Picture a hungry writer sitting in an unheated attic, wearing a ragged head scarf and moth-eaten sweater over shabby clothes. She’s blowing on her fingers, warming them just enough to dip the pen into the ink well again. Then she scribbles a final sentence “the end” on a page of cheap paper, lays it reverently atop a pile of similar paper, and sighs, knowing she has written a book of aching genius that will make her fortune.  

At least that’s the romantic image I grew up with.  Most of my young life I envisioned myself being like Louisa Mae Alcott’s heroine, “Jo.” A writer suffering for her art.

Being a writer in America in the 21st Century is nothing like that.

 

 

The glut of manuscripts, thanks to the ease with which one can churn out thousands of words a day on a computer—readable or not–has made publishers very suspicious of unsolicited manuscripts. Slush piles grow to towering stacks. Endless on-line submissions queue up in an editor’s in-box. Few editors have the time or manpower to skim through all of them.

For those of us who first published during the days of hoping to be picked up by a traditional, royalty-paying publishing house (before the Kindle was invented and getting published through Amazon made self-publishing a viable venue) the struggle to get noticed was real.

I completed manuscripts and sent them to publishers. After a while felt like I was tossing them into a black hole. Then I joined Romance Writers of America and was told about the Catch 22 of publishing. The more experienced writers said that publishers didn’t want to look at a manuscript unless it was first vetted by a literary agent. Literary agents preferred not to look at a manuscript until an author was already published.

It was like being told as a child that I could not go near the water until I could swim. 

Eventually I learned about and joined Romance Writers of America, where I learned that the only way to break through this invisible fence was to 1) write a good book 2) go to writer’s conferences where the admission price bought us wannabes a whole fifteen minutes to make a pitch to a literary agent or editor.

Problem was—writing conferences cost hundreds of dollars and my husband and I did not have deep pockets. We were trying to raise three sons on a country preacher’s pay.    

Things changed when a friend called and offered to give me a part-time job of stocking Hallmark cards in area grocery stores. I jumped at it. The hours were flexible, the money was decent, and the work was pleasant. Best of all, I made enough to pay for several conferences and workshops, where I sweated my way through interview after interview until a literary agent finally decided to take a gamble on me.

That gamble paid off for both of us.

A lot of wonderful things have happened since then career-wise. I’m a full-time writer these days. I gave the Hallmark job to a friend who needed it.

 

 

Even though I no longer work for Hallmark, I have a big soft spot in my heart for that company. They unknowingly helped me sell my first book.    

I doubt the company is aware that the author of one of their latest movies once worked for them. I was a teeny-tiny cog in a huge company.

But here’s the big news. One of my Amish books, An Uncommon Grace, has been turned into a movie and will air February 12, 2017 at 9:00 pm EST on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel.

I think this is called coming full circle…and I am so very grateful.  

Asked by Linda from NY

Q: Why do they shun? It sounds so mean. 

A: Hi Linda! It is not meant to be mean. It is meant as a kindness. The Amish believe in a very literal heaven and hell. If they believe someone is in danger of going to hell, they will use shunning as a means to bring that person to repentance and back to the church.

Thanks for the question Linda!

 

Asked by Rena

Q: One discrepancy from what I thought, is about homeschooling. I understood homeschooling to be an anathema to the Amish because they make their decisions based on not individualism, but bringing community together. Obviously, you heard about an exception, or exceptions.

A: Hi Rena–The problem with trying to define the Amish culture is that there are over 40 different sects of Amish and within each sect are multiple individual churches. Each church votes on their own particular church rules (their Ordnung). This set of rules can be over things as picky as how many pleats a woman can have in her dress, or something bigger like whether or not a farmer can use a tractor in his fields instead of horses. Apparently this applies to homeschooling as well. In the Old Order Amish sect that I usually visit in Holmes County, Ohio, several Amish mothers home school. In fact, one of the mothers took me with her to another Amish woman’s garage to pick out homeschooling material. It was one of those in-home stores that so many Amish women run. It was filled with shelving and every shelf was filled with homeschooling books for various ages. When I asked my homeschooling friend why she did this when an Amish school was just down the road, she said that her children were growing up so fast, she just wanted to enjoy spending as much time as possible with them.

Thanks for the question Rena!