Please welcome this weeks guest Shannon Vannatter for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
God Sent Encouragement
God called me to be a writer in 1996 when I went to the library looking for clean romance and couldn’t find any. At the same time, it hit me that the story I’d had in my head since my teens could be a book. But I didn’t have a computer and I wasn’t a great typist. I told myself that if I ever got a computer, I’d write that book.
Three years later, my father-in-law gave me his old computer. As soon as it was hooked up, I was writing that book. But the clean romance I’d set out to write turned into something else. The more I wrote, the more my characters talked to God and I realized I couldn’t write a romance without God in it. I had no idea there was a genre or publishers for what I was writing.
When I finished the book, I went to the library to learn how to get published and discovered the Christian Writers Market Guide. It was chock full of publishers looking for the kind of book I was writing. I didn’t know it then, but the only thing I was missing was knowledge on how to write a book.
Over the next 9 1/2 years, I stopped counting rejection letters at 200 and attended countless writers conferences, group meetings, and workshops. Discouragement made me want to quit countless times. But every time I was down, God would send encouragement by letting me place in a local writing conference contest or an editor would take time to write an encouraging tip on a rejection letter.
In 2001, I thought I’d made it, but it turned out to be a big letdown. I got an offer from a Print on Demand publisher. I didn’t even know what that was, but soon learned it meant the book could only be ordered online. Back then, no one ordered books online—especially books by authors they’d never heard of. And the book was painfully overpriced.
That same year, I learned another POD publisher had published one my books without my knowledge after sending me a rejection letter. I had to hire a lawyer and it got ugly. We ended up getting publication discontinued and taking the book off of websites, but I never got royalties for the three copies sold.
I really wanted to quit after that. I tried to quit, but I couldn’t. Every time, I tried, I’d get all these ideas for books. God instilled a driving force inside me and sent more encouragement through honorable mentions in magazine writing contests. Finally, two of my short stories were published in magazines in 2008 and I got an offer from two publishers on one title in 2009.
I signed with an agent, but soon one of the offers was withdrawn and I learned my agent wasn’t a good fit for me. Once again, discouraged, I discontinued our association and went it alone. Over the next two years, I signed three contracts and had three books published by Heartsong Presents. And the rollercoaster went up again.
But the worst was still yet to come. In June, 2011, after five contracts and four books published with Heartsong Presents, I was walking on air. I’d just turned in my fifth title and spent a great weekend in Springfield, MO teaching classes at a romance writers conference. When I got home, I got an e-mail. My publisher had decided to discontinue the Heartsong Presents line.
I still had one contracted book and another verbally committed to for publication with the line. I thought my two babies would never see the light of day and I might never get another book published. My new editor told me that the two remaining books would probably eventually publish as e-books, but to wait on writing my sixth title until the dust settled.
In September, I attended the ACFW Conference in St. Louis. Despite my dim future, I was excited because I got to teach a class. More God-sent encouragement. I ran into my editor and she asked me how soon I could turn in my sixth title. I told her four months and she said to get busy on it because another publisher was buying Heartsong, but she couldn’t tell me who.
My heart soared and I walked on air through the rest of the conference. At the same conference, I met with a publisher who expressed significant interest in a longer length romance from me.
For the next three months, I wrote my sixth Heartsong title with no idea who I was writing it for. Weeks before my verbal deadline, I got an e-mail announcing that Harlequin was my new publisher.
Publishing is still a roller coaster. That publisher interested in a longer length book from me went out of business. But I haven’t had time to complete that longer length romance because of deadlines. In 2012, I signed with a new agent, the perfect fit for me. She landed me a contract with Harlequin to continue the series I began with the former owner of Heartsong.
This year, she helped me land a new contract with Harlequin for six more books. I don’t even know what the final three titles will be or what they’ll be about at this point, but once again, God’s got me walking on air.
Even with the ups and downs, I still love writing. God gave me a calling. He didn’t say it would be easy or that great success would come with it. He just said, do it. So, until He tells me to stop, I’ll borrow Nike’s slogan and just do it.
Shannon is giving away 1 copy of Rodeo Song. To enter the drawing, answer this question: It’s a lot of fun to experience various careers through my characters. What is or was your job or career. What would be your dream job or career? To be entered for the giveaway, all comments must be left no later than Thursday, May 15 at 8pm Alaskan Time (midnight Eastern time/9pm Pacific).
Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.
Her nine titles are with Heartsong Presents and she’s contracted for six more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com and check out her real life romance blog at http://shannonvannatter.com/blog.
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Kristena Tunstall says
Shannon, I loved reading about your journey. I know so many of us are going down similar paths as your own to publication, or maybe just anything someone’s doing in their life as they work toward their goals. It’s always encouraging to read about someone else and to know they have lived a similar life as you. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey on my site. It’s been a blessing.
Shannon Taylor Vannatter says
Thanks for having me. I always tell writers that surely their journey won’t be as complicated as mine.
Kristena Tunstall says
I think at the end of the day, all of our journey’s end up being exactly what we need to succeed as God’s shows us the way. I’m excited to have you on this week.
Cindy Loven says
I loved hearing your story Shannon, and I am looking forward to meeting you soon!! 🙂 ~Cindy Loven~
Shannon Taylor Vannatter says
Glad to see you here. Cindy and I belong to ACFW – AR and we get to go to a writing retreat soon. Can’t wait!
What an awesome testimony. I am a computer programmer and absolutely love my job. I am constantly learning new things (I am self-taught, God has blessed me with that ability)
Shannon Taylor Vannatter says
I almost went into computers and I’ve wished several times that I had. Especially when I have a book deadline and mine acts up. Instead, I went to cosmetology school. I was a hairdresser, loan clerk at a bank, and data entry clerk at a large fragrance company. I finally found my calling – stay at home mom/writer.