Monday, August 5, 2013

Mischief Managed- Lessons Learned

Don't judge a book by it's cover- especially at a writer's conference.

And I'm not talking about the books.

My first misconception was an agent I was hoping to snag for my first big book deal. I checked her site beforehand, read some of her history and just knew she was going to be the one to launch my blockbuster children's book. 

I. Just. Knew.

I sat across from her eagerly awaiting praise for my work, as well as a big book contract. Before she even had glanced at the book title, she asked me the word count. I told her, and she placed my blockbuster aside. 
"This will not fit within our word counts. Sorry."

She didn't even look at it. I was shocked- she looked so nice and reasonable in her profile picture! Desperate, I asked what the word counts for her agency were. Three hundred to five hundred for a picture book, three thousand to five thousand for a chapter book. My book was within the one thousand word range- the Children's Book Black Hole of Death. If it was anything in between five hundred and three thousand words, she was not interested.
"Why don't you try children's magazines?" 
That was like saying "Let's be friends- but the kind of friends who never contact each other...ever."

I was crushed.

My hopes (and attitude) plummeted from there.

It was then I saw this woman walk by. I had seen her around the conference earlier, but now I was fully into my snarkitude so I took note of everything she had that I had envied in life.

She was thin. She was pretty. She had an air of confidence swirling about her stylish summer dress. I could even see this aura of spiritually around her that radiated like a small sun, and she had blond hair and big blue eyes.

Dear Lord, I thought to myself, It's Christian Barbie.

I really wanted to hate her. She smiled at everyone, and in turn made everyone smile. Who could hate that? But the real test came at lunch the next day. I was sitting at a table by myself, when she walked by.

Our eyes met for .32 seconds.
Despite my knack for hospitality and the willingness to invite anyone to my table, I quickly dropped my eyes.
She gave me a beaming smile and sat down next to me.
Her tray was adorned with salad, soup and all that healthy thin-people stuff. My plate was filled with the four basic food groups- fat, starch, carbs, and fried. Kill me now, Lord, please kill me now.
But noooo, God had other plans.

More people joined us, and eventually everyone began sharing their life stories. I was so ready to hate her when she told hers. Missionary family as a child. (okay, so she said one mission trip- it still counts because I haven't even gotten past the East Coast, so there.) Wanted that for life, but got stuck in the American Dream (like it was a bad thing, I muttered to myself). She had a big house, a great husband, and two cars- count 'em two. My husband got a ride to work so I could use the car to commute to and from the conference, and it's on it's last legs. Even her voice was sweet and pleasant to hear.

Lemons left to rot in vinegar could not have been more sour than my attitude towards her- though part of me really began liking this woman, this threat to my selfish being.

People started leaving after they ate, but she stayed to talk to me. I kept looking up at the ceiling, wondering when God was going to just let me die in peace- my writing career was going down the toilet after all, so why did He have to have this lady (who was even named after the angels) torment me?

But my stubborn ears refused to listen to my inner rantings, and started listening to her. Traitors.

She had words of encouragement for me. She had a kindness about her that I both envied and welcomed. And the bitterness of the agent's rejection began to fade away, and so had my bad attitude.

This woman didn't know me from Eve, but helped me in ways I could not express. She had actually listened to my bitter life stories (along with the funny ones), and gleaned enough to say just the right thing. Even Christians need to have their hearts re-broken on occasion, and God used Christian Barbie as the chisel.

He is such a Know-It-All.

She prayed with me. She advised me on my heart. And then she hugged me. I hugged back.

On the drive home I prayed and forgave and cried. I did it again, on the way back the next day. And somewhere in between, a sense of peace overcame me. Even my family noticed a difference when I came home. I have to thank her for that, too.

The next two days were vastly different. My appointments went well and I had a request for my materials. It was no book deal, but it was a really good, solid start. She read my examples and said she would save my packet for the plane ride home- reading it when she was tired of reading everyone else's stuff- just so she could laugh and relax. She even tucked it into her personal bag, not where she stashed the other writers' manuscripts.
I could hear the negative part of me whispering 'oh great- she'll read your stuff when she bored with the real writers!' but my spirit said 'Did you hear that? She's going to read your book excerpts when she wants to relax and enjoy herself! That means she would rather read your stuff just like anyone else would- as if you were a real author!'

Oh yeah- bonus points!

On the last day of the conference me and Christan Barbie sat next to each other- and I welcomed her eagerly. I told her the good news, and she cheered along with me. And during the morning presentation (which was awesome by the way), she placed her hand on my knee to get my attention. "You are going to be a great writer and make lots of money with your books." And when I looked at her with a funny retort on my lips, my voice froze. 

It was her speaking, but there was a power behind it that wasn't her own. It was awesome. I almost cried- again.

God broke my heart several times this week. I never did get a book deal (yet), but I came out of it with so much more than I expected. I even made several new friends. One especially.

Mischief managed, and lessons learned. I came home with a better sense of purpose, and that God really does have an active hand in my life- it was only my perspective and attitude that kept His hands at bay!


Kristen said...

Oh my gosh, Beth. I love this! How can you be so truthful and vulnerable and crack me up all at the same time? You really have it!!! Please don't give up. I want the opportunity to buy your books off the shelf someday soon.

Unknown said...

Me too, Beth! That's a gifted writer, who can be so truthful, vulnerable, and make me laugh at the same time! I enjoyed this so much. You made my eyes tear up, made me laugh, and left me with a warm assurance about your writing future. I would love to read the books you write!

Love and blessings!
From Christian Barbie's mother

Beth Brubaker said...

Thank you so much! I had a few nibbles at the writer's conference, but I'm also looking into self publishing too (thanks to Christian Barbie, actually!) So that reality might manifest soon! :)

Don't forget to follow the posts so you can get the updates!

Beth Brubaker said...

@Nancy Groff

Hi Christian Barbie's Mom! You know, they really ought to make a doll like that- don't you think? I'd hate to think Barbie had no motherly support!

Thank you so very much for your words- you made ME cry! Especially when I was writing about your darling daughter- glad to see you aren't going 'Mama bear' on me and hunting me down with a pitchfork.

Truly- I am VERY relieved!

Your daughter promised that she would lovingly hound me until I published something- so please follow this blog for (the eventual) the good news!

Unknown said...

"Christian Barbie" LOL! That cracks me up. Going to be my new nickname for my Angel of Joy. You really are a gifted writher, Beth, and yes, my AJ does carry the Love of God and His Joy wherever she goes. So proud of our girl! Not that it's relevant, but she's 1/4 Brubaker (I'm half). I'm a huge reader, so when you get something out there, let us know. I do all my reading on Kindle, and like AJ told you, it's pretty easy and cheap to self-publish the way she did if you want to do that. Of course, not as much fun as having someone actually pay you to publish, but it's an option to at least get your name out there and build some buzz. Publishers like that.

God bless you, Beth!!

Barbie's Dad (They'll never make a doll like me, unless fat and bald ever become "in"! LOL)

Unknown said...

God was at that conference. I didn't get even a tiny nibble, but I did get an overwhelming sense of contentment. God let me know that I am doing exactly what He wants me to do. He let me know, again, that He makes all things beautiful in His time. (That is the name of my kennel: In His Time). You have a gift, sometimes those gifts need seasoning before they are truly ripe.

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