Positive or negative, we
all have it.
In spite of stories constantly
spinning in my mind, I didn’t believe becoming published was feasible,
and I didn’t want to take time away from my family and friends to
pursue something that wasn’t feasible.
But time has unexpected ways of
demanding we follow our hearts. Like a bucket under a drippy outdoor
faucet, I slowly and steadily became filled with a desire to write, and
that aspiration spilled over into every area of my life.
So I dug an old computer out of
the basement, set it up, and began to write. Stories I’d said no to for
decades flowed. The faster I wrote, the harder the stories pushed. At
the end of three exhausting months, I had written eight of the worst
Then peace came, and the push to
But one story kept nudging me,
begging me to return and give it some real effort. It was laced with
emotions and truths from my experiences with my Amish-Mennonite best
The story revealed human
nature—the good, the bad, and the confusing. Although contemporary in
setting, it had the power and simplicity of late eighteenth-century
rules of conduct that threatened to overpower the freedom of a young
woman’s heart. The characters were as beautiful and flawed as my
childhood memories of them.
To hone this story, I’d have to
connect with someone who lived in that culture. I’d have to learn how
to craft a novel.
But I’d lost contact with my
Amish-Mennonite friend. I asked God to open a door to the Plain
community. Through a non-Amish midwife to the Amish community, I found
an Old Order Amish woman who was willing to answer my questions.
I sent questions along with
chapters of my writing to her through a third party. A year later she
invited me to her home. That began my regular trips of staying inside
an Old Order Amish home.
So now I had the story idea and
I had done the
research. Next was learning the writing craft. I attended my first
writers’ conference, where I met and hired a freelance editor to mentor
I’d write and e-mail it to her.
She’d send it back marked up, explaining what wasn’t working and why.
I’d rewrite it and resend it. She’d return it marked up more. After a
year, I’d completed . . . one chapter. But our goal was one
well-written chapter, because if I could correctly do one chapter, I
could write a novel.
I attended another writing
conference and talked to several editors to discover if there was any
interest in Amish stories. None were a bit interested. They were nice
and encouraging about my writing but not about Amish stories.
I left the how-to-write classes
with a new first-chapter idea, a three-book series pounding in my
heart, and a fresh determination to become published—writing Amish.
When the conference rolled around the next year, I’d almost completed
my first work: When the Heart Cries.
Almost five years had passed
since I’d set up my computer. I was ready to pitch my book and my
three-book proposal! I made appointments to meet with five acquisition
editors—some requested the meeting because they’d read something of my
never forget meeting
one-on-one with them. My heart pounded with hope and excitement. I’d
done all the things these editors suggested at every conference:
diligent research, relentless study of the craft, have my work
critiqued, and be ready with a finished or almost finished work. But I
still felt nervous; what they were going to say?
I heard wonderful, uplifting,
and exciting things: “I love your voice.” “I’ve been looking for years
for this type of story structure.” “You have quite a way of reaching
out and bringing the reader into your world.”
Yes. Yes. Yes!
Then I heard the unthinkable:
“We aren’t interested in Amish stories. Have you ever written anything
I remembered the seven awful
novels I’d written, still stored on the computer I no longer used.
Surely those didn’t count. But I mentioned them. And the editors were
This can’t be happening.
Editor after editor said,
“Beverly Lewis is writing Amish. That’s all the market can bear. Can
you write something else? Anything?” “We don’t want to do a ‘me too’ by
publishing an Amish story.”
Me too? Is there just
one romantic suspense writer? One historical writer?
I had to decide whether to set
my Amish story aside and become published, or stick to what I knew I
was to write.
If you’ve been told the
publishing houses aren’t accepting new writers, or the market isn’t
selling what you’re writing, be patient. No one has all the answers.
The editors are doing their best to determine what will sell two years
from now. When you’re told no, pray about it and keep honing your
skills. Stay true to yourself and to your God-given passion. Don’t sell
out. Don’t give up. Follow your heart, and be ready when the market is
ready for your story.
In case you’re wondering, the
first chapter I worked on for a year was never used in any novel. But
what I learned while working on it is used on every page of every book