Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Long Road to "The Pastor's Wife"

Hi, all. Jen AlLee, here!

I can't begin to tell you how mind-spinning this week has been. Not only is my "baby" coming out in just a few days, I've been inundated with love and support. You all rock!

A lot of people wonder how the publishing process works. How do you go from an idea in your head to a book on the shelf? So I thought it might be cool to take a quick look at one book's loooong journey... This is how The Pastor's Wife came to be.

As you probably know by now, I'm a former church secretary. I took my own experiences with church administration and friendships with pastoral families and started asking those "what if" questions. What if a young bride couldn't handle the pressure of living under a microscope? What if her husband, in his enthusiasm to do well at his first pastorate, didn't see the toll it was taking on his wife? What if their marriage fell apart? That gave me the basic plot and I went from there.

I started writing The Preacher's Wife Returns (that's the original title... sounds like a B-movie, doesn't it?) late in 2005. In April of 2007 I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) with the idea of pitching my now-completed novel at the conference. It was the perfect plan: I wrote The Pastor's Wife (aren't you glad I changed the title?) with a specific publisher in mind, and an editor from that house would be at the conference. Surely a face-to-face meeting with her would garner a request to read the manuscript.

You know what they say about the best laid plans... I went to the meeting with the editor from my "dream house" full of hope and optimism. I sat down and began my pitch, but I only got out a sentence or two before the editor stopped me. "Sorry," she said, "your book isn't right for our house." We were in a room surrounded by other authors and editors all doing the same thing, but at that moment, all I heard was dead silence. Not right for their house? How can that be? And what do I do now? Swallowing my pride I asked a few general, inane questions, thanked her, and left. My fifteen minute shot at publication had been reduced to five minutes of talking and a tearful walk of shame to the elevators.

Fast forward to summer of 2008. I was still writing and had finished a good chunk of a sequel to TPW. But I still had no idea how to move forward. One day, I read a blog post by Camy Tang about a new fiction line spear-headed by highly respected editor Barbara Scott. It referred to another post on Brandilyn Collins' Forensics & Faith blog in which Barbara talked about Abingdon Press and their bold new venture into Christian fiction. At the end of the post, Barbara invited readers of the blog to submit their completed manuscripts to her for consideration. (That, my friends, is how I got around not having an agent.)

You might think the story stops there, but it doesn't. I emailed Barbara with a query, but it wouldn't go through due to a spam blocker. So I went back to the blog and through the comments asked her what to do. She gave me another address, which worked. My query got to her. She wrote back and asked me to send a synopsis and first three chapters. I did, but I didn't hear back. I returned to the blog and read the comments again, wondering if Barbara had anything else to say. She mentioned that if anyone was having problems with contacting her via email, they should snail mail their query to her. A buzzer went off in my head and I thought, "You'd better mail your pages." So I did. About four days later I got an email from Barbara thanking me for mailing the chapters and synopsis because she had not gotten them in email, and her emails to me were bouncing. And then she asked for the full manuscript.

That was August '08. I signed my contract in October. And now, on February 1, 2010, the real live book will sit on actual bookshelves wherever fine books are sold. What a ride.

I shared all this to encourage you. Even if you're not a writer, you may have a dream that doesn't look like it's going to come true. It's taking longer than it should, or it's not happening the way you expected. But if you look at my story, maybe you can take heart. The road to publication didn't happen the way I expected. I wrote this book with a different publisher in mind, but God led me to the BEST publisher. I thought things would happen sooner, but God has this book coming out at the PERFECT time. And look at all those road blocks... there were so many times when I could have given up, but I didn't. Oh sure, I got discouraged, and there were times I wanted to quit. But God pulled me up by the scruff of my neck, dusted me off, and set my feet back on the path. Let Him do that for you. Hold on to the dream He put in your heart. Accept His way, His plan, His timing. And be blessed as you move forward in Him.

Have you experienced a time when something looked like a set-back but ended up being a blessing?

