Like most people, I don't handle rejection well. So waiting for agents to return a polite "no thank you" has upped my dosage of medication for my acid reflux. Today I received the nicest rejection letter ever! I think I've received about 30 all together for my first book Somewhere Down the Road and my current book The Road to Nowhere. (We could really analyze those titles, but let's stick to the topic.) Here's what he said:

     "Unfortunately it has been decided that yours [proposal] is not what we are looking for at this time.
     Yours is one of those easy reading and flowing stories that publishers are looking for. But there are some craft issues that should be addressed.
         [He lists three areas.]
     Consider overhauling the story development and try again. You have a great writing voice. If you don't know where to turn you might want to hire an outside editor like Susan May Warren."

     One of the issues he lists I've already been working on with - wait for it - Susan May Warren!  How cool is that! I am so excited about being rejected right now. I am also extremely grateful we have off from school this week. I had planned on working on some other areas of writing, but they will have to wait now. I don't want to rush through this, but I believe I could finish it in two weeks. So away I go! If you don't hear from me any time soon, just check to make sure I've done more than drink coffee.

    Something happens to me when I drive into a major city. I grew up around Philadelphia. When I returned as an adult, I had no problem fitting into the crazy traffic patterns of that city and the surrounding New Jersey area. I love the surge of adrenaline as cars weave in and out without incident. Maybe it's the challenge of surviving the trip. Maybe it's just my own strange, special way to enjoy driving. I'm open to explanations.

     Yesterday my brother-in-law's flight was switched at the last moment and he had to fly out of La Guardia in New York City. I've never driven in NYC and heard horror tales from friends. But since I'm the adventurous one in the family (if you only knew how funny that is!) I was chosen as the driver. Armed with printed directions from map quest, a navigational system, and a large coffee from Dunkin Donuts, we drove off into the sunset. Or something like that. The directions took us down the NY Thruway and into New Jersey. I am familiar with those roads through Hackensack since that is where my dad was in the hospital several years ago. Once we passed into Englewood, I was in uncharted waters.

     Things went smoothly despite the bossy woman in the GPS. (Just a side-note to those who use one. Have you ever noticed that 90% of the turns are to the left?) We approached the city and the annoying voice once again said to "turn left" which was impossible. I could bear left, but there was no place to "turn" left. So I merged left and heard the phrase I've come to dread. "Recalculating." What?? I went left, woman. What's the problem?

     As I continued to drive, I heard theme music playing in my head. Think "The Wizard of Oz" Wicked Witch of the West theme song. Now listen for the cries of the Flying Monkeys as they descend on the unsuspecting travelers. That's what happened. (Well, not literally.) I started weaving in an out of traffic while my sister closed her eyes and gasped. My brother-in-law cheered me on from the backseat. I managed to drive into Queens, navigate the streets and traffic (it was 5:00 PM), and find my way back onto the highway. From there is was a piece of cake to get into the airport. Finding the correct terminal was fun but it didn't take as long as I anticipated.

     Coming home wasn't nearly as much fun. Traffic was lighter and I'd already been that way before. The Manhattan skyline was better than any pictures I've ever seen. I love Philadelphia. It will always be my favorite city. But I think New York City is a tight second!

     I have been teaching for about 20 years. (I told that to one of my classes this week and they immediately tried to figure out my age. It didn't help that my nephew was in the class and kept telling them their guesses were wrong. Of course I had to remind him that I held the power of his grades in my hands.) In those years, I've taught nearly every subject to every grade from kindergarten to college level. I've stood in front of Sunday School classes, Backyard Bible Clubs, ladies' groups, and teens. I've taught on various topics to a wide range of age groups. But Thursday, I had a first. I spoke to grades 1-5 during their Reading Celebration week on the topic of being an author.

     As I prepared what to say and how to present it, I found myself with nervous butterflies. Why should I be nervous? I spoken in front of hundreds of people at one time. Why should a group of fifty elementary students cause such consternation? It was the first time I spoke as someone who writes for publication.

     They were an attentive group. I began by sharing my love for words. Big words. Small words. Funny sounding words. All kinds of words. They enjoyed some of the really long, complicated examples like "pharmacological." I left out "phagocytosis" and "flagellum" since they require a longer explanation. I shared that I have always enjoyed stories and started writing my own when I was their ages. I gave a brief background of why I started writing my first novel and how long it took. The tricky part was trying to explain what a literary agent is and what a publisher does. I had a few volunteers come stand with me to be literary agents and had them each refuse my book. They really enjoyed that! Then I brought two more volunteers up to be a literary agent and a publisher. They each said "yes" to my book and they seemed to understand the basic process.

