Shannon Dittemore

June23rd

25 Comments

When I visit an author’s website, I always search for a post on how they got published. I’m wired that way. I want to know the how and the why.

It’s probably the sole reason I stink at mathematics. No one can tell me just why something times something else, divided by that thingy-ma-whaty, equals the area of a cone. The idea that “it just does” makes no sense to me.

But, I digress.

Given my own curiosity, I thought I’d throw my story on the stack.

My journey to publication began on a dark and stormy night (well, maybe). It was November of 2008, and my baby girl was just shy of three months old. She was a beautiful little thing, but she wasn’t nearly as good a sleeper as her big brother. At the time, I had a killer part-time job working from home for a legal consulting company, but it still wasn’t what I really, really wanted to do. I wanted to write. I wanted THAT to be my job.

So, as I wandered the house with my tiny insomniac, singing and rocking, I considered the possibility that I could write a novel. I’d started and stopped several times before, but something was different this time. Somewhere along the way, I had picked up an immeasurably valuable nugget: I was learning to be patient with myself.

Maybe it was the gauntlet of parenting, or the sheer lack of sleep, but whatever it was, I knew I had the ability to be patient through the brainstorming process.

That night, I walked and I walked, and I sang a bit, but mostly I thought and thought and thought. Before the night was over, I had a handful of characters and a fairly good idea of just what I wanted to say and where I wanted my characters to go. I had a mental outline and that was enough.

So, I sat down to write–and yes, that’s how I do it. I’m not a big plotter and sometimes that works against me, but I’m learning. Still, by February of 2009, I had a first draft. It was awful, of course, but I was proud of it.

2009 was full of tons and tons of parenting and editing whenever I could. I enlisted the services of Vinnie Kinsella and Declaration Editing, hiring him to give me his honest opinion on what he read. He was nothing but fabulous and encouraged me on my road to publication.

I found a group of writerly souls to bond with, Inspire Christian Writers, and I committed to attending Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference the following year. I even queried a few agents. I got a big round of chirping crickets though, and decided to hold off until after Mt. Hermon.

I continued editing, continued reading about the craft, keeping the conference ahead of me like a crunchy carrot. The time rolled around, and I was devastated when I had to pull out. My gorgeous cherub still wasn’t sleeping and things had actually gotten worse. Leaving her just wasn’t realistic.

So, now it’s spring, 2010. I’m several drafts into my novel and no real goal in sight, except landing an agent. But, the idea of sending out query letters and getting only silence in return was gut-wrenching.

And then Twitter! Yup, I said it. Twitter happened to me.

Agents were tweeting. Oh, yes they were. They were tweeting their likes and dislikes, their rants and raves. They were giving the world–and more specifically, writers–an idea of what they were looking for.

I started to pay attention and I got more specific about who I queried. And, I branched out a bit. I started looking for agencies that didn’t specialize in Christian Fiction. The reason for this is simple: The agents I was attracted to most on Twitter weren’t with Christian agencies. Maybe those guys aren’t tweeting? I don’t know, but after just two mainstream queries, I got a bite.

In August of 2010, Jason Pinter of The Waxman Agency in NYC (gasp!) requested my full manuscript. Of course, we had just moved and our internet wasn’t even fully operational, and I really wanted to rewrite my Afterword, but it didn’t matter. I had gotten a request! So, I scrambled and got it to him the next day. The day after that, he offered representation.

Voila! I had an agent.

We made a few tweaks to my manuscript, retitled it, and started the submission process that fall. We queried a handful of mainstream houses and one CBA house. We had some great feedback, and some interest, but it wasn’t until we submitted to Thomas Nelson that we had a hit.

And then, THEN!

I heart you Jason Pinter, but then, my agent left The Waxman Agency. So, here I am, on submission with my dream publisher and I’m left in a lurch. My agency was great and kept me on, but I was in limbo as to which agent I’d be assigned and whether or not they’d even like my manuscript. It was agonizing for a bit, but long story short, things worked out.

