Please welcome this week’s guest Michelle Ule for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
A Dream, a Sunbeam, a Little Girl and a Surprising Best Seller
By Michelle Ule
Like many people, I’ve dreamed of writing a book my entire life. I scribbled my first attempt at the age of seven but when I managed to get all the action in on the first three pages, I knew writing was harder work than I imagined!
I majored in English Literature at UCLA and read a lot of poetry, but most of my writing experience, valuable training, was found as a reporter for the UCLA Daily Bruin. I eventually worked my way up to city editor before graduating, marrying and taking off on the great Navy adventure with my husband.
Like many, I wrote in bits and pieces for magazines, newsletters, Christmas letters and even won a national short story writing contest (and took a photo of the $500 check!). I wrote several family histories (including Pioneer Stock–with 900+ end note citations that can be found in the Library of Congress).
“I don’t know.”
Shortly after that, I attended the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference—a wonderful place in the Santa Cruz mountains, where I spent five days learning about craft and the publication life. It was depressing.
With my background, I anticipated being able to publish without too much trouble. I’d written three manuscripts in the preceding six months. I knew I had skill, but that particular year was very discouraging.
After a couple days of sobering lectures, I stood out on a balcony watching the rain pour from the gloomy clouds. “I don’t know why I’m here, Lord,” I prayed. “I should just go home and raise my daughter. It’ll be disappointing if I’m never published, but it will be worse if I don’t do a good job with my child.”
Right then, it stopped raining and the clouds parted. A beam of light shone through the clouds and while it didn’t land on me, I laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
It felt like a promise from God—that if I focused on what was truly important, he would take care of the dreams he put in my heart. So I went home and raised my kids—the two left at home were that young daughter and her high school aged brother. I studied craft, went to Mt. Hermon conferences, wrote several more novels and waited. I also went to work at Books & Such Literary Agency.
Sure I got impatient and more than once threatened to quit writing—somehow getting a PhD in history always was the fallback position.
But every time I decided I’d had enough, someone would call, write or tell me how much my writing meant to them.
And I’d remember that sunbeam.
My daughter needed a “present” mother during her early teenage years. If I had had a writing contract during our turbulence, I know I would have retreated to the paid job rather than working on our relationship.
God knew His timing best.
By the time my daughter graduated from high school—seven years after that first trip to Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference—I had written several novels and a memoir. I worked for a literary agent and one day she suggested that since I liked history, I might consider writing a proposal for a Christmas novella.
I turned to Pioneer Stock—that thick book of narrative genealogy—and found a story that would suit the needs. I wrote up a synopsis, the first two chapters and sent it in.
Barbour Publishing sent me my contract the very day we drove our daughter to her freshman year in college.
I love this story because the Lord put a dream into my heart as a young girl. When the time was right—not just for me but for those I loved– he opened the door and I received a book contract.
When A Log Cabin Christmas Collection was released a year after I signed the contract, no one was more surprised than me, a debut novella writer, when it appeared on the New York Times best seller’s list.
So far and above any expectations I ever had about my writing, my first book hitting that list was emotionally incomprehensible. What an astonishing blessing from the Lord who had encouraged and sustained me through many years of waiting, hoping, working and focusing on what He called me to focus on at a given time.
I’m beyond grateful.
Not for the marvel of success, but because by trusting the Lord’s timing, I was in the right place at the right time.
Now that I’ve written six books for publication, I know how very merciful God was to my family. The hours are long, the marketing work is involved, I’m continually locked in my office working late into the night and early in the morning. The person I am, Michelle, could not have worked like this when my children were still at home.
God’s timing, for me, was perfect.
Michelle Ule is a graduate of UCLA and the author of five historical novellas and a novel. She lives in northern California with her family where she works at a literary agency, teaches Bible study, plays in a woodwind ensemble, and writes.
Michelle is a long-time lay counselor in both crisis pregnancies and budget counseling. She loves to travel and is an accomplished genealogist. Her work has appeared in two best-selling collections: A Log Cabin Christmas Collection and A Pioneer Christmas Collection.
She blogs twice a week, generally on history, research, travel and God. You can learn more about her at www.michelleule.com.