Shannon here: Friday I shared my side of the story of how Peyton H. Roberts’ Contemporary Fiction title, Beneath the Seams, came to be. Today, you get to hear Peyton’s side of the story. Comment or answer the question in any post dated May 15 – 18 to enter the drawing for a copy. Deadline: May 29th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Peyton:
Getting the call: My journey to publish Beneath the Seams by Peyton H. Roberts
Mark Twain is famously quoted saying, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
Three years ago, I felt the Lord plant in my heart the seed of a story. A story that could spark change. A story that could shine light on an unacceptable injustice I saw in our world. A story meant for me to tell.
Following the nudges, I felt committed to writing a story about the ugly side of the beautiful fashion industry. Having never written a full-length novel, I set a goal simply to finish. But in the back of my mind was a bigger dream—a dream to see the book make its way into the world.
I soon learned that writing a novel is equal parts rewarding and grueling. And after all it takes to write, revise, and summarize a story, finding a publisher can be the most daunting step.
Two months into querying agents, I was beyond frustrated. I was spending so many hours researching agents only to be greeted each morning by a silent inbox. The rejections—and worse, the ghosting—only heightened the uncertainty about the story’s future.
Would Beneath the Seams ever get published? Would my dream of sharing the story with readers ever come true?
One night in November 2020, I wrote in my journal:
“I feel so vulnerable, so rejectable, so unconfident about the story I previously thought was fairly good. I know this is part of the process, but it’s filling me with doubt where I otherwise had faith.”
At that point in the journey, I was discouraged and wanted to quit. I was constantly refreshing my email for updates, and I wasn’t writing anymore. Nothing had prepared me for this gut-wrenching part of the publishing journey.
The next day, I entered #FaithPitch on Twitter, hoping an agent would read the hook of my book and invite me to query. I’d learned that a Twitter pitch party is one of the few ways a writer can get an agent’s attention.
I didn’t receive any agent likes that day. Instead, two small, indie presses liked my tweet.
I honestly didn’t know what a small press was. I researched them both, prepared my proposal as requested, then sent off my first three chapters.
Three hours later, I received an email from Shannon Vannatter, editor at Scrivenings Press.
“I enjoyed reading your submission from #FaithPitch. Your topic is timely, and your chapters are well written. Please send your complete manuscript at your earliest convenience.”
Reading her reply at my kitchen table, I remember feeling seen. “Finally, someone who sees what I see!” I wrote in my journal, exclamation point and all. I sent off the full manuscript and began what I thought would be a multi-month wait to hear back.
Three weeks later, the first Friday in December, I was folding laundry at my in-laws’ house in Houston, Texas, the city where Beneath the Seams is set. When the phone rang with an unknown area code, I almost didn’t answer. Probably spam, I assumed.
But what if?
Answering the call, I heard the most unexpected words.
“Hi Peyton! This is Shannon Vannatter at Scrivenings Press. I just finished reading Beneath the Seams. I loved it, and we want to offer you a contract to publish it.”
Wait, what?! Just days earlier, I was wallowing in my journal wondering if the three-year journey to write the novel would lead anywhere. And now a contract to see the story printed in the pages of a book?
My hands were shaking as I grabbed a pen to jot down details. During the call, Shannon called out places in the story that needed revisions. We discussed a possible May 2021 publication date.
My favorite part of the call was when Shannon told me her personal story as a debut author. After pouring her heart and soul into her first manuscript, she finally found a publishing home for it. Her breakthrough news came by email.
“I wanted you to get the phone call I wish I’d had,” Shannon said.
At this point, I knew very little about Scrivenings Press. But I could feel the genuine love and support in Shannon’s sweet voice. If she was taking so much care while offering a contract, I suspected that as my editor, she would take great care of the story too.
My instincts were more than accurate. In the months that followed, Shannon helped me transform the manuscript of Beneath the Seams into a satisfying narrative arc. Together we polished the final read that I am proud to share.
Where fiction isn’t a genre I’d attempted before, Shannon, a multi-published romance novelist, helped me light more sparks across multiple story threads. Her attention to detail improved the dialogue of characters from India and Bangladesh. She narrowed in on the manuscript’s weak spots and coached me on how to strengthen them. Under Shannon’s direction, we took Beneath the Seams to the next level.
Shannon wasn’t the only one at Scrivenings to champion the story. Owner Linda Fulkerson created a stunning cover and mesmerizing video trailer. Juggling multiple books and countless emails, Linda walked me through the publishing process, answered my zillion questions, formatted the story into a book, ran the final copy edit, and accommodated every request she reasonably could.
Throughout the revision process, I felt like my story was home. To top it off, I landed in a collaborative cohort of two dozen other novelists, all part of the Scrivenings Press community. Since day one, every author has been so encouraging and welcoming to a newcomer.
As Beneath the Seams is now available nationwide, I’m so grateful to Shannon and Linda for the meaningful experience I’ve had publishing with Scrivenings Press.
My original goal was to finish writing Beneath the Seams. Sharing the story with readers is an answer to prayer—and truly a dream come true.
About Peyton: Peyton H. Roberts, M.A., is a writer, mom, and military spouse who grew up sewing dresses on the sunny Gulf Coast. Her extensive travels studying abroad, leading mission trips, and living overseas on Guam forged a passion for writing and speaking about social impact causes. Peyton enjoys sailing, cooking, and exploring nature with her family wherever the Navy sends them. Learn more & connect:
About the book – Beneath the Seams:
Fashion designer Shelby Lawrence is launching her mother-daughter dresses into retail stores nationwide when she receives a photo of the girl who will change her life forever. Runa, the family’s newly sponsored child, is a clever student growing up near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Dresses are flying off the racks when a horrifying scene unfolds in Dhaka that threatens to destroy Shelby’s pristine reputation. Even worse―it sends Runa’s life spiraling down a terrifying path. Shelby must decide how far she’s willing to go to right a tragic wrong.
Perfect for book clubs, this social impact novel includes a resource list and discussion questions.
Both a gripping exposé of fashion industry secrets and a heartwarming mother-daughter tale, Beneath the Seams explores love, conscience, hope, and the common threads connecting humanity.
Question for Readers: Have you ever had a dream take on a life of its own? What was that dream and why was it important to you? Who were the people on your path who helped your dream come to life?
Come back May 21st for Heather Greer!