lea Ann McCombs

    >What an inspiring story! Good for you for having the gumption to pick up the pieces of your burned dress shop and build a better one! Thanks for the encouragment!

  • Karen Witemeyer

    >Thanks, everyone for your good wishes! I hope my story encourages you to persevere in your writing.

    That first book languishes in my backup computer files, but it has produced fruit, nonetheless. Not only did it open a door for me at Bethany House, but I wrote a stand-alone sequel in 2008 that built on a secondary character from that original story. That book found more favor with the editors, and it will actually be released as book 2 in my three book deal. So the time spent on my first novel has certainly not been wasted.

    Like the widow who gave up her last bit of flour and oil to feed Elijah, sometimes we must let go of what we hold dear in order to receive the Lord’s nondepleting blessings.

  • Cheryl Barker

    >Karen, congrats — and good for you for rising to the challenge! Thanks for your inspiring words today.

  • Joy

    >Good story. Very encouraging. Thanks!

  • Sheryl Tuttle

    >What an inspirational story and congratulations to you!

  • Dara

    >Thanks for that inspiring story! It’s amazing how God works things in our lives.

  • Teri D. Smith

    >Great story!

    No more rejections for the ladies following this blog! We only have roadblocks sending us in another direction.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Lady Glamis

    >Oh, wow, thank you! As I get feedback on my current WIP, this is exactly what I needed to hear!

  • Rose McCauley

    >Congratulations, Karen, on your perseverance and on your happy ending! It’s an encouragement to me and many others. And to all those who don’t know Karen personally I can attest that she has a lovely voice as I have sung with her in the ACFW choir for several years now. This couldn’t happen to a sweeter person!

  • Jessica

    >Congratulations Karen!
    Many people wouldn’t have crafted a new story based on her suggestions. That’s awesome that you did and it paid off. :-)

  • Carrie Turansky

    >Thanks for sharing this story, Karen! Very encouraging!!

  • Marla Taviano

    >I am in complete awe of fiction writers. Kudos to you!!

  • Linda Austin

    >Congratulations! That is very impressive, having an open mind and the ability to try an entirely new direction. Thanks for the inspiration – and the lesson.

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