Flower photo - Maigi/
Balloon photo - Olga Glushkova/


  1. I'm sure I've had set backs that have ended up as blessings, but at the moment my mind is sort of spinning from reading this story. Wow, is that a long road.

    Sometimes I start feeling weary in my writing journey, but the truth is, while a started toying with writing my first novel almost four years ago, I know many of you have been hard at work at the craft of writing fiction for much longer than than. I'm sure that I'm still paying my dues.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Jen. It means a lot to me. Right now I'm tweaking a manuscript to pitch to a specific line, and the other day it hit me, what if they don't want it?

    This story is so helpful.


  2. I'm so excited for you, Jen!

    Setbacks to blessings? Far too many to count! I love that every story to publication is just a bit different from all the rest. It reminds me that God's fingerprints will always be visible in the process.

    And I'll put in a plug since I've been privileged to read this book already--IT'S GREAT!!!!

  3. I remember once applying for a job. I aced the 'test' you had to do. Felt great about the interview. Then... nothing. I was so frustrated at the time because it seemed like nothing would come together and every day we were going deeper into debt. But then about a month and a half later I found the perfect job. And it truly was perfect for me. It all clicked and I knew without a doubt that God's hand was in it.

    It's easy to lose sight of the master when we're in the trenches, but faith works out a lot better than we think it will most of the time.

  4. Great path, Jen!
    I was at a crossroads between finishing up my master's and starting my writing career and prayed that God would open a door wide and let me walk in.

    Somehow when the master's deal slammed shut, I hiccupped and forgot how our great God had made it SO CLEAR for me!!!

    He is so good!!!!!

  5. Good morning, Ladies! I love hearing your stories of how God has provided and given even better than what you were hoping for.

    Dina, at the time that did my crash-and-burn at the conference, I thought the world had ended, at least for my book. But now I see there was a reason for the waiting and the rejection. I pray your road will be more direct and with less bumps, but if it's not, at least you know God's walking beside you with a compass!

  6. I appreciate the 'whole story' Jen. It's a blessing to hear--and remember for those days when writing feels like walking in mud and we wonder if it's worth plugging on forward!

    I hope you have an amazing success with The Pastor's Wife and it blesses everyone who reads it.

  7. Thanks, Deb! I still have "walking in mud" days, but you're so right that it helps to look back and remember what God has done... and will continue to do!

  8. Hey Jen,
    It's a long, long road from which there is no return...while we're on the way to there...

    I think maybe I worked too long today.:)Who wrote that song anyway? It reminds me of the writing journeys we all take.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, no matter how long the journey it's important to enjoy it, even in the midst of hardship and over many, many years.

    I've come close to publication more than once but as of yet there's no contract. But I'm hopeful and trust that what's going to happen for each of us Inkies is fully in God's hands.

    By the way Jen, Aug. 8th is a very lucky day. I got married on that day in 1981! :)

    May God bless, "The Pastor's Wife."

  9. Thank you for the post of your journey, Jen.

    I should put your pic up on my wall as a reminder for when I get discouraged. Then all I have to think is...
    'If Jen can do it, I can do it.'

    So many roadblocks have turned into blessings that now when I'm faced with a detour, I go along for the ride. :)

  10. Hi Jen!

    Thanks for sharing your writer's journey. I found it very fascinating and quite encouraging. And thanks for explaining how you got in without an agent. (I wonder if she'd be willing to do that on our could hope. LOL!)

    I had what you could call a set-back today, and right now I can't see a blessing in it. However, I do know what you mean because I can think of a very specific time when a set-back occured for my husband and I, and there was no blessing in sight. It wasn't until years later that we realized if that one thing that seemed so terrible and set us so far back at the time had NOT occured, we would have never had our greatest blessing...our son!

    Our God is amazing!

  11. Thanks for sharing your story, Jen. It is amazing how God works, isn't it? Sometimes we think it's all figured out, and then boom! And He provides in new and unexpected ways! Thanks for the encouragement.

    I'm so excited for this book to come out! :-)


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