All In

This day has been a long time coming. I can't remember a time in my adult life when I wasn't working towards getting a literary agent. It's an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish—for a number of reasons—and so many wonderful authors end up going on to pursue other, less traditional, ways of publishing because of it. (I am one of those authors, too, as you might already know.)

Before I talk about my new book, I want to share the story of how I got to this place. You might not care very much about the details, but when I was searching for encouragement, perusing the websites of some of my favorite writers, this was exactly the kind of content I was hoping to find. I wanted to read their stories. I wanted to see what the process had been like for them.

And now, much to my disbelief, it's my turn.

At the beginning of the year, I was feeling incredibly restless. I hadn't worked on a big project (i.e. a book) in a long time, and my book proposal was just sitting on my computer where I could easily ignore the fact that it wasn't quite ready to be submitted. As a creative person, I go through spurts of time when I'm working on tons of writing projects and reading constantly and then, suddenly, everything is finished and I fall into a spiral of Netflix bingeing and searching for random facts on the internet. My eyeballs start to bleed from mindlessly staring into the blue abyss of my devices and my heart starts to grow discontented. I'll recognize my discontent and pray about it, and then go back to watching Netflix. Finally, after a few more weeks, I'll dust myself off, shower, and get back to real life. It's a whole thing.

My New Year's restlessness was different, though, and I could feel the quiet pull of the Holy Spirit as She prepped me for something more than just another project. This is how She always gets my attention. It's rarely ever an actual word, though that has happened once or twice. It's usually an inkling, a feeling that stirs and sticks around for weeks while I pretend it's not there until I finally say, "Okay, okay, FINE. What do You WANT?" It's similar to having an injury, one that starts off easy enough to ignore and then grows in intensity. I don't mean to imply that the Holy Spirit does damage to us; simply that She will continue to persist in spite of our opposition. She loves us. She wants what is best for us. She is our Helper and our PerSister.

Anyway, I remember sitting in my office, staring out the window (as one does), and saying, "I know You have something coming for me this year. I hope it's a good thing. Please get me ready for it."

Then I went on about my life. I avoided my book proposal for a few more weeks because I'd worked on it for over half of 2017 and it took a lot out of me. My new book is nonfiction and it tackles so many of the same things I've written about here over the years, stuff that's emotionally taxing and brings me back to places I don't always want to go. I thought that my restlessness meant I needed more purpose, a new dream. I sincerely considered opening a bookstore. (Still a dream of mine, but one I'm not ready for just yet.) I thought about making music. I was desperate for another creative project. Writing beckoned me. I told writing where she could shove it.

In March, I begrudgingly went back to finish the book proposal, which—as I suspected it would—filled me with the sense of purpose I had been seeking. And that same month I sent the much-improved proposal out to over twenty literary agents. (Shoutout to my friend and former editor Steph for helping me along the way.)

Immediately, I received a response from one of the biggest Christian agencies in the country. She said she really loved the content but that my platform (i.e. my influence) wasn't big enough. In short, they didn't think I was important enough or that they'd be able to garner a profit from my books. I had been expecting this. Writers with much bigger followings than I are rejected because of platform all the time. It's just a part of the world we live in now.

More rejections followed. Lots of them. Some, like the first, were encouraging.

In early April, I got a bite. An agent who had more than thirty years of experience in publishing, including a nearly decade-long stint at Thomas Nelson, wrote back and began asking questions about the content. It wasn't a yes, but it also wasn't a no. He made some great points about my chapters and we volleyed back and forth, sometimes with a month of time between emails, until mid-June when he sent this one-liner back to me just before I went on vacation:

"Make those changes to the proposal and send it back to me for review."

I was happy but also very, very confused.

"Changes? You mean you want me to edit this thing before we actually have an author-agent agreement? Isn't this the kind of work we do after you give me a contract?"

My husband told me to do the work because this agent was likely looking to see how I applied both criticism and writing deadlines. And he was right.

(Also, let me be crystal clear that I wasn't for a SECOND not going to do the re-writes. I might have been tired of working on the proposal, but I am not a dumbass. Usually.)

The agent's critiques were thoughtful and right on target. He helped me approach my chapters from a different angle and they are SO much better because of it. On the day I re-submitted the proposal, I remember thinking that even if he ultimately sent me a rejection, my work was all the better for it.

But (obviously) HE DIDN'T. And last Friday I pulled up my inbox to see this beautiful message waiting for me:

"Wendi, we are all in!"

You guys, I sobbed. I paced around my house and repeated, "Oh my God, I can't believe it" over and over like the slightly-unhinged person that I am. Lucy came and rubbed my back because, poor kid, her little brain could not compute happiness with the sobbing mess of a mother she saw before her.

(Get used to it, sweetheart. Mama likes a good cry.)

"We are all in."

When I think of where I was five years ago, sitting in this very room, I cannot even speak for the graciousness of God. He is such a good Father. There were moments during that season when I wanted to end it all, when even trying to picture how I would survive the next day felt crushing. Panic-inducing. To even attempt thinking of my life five years from that moment was pure folly. It would cause my chest to constrict with fear and trembling. The future, in that present, was nothing but terror.

Here's why I cried so hard when I got that final email. I was ecstatic about finally having an agent, certainly, but more than anything else I was overcome with the realization that the very thing I thought would kill me was the very thing that got me here. The sorrow that nearly drowned me became the tide that lifted me back onto dry land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.'" -Jeremiah 29:11

It wasn't my first novel that secured me an agent. It wasn't even my second. It was the faithfulness of a heavenly Father who used all the tiny broken fragments of my pain to help me create something beautiful. It was the story of that pain, and those lessons, that finally led someone with influence to look at my work and say, "Wendi, we are all in."

"We are all in."

So am I, Lord. So am I.

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