I was paired with the amazing Holly Root, and shortly thereafter Thomas Nelson made an offer. FOR THREE BOOKS! That’s right. My night wandering the house, babe in arms, was the start of a journey leading to the largest Christian publisher in the world acquiring a YA trilogy from ME. A mom. A wife. A youth pastor. Someone who doesn’t even know how to find the area of a cone!

One thing I think you’ll notice from my story is that there were no magic wands, no magic beans, and not a single sprinkle of fairy dust. And while those things are all very well and dandy, it’s God’s fingerprints that are all over my journey. I’m constantly overwhelmed at how faithful He is, even when–especially when–I’ve been tempted to give up hope.

So, now I continue on. I am working on my first round of revisions–on an actual deadline–and enjoying every single minute of it. I’m sure I’ll hit bumps along the way and I’m positive about those mountains (thanks, Miley!) but I’m grateful to be doing what I love, and to have the support of Thomas Nelson is truly a dream come true.

God bless, kids.

Keep dreaming. Keep hoping.

Keep putting one foot down after the other and share your story with me.

Dreamers are always welcome here.

For more info on my debut novel, visit my ANGEL EYES page. Check back for more updates on my journey.

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25 Comments

  • Comment by Jenny Lundquist — June 23, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

    Great post Shannon. I always love reading other writer’s journey to publication, too. I only have one question, chirping crickets? What the heck does that mean? :0)

    Good luck on the edits, you’ll kill it!

  • Comment by Shan — June 23, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

    I imagine every silence is filled with chirping crickets. Ya know chirp, chirp. Wait… it’s the crickets that chirp, right?

  • Comment by Elizabeth M Thompson — June 23, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

    Shannon, I’m so glad you are sharing your journey. It really is all about God’s faithfulness. And yours. I for one, am grateful you spent your time learning the craft of storytelling, rather than cone-calculating. The world is a better place because of this choice!

  • Comment by Shan — June 23, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    Inspire has been such an instrumental part in my journey, Beth. You and the gals (and the occasional gent) have been a blessing and I can’t wait to move forward with you all. God bless. And for the record, I refuse to try that whole cone thing again until someone explains the “why.” 🙂

  • Comment by Vinnie — June 23, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    Great post, Shannon. I love it when authors talk about their journeys. I’m blessed to have been on the road with you for part of yours. I can’t wait to hold a copy of the book! I also can’t wait to find out what happens in books two and three. Continued blessings for you on your journey!

  • Comment by Lisa Hall-Wilson — June 24, 2011 @ 5:25 am

    Shannon, this post has landed on my Facebook newsfeed twice in the last two days, so I had to come visit. Congrats! Good luck. Thanks for sharing your story and encouraging others to keep going.

  • Comment by Serenity Bohon — June 24, 2011 @ 7:22 am

    Loved reading this, Shan! Obviously I think you have a gem of an agent now. So happy for you about the journey, but I’m also wondering – has the cherub started sleeping yet? 🙂 I hope so!

  • Comment by Shan — June 24, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    Thank you, Serenity! It’s amazing the people I’ve gotten to work with along the way. And yes! My cherub is sleeping much better now, thank you Jesus! Some days are better than others, but she even naps for me and that’s my daily writing constant.

  • Comment by Shan — June 24, 2011 @ 8:35 am

    Thank you, thank you Lisa! And what a fabulous website you have. How have I not run into you before?! We must stay in touch! I just ‘liked’ your FB page and I have a FB Author page as well (Shan Dittemore) if you care to find me. I’m on FB a lot! 😉 God bless lady, and thanks so much for stopping my my site.

  • Comment by Shan — June 24, 2011 @ 8:37 am

    Vinnie! I am such a sucker for a good author story and I am blessed that you’re a part of mine. And, among the many things we have in common, we’re both waiting to find out what happens in books two and three. I can’t wait to discover that myself!

