Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A First Contract Story - Mary Connealy

I am one of the most blessed individuals on the planet, in that I have as a dear friend and mentor, the incomparable Mary Connealy. If there is a more genuine or giving writer out there, I haven't met her yet. Love you, Mary!

Mary Connealy's First Contract Story

My first writer’s conference ever was ACFW and I’d never done anything like attending a writer’s conference before. It took all the courage I had, plus the begging and pleading and….let’s face it ladies…threatening of my critique group to get me to that conference when I found myself a double finalist in the Noble Theme Contest (now the Genesis). Vickie McDonough was the third finalist in my category.
I went but it was so terrifying, I just never did stuff like this. I sat alone at my desk, all alone, so very, very alone…I was happy there. That’s what makes me a writer, that odd ability to sit alone having both sides of a conversation myself. That is much less likely to earn you weird looks (especially if your lips move) if you’re writing a book. But my critique group lured me out of my lovely private world and I attended the conference and I won. I won. I’m sorry, repeating myself doesn’t advance this story at all, but let me just say one more time.

I won.

As a result of this contest that I WON, I got requests from eleven different publishers for five books. That may not be accurate. The number seems to go up every time I tell this story.
At any rate, I got asked for a lot of books. And I had a lot of books written, so I had something for almost everyone. One of those requests was for Scent of Heaven. A lovely contemporary romance about a hermit woman who grew roses and made candles with the scented blossoms and the big city boy who wants to build a mansion up the hill from her that will destroy her rose garden.

It’s a beautiful book.

And then the rejections started rolling in. The only one that didn’t end in a rejection was Barbour Publishing, they showed interest in Scent of Heaven –This wasn’t the book that had won the Noble Theme Contest by the way, that was Petticoat Ranch.

I went back and forth with them about edits and trying to revise the book to suit them.

When it was nearly time for the next conference Cathy Marie Hake, who had asked to see my contest finalist entry at ACFW the year before, asked me if I’d like to go in on a three book series with her and Kathleen Y’Barbo?

Absolutely YES!

So we got a proposal together and Cathy sent it off and then came the conference, my SECOND conference. This time I was excited to go.

Every year at the ACFW conference Barbour Publishing gives out a contract to an unpublished author. My first year, Vickie McDonough (nickname—The Show-off) got named the recipient of that contract. The second year I knew I had a shot. Barbour had been talking with me for most of a year about Scent of Heaven.

Well, just before the big moment, the evening dinner where Barbour would make the announcement, Lena Nelson Dooley came up to me and told me she knew Jim Peterson—who, with his wife Tracie Peterson was the acquiring editor for Barbour’s Heartsong Presents line, wanted to work with me. I can’t remember exactly what Lena (nickname—The Brat) said to me but whatever it was, I took it to mean….work with me someday…just not yet.

I was totally deflated. Anyway, I mentally squared my shoulders, determined to work harder, learn more and get a book to Jim that he’d love enough to buy.

So, the evening event came. Tracie Peterson went to the microphone. I had no hope (thank you, Lena) and Tracie announced the recipient of the contract was (please supply your own drumroll) Kathy Kovach!!!


Kathy (nickname—The Canary in the Mineshaft) was seated about one table over from me and I can still hear her screaming. I saw her blow out of her seat. I clapped. I was happy for her. I WAS!!!! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Kathy went up to receive her contract. As she came down off the stage, Tracie said, “And this year we’re giving two contracts and the other one goes to Mary Connealy.

I get chills writing this. Of course the air conditioning in my building is set on frost, but still it was a wonderful moment. It’s all a blur after that. I didn’t scream like Kathy. I almost curled up in a ball. Two people slammed into me. A vague memory suggests it might have been Audra Harders and Debby Guisti, who were already my Seeker buddies back then.

I started crying…and I am sooooooooo not a crier. I suspect it’s a tear duct issue because I never cry. I tear up sometimes but never cry. Not at my children’s graduations or weddings. Not at funerals. Never.
But I did. And not crazed sobbing, tears just started to leak out of my deformed tear ducts. I couldn’t stop them. I walked up front and at this point I think Ruthy Logan Herne (another Seeker) leapt out in the aisle and hugged me.  She’s a skinny little thing. She’s lucky she survived the impact. And that hug may have been on the way back to my seat—like I said, I was stunned.

I walked up to the stage and, standing down on the floor in front of the stage, I reached up for the contract and I can remember this so clearly, Tracie said very kindly(like she was speaking to a slightly backward fourth grader), “Come up on the stage, Mary.”

