Today I'm going to Hotlanta for the Internation Christian Retail Show. Lots of exciting events are going to be happening, and honestly, I'm glad I'll be attending this year.
But it wasn't always so.
If you had told me in say, November of 2006 I'd be there, you may have gotten a can of whoop--ahem, opened on you. Let's just say I was a little sensitive back then. Weeks before my second Amanda Bell Brown mystery was suppose to hit the shelves, I found out it wouldn't be hitting the shelves. Without going into the painful details, I'll just say something happened. It was bad for me. I don't think I've ever taken such a hard hit to my self-esteem as a writer. One particular sad fall morning I told Jesus I would never write fiction, or professionally again. It hurt too much. And I meant it. It took some serious wooing on His part to draw me back to what He knew I loved. And I truly believed only He could have talked me into at the time. It was that hard for me. I was that hurt, and that finished with it.
What was worse is that I couldn't really talk about it here where I talk about so much of my life. People thought they were ordering my book, and they waited, and I could say nothing to them here knowing they wouldn't get it. And then I started getting the flood of emails asking why Amazon said they couldn't fulfill the orders. Why wasn't I talking about my books? Why no posts on my Amazon blog? Just silence. And slowly I begin to tell a little, but mostly I told I was moving to somewhere else. And by God's grace, that's exactly what I did.
I moved to two somewhere else's in fact, and one of those publishers, David C. Cook is sharing me this weekend at ICRS. I'll be signing ridiculously advanced copies of Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White. And as much as I didn't want to be, I'm excited. And I'm scared. I wrote it in a blaze, and when I was done I felt rode hard and hung up wet. There were parts that were painful to write, and God knows I had to be brave to face the ugliness of some of that story, but oh, lovies, there is beauty there, too. At least I tried to put some there. I failed some. But I tried. There is a little loveliness there.
And that brings me back to another painful thing. Awards. I'm going to The Christy Awards Banquet. I went last year, and my friend Donna Kehoe introduced me as a BRAND NEW NOVELIST. I stood, shaking, but trying not to show it, and I thought to myself, next year they'll be judging my book. Next year maybe I'll be here with my friends. And some of us will get honors. Maybe even me. Claudia Mair Burney, Christy Award Winning Author!
That won't happen this year. My book won't get honors because no Christy Award judges read it--not officially. It couldn't be entered because it was as if it was never published at the other publishing house. In some way it was just...erased. And the copies that already sold, they are like what David C. Cook will be giving away on Monday. Advanced reader copies, even though they weren't advanced reader copies. They were null and voided so to speak. But there's something to be said about fresh starts. I could change somethings. Maybe they'll be better. Or not. It's really hard for me to see that clearly. Maybe I'll have my day in 2009. Maybe not. By 2009, I doubt if I'll care if Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man gets an award. I've written 5 books now. I'm writing the sixth. The first one seems so far away from me. I did edits on it recently, and it was odd. It felt like an antique in my soul.
But there was this day, when I saw the nominees for the Christy Awards this year. There was that flash of jealousy. That unrighteous thought that my book was good enough. That clawing thought that in some cases my book was better, and I'm ashamed that I thought it, even for a moment. Every writer in the category I would have been placed in has been writing longer than I have. Those writers paid their dues. They're good at what they do, deserving the honor they got. And who I am? For a moment I believed my own press. And beloved that's never prudent or wise. It will take me years to develop as a writer. I saw that when I wrote this last book. I'm not the writer I want to be. All I can do is work and pray that one day I will grow to be a better writer. That will take a lot of praying and a lot of working and writing. A LOT! I may not see a Christy or any other award, y'all. I think I should count myself blessed that people read my books. Or even this ridiculous blog.
So, I am going to Hotlanta deferring to my sisters and brothers who God saw fit to exhalt, worthily, no doubt, even as He humbled me. And I needed to be humbled. And I will count it joy to be where God wants me to be, because though I couldn't see it then, it's clear to me now that God orchestrated all things for my good. He never left me. He asked for my obedience before the bad thing happened, and I joyfully gave it to Him. He never said I would not suffer. But His rewards after the suffering... Oh my, they are immeasurable. And besides, I'm a BRAND NEW NOVELIST. I have yet to learn, or earn my chops. If God is with me, and I believe He is, He'll give me the grace to grow a career. And it will take time. Lots of time. Work. Prayer.
And love and humility.
Check out this Litany of Humility. It will be my constant meditation on this journey:
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should.
- - Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val
Hey, if you're at ICRS consider stopping by the David C. Cook Booth #1547 on Monday, July 9, at 2:30 pm. Come and let me give you a hug. I'd love to see you.