And now, Cara Putman.
In September 2006, I walked into my second ACFW conference. I was excited to see friends I’d met the prior year. I also couldn’t wait to hear Liz Curtis Higgs speak. I knew I would learn so much to improve my writing and hoped to meet some editors who might be interested in my writing.
Little did I know what God had in store for me.
At the opening evening that year in Dallas, I could feel the energy in the air. One of the exciting things about the ACFW conference is that Heartsong Presents and Barbour Publishing often award first-time contracts at the conference. It is an amazing time, getting to sneak a peek as an author gets his or her very first contract, a life-changing event that usually occurs with a phone call or message that no one else gets to see.
In 2005 when the conference was in Nashville, I watched Mary Connealy receive her first contract. As I sat at the table that’s when I realized this might actually be possible. I mean if she could get a contract, couldn’t I? Wasn’t it possible? Seeds of hope were planted in me by watching Mary’s moment.
Little did I know that 2006 would be my year.
I’m sitting at a table with a few friends waiting for the opening keynote address. Then Brandilyn Collins invited the Barbour editors to the podium. When JoAnne Simmons approached the podium, the excitement rose in the room. She held an envelope and said it contained an offer to publish Canteen Dreams.
My breath caught and my friends screamed. My mentor Colleen Coble was across the ballroom and I could hear her shriek. As I made my way to the front, she met me and gave me the world’s largest hug and spun me around.
Shaking, I accepted the letter then made my way back to the table. Pam Meyers slid a cell phone to me, but I waved her off. After a moment, I decided she was on to something and headed outside and called my husband. I’m amazed he could understand me.
The wonderful thing about ACFW is that everyone celebrates with me. Throughout the conference people congratulated me.
Now you need to understand a bit about my frame of mind as I drove to the airport EARLY in the morning I received the contract. Late the night before I’d received an email from an agent who’d considered taking me on as a client since the prior year’s conference that I wasn’t a great fit. I appreciated her honesty, but it kind of spun me around.
Add to it the fact that the editors I had connected with at Heartsong Presents were no longer there. JoAnne had started over the summer, and I just knew my proposal and manuscript had disappeared in the transition. I walked in to the conference without an agent and without a connection to the house I’d written the book of my heart for. Everything I’d anticipated had disappeared.
As I drove to the airport, tears coursed down my cheeks as I turned over my expectations once again to God. I know that I only wanted to write if that was what God had for me. I didn’t want to force it, but it was a deep desire of my heart. That drive felt like I was offering an Isaac/dream in my life to God.
Then, God gives me this amazing gift. A public contract award. It was the beginning of an amazing emotional rollercoaster. Would JoAnne realize she’d made a mistake. Put the wrong name on the letter? Fortunately for me, she didn’t. Instead, that first contract led to five more books, all set during my favorite time period. The stories of my heart written to honor a generation of heroes.
Dreams do come true. For me Tracie and Jim Peterson encouraged me at the 2005 conference and after as I developed Canteen Dreams based on a conversation Jim and I had. Then JoAnne Simmons decided she saw something in a simple story of a couple finding love in the early days of World War II and gave me a chance. I will always be grateful for the doors they opened for me.
If you are still waiting, pray. Hold your dreams out to God. Trust Him to care more about your dreams than you do. And trust Him to provide the perfect time and home for your stories. He will.
Thank you, so much, Cara, for sharing your story with us.
As an added bonus, leave a comment, and you might win a copy of Cara's debut novel, Canteen Dreams. I've read it, and I know you won't be disappointed. I'll announce the winner next Monday.
Question for you: If you are published, what was your reaction to your own first contract? If you are not yet published, have you imagined what you will do or say?