Dumb thing to remember, huh?

So, because I’m happiest sitting behind my computer having both sides of a conversation myself, I reluctantly went up on the stage and Cathy Marie Hake and Kathleen Y’Barbo were there. I tell you this because it’s important but it really didn’t register that it was important at that moment.

We all hugged. I got salt water on everyone, then I took the paper Tracie Peterson gave me and went back to my seat. I sat there crying quietly for quite a while…minutes at least. Then it occurred to me to look at the papers Tracie had handed me. It didn’t tell me I’d been given a contract for Scent of Heaven a book that had as it’s most endearing trait…being finished.


It was for the proposed book with Cathy and Kathleen…which would explain what they were doing up there.

I needed to quit crying and go home and write a book.

 Erica Here:

Go home and write a book was exactly what Mary did. That first contract, for Golden Days, led to about a zillion more. Her latest is Out of Control, and you can find it by clicking HERE.


  1. Wow! I had no idea that Mary was one of the Barbour ACFW conference contract awardees. Don't ask me where I heard it, but I was under the impression she got an eighteen-book contract her first time out. Learning that she started small gives me hope. Not that I dare hope to follow in Mary's footsteps. No one can produce books rabbit style like Mary (except perhaps, you Erica), but it makes me feel good knowing that she was once a debut author moved to tears like I was when my first book sold. Her career has taken off more quickly than any hare, and I'm thrilled for her.

  2. What a great story! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Bethany sent out the notice that Mary's newest book was available for reading/review. I requested it immediately, but since they never let you know if you're one of the "lucky 100" I'll just have to wait another week or so to see if I – okay, it will most likely be Ann first, then me – get to read it and review it. Here's hoping so!

    Fun story. And for those who read your blog and don't know what the two of you are like when together… here's a brief report:

    • closed down coffee shops (no, I mean they really closed them; drank all their tea and workers fled!)
    • caused police to come to motel rooms at conferences
    • caused the Stimp-meter to break from pure hilarity whenever they meet

    Okay, so none of this is true, but you should hear the real stories!

  4. I love Mary's books. Can always count on a hearty laugh through them!

  5. Keli, an 18 book contract right out of the gate? You know, I could have handled that. I had twenty finished books on my computer.
    I've still got a few, too. Looking for a home...or to be improved enough to deserve a home. Until then my homeless books are pushing a shopping cart around downtown, begging for food.

  6. Hi Julie...the heroine of Out of Control is named Julia. You'd probably enjoy that, and should no doubt immediately buy a copy of it for everyone on your Christmas list.

  7. Kevin, it was all going fine until Erica started to wrestle with the poor woman who was mpping the floors.

    Police involvement was a complete over reaction on that restaurant's part.

  8. Hi Eileen. Thank you for the kind words. More strangers think I'm funny than people who actually know me. Apparently, in large doses, I get a little annoying.

  9. I knew that Mary won the contract but hadn't heard many details, such as the nicknames and other commentary. So glad to hear the rest of the story! I laughed and nearly teared up throughout (as opposed to Mary, my tears ducts usually work overtime). :)

  10. All I can figure out, Karen, is that my life is so wretched tht tears are just beyond me at this point.

    One possible reason.

  11. There's only 'Mary!'

    None of my first attempts will ever see the light of day ;0

  12. Awww, I LOVED that story!!! What a good one. Plus, I have Golden Days on my shelf but haven't gotten to it. I love knowing it was her first contract. Wonderful, inspirational post, ladies! Thank you. ;-)

  13. Sherri, someday soon they will be begging for every scrap of paper you've ever written on. Save those grocery lists!!!!

  14. Jessica, you've never read Golden Days? It's like....400 words long, girl.

  15. Cindy Regnier7:26 PM

    Wonderful story! It gives hope to some of us who have never had a contract or won an award - yet! I am reading 'Out of Control' on my Kindle right now. I love it! Keep up the fantastic writing, Mary!!

  16. Anonymous10:49 PM

    Personally, Mr. Book Look is more inclined to believe the story about an 18 book contract right out the gate. Mary writes the absolute best dedications!!!!!! (Something I hardly ever read.)


    This is such an honor!!!

    I dedicated Out of Control to him!

  18. I loved reading this! It gives me hope, but it also makes me realize how individual every writer's journey is. Thanks for sharing. :)