Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Author Spotlight - Write, Critique, and Learn by BJ Robinson
I sat in a college classroom at Southeastern Louisiana University in 1988 when an errand runner delivered a long, slim envelope. “Barbara, this is for you,” my journalism teacher said as he looked in my direction and motioned me to his desk.
I tore open the beginning of my writing dream and found a check for $25 and a letter congratulating me because my short story won first prize and was being published in Gambit, the university’s literary magazine. My heart jumped for joy because I felt my passion and love for writing was finally vindicated. Surely if my writing could win first prize in fiction-writing competition, I could find a publisher, but it wasn’t that easy.
I believed I could have a career doing what I loved. I finished college with journalism articles published in the campus newspaper and other poems, articles, and short stories published in local newspapers. I planned to become a teacher and follow in one of my favorite teacher’s footsteps. In the third grade, the principal’s wife, also my teacher, submitted my pet dog story to the local newspaper, and it was published. One day I hoped I could bring students the joy I felt and carry on her tradition.
My first college essay about an April flood was published in another local newspaper. I felt like a writer. One dream I had was to someday become a published Chicken Soup author. I’m still striving, but I haven’t given up. One of my creative-writing students beat me to it and that was almost as good.
The journey to publication of a novel has been a long, hope-filled one. I took my first-prize winning short story and developed it into my published novel today, Southern Superstitions. Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc. in California published it January 15, 2012, but they weren’t the first ones I tried. After turning the short story into a novel, I submitted it to a traditional Christian publishing house.
A couple of months later, my eager heart pounded as I realized the envelope I pulled from the mailbox was from them. I ripped it open and jumped for joy once again as my eyes scanned phrases like eloquently written, bright with vivid dialogue, beautiful, strong, believable characters. I wasn’t just a daydreaming egg. A big-name Christian publisher’s editor liked my novel, but it wasn’t long before my eyes fell upon the last line. As I read that after careful consideration the publisher decided not to take on the novel since they felt it didn’t fit with their list of other titles, my hopes sunk. Another rejection letter. Yet, it was the best one I’d ever received. I thought about the writer who’d written it. What eloquent prose. Such a great way to let someone down. She was a writer, one who’d ripped my world apart with one line. Yet, she gave me hope to carry on at the same time. I submitted the same manuscript to another publishing house and another editor phoned me. With eager anticipation, I thought surely this was it. I’d paid my dues. Little did I know at the time, I hadn’t even started, or as Mom would say what I’d done wasn’t a drop in the bucket compared to what I still needed to accomplish. He loved the manuscript, but once again, he couldn’t sway the review board.
Tears trickled from the corners of my eyes, and I wiped them away with the back of my hand. Once home, I stuffed the letter and the manuscript into a file cabinet and forgot about it for years. They say let your writing set. I did.
My dream was to become a published Christian author, so one day I yanked it out and rewrote, edited, and layered after years of honing my skills and craft by joining a critique group and taking various writing classes. I developed enough confidence to submit the manuscript again, but not without more tears first.
I’d entered the novel in a contest. Unlike my short story, it didn’t win, but I had success in a different way and published over a dozen devotionals. I wish I could say I ended up published by a traditional Christian publisher, but life isn’t a fairytale.
When it didn’t win the contest, I changed the title and did a bit more tweaking and editing. The eBook market boomed so I thought why not. This time I hadn’t wasted paper or stamps. I’d submitted by email. There was no slim envelope to tear apart. I opened an email from Gail R. Delaney, Editor-in-Chief of Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc. and read, Thank you very much for your submission. You sent this just under the wire, as I closed submissions today until at least July. Right now, our schedule for 2011 is full, but I am interested in the novel.
Soon another email arrived. She wanted to move up the publishing date. I go by B. J. Robinson as a writer, and I’m a multi-published, award-winning writer with two novels under my belt and another one, Whispering Cypress releases August 11. In October. One Rainy Summer, my first YA novel releases. I’m an avid reader and a passionate writer. When I’m not working on my own work-in-progress (WIP), I’m reading another author’s book and reviewing it on my blog.
Through writing, I’ve met and shared stories with people from all over the United States, Canada, and many other parts of the world. The greatest reward of all is when I find something I have written has touched another human being, or has helped them. I am a published author who knows the feeling, the joy, and the reward of receiving this gift from God. My advice to you is to keep writing if your heart is in it and don’t give up. The eBook revolution has thrown doors wide open. Many people are discovering the joy of eBook reading. I’ve had many compliments and heart-felt responses, and some people keep asking when my other novels are being released.
Writing is what I do because it's a part of me, and I thank God for the gift and the ability. A writer’s life can be bumpy and varied like rollercoasters. On top of the world one moment, down in the valley the next, hoping to emerge on top of the hill again. It’s an adventure, one I wouldn’t miss for the world. I still write, and I can’t stop. Rejection after rejection from traditional publishers poured in, and I couldn’t figure out why until I joined a critique group and took writing classes. I found out about the “gatekeepers” and how you have to have an agent to get your foot in the door with the big-name traditional publishers. They’re as hard to snag as a publisher, so I kept taking classes to hone my skills and craft until eBooks opened the door and a California publisher gave me a chance, threw the door wide open, and said, “Come on in.”
B. J. Robinson writes from Florida, where she lives with her husband, golden retriever, Honi, and golden cocker spaniel, Sunflower, a character in Last Resort, her debut Christian romantic suspense. She’s blessed with sons, daughters, grandchildren, and faith. Southern Superstitions released January 15, 2012, and Whispering Cypress released August 15. When she's not writing, she's reading and reviewing books on her blog. Visit B. J. at http://barbarajrobinson.blogspot.com.
Dr. Dr. Rita Garcia says of B. J. Robinson's Whispering Cypress, "Spring, follows the rocky terrain of her chosen path, and reawakens a love of nature in the hearts and minds of the readers. B. J. Robinson really knows how to weave a great story. Her novels are the perfect read for a bright summer day or curled up next to a warm fire on a blistery day.
Valerie Strawmier says, "A campground you'll want to return to again and again with those characters. Author B. J. Robinson has a way of immediately drawing you to the characters. She writes great stories that draw readers in quickly, constantly throws in twists and turns, and doesn't let go."
Whispering Cypress Book Trailer
http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-329/Whispering-Cypress-BJ-Robinson/Detail.bok Whispering Cypress at Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc.
Find me on the Web Pages:
https://www.facebook.com/#!/barbara.robinson.773 Facebook Page
https://www.facebook.com/#!/AuthorBJRobinson Author Page
http://www.amazon.com/BJ-Robinson/e/B007DNJIKU Author Page
http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-template/BJRobinson/Page.bok Author Page