Please welcome this weeks guest Ava Pennington for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
I dreamed of writing for years, but never considered publication a realistic goal. My one success was a tribute to my mother published in a human interest column in a local newspaper. I wasn’t paid, but it encouraged me that someone thought enough of my writing to publish it commercially.
Writing took a back seat when I began commuting to work in the Financial District of New York City. There I met a coworker who had a dream of her own. Paula was in the middle of writing the “Great American Novel.” We worked together over several years, and as she wrote each chapter, I read it and provided feedback. Against all odds for an unpublished author, the first agent she contacted agreed to represent her and the book was quickly picked up by St. Martin’s Press.
Holding her published novel in my hand was almost as rewarding for me as it was for her. She mentioned me in the acknowledgments as someone who encouraged her to persevere during the process of giving birth to her book. Publication of her novel validated her effort to follow her dream, and it gave me hope for my dream, too.
I put pen to paper, or more accurately, fingers to keyboard. I’ve always enjoyed studying the Bible and sharing what I’ve learned, so my first project was a non-fiction book on spiritual growth. But my manuscript was rejected. Then it was rejected again. And again…and again…and again. I was crushed that my first manuscript did not enjoy the same overnight success as my friend’s book.
Had I misunderstood what God called me to do? I agonized over whether I should give up and return to the corporate world. The one, slim hope I held on to was that rejections from several publishers were tempered with comments about my fresh writing style even though the content had already been addressed by more well-known authors.
Then I noticed a small newspaper article announcing the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series was inviting submissions for an upcoming book, Chicken Soup for the Working Woman’s Soul. They required submissions to be true and personal, so I submitted a story about an experience I had while commuting to work in New York City.
Once again, unrealistic expectations caused me to expect immediate accolades. I eagerly and naïvely awaited notification of acceptance. I waited…and waited…and waited. I later learned they received more than 5,000 submissions from across the world. One year later, I was notified that my story, “Not Just Another Rat,” made the cut.
This writing business seemed easier than I originally thought. Paula was published on her first try. My first anthology submission was accepted for publication. Surely it was just a matter of time before an agent or editor would recognize the quality of my writing and offer me a book contract.
After I finished patting myself on the back, I continued to submit my manuscript to agents and publishers. No takers. I also continued to submit short stories to Chicken Soup and other anthologies. Still no takers. I finished a second book, a novel, but no one was interested in that one, either. In fact, no one was interested in me or my work for the next three years. I kept plugging away. I joined a writers’ critique group and registered for my first writer’s conference.
I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference (FCWC) full of hope and with a suitcase packed with five copies of three different book proposals. Why so many copies? Because I was positive editors would fight over my work, and I wanted to ensure enough copies for everyone!
Not only did no one offer me a publishing contract, editors were less than complimentary about the quality of my writing. In tears, I called my husband that Friday night and apologized for wasting his money on what was clearly an out-of-reach dream.
I still had much to learn about publishing…and about trusting God’s timing.
Was my first writers conference a disaster? Absolutely not! At that same conference, I learned just how much I did not know about writing and publishing. I learned about queries and proposals. I discovered acronyms such as POV and RUE. I met agents and editors who took the time to explain the basics of this industry to a neophyte who didn’t know how much she didn’t know.
I found hope at the conference, too.
The faculty encouraged attendees to develop our skills and our platform by writing articles. One magazine editor reviewed my work and offered an opportunity to submit an article to him, which he published a few months later. Other editors and agents encouraged me to persevere. Over and over, what I heard was not No, but rather Not yet.
That was in 2006. I returned to the FCWC in 2007 and 2008. Each year I learned more, honed my skills, and was encouraged to continue persevering. I built a substantial portfolio of publishing credits writing for magazines such as The Lookout and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, and anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Soul.
During the FCWC in 2009, I met the editor who acquired my one-year devotional, One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God. At that same conference, I met another editor who acquired a co-authored project called Faith Basics for Kids, which included Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today?
I’ve learned that overnight successes in publishing are rare. For me, the path to success consisted of a series of small steps: membership in writers’ groups, attendance at writer’s conferences, writing magazine articles and short stories, co-authoring two books, and finally authoring my own book.
This past month, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, was released by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries, International.
Have I arrived? No. I’m still learning, still writing, and still attending writer’s conferences.
Perhaps I’ll see you there!
Ava Pennington bio
Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries International.
Additionally, Ava is co-author of Faith Basics for Kids. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.
For more information, visit her at www.AvaWrites.com
To purchase Daily Reflections on the Names of God, logon to: