Some months ago, to my great surprise and excitement, Barbara Scott, my editor at Abingdon Press, informed me that my first novel, The Call of Zulina, had been nominated for a Christy Award. Wow! Such an honor. Okay, it was just a nomination, but still…
Today, I received the list of 2010 Christy Award finalists. My book was not on it.
I have a special place in my heart for books that are in the running but don’t win the prize. The second book I ever wrote, John Newton: The Angry Sailor, a chapter book biography for kids on the life of the author of “Amazing Grace,” was written for a contest. Best children’s book of the year is how the contest was introduced. When my book was announced as a finalist, I was overjoyed. But I didn’t win.
I’ll admit, I shed a few tears. But it finally dawned on me that since I had a book all written, I could send it off to the publisher of my first book. They turned it down. So I sent it to another publisher. That one said they’d love to publish it… probably… sometime within the next five years! I said “No, thanks!” and sent it to yet another publisher–Moody Press. The editor at Moody said they had a series into which the book just might fit–if I wrote another twenty-two pages. I didn’t know twenty-two more pages about John Newton, so I got back to work and dug out more research. I sent in the required 125 pages, and Moody published the book.
Here’s the thing: this little book stayed in print for twenty years. It has been translated into numerous languages, including Russian and Korean and Chinese. It’s still on the reading lists of many homeschooling curriculums, and we just sent a second box to a Christian school in Australia. This book has been my all-time best seller. And it has led to several other projects.
In my writing classes, I always stress the importance of entering contests. They provide a writer with a framework… and with a deadline. Maybe you will win. How great! Or maybe not. But you will be a winner anyway because you will have a project finished that you can submit somewhere else.
Sort of like life, isn’t it? Most of us aren’t the shining-out-in-front-stars of the story. We’re the also-rans who help keep the pages turning. Not a bad position to be in, come to think of it.
I plan to mark this day with a hot fudge sundae, then I’ll get back to work on my present novel. And, hey, there is always next year!
Congratulations, Christy Award finalists!
“Enter a writing contest. You can’t lose. If you win, yippee! If you don’t, you’ve got a manuscript ready to publish somewhere else.”