Wednesday, September 20, 2006

At Long Last...

I mean that.

It has been a long time coming, what arrived recently at my house: a package from the warehouse where my freshly printed and bound books are stacked neatly on shelves, awaiting the orders sure to come. The label on the box said NavPress and I knew the treasure in side, thirty copies of Praying for Dear Life: A Reason to Rise, Strength for the Day, Courage to Face the Night.

As I have mentioned in other posts, it has been thirty years since I knew I wanted to write and had some reason to believe I could. It has been twenty-eight years since I first read Buechner and knew that spiritual memoir, especially as refracted through the Bible (or vice versa) was the kind of writing I wanted to do. It has been 26 years since my first little book was released, a pretty feeble collaborative with a couple of friends of mine from seminary (and while Lauren Winner says we cannot refer to our books as little, this one was little, as was the second booklet, a worship resource written solo, a few years later). It has been six years since the idea for this book came to me in a Bojangle's in Monroe, NC, the day after Christmas and the day before I was rushed to the hospital with something called labrynthitis (chronicled briefly in chapter 1). It has been two and one-half years since I took an armload of proposals and partial manuscripts to Calvin College for the Festival of Faith and Writing, where the first person I saw was an editor named Rachelle Gardner who read it and asked to see a bit more. I was crazy nervous, and even more so when I saw her left eye-brow arch-up and she invited me to sit down (see her take on this scene at

It has been nineteen months since I started doing serious rewrites and fourteen months since the final manuscript was finally handed in...and why it has taken so long, I do not know, but now I have a box of books on my kitchen table and great thanksgiving in my heart that this part of the journey is behind me. Though, truth to tell, like the Israelites when they finally reach the promised land, I sometimes look back fondly toward the wilderness. It was such harrowing fun working with Liz Heaney. Harrowing, and fun. It was so frustrating waiting for Rachelle to answer my emails, tell me the latest, but there was always good conversation to be had. It was a struggle, but I have learned so much.

Will I do it again? Well, I have a manuscript that NavPress will publish next year at this time and then, who knows. Terry said it would depend on sales, whether NavPress would want me to do more. For me, the question is more internal than that. Have I said all I have to say? Maybe. maybe not. Wherever the road before me leads, the road behind has led me here, and at long last there are books on my table with my name on them and Buechner's below mine and I know of twenty that have sold and of a few I will give seeds cast from the hand of a patient sower, or I could hope as much, hoping some of them find fertile soils, that the reviewers (if there are any) do not gobble them up like crows, that other books do not choke them off too soon and that other more luminous works do not scorch them to death.

I am thankful to have come this far.

PS It was on September 11, the anniversary of the attacks which will remain a part of our national identity--allowing us, sadly, to imagine ourselves evermore as innocent victims and undaunted overcomers, American Adams all over again, as the author said--that I received the package from NavPress. I wonder what that confluence means?

1 comment:

R.G. said...

Tom -- congratulations seems such a weak word for a time like this. Praise God! That's more like it. But I also send some praise your way -- for taking the words God laid on your heart and following them where they led. It has been quite a journey so far, hasn't it?

I know you have many more books in you. Never doubt that. And with people shuffling around in the industry, I know you have some fans at other publishing houses. There will always be a place for you!

I wish I could write more... I was wanting to respond to your last blog post but haven't yet. Suffering some dysthymia myself (or perhaps its just sub-clinical depression) and having the worst writing crisis. Deadlines loom, I'm growing further behind, and I don't know what's wrong with me. Could use some prayer if you think of it...