Shannon here: Today, I’m sharing a debut author’s journey to publication and my tiny part in it. Here’s how I earned my nickname, Dreamcrusher. But thankfully, Jenny Carlisle’s dream of publication came true and she’ll be my guest next week. Comment on any post dated April 1st – 5th to enter the drawing for her debut Women’s Fiction title, Hope Takes the Reins. Deadline: April 16th, 11:59 pm central time.
I’ve shared this story hypothetically on a how to get published blog. But now, I’m sharing the real story.
A few years ago at my local writer’s group meeting, a friend and fellow member was upset. Though published in nonfiction, Jenny had signed with an agent for her novel, then been dropped. Her fiction title had been rejected several times and she wasn’t sure what to do next.
Over several years, I’d traveled to a national conference and roomed with her, as well as attended several writer’s meetings and retreats with her. During the entire time I’ve known her, Jenny tried to get this one book published. So as she poured out her heart and frustration at the meeting, advice bubbled up in me.
I’ve known several Jenny’s. Tirelessly and doggedly peddling that one book that nobody wants right now. I was Jenny. I pitched one book for four years. Even though at the time, I’d completed five, I was stuck on the one because it was the book of my heart.
Finally, I met Mary Connealy at ACFW. Once she got published, she had books coming out faster than I could keep up with. She said she kept writing books and pitching different ones because with each book, you learn and improve. By the time Mary got a contract, she had dozens of books ready to go. I wrote another, then another. And another. It was my seventh book that ended up getting published first.
Back to the meeting. I took Jenny’s hand and gently suggested she write another book. I told her about Mary, about the book I’d set aside, and about learning and improving with each book you write. I shared that it’s hard to let the book of your heart go so you can move on. But I assured Jenny that she didn’t have to give up on it. Just write more while waiting for a home for that first book.
I cried. Jenny cried. A few months later, she did the devotion at our meeting about being a willing vessel for God. She gave us each a small lump of play doh and told us to make a vessel. Then she told us how sometimes you feel like you’re doing really well being a vessel, moldable and pliable to God’s will when someone, like Shannon, comes along and crushes your dreams. She brought her fist down smashing her play doh vase and looked at me.
“I’ve been waiting to do that for months.” Jenny started laughing. I did too, relieved that she wasn’t really mad at me. Then she went on to share that sometimes when you think your dreams have been crushed, that’s when you find new purpose. She thanked me for my advice and shared that she’d started a new book and was loving it. And loving writing again. Here’s the video where Jenny talks about it: Jenny’s Dreamcrusher Video
What she didn’t know, years ago, my husband and son watched a Duck Dynasty episode revolving around their love for Pro Wrestling. We jokingly came up with wrestling names for our family. When our injured cat darted for the open door and I shut it just before he got there, my son said, “Aww, you crushed his dreams.” Then he pointed at me. “That’s your wrestling name, Dreamcrusher.” I promptly struck a wrestling pose, flexing my non-existent muscles, and growled, “Dreamcrusher.”
Back to Jenny. Once her new book was complete, she submitted it to Scrivenings Press last year, where I’m the acquisitions editor for contemporaries. Thanks to my being forced to reject hopeful author’s manuscripts, my nickname is Dreamcrusher there too. Jenny’s new book wasn’t ready and I had to reject it, once again crushing her dreams. But I told her I didn’t want to, that I loved her, and offered advice on revisions.
Jenny did the work and even read books on writing that I suggested. It wasn’t easy, but Hope Takes the Reins is now in book form. In the end, Jenny ended up working with another editor on staff, maybe because I was too close to her. The result: a stellar Women’s fiction title and since I didn’t edit it, I got to endorse it:
Saddle up and hold on tight for a rip-roaring good time at the Caldwell Family Rodeo. While Carlisle’s steadfast heroine determines to honor and keep her mother’s legacy intact, her bungling big-hearted hero strives to live up to the shadow cast by his big brother and clean up his messes while he’s at it. Through twists and turns, they never saw coming, both learn what’s really important when they let go and let God handle their happily-ever-afters.
~award-winning, mutli-published author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter~
About Jenny: Jenny has been writing stories since she learned to hold a pencil. She retired from a career in Human Resources for the State of Arkansas. She was a long-time columnist for Ouachita Life magazine, and two collections of her inspirational articles have been self-published. She is past president of American Christian Fiction Writers – Arkansas Chapter and past president of Saline County Preservation, Inc.
Her first fiction project, Hope Takes the Reins released from Scrivenings Press in March of 2022. She and her husband, James live in Benton, Arkansas where they worship with a service-oriented congregation of the Church of Christ. They are the parents of three married children and eight grandchildren. She enjoys substituting a few days of the week in middle school, junior high and high school classrooms. Learn more & connect:
About the book – Hope Takes the Reins: O.D. Billings has problems beyond the awkward name that led him to use only initials years ago. Now that his war hero older brother has returned, their dad thinks he can turn over managing their truck dealership and start to prepare for retirement. But the hometown hero is not ready for new responsibility, and O.D. saddles up to make things right, while keeping an eye on his younger brother, who is set on being the greatest bull-rider Crossroads, Arkansas has ever seen.
Nineteen years old is very young to take on the business end of a family rodeo, but Hope Caldwell feels she has no choice after cancer takes away her mom. She is used to helping behind the scenes as her dad handles the announcing, sister Faith excels at barrel racing, and brother Junior entertains the crowd as a rodeo clown.
On the family’s first night back after the funeral, an overdressed stranger seems to be conspiring with Hope’s uncle to make a huge change to the only life she’s known since before she could braid her own pig-tails.
Will these two long-time neighbors finally realize that they don’t have to shoulder their burdens alone? Will teaming up to help each other be the right path, or will they continue to stumble over their own cowboy boots on the way to finding God’s direction for their lives?
Can’t wait for the drawing? Worried you won’t win? Interested in Jenny’s nonfiction titles?
Get your copy/copies now! Hope Takes the Reins
Question for Readers: Have you ever had your dream crushed, and then realized later? Tell us about your journey.
Come back April 5th for Jenny Carlisle!