  • Comment by Liz Fichera — June 24, 2011 @ 9:51 am

    Awesome story! Thanks for sharing. (I love the “how did they get there??” stories too. 🙂

  • Comment by Shan — June 24, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who enjoys the “how did they get there” blogs! Do you have one on your site? I’m off to check! Thanks for the RT and for taking time to read my little novella here. 🙂

  • Comment by Lacey — June 29, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    Even though I’ve been blessed to witness some of the journey, I love reading this. Can’t wait to read the books!

  • Comment by Shan — June 29, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

    And Lacey – What would I do without you! You’re my figgy sister and a fabulous friend. Thank you for always being so supportive! I hope to return the favor in whatever way I can.

  • Comment by Karen Luke — June 30, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

    Love your story…so grateful for God’s hand on your journey.

  • Comment by Jen Hunt — July 1, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

    Congratulations!I am a bit behind on this, but I know you worked so hard on your MS and to see everything fall into place is amazing. God does work miracles 🙂

  • Comment by Shan — July 5, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

    Jen! It’s funny how God works, isn’t it!? I was just thinking about you the other day as well. Thanks for finding me again and for your kind words. You must now fill me in on YOU!

  • Comment by Jenny Sulpizio — July 12, 2011 @ 11:33 am

    Shannon,

    I too love to read how others got published and yours is a great story. As a self-published children’s author who is trying to make the jump to women’s non-fiction novelist (in the traditional way), I can honestly say I fight with frustration and lack of patience all of the time. I have queried, have had two requests for my MS, but am stuck trying to find time to write with my brood of three chitlins and life just taking over. It’s hard but I soooooo want this to happen. Thank you for your story and congrats on your success! It gives me continued hope!

    Blessings,
    Jenny Lee Sulpizio
    http://www.jennysulpizio.com

  • Comment by Shan — July 12, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

    You’ve made my day, girl! One of my favorite things about this journey is meeting other writerly souls along the way. I can’t wait to visit your site and learn more about you and the road you’re walking. I know all about the kids and trying to write. It’s super tough and I pray you find the grace and wisdom to work it all into your schedule. Some days I feel I’ve got it down and then days like today, not so much. But, God is good and we continue to push forward. Please stay in touch!

  • Comment by Shan — July 12, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

    You know what’s so neat? The only obvious difference between your journey and mine–I simply found a publisher. It just takes one yes, lady. Every step is loads of work, of course. But, it’s worth it. 🙂

  • Comment by Xochi E. Dixon — September 3, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

    I’m praising God for your diligence and obedience as He leads you down the path He’s carved out for you, sister.

    I look forward to seeing Him use you in mighty ways as you write for His glory!

    Praying for you and doing a happy dance in advance. I can hardly wait to read your books!

  • Comment by Casey — October 17, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    Hi Shannon,
    Thank you so much for your post. I am another mom who gets most of my work done in those midnight hours after my two-year old has woken up for random reason, gone back to sleep, and left mom wide awake. I feel as though I have bonded immediately with you 🙂 I have been writing a story based on my mother’s life (a two-year process I might add), and have just been given the green light by our editor to begin the querying process. So, here I am about to dabble my toes into the anxiety-filled waters of ‘crickets chirping’ and ‘thank you for your query, but…’. Oh how I wish God could just sit down next to me and say, HERE is your agent. Wishing you much success and congratulations on your trilogy!
    Blessings,
    Casey

  • Comment by Shan — October 19, 2011 @ 10:24 am

    Oh Casey! Hooray for taking the next step! I wish you tons and tons of peace along the way. Enjoy the journey and keep me updated. I’d love to follow along and support you and yours. God bless, girl.

  • Comment by Sara@writing4truth — October 11, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

    What an inspiring story! I almost wondered if I was reading my own. I am a mom with 2 beautiful little girls, one who is 4 months old and very colicky. I have started my novel at least a dozen times, only to get frustrated and give up when its not going like I want. Then I heard about National Novel Writing Month in November. God willing I will get 50,000 words down in 30 days–of a first draft that is. Thanks for sharing your story. It was just the encouragement I needed today!

  • Comment by Rachel — September 13, 2013 @ 10:17 am

    You are a great writer im 13 and i read your books i am amazed at how good they r u are my idol

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