     I gave them a few minutes for questions and there were several good ones. One fifth grader said she was trying to write a kid's book and wanted some tips. I told her to keep reading everything she could and to learn grammar and spelling. Another student asked who made the books hard. I explained that was the publisher's job. Several more questions showed they had been listening and thinking about what I shared.

     It was a great experience and one I will always treasure. I pray this is just the beginning of speaking as an author.

     Lisa has been a help and inspiration to me as I travel this journey through the writing and publishing world. I am so excited that she signed her contract for her first book to be published in November. Read her testimony of God's working in her life on her blog. What a wonderful blessing!
   My devotional and book review are published on The Cypress Times, an online Christian newspaper. The editor asked if I would like to be a weekly contributor. Of course I said, "YES!" So I will be publishing something on this website each week. I will post a link here. If you read any of my postings on their site, please be sure to leave a comment on the article. It helps them know that I have people reading my submissions.
    Teresa Lilly has a magazine and website with some wonderful Christian stories, both fiction and nonfiction. Check out Whateverlovely. I am not published yet, but she has accepted my stories. If you subscribe, you will know (almost as soon as I do) when my stories are published. She is compiling an anthology of Mail Order Bride stories. I submitted one last night and plan to work on another one while we're on our winter break in a week.
     As I am published, I will post the links or where you can find the printed material. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to share my writing!
    I am so blessed and excited! I recently joined and entered a weekly writing contest. Out of 22 entrants in my level, I earned Highly Commended (fourth place). Wahoo!! The challenge was to write on the topic "24 hours" in 750 words or less. The following is my entry.

              Curtis stared deep into the darkness, daring anything to move. Shifting his weapon, he slid his hand into his shirt pocket. The ring was warm, tucked close against him.  This is what he lived for. This is why he lay sprawled on the damp ground behind the rotting log.

                Stealth was his partner as he crawled over the log. On his feet, he stilled, crouching low. Only the whisper of the warm breeze reached his ears. He touched the light on his wrist watch, risking the tiny beam to know the time. Two hours left. Only two hours until the promised twenty-four expired. He straightened his knees but remained bent low. Weaving through the branches, he approached the darkened cabin. Stopping, he listened. Nothing. Puzzling. Sliding up to one of the low windows, he raised his eyes to search the interior. Black as night. Easing back into a crouching position, he reconstructed his plan.

                The overhang above the door dripped from ice melting in the unseasonably warm air. It splashed on his head as he ducked under it. The cold droplet slipped through his cropped hair and slinked down his neck. He controlled the shiver it produced. Weapon in one hand, he touched the doorknob with the other. It turned ever so slowly. Barely breathing, he applied pressure, praying the hinges were oiled. It moved without a sound. His entrance to the dilapidated building accomplished, he squatted on the floor below the window. His stomach lurched at the odor in the room. No sounds, not even someone breathing in sleep. He needed light. Holding his weapon in front of him, he flipped the switch on the small beam mounted above the barrel, tensed for any reaction. None came. He slid the beam over the entire interior. No one. He straightened his body slowly, still prepared for an onslaught. He searched the room, step by step. She wasn’t here. Shining the beam back toward the door, he spotted what must have been the wood box to store wood for the fireplace. He approached it and flung open the lid. The stench he smelled earlier increased. He held his breath and shone the beam inside. A man, dead at least twenty-four hours. He slammed the lid closed and exited the building, taking deep breaths of fresh air.
                Where was she? Obviously the dead man was one of theirs. But who killed him? Flicking the light on his watch told him he had less than ninety minutes to find her. Urgency gave flight to his feet. No longer needing to camouflage his movements, he crashed through the brush at top speed. Reaching his car, he whipped opened the driver’s door, sitting turning the ignition almost at the same time. Before he could throw it into gear, his cell phone buzzed. Pulling it out of his coat pocket, he punched the button and read the text. “Your time is up. Too late.”
                “No!” He screamed at the phone. “I still have time! Twenty-four hours isn’t up yet!” An explosion from the direction of the cabin lit up the night sky. Relief washed through him. They didn’t know she wasn’t there. Why did they change their plans about the deadline? What was his next move?
                “Are you finished yelling now?” He whirled toward the backseat, weapon drawn.
                The woman climbed over the seat and flopped her head against the backrest, eyes closed. “I knew you’d come, but I realized they lied and weren’t going to give you twenty-four hours. They left one man to set the charges.” Tears slipped from under her eyelashes. “He untied me and I fought like I’ve never fought in my life.” She swallowed. “I shoved him back so hard he tripped and fell. He must have slammed his head against something because he never moved. I checked and he was dead. I dragged him to the wood box, hoisted him in, and ran for my life. I got lost so many times.” Tears slipped faster down her cheeks. She raised her head. “I prayed so hard for God to guide me. When I saw your car sitting here, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
                Curtis leaned over and gathered her in his arms. Sobs wracked her body for several minutes. He kissed away her tears and removed the ring from his pocket. Slipping it onto her finger, re raised her head to meet her eyes in the dim car lights.
                “This has been the longest twenty-four hours of my life.”

