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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This Is My Story - Deanna Klingel

Deanna Klingel

How God Saved
My Writing Career
Deanna K. Klingel
I’d been working on Avery and Gunner’s Civil War series for a few years. Two major publishers in New York were interested, one was interested in the film rights. The agents took the books to New York to meet with the publishers.

One editor sounded so excited. She said they are “so polished, so ready, there’s no way they wouldn't take them. Let the bidding begin!”

This was all new to me, but I was excited. The summer passed, and no word. In the fall, I called the agents in London to ask about the situation. They said the publisher was asking for some specific things they knew I’d never agree to. The editor had already told me how she’d enjoyed working with me, how easily and quickly I agreed to suggestions, had no problem with making changes. So, this surprised me. What kind of changes did they know I’d not agree to? They told me. I was stunned.
The Avery and Gunner stories are set in 1861-1865, the American Civil War. Avery, fourteen years old, lived in the far reaches of Virginia, which became West Virginia. He’s been homeschooled by two very educated Quaker parents from Boston. How bad could this kid be? I’d worked so hard to keep everything in the proper time frame. They wanted him to behave with 21st century values. They had specific behaviors in mind between him and fourteen-year-old Claire, his friend. They said that’s what it takes to get kids interested. It had to be “edgy.” 

The agents were right, of course. I make changes easily and rapidly, but I will not compromise my character, his Christian values, to sell books. This just wasn’t who he was. I know this boy. He’d lived in my heart for five years. He wouldn’t do the things these publishers were asking him to do. There’s enough “edgy” already out there; I don’t need to add to it.

They said it was a “deal breaker.” I said okay. I think young readers deserve the best literature we can give them. They don’t always “choose” the edgy. That’s what is marketed to them. Let’s offer them a choice.
I had a long talk with God about this. I thought He wanted me to write. Maybe I was wrong. I asked him for an answer. I can do a lot of things. What was it He wanted me to do? I asked him not to be subtle. Smack me in the face with the answer. I have to know. I put Avery in the drawer and told him he might be there for the rest of my life.

In only a day or two, I received an email that was very odd. I didn’t recognize who had sent it, but it was some kind of a poster. The children, end-to-end, created a large 2. I’d never seen this before. I hit Print, shut down for the day, and forgot about it.
In the morning, a paper was dangling from my printer. There was no breeze or draft in the loft and I was the only thing there that was moving. The dangling paper began to wave. It was the big 2. It was an invitation to Write 2 Ignite. Never heard of it. It said it was a Christian Writers’ Conference. Never knew about that, either. Christian writers? I’m a Christian. I’m a writer. I’d never thought about it as an entity! That must mean there are more of us. Huh. I never knew. The conference only cost $90, significantly less than all the others I’d been to. It was only an hour and a half from home. It only lasted two days. It was on a weekend that was clear on my calendar. I prayed about it and decided to give it a try.

The keynote speaker, Vonda Skelton, blew me right out of the chair. When she looked directly at me and said “There is room in this world for your work. The world needs your work. The world needs Christian writing,” I believed God was answering me. The first class session I attended, the instructor said, “Don’t ever compromise your values in your work. You don’t need to do that to sell books.” I don’t know what else was said, that was all I needed to hear.

In between classes I poked my head into her empty classroom to say thank you. I told her that her words had meant a lot to me. She asked me to come in and talk to her. “Tell me what your experience has been; why was this important to you?” So, I told her about the Avery and Gunner experience and how I wondered if I should give it up. She leaned back and said, “Hm. I’d like to have a look at that. Would you mind?” She handed me her business card. She was Nancy Lohr, Acquisitions Editor for Journey Forth at BJU Press.
She read and fell in love with dear Avery. Avery’s Battlefield came out few months later in March (2011), followed in September by Avery’s Crossroad. God answered me gently but succinctly. I knew then that I would write for Him, and all things are possible then, isn’t that so? Bread Upon the Water released in June, Cracks in the Ice this month, and three others are shopping. The Avery books and Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog (2010) are all doing very well. God’s hand is all over it.

(Click anywhere on the above paragraph for a link to Amazon, where all of the mentioned books can be purchased.)