Saturday, May 15, 2010

Special Guest Saturday: Christa Allan on Her First Sale

The Joy of Publication
by Christa Allan

So many times those seemingly random events in our lives are all part of God's plan. And following God's plan, at least for me, is like listening to that chick who guides me through my navigation system. Only, with God, it's just His voice, and no map for double checking. I have to trust I'm being led in the right place.

I actually started writing in high school. I couldn’t sing, dance, paint, play sports, or act, but I could wield a pen. That’s when I discovered that writing allowed me to explore in much the same way reading did. And it kept me company when I felt alone.

For so many years, I dreamed of walking past a bookstore and seeing my novel in the window. I dared not share that with anyone for fear of being labeled unrealistic or silly or naïve. Had I divulged that dream at the time I may have risked any one or all of those because, the truth is, I had absolutely no idea how it would happen. Well, except for that writing a book thing. Or make that finishing a book thing.

But, throughout my life, God was leaving bread-crumbs along the trail (I would have preferred M&Ms, but He didn’t ask). Over twenty years ago, I worked for a newspaper writing feature stories and a human interest column. It was years, though, before I allowed myself to peek at that faraway dream.

I suppose the journey officially kicked off when my husband surprised me with a laptop. Ever so romantically, he says, "Here, now go write something." And, being the ever- obedient wife, I did. Months later.

At the time, I had started reading Kristen Billerbeck and Lisa Samson because, (are you ready for this?), I liked their book covers. A voracious reader, I'd never picked up Christian fiction; I expected it to be, well, boring and preachy and unrealistic. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Then, because I didn't know any better, I actually had the chutzpah to email Kristen with these incredibly B-A-D one page notions (think giving someone three raw eggs and telling them it's an omelet) of a book. And Kristen, God bless her unselfish soul, responded. Instead of recommending I repeatedly pound myself on the head with my laptop, she offered gentle suggestions. A writer who had absolutely no idea who I was had emailed me. Amazing.

The internet became my information highway to writers both published and unpublished; I searched and researched, zooming by agent and publisher websites and blogs. Making pit stops as often as possible to learn about and enter writing contests, to refuel with the success of those traveling with me.

Three years, a hurricane, and an ACFW conference later, my tenth graders strolled into my classroom and found me, their teacher, staring at my computer monitor. In tears. I had just read an email from Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. She wanted to talk. To me.

Ten months, several passes by publishers, and another ACFW conference later, my new tenth graders strolled into my classroom and found me, their teacher, snapping my cell phone closed. In tears.

Rachelle called to tell me Abingdon Press had just bought my novel.

Having a dream materialize out of the fog of hope and desire continues to be a “pinch-me so I’ll know this is real” experience. It’s exhilarating, fascinating, and humbling. I mean, really. Who am I? A high school teacher who lives in a town whose one traffic signal was replaced by a traffic circle. How could this happen to me?

With every step between the contract and the release of Walking on Broken Glass, I’d feel that ripple of joyful surprise. I continued to be amazed even as I held the Advanced Reader Copy, even as I clicked on Amazon to find the cover there, even as I scheduled book signings and blog tours.

What I’ve come to realize is that God’s navigation system never fails. Even when we take wrong turns, when we detour, when the roads of our lives are under construction. He uses people to redirect us, to encourage us when we’ve traveled for endless miles in the concrete wilderness, to comfort us when we’re sideswiped by unexpected challenges.

Holding my novel, seeing my name on the cover…still moments of wow-ness. Have I arrived? No. I’ve just paid the toll with undeserved grace. The road to other novels stretches out before me. I traveled here by the generosity, patience, and love of others. The difference now is that I’m only the vehicle. And God uses me to help move His people in His direction.

A true Southern woman who knows that any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa Allan’s debut women’s fiction, Walking on Broken Glass, released in February. Her essays have been published in The Ultimate Teacher, Cup of Comfort, Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lover’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul. Christa is the mother of five, a grandmother of three, and a teacher of high school English. She and her husband Ken live in Abita Springs. You can contact Christa at:


Mia said...

Thanks for sharing your writing journey with us, Christa! Loved the good attitude you seemed to have while waiting to see if writing was ever going to take you anywhere. I think one of the biggest things in reaching a dream is to stay positive. It can feel a little hopeless sometimes, otherwise :)

Thanks for sharing your story and encouraging us today (and I wish God would make a path of M&Ms instead of bread crumbs, too ;))

Richard Mabry said...

Christa, Your story always touches me, as does your writing. Thanks for sharing.

Pepper said...

Beautiful story, Christa. Wow. And so timely. I would call your post today a 'word in due season', because there are plenty of opportunities in this writing business to lose focus on God's deliberate hand in our lives...and in our writing.

Thanks for sharing this and I rejoice with you on your publication. Wow! What a great feeling.

