Please welcome this week’s guest Jo Huddleston for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
When I decided I wanted to write for publication, all I had was aspiration and hope. I hadn’t studied the craft of writing, but I loved books and reading all my life. So when I submitted my first short stories, form letter rejections sped to my mailbox. It didn’t take long to learn that I needed help.
I scoured the magazine racks in the bookstore and found some about writing. I bought Writer’s Digest and The Writer. In them I discovered names of books about all aspects of writing and lists of writing conferences. I didn’t know there were writing conferences to attend and gain knowledge.
The first conference I attended was the Professionalism in Writing School conference for Christian authors in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’d read in my new magazines that I should take samples of my writing and business cards to identify myself. I didn’t have business cards and was relieved when I read that I could put my information on a 3×5 card and share that with people.
My husband let me out at the front of the hotel where the conference was held while he parked the car. I stepped into the area between the outer entrance doors and the doors into the lobby. A young lady came inside pulling a carrier stacked with books and paper materials. At the threshold of the first doors when she pulled her carrier into the space where I stood, everything tilted and scattered around us. I timidly helped her stack things back as best as I could. Didn’t introduce myself, didn’t recognize her.
The attendees appeared to know what they were doing so I watched and followed their lead. I joined the line at the registration table to receive my folder and name tag. I noticed that many folks were getting in another line before entering the auditorium, so again I followed. When my turn at the head of the line came I saw they had put their names on sheets for 15-minute appointments, each sheet having a name at the top. Instructions indicated these sheets were for time with editors and agents. I signed up on an editor’s sheet and made a note of my allotted time and the room number.
As others filed into the auditorium so did I. Alone among groups, I found a seat with nobody sitting on either side. Someone from the left got my attention by asking if the seat beside me was taken. I shook my head. A woman with a beautiful Texas drawl introduced herself, forcing me to speak my first words at my first writers’ conference as I in turn introduced myself.
In the workshop sessions I made copious notes. I browsed the book room and it was like Christmas morning and finding delightful presents. When the editor’s appointment time came I made my way toward the designated room and waited my turn outside the door.
I went in the room, sat across the table from a perky young lady, and pushed my 3×5 card toward her without a word. She picked up my card, looked at it and said “I’m Karen Ball.” She was gracious to recognize that I was out of my depth and prodded me along by asking what I had brought for her to look at. I had been writing short prayers for women in circumstances they might find themselves and I’d brought five prayers with me.
I didn’t know that Karen Ball was a fiction editor. She probably could have told me so and to go sign up with a nonfiction editor. No—kind, sweet, and professional Karen Ball read each of my five prayers. She wanted to take my pages back to Tyndale House with her and I agreed. I did not know the significance of her doing so.
Not long after the conference, Karen phoned me that Tyndale would like me to write more prayers. The result was Tyndale published two prayer books by me—my first published books. As I began to learn the craft, I began submitting short stories and articles—and getting them published.
By the way, that young lady who spilled her books in the hotel entrance was Bodie Thoene. She and her husband Brock were the keynote speakers for the conference. And that woman with the beautiful Texas drawl who sat beside me in the auditorium was Vickie Phelps who is now a close writer-friend. We’ve coauthored three books.
My first published novels, sweet Southern romances, in the Caney Creek Series are set in the Southern Appalachians of East Tennessee where my ancestors and I were raised. I’d listened to older generations tell their stories at family reunions about time before telephones and automobiles. Their stories fascinated me and I wanted to write about a time before I was born.
This story percolated in my mind in the late 1990s. While this story continued to take shape, in 2001 I received a life-altering health diagnosis with a negative prognosis.
My mind was still intact but my body wouldn’t do what it was told. My balance while walking diminished and I quit going to writing conferences. My doctor advised me not to drive. In 2008, I began to improve. My hands were steadier and I could get my Appalachian story started. I have outlived my doctor’s prognosis by four years.
From 2001 to 2008 I had a lot of time to meditate. A relative marvels that I’ve never questioned “God, why me?” I have not become bitter because of the health issues. I think God just gave me time to understand a lot of things when I was inactive. I’m a more peaceful, patient, and faithful me.
The writing journey is never-ending. How could I not write? What writing ability I have comes from God and I must be the best steward of that gift that I can be.
Back cover blurb:
The Great Depression brings devastation to all…but love’s triangle survives
To escape his poppa’s physical abuse and their dirt-poor farm life, Jim flees to an imagined prosperous city life where he can make his own choices, ignoring God patiently knocking on his heart’s door. Settled in town, Jim strays from God and the way of faith his momma taught him. He meets a girl and loses his heart … and meets another girl and loses his willpower. Jim wrestles with social and moral dilemmas as he makes a choice beside Caney Creek that will alter the lives of five people.
Jo Huddleston is a multi-published author of books, articles, and short stories. She wrote three traditionally published nonfiction books, Amen and Good Morning, God and Amen and Good Night, God (Tyndale House Publishers, 1993) and His Awesome Majesty (Hendrickson Publishers, 1995). She completed the Caney Creek Series, a trilogy of sweet Southern romances traditionally published in 2012-2014: That Summer, Beyond the Past, and Claiming Peace.
Jo likes to laugh with people but not at people. The beach is her favorite vacation spot. Jo doesn’t like to see or hear about people or animals being abused. She’s a spectator fan of several sports, her favorite being tennis. Jo doesn’t like being in the dark and is fearful of snakes! She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Visit Jo at her website, www.johuddleston.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jo.huddleston.hope, and her blogs at www.johuddleston.com and www.lifelinesnow.blogspot.com