Bonnie S. Calhoun

Bonnie S. Calhoun is the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for the magazine.

In addition to her passion for spreading the word about Christian fiction, Bonnie is also an author of suspense/mystery thrillers. She recently signed a co-authored two book contract with Abingdon Press. The first book will be released in 2011 and the second in 2012. She is represented by Terry Burns at Hartline Literary.

Kregel Publishers

Introducing Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications

My Non–New Year’s Resolution

Cat HoortI don’t make New Year’s resolutions. The truth is I’m not very good at keeping them. I might stay interested for a few weeks, but by mid-February, I’ve moved on to other projects (and have, quite possibly, completely forgotten I made any resolutions at all). But this year I have a non–New Year’s resolution. It’s more of a challenge. A dare, really. You see, resolutions have rules. And I have a hard time living by the rules. Dares are more fun. Adventurous. Doable. The challenge of a dare encourages me to write action steps and those, in turn, help me follow through.

Action Step #1: Don’t Be Intimidated

During a recent coffeehouse chat, a friend of mine quoted from Pride and Prejudice. When she spotted the confused look on my face, I had to admit . . . I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice. What’s worse, I haven’t read many of the classics, at least not in their entirety. Bits and pieces, here and there, for various English lit classes, but I’ve read very few from start to finish.

“How could that be?” my friend huffed.

It’s true. I’ve been working in publishing for several years, I’m always talking about books, and I read two to three books a week, sometimes more (manuscripts, galleys, book club picks, books from other publishers for “market research,” Kindle books I buy on impulse . . . it adds up). But for someone who has built her life around books, I’ve yet to explore some of the best novels ever written.

So that’s where the dare comes in. My friend declared that she was going to make me read one classic a month for an entire year. I don’t know if it was her love of fine literature or her knowing that I read for a living, but this seemed entirely doable to her. She, in fact, insisted that by year’s end, I would be so hooked that I would want to do another year. And another after that.

I, of course, objected. A million excuses came to mind, and I immediately voiced them all, with special emphasis on one: I just don’t have time. I have blog tours to coordinate, video trailers to produce, marketing plans to write, budgets to balance, a branding campaign to finish, a fiction contest to initiate . . . I’m too busy.

“Nonsense,” she said. “I’ll help. I’ll pick the books for you and we can read them together. I’ll pick the easier ones first. We won’t even think about the Russians for a while.”

Russians?! Gulp.

Action Step #2: Focus on the Prize

I did my best to ignore the doubts still circling in my head. I refused to feel intimidated, so I silently focused on what I might get out of agreeing to this. But my friend wasn’t finished.

“Unless . . .” she continued, “unless you aren’t up for the challenge.”

Oh. No. She. Didn’t.

In a blink of an eye, intimidation flew right out the window. And the prize—proving to her (and to myself) that I could do this—suddenly became crystal clear. My eyes narrowed into a glare as she sat across from me smirking, sipping her coffee and

waiting for me to pounce. She knew me well enough to know my competitive side wouldn’t—couldn’t—say no. “Game on,” I sneered.

Action Step #3: Find Someone to Keep You on Track

She wanted to set rules, but as I’ve already said, I don’t do so well with rules. Trying to read (or write) a certain amount of words or pages a day hasn’t worked for me in the past, so I had serious doubts about such rules working for me now. I’m an expert procrastinator, so I put the kibosh on her giddiness right away, only acquiescing to her suggestion that she call or text me once a week to make sure I was on track.

So far, so good. This conversation happened a few weeks ago and I’m happy (and somewhat surprised) to report that I’m nearly finished with The Scarlet Letter already. My friend’s texts have been faithful, albeit somewhat taunting (this is a dare, after all).

The elderly man in the crowd knows more than he’s willing to admit. What, pray tell, could it be?

Chillingworth knows the truth. Do you?

A secret rendezvous. Would you dare?

Action Step #4: Have Fun

Somehow, news of my little dare has gotten around. Colleagues pop their heads into my office to add their own little taunts. I walk into the lunch room at Kregel and people ask what the pick is for next month. Another friend has started the book and is reading with us. I’ve let a couple author friends in on the game and they regularly provide encouragement, as well.

But the best part is this: I enjoy reading so much more than before. And not just The Scarlet Letter (which I plan to finish tonight) or Wuthering Heights (which I will start by the end of the week). I appreciate all books more. Just yesterday, I was reading a romantic suspense that Kregel recently contracted (and will release later this year), and I found myself drawing parallels from contemporary characters to those who lived in the seventeenth century. I’ve looked back at the fiction Kregel has published this past year and have found new meaning in stories that were good to begin with but now sparkle. And I’m more excited than ever to search out new fiction writers and grow Kregel’s fiction line.

And all because of a little dare.

So what about you? Many of you may have your New Year’s resolutions (or nonresolutions) in place. What action steps are you going to take to keep yourself moving forward? Have you conquered intimidation? Have you set goals? Do you know people who can encourage you along the way? Whatever project you undertake for 2010, I wish you all the best. And I dare you to have a little fun, too.

Cat Hoort is Trade Marketing Manager at Kregel Publications, where she really does coordinate blog tours, produce Book Trailers, write marketing plans, and reads two to three books a week (and that’s when she’s not lovin’ up on authors and literary agents). She’s published articles in a variety of magazines, most recently in Christian Retailing, and is a wannabe blogger at http://mylitterbox.net.