Many of you have asked me questions like: How did you get started writing? How long have you been writing? How did you find your publisher? Do you have an agent? How long does it take to get published? And the biggest question of all: When is your book coming out?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was about eight or nine, I wrote a story as an entrance exam to a children’s writing institute. I cannot begin to explain to you the joy I felt when I received the acceptance envelope. I am aware now that they probably wanted everyone that took the entrance exam; after all, that was how they made their money, right? The enrollment fee was far more than my family could afford, however, so I was unable to attend. I remember this as one of the most heart-breaking experiences of my childhood.
I did not give up writing, though. In high school, I wrote continuously, and took as many writing and literature classes as my school offered. I had high aspirations of becoming a journalist. I wanted to be the woman sitting in front of the camera doing the evening news or the woman with her own newspaper column. My dream was to go away to a college that had a superior journalism department. Because of my poor grades and a few other issues, I did not attend college, though.
Immediately after graduating high school, I began to work in an office as a secretary. I continued to write on my typewriter at work when there was free time. I actually wrote a 500-page Christian Romance novel but upon its completion decided it was no good. I burned it in the fireplace at home, and have regretted it ever since. You see, this was before the days of home computers and none of what I had written was saved on disk. I consider this one of my greatest professional learning experiences.
I married when I was twenty-one years old and a few years later, I had my first child. I continued to write Christian Romance but publication eluded me. Submitting manuscripts or even simple proposals was a time-consuming and expensive hobby. I took a break from writing for a few years because motherhood (my second child had come along) kept me busy. However, my mind never stopped spinning tales. These ideas gathered in file folders and patiently waited to come out when my children went to school.
My sister once told me: “An author is a writer who refused to give up.” So I held onto that dream.
Then, God called me to homeschool in 1997 and suddenly my plans were postponed for just a little while longer. After I got accustomed to the routine of homeschooling, the writing bug bit me again. Instead of fiction, I wrote articles for homeschool magazines about homeschooling and finally got my first phone call from an editor. I can still remember where I was and what I was doing when that call came in.
So I kept at the writing and got a few more articles published. I took a two-year writer’s course through the Christian Writers Guild and eventually wrote a few Bible studies, which I taught for groups at church. Then I wrote a devotional for homeschool moms, which I self-published. www.sherrijohnsonministries.com
One day, I received an inquiry from a church asking me to speak to a group of women. Never before had I done that, but I went. Looking back, I believe my talk was rather dull and quite long-winded, but God was gracious and I received other calls after that. I have spoken to homeschool groups and church groups for several years now and I enjoy it. However, writing is my love!
So throughout the years of teaching my children, God refined my writing skills. He opened my eyes to things that needed to be perfected in my works. I wrote several more Bible studies. And eventually wrote three novels – and re-wrote three novels. Because of easier submissions procedures, I submitted proposals constantly. Much to my chagrin, the ever-coveted contract never came. I even tried to find an agent multiple times, but had no success. I also tried to quit writing quite often, but had no success at that either.
I attended my first writer’s conference in 2003 and met several editors, who requested to see manuscripts. I have been told that this is the way to go. You have to attend the conferences in order to meet the editors face-to-face. For me, this was a one-time luxury because we were a one-income family. I could not attend conferences every year in hopes of finding a publisher. I left my writing career right where it needed to be – in the hands of God!
One day, I learned about a relatively new publisher, which had “stepped into the marketplace gap to provide dozens of writers with new opportunities…With other publishers choosing to focus on only a few “top name” authors” OakTara was looking for people like me – first-time, undiscovered authors! http://www.oaktara.com.
So I immediately submitted my manuscript for To Dance Once More (my second “first” novel). This novel had made it through revision after revision and I was finally confident that it was ready. One year after submitting the manuscript, I received an email from Jeff Nesbit saying, “To Dance Once More is precisely the type of novel OakTara (then Capstone) is interested in — quality fiction, from a fresh perspective – and we’d like to offer you the opportunity to join Capstone Fiction’s growing stable of authors.” At first, skepticism ran through my body. I wanted to believe it but could not let myself. After doing more research than I have ever done in my life, I discovered they were legitimate and I accepted the contract. So I sat on ready for a while, neglecting practically every other area of my life. But time passed and I did not hear anything further from them and discouragement became a close friend of mine for a while. To make a long story short, the publisher was forced by another publisher to change its name and that put things on hold for at least a year. After the legalities were worked out and the previously published books had been reissued under the new publisher name, OakTara, they were back in business and started issuing new titles.
So you want to know when To Dance Once More will be available. I have been told that everything is moving along and it should be out by early summer 2011. My second novel, Song of the Meadowlark, will be following soon after. My third novel, After the Raging Storm, is still in the crock pot and I will submit it for their review when I have it as it needs to be. In the meantime, I am writing the sequel to To Dance Once More, entitled To Laugh Once More, and hope to receive a contract on it, as well.
The process for me began in 1974 with that first children’s story. 1985 marked the year of the first full-length manuscript, which perished in the fire. 1993 birthed To Dance Once More, which is just now coming to life on the page for you to read. 1997 began my journey through homeschooling and 2011 will forever go down in history as the year that I completed one calling (homeschooling) and launched the ever-awaited career as a writer – I mean, AUTHOR – for I never gave up!