You know, I had the same thing happen with Mary Connealy as you did with Kristen B. I emailed Mary, out of the blue, and she asked me to send my first chapter to her. It was the first critique I ever had - and the first time someone (outside of family and friends) who had seen my work and encouraged me in it. That's such a wonderful feeling - and one of those small encouragements or 'bread crumbs' God places along the way.


Terri Tiffany said...

Wow. I really needed to read this one today. I love your voice and I bet it comes through clear in your book. Your story brought tears to my eyes as my own journey keeps getting harder and longer. Thank you for this encouragement.

Krista Phillips said...

LOVE your story, Christa! (and let me tell you, it's hard for me to write that name with a CH instead of a K, ha!)

I can only imagine the joy of each of those steps.. whenever I hear a publication story I sigh happily (whoops, adverb!) which, funny enough, I also do when I hear a "how I met my husband" story, LOL.

Anyway your story is such an inspiration, thanks again for sharing!!!

rbooth43 said...

WOW! Christa, Thanks for taking care and teaching our children. Your story and this interview is such an inspiration to others. I am looking forward to reading Walking on Broken Glass.
God Bless you and everyone connected with The Writer's Alley. I believe I have found new friends.

Tessa Emily Hall said...

"What I’ve come to realize is that God’s navigation system never fails. Even when we take wrong turns, when we detour, when the roads of our lives are under construction. He uses people to redirect us, to encourage us when we’ve traveled for endless miles in the concrete wilderness, to comfort us when we’re sideswiped by unexpected challenges."

So true! Many people don't pursue their dream because they think it's too late, that if they hadn't of made those few mistakes, then maybe they would've been given the promises that God has for them. And even when we don't ask for a certain desire of ours to come true, God still brings people and the right opportunities in our lives to redirect us back to the path he has for us. The mistakes we've made doesn't have to keep us apart from the plan God has for us - instead, they can be apart of it through ministering to others who have/are making the same mistakes. Your novel is a great example of that.

Thanks for sharing your journey with us!


Keli Gwyn said...

Christa, I enjoyed hearing about your journey to publication. How cool that your students got to share in both your Calls. You've given them a real life of example of how perseverance pays off.

I think it's neat that your hubby believed in you, gave you the laptop, and encouraged you to follow your dream. Support like that means so much. He must be very proud of you.

I'm not at all surprised that Rachelle offered you representation and that Abingdon offered you a contract. Walking on Broken Glass is an amazing story. Your Voice is awesome. And I love your creative use of similes and metaphors.

You mentioned the detours and wrong turns we writers can take and the people who help redirect us. What were some of the obstacles you encountered on your journey, and who did the Lord use to get you back on track?

Laura Frantz said...

Wonderful to meet Christa here. Her title is amazing! I would snatch the book off the shelf given that alone:) Love that you said, "God's navigation system never fails." I can testify to that, also. Bless you as you bless readers and write for Him.

Diane Marie Shaw said...

Christa, thank you for sharing your journey, what an encouragement.
The writers I surround myself with from my writer's guild, Words for the Journey, offer teaching, comfort and celebration to each person. I can't imagine this journey without this group of women.

Christa Allan said...

God bless all of you for your thoughtful and kind words. I'm taking a break from grading and procrastinating writing two exams...after every two or three sets of papers, I allow myself a few minutes of internet time. I'm such a nerd.

Keli, one huge obstacle was Hurricane Katrina.It uprooted us for two years and arrived when I was smack dab in the middle of WOBG. I put it aside for almost two years.

Then, I listened to what I'm certain were well-meaning people attempting to save me from myself who said any or all of the following: no agent/editor is going to touch a novel that focuses on alcoholism (some would add "and especially from a new author" to that), get rid of the prologue, don't use first and third person because agents/editors won't like that (ultimately Leah's journal entries were 1st person, but not until after Abingdon bought the book)...

I actually shoved WOBG aside to try writing romance (good thing I can get that right in real life because I sure couldn't as a writer!), mystery (when your manuscript's a mystery, you know you're not where you're supposed to be) and YA (that one might work...).

But every time I'd veer away from WOBG, I'd feel like I was abandoning my child. I knew, no matter what, that I had to finish that novel.

Casey said...

So wonderful to see all these great comments, thanks for stopping by to check out Christa's writing. I can testify that WOBG is a great novel and one of the best I read this year. Be sure and check it out if you haven't already. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

What a delight to see you press on in your writing journey despite objection and trial. You demonstrated strength and courage when you wrote to Kristen, and she demonstrated graciousness. Your writing journey has been a tree sprouting with the fruit of the Spirit.
Thanks for sharing with us today.
P.S. The laptop gift from your hubby was great! Mine did the same for me, so I know how happy you were:)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Hi Christa! I'm so glad you came to share your story, because it is Beautiful! I find it encouraging that you hold down a full time job and yet find the time to write. I know first hand how very difficult that is and I struggle. So anyone who does it successfully is a hero in my book! (not my actual book, per se)

Blessings on you and your work!