I always wanted to be a writer. As a girl, I used to make up poems about my older sister, her friends and the boys they liked. The “poems” were actually just very melodramatic and predictable rhymes, but my sister and her friends loved them and I loved sharing what I wrote. Plus, my poems were the only reason the older kids let me hang out with them!
Since then, I became a poet (for real), a journalist, and a corporate communications specialist. I’ve written technical manuals, composed ad copy and penned greeting cards. I thoroughly value all of these pursuits and I believe creativity is expressed in many different ways. But recently, I started to feel my focus changing. I wanted to write something different: I wanted to write romance.
Trusting my skills had improved since scribbling angst-ridden ditties for my sister’s crowd, I dedicated myself to writing my first romance novel, which I submitted to a Harlequin Heartwarming Blitz. It was promptly but thoughtfully rejected. I learned a lot from the process and from the editorial feedback—namely that I still had a lot to learn about writing for the romance genre.
As a woman of faith, I decided with my next romance manuscript, I’d aim for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. But first, I conducted additional research. Most of it involved reading novels—especially Love Inspired romances—which is one of my favorite things to do. The rest essentially involved memorizing every publishing tip Love Inspired Editor Emily Rodmell ever tweeted. I felt far better prepared to write a second romance manuscript, but I still didn’t know where to begin.
That’s when I discovered several Manuscript Wish List posts and tweets in which Associate Editor Shana Asaro expressed interest in receiving Amish inspirational romance submissions. She even mentioned a few tropes she favored. Her general hints were enough to inspire my entire novel—once I had a storyline, I was off and running. Or almost…
Although I’ve taken numerous trips to Lancaster County and I have several Mennonite neighbors, I knew I still had research to do. The more I learned about Amish people, their beliefs and their culture, the happier I was I’d chosen to write an Amish romance. My fingers seemed to fly across the keyboard—something that never happened when I was composing corporate newsletters or laboring over technical manuals!
When my manuscript was ready, I sent a partial through Harlequin’s submission portal, addressing it to Shana’s attention. (Yes, that’s right: my manuscript was essentially chosen out of the slush pile! I am living proof that it does happen.) Shana generously suggested some areas for me to address and strengthen before I submitted the full. Grateful for the specific revision feedback, I quickly made the changes and submitted my manuscript.
A while later, I received a message from Shana in my inbox and thought, ‘Oh no, an email, not a phone call. This can’t be good news.’ I read all of my other messages before I could face opening the one from her.
To my delight, she wrote that she wanted to call to talk about my manuscript, but I hadn’t provided my phone number. (How could I have forgotten something so important?!) I emailed back and she confirmed the time she’d call the next day.
I was torn between being ecstatically hopeful that Love Inspired wanted to publish my manuscript and bracing myself for Shana to say perhaps if I made bazillions of revisions, LI might consider reading it again at a future date. I told my family and a few close friends about the upcoming call, knowing they’d hold their breath, hope and pray right along with me, just as they’ve always done in support of my dreams.
I couldn’t sleep much that night so I made lists of Amish resources I consulted while writing my novel. I scribbled down the Amish recipes I tried as part of my research. I even prepared a map in case Shana wondered about the fictitious setting for my story! Since I wasn’t sure what she meant by wanting to discuss my manuscript, I intended to be ready for anything.
Shana graciously got right to the point by stating, “I’m calling with good news.” When she told me LI wanted to buy my manuscript, I shouted, “Good news? That’s GREAT news!” (I wonder if she gets used to holding the phone away from her ear when she makes these calls?)
I’m so elated, grateful and excited Love Inspired is publishing my manuscript that I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since the day before receiving “the call.” But who needs sleep when you’re living a dream?!