I am trying hard (and failing!) to remain calm. I just sold my first article to an online magazine!!  Wahooooo!!!! I am an officially published author. It is a short story I wrote a while ago about a World War II veteran. It will be published online at a site called Whateverlovely, a Christian writing site. She also gave me an assignment to write a longer short story for an anthology book. I plan to complete that this weekend.

I am so excited about this because I know it is just the beginning of what God has planned for me. I know He has given me a passion for writing. Yesterday in chapel our speaker taught about answering the Call of Duty. God gives each of us a passion and expects us to use it for Him. It has always been my dream to write and share what God has taught me with others. Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to share and learn and grow!
     For a teacher, snow days are perks of the job. During some winters, snow days are rare. Not like this winter. I've lost track of how many we've had so far. It is a double-edged sword, though. Making sure all the material is covered for each class in fewer days is challenging. Getting the students re-focused can be the most difficult. But the unplanned time off is also a blessing.
     This winter, I have put the extra time to good use. I'm in the final stages of the first edit of The Road to Nowhere. I have the time to research and query more literary agents. That is time consuming. It is a full-time job in and of itself. Each literary agent looks for specific items in the submission, and they aren't always the same things as other agents. It's not like writing a resume for job interviews and using the same resume for each one. Although my query letter is similar for each agent, I have to tweak details depending on what they are seeking. Some want a three page single-spaced synopsis; others want it in 500 words or less. Some want to know your marketing plan, while others don't care about that. I spent three hours yesterday morning researching and preparing to submit to one literary agent. It's all part of the job.
     Another accomplishment is that I joined It is a large group for Christian writers to gain exposure to critique groups and posting articles publicly. They host a weekly challenge, so I'm working on a short story to submit this week. They also have a writing contest which I will enter. The winner will not be announced until December, so there is a long wait on that one.
     I have also started working more with Susan May Warren on My Book Therapy. She has a Monday night chat which is like taking a 2-hour college course on writing. She has been such a wonderful help to my writing! She has a writing contest called The Fraiser. I will enter that and finalists will be announced by June 1. Not a winner, mind you, just the finalists.
      One more thing I have been able to do during these snow days is work on the sequel to The Road to Nowhere. It continues the story of Detectives Curtis Ralston and Maddox Ainsworth. I have a short piece about it under Nowhere to Run on my Books page. Since I have another snow day today, I should get back to work.

        Are you taking "snow days"? What are you up to? Leave me a note in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!
    That is now my theme song. I have submitted to a literary agent and just need to wait. This is more difficult than either the writing or editing stages. Those things I can control; this I cannot. I keep hearing verses in my head like "peace be still" and "be still and know that I am God." Regardless of the outcome of the submission, God is in control. In His timing He will bring to pass exactly what I need. I know this and accept it, but the sinful nature part of me wants my own way and wants it now. It's a learning process which I'm hoping to fully comprehend some day.
     I am really excited that God has given me another story. I am working on a sequel to The Road to Nowhere. I never considered writing one while I was going through the first book. But in the week since I've completed it, I see the continuation of the story. This one is called Nowhere to Run. I haven't worked out the complete storyline yet, but I'm not concerned. I didn't know the complete storyline for the first one until about two weeks before I finished it. I didn't have an ending I loved until six days before finishing it. I will post a mini-synopsis in the next few days.
     Thank you to all those who have held me accountable for my daily word counts. You have been a tremendous help to me. In just a week or so, I will be back to that schedule. I am counting on you to help me again!