Monday, May 10, 2010

Gina Holmes' 10-Year Journey Pays Off


Gina Holmes’ first novel, Crossing Oceans, has just released from Tyndale. For the last number of years Gina has been known through the popular blog she started, Novel Journey.
NJ has been widely read, and now methinks her novel will be also. Gina has already garnered some great reviews, including the endorsement on the front cover of her book from bestselling author Tess Gerritsen: "Poignant and unforgettable ... this book will break your heart--and then put the pieces back together again."

As I did, Gina spent 10 long years working toward being published in fiction. Now her hard studying and working is paying off. Here's the story of her journey.
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In 1997, I had the brilliant idea that I might be able to be a stay at home mom if I could actually bring in some cash. Writing had always come easier for me than most, so me being the genius that I am knew that this would be the way to bring in some fast, easy, cash. Ahem, yeah, well…

So, for the next six months or so I wrote everything from greeting cards, to articles to short stories, poetry, and my personal favorite—rhyming children’s books with strong morals featuring talking fruits. I sent this little gem to all the best New York literary agents in fancy, twenty-four point font, wondering how I would ever decide which agent to allow the privilege of representing Anna Banana.

Needless to say I collected quite a pile of form rejection letters. I cringe to think that some of my earliest work is probably framed above some agent or editor’s desk just for laughs. Despite my stupidity, laziness, and lack of knowledge in the publishing world, I did manage to get my first pay check six months in for a magazine article. I was a published author!

I had a little more luck over the years which followed—a few articles, but not a whole lot. In 2003ish, a girl at church was talking to the congregation about writing her second novel. My mouth dropped. She was just seventeen! If she could do it, surely I could. With all the know how I used to launch my rhyming fruit books, I set about penning my first novel.

In six weeks I had my first novel. I took this masterpiece, (which was so good it needed no editing,) to sell at the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference. It was at this conference that I picked up my first copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, a book that would teach me a thousand times more than I previously knew about editing. I also met my critique partner Ane Mulligan, who I half suspected was insane. Turns out she is, but pleasantly so, and together with Jessica Dotta, the three of us have remained critique partners for the last 6 years.

It was at this conference that I also met the man who would become my agent, Chip MacGregor. He scared off a lot of people with his brash frankness, but I saw a truth teller. I pitched him that first novel. He blinked at me a few times, smirked a little, then said, “Gina, I’m with Alive. We’re the top agency in the business. I’m really not looking for authors who are just starting out….in fact, I’m a little surprised that you’re pitching me.”

Ouch. Undaunted, Chip and I prayed together before I left that appointment and I’d made a friend. With the help of Self- Editing and my new critique group, I spent the next year or two editing that first novel, and learning the basics of the craft of writing. After that, I wrote my second, third and fourth novels, all suspense. All of the novels I wrote came close to publication, but somewhere between an editor’s interest and the publishing board meeting, interest waned and rejection after rejection . . . after rejection followed.

Through all these years, I ran Novel Journey, wrote, edited, mentored and was mentored. I attended many writer’s conferences, built relationships in the industry and learned all I could about the business. I had several agents who weren’t quite right for me and then at an ACFW conference Chip announced he was starting his own agency. He also made it clear that he was interested in representing me. Chip and I were friends, our philosophies lined up and I knew he was very good at what he did, so the partnership was a no-brainer.

Over the following months, I would get calls from Chip every now and then making sure I wasn’t planning on jumping ship just because it was taking us a while to get a contract. I think we were both concerned we were letting the other down during this time. Chip always kept my spirits up by letting me know he believed in my writing and that I would get published eventually because “greatness will out.” I think he represented me close to two years before I was contracted.

In 2008 I started reading things like Memoirs of a Geisha, Peace Like a River, Jane Eyre, Watership Down, etc., and thought that maybe I was writing in the wrong genre. I wasn’t sure, so I figured the only way to find out was to try writing something a little different.

I presented a third-person medical mystery to Chip along with a few chapters from my first-person women’s fiction novel about a young mother dying of cancer. I asked Chip which one he thought we ought to pursue. He said, “They’re both good and I can probably sell either, but Crossing Oceans seems like your true voice.”

That was it. I knew he was right.

At the ACFW conference that year, two editors asked to meet with me. Normally, I’m the one stalking them, so this was way different for me. They both had some suggestions on improving my story. One editor was on fire for it. The other, was really more passionate about seeing me get published because she thought I’d done so much to help others. In the end, one pursued me and my story and that passion is what won out at the end of the day. I sold my novel before it was completed. It’s rare to do it, but we did. Not only that but Chip scored me an advance that far exceeded my expectations.

Long before I understood that Tyndale was really going to publish Crossing Oceans, Chip knew. He kept congratulating me before we’d even had an official offer. I trusted him, but was afraid to get my hopes up. Finally, he called me when I was at work in the hospital nursery, surrounded by crying babies, nurses and doctors. Via cell phone, he said, “Gina we have an offer. It’s okay to scream now.”

I had to sit down. The whole nursery grew quiet as everyone listened in. My coworkers knew I’d been at it a long time. I spilled a few tears, so did some of them. That night, I couldn’t get anyone on the phone. Not my critique partners, not my family, no one. I couldn’t tell anyone that after ten long years of rejection my dream was really going to come true.

At least I get to tell you. That’s my story.
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9 comments:

Nicole said...

Because I've read this novel and indeed it's good and really establishes Gina's voice, I hope that I'll get to read her suspense novels one day.

(To be reviewed on my blog on the 13th of May.)

Lynette Eason said...

Congratulations, Gina. What an awesome journey! I was laughing at your description of your first meeting with Chip. I think I met him that SAME year with the SAME results. And while I ended up with another agent in the end, Chip really encouraged me by saying about my work, "This is actually pretty good. I just don't take new writers." LOL. Oh well. I was still encouraged and went on to be published eventually. But you obviously have a great story. I'm looking forward to reading it.

God Bless!
Lynette

Gina Holmes said...

Brandilyn, thanks so much. How very very cool to be on your blog telling my story. I've been a fan for years and you've been such an encouragement to me.

Liberty Speidel said...

Such an encouragement, Gina! I hope I can say sometime soon I'm having similar success. I understand the desire to stay home and make a living from writing... my second child is due in a few months and after staying home for almost two years, I may have to go back to work if I can't get some things to work for me.

I, too, hope to read your suspense novels one of these days!

Thanks for sharing Gina with us, Brandilyn.

Ane Mulligan said...

Cool to see you here, G. I remember Brandilyn telling me in Minneapolis that you were doing everything right and it was just a matter of time. She was right. :)

xoxo

Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks so much Gina for sharing your story! What an encouragement for those of us who are unpublished that we have hope as we keep plugging away...and God has a perfect timing.

Edwina said...

Gina,

Congratulations!! And many thanks for sharing your story. It's very encouraging! I can't wait to read your book.

Blessings,
Edwina

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks everyone :)

Linda Glaz said...

Congrats, Gina. Perseverance is the sign of a good life. And you persevered.