Seventeen months, two pinecones in my pocket…and a book contract.
Hope. Such a small word, isn’t it? Four little letters, tasked with holding one of the most immeasurable things in our universe.
But oh, how it lined the hearts of five authors when we began e-mailing nearly a year and a half ago about a possible collaboration project involving one single bottle, travelling across the ages and changing lives. So much so, that the stronghold of hope slipped into our proposed collection as a major theme.
When word came a few months back that an offer was on the table for our novella collection, that hope soared! The news came shortly before I was about to depart for Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference—the very place I first stepped into the writing world four years ago. This was my first time back since then… and this time I got to pack something extra special: a book contract to sign.
You would think it would be pretty straightforward, right? Put pen on paper. Sign. Faint. Come to. Mail contract.
But I have a knack for accidentally finding the wackiest path to any given destination, so things took a wild turn. And so begins the tale of the three (plus a failed attempt) signings.
The failed attempt:
At first, I planned to sign it at daybreak, just me and a pen and paper on a mountaintop near a cross (Dramatic much, Amanda?). Sort of a testament to who I write for, why I write, and where it all began. Mount Hermon hosts a pre-dawn hike to the cross each year on Palm Sunday. I went four years ago, and remember how touched I was by the words a woman spoke as she laid her writing bag at the foot of the cross, a symbol of desiring to worship the True Author with our words. What better place to sign a contract? I thought. I envisioned slipping away from the group, just for a moment, and signing with a prayer. But… to my shame, I slept in and missed the entire hike this time around. (Anticlimactic much, Amanda?)
Then, I had the great joy of meeting with my agent while I was at the conference—and when she discovered I had my contract with me, she proposed something I hadn’t even dared to dream of in the busy-ness of the conference: a celebratory signing, together. She gets to be present for so few of her client’s contract signings, and this was such a special idea to me. A gift, really—that the amazing Wendy Lawton, who somehow saw something in my writing four years ago and offered representation at that very conference, would be present when I got to sign my very first contract, in the very same venue. She gathered others who are so special to me to share in the signing: Books and Such president Janet Grant, and my dear friend and craft partner, Joanne Bischof (who also had a contract on the way to sign for this collection—hers just happened to be en route at that point.).
We asked one of the dining room servers if he could snap a picture for us, and you should have seen that young man light up! Photography was a passion of his, and he excitedly told me how he’d recently finished a photography class. I gave him free reign on the camera, and I don’t know what was more thrilling—the shared moment with dear friends, or the look of pure excitement on his face to be doing something he loved so much!
(Sidenote: If you know Wendy, you know her pens and the beautiful care she takes in selecting writing instruments that are tangible joy to write with. She loaned me a fountain pen that was pure magic! Thank you, dear Wendy!! For sharing the moment, for sharing your pen, and for sharing the dream and hope of seeing such stories set into the world.)
Did I mention that I needed to sign three copies of the contract? Just a formality, but before I left for home, on the very last day of the conference, I decided that since I had a contract to spare, it was time to re-visit the idea of signing somewhere personally significant, just me and the paper and—well, not the sunrise, clearly, but a close second: the giant redwoods. I slipped off into the woods, retracing a path I’d walked early in the morning praying over many, many things that first visit all those years ago. On the way this time, I stopped to find a perfect pine cone for each of my kids—the souvenir I’d promised them when I told them about the beautiful forest I’d be visiting, the way the trees reached into the sky and life grew lush and abundant all around.
I lugged my writing bag over one shoulder, slipped my other hand into my vest pocket, and fingered those precious pinecones, thinking of the young hearts they were bound for. Thinking how God is the weaver of dreams, the giver of great gifts—and how as much as I love and pour my heart into writing stories, the young hearts in my care are the greatest stories I’ll ever pour into here on this earth. I prayed that He’d help me remember to always, always pluck proverbial pinecones before setting pen to paper, as long as I have breath.
(Yes, that is a dip pen [That’s another story for another day, deserving of its own blog post… also filled with hope. Thank you, dear friend Kelli!]. And my tennis shoes. It’s hard to take a selfie when juggling an open inkwell of jet-black ink just looking for an excuse to spill, sitting on a damp step in the forest, and trying not to look ridiculous as an entourage of teenagers is quickly approaching on the trail!)
When I got home, e-mails continued to fly, and we began to scheme amongst ourselves about how we would like to invite you, dear readers, into this journey with us. We decided that a collective collage of each of our signings, and a shared day to open our hearts to you about this news we’ve been bursting to tell you, would be just the ticket. But each of the pictures that started to come in were of these beautiful ladies, poised with pens and contracts in hand in their welcoming homes—and here I had a picture of my feet in a forest. Ha! Talk about bursting continuity. Luckily, I had one last contract copy that needed signing…
The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, coming February 2017 from Barbour Publishers (thank you to the wonderful Barbour team for all you’ve done to bring this collection to life!)
More details will follow, but in the meantime, can I just take a moment to gush about these incredible ladies you see pictured above? Heather Day Gilbert, Jocelyn Green, Maureen Lang, and Joanne Bischof (you can visit their websites and say hello to them by clicking on their names above– we’re all so eager to greet you!). Four incredibly talented historical authors, each with a unique and impeccable way of creating characters and plots who live on in your hearts long after the story has ended. They are courageous and gifted women, wonderful friends, and gracious colleagues who don’t laugh too hard when I make typos in my e-mails such as writing “puglicity” when discussing marketing ideas. 😉
So. There you have it. The tale of how the Message in a Bottle Romance Collection came to be. An answered prayer in so many ways, a dream come true to get to write alongside these ladies, and most of all, an honor and joy to get to weave threads of a story that we hope will encourage you with the truth of everlasting hope, and the God who loves you with everything that He is.
True, hope cannot be contained in the four simple letters of its name. And neither can it be bottled up. But oh, what an amazing thing it’s been to magnify the Author of hope through these stories, and how a simple thing like a bottle might carry seedlings of it across the ages, sowing love and changing lives.
We hope you’ll join us along the way!
p.s. Would you like a quick glimpse at the setting of my novella? ‘Tis a land that takes my breath away…can you guess where this place of sweeping beauty is? Comment away with your ideas!