*The following is the story of how I signed with an agent and ultimately landed a book deal. It is the full story with all 5,678 details 😉
When I was 7 and 10 and 15 and even 20 my friends would be playing outside in the dirt, or going to the movies or going to concerts. I liked all of those things and I did my fair share of participating but what I remember most are all the times the pen and paper would call to me. I’d bow out of social activities and go to my room and write. I’d usually be found sprawled out on the floor trying to teach my hand to write as fast as my thoughts came.
I could be found on that floor writing until the age of 13 when daddy bought me my own writing desk. To this day it is still one of my favorite gifts I’ve received. I would sit at it early in the morning and wake up and go to it late at night, like it was a lover calling for my attention. I always showed up. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t writing anything fancy or for public consumption (definitely not for public consumption). I was just writing because it made me happy. I wrote everything. I’d write about my day and about boys. About the fight my best friend and I had and I’d write little stories.
But usually and mostly, I was writing in question form – asking my big God what little me was doing in this world and how I was supposed to get along.
I had zero purpose in writing except that it made me happy. And I think I made writing happy.
Every once in awhile a teacher would comment on my writing and I would stare back blankly like, “Doesn’t everyone love writing this much? Doesn’t everyone write like this?” I wasn’t starved for encouragement or feedback because I knew how writing felt about me and that was all I needed.
Back in 2006 I started a blog because I went to Australia and Thailand for several months and I wanted to be connected to friends and family. Some people read my writing and put me in charge of journalism while we did our stint in Thailand. My first piece went straight from my inbox back to headquarters and my friend printed it off and came running into our flat, flapping the pages in her hand, “You are an INCREDIBLE writer!!! Why haven’t you told us about your writing?!” Again I looked at her a little odd. It didn’t seem much special to me. I loved what I produced and I think writing thanked me for it.
When I came back to America I had to get a job. Because 23. And I needed health insurance. And to be an adult or something like that. I started working at Compassion as a temp and right as my last week of temp work was coming to a close a man from another team, who would later become my boss, came up to my cubicle with that same piece of writing I did in Thailand. The pages were a little creased and I blushed hard knowing he had found my writing and read it – maybe over and over. He looked at me and said, “You’re a really talented writer. You need some guidance but I think we could use you on our team.”
From that piece the Web & Interactive team hired me. Actually they had to create a job that fit my skill set and then they hired me.
Writing was pushing me into the world and I was getting a little uncomfortable about it.
Two years into working with Compassion and still showing up late at night to my writing desk, the director of the team announced that I would be co-leading Compassion Blog trips. The leader of the trips liked my leadership and he liked that I could write alongside some of the best in the blogging world. It was made clear that I needed to start a new blog. One that I would let people read. One that I would write for during blog trips.
So OurSavoryLife.com was born. And writing was becoming less of a midnight lover. He kept showing up in the day. Kept showing up at my work. I was getting a little agitated because while I trusted the love we had between us I did not trust the love the world would have for our union. I knew there would be scrutiny and critics. I knew people would whisper and say we shouldn’t be together. I didn’t think our love could stand up to that. But writing was turning out to be a bit of a jealous lover and kept showing up in the daytime, parading around. Showing us off. And I kept waving him off, like, “Oh, this fella? We’re just casual. We barely even talk really.”
In 2014 I attended a blog conference. Which I do a lot for my job at Compassion. I don’t attend to speak or to give out business cards about me and my blog. I don’t really mention my blog at all because I am there to invite bloggers to see Compassion’s work. But something happened that year, the leader of Compassion Bloggers announced he was stepping down and he was putting me in his place. He went around telling bloggers, agents and publishers about me. Some of them went home and looked me up. They found my blog.
A few days after the conference two literary agents reached out to me which was so strange. But they wanted to talk and I later learned they wanted to sign me.
So this is the story of signing my first book deal.
And I think I’m scared to share this story because I feel like I am supposed to give you some kind of joyful, jumping in the air reaction laced with ecstasy and pure, fiery passion. I think I am supposed to be using more caps and more exclamations. Also and obviously, more emojis. I want to say, “Look how hard I went after this. This was my daydream and my night dream. This is what I was born for. This is everything coming true for me.”
But I can’t give you that and I feel weird about it. To be honest I felt mostly like maybe this was some kind of mistake. Like at any moment my agent would say, “Hey kid, we gave it a shot and it didn’t work out. I wish you all the best for your future.” So I’ve been cautious at best. There are moments when I’m hope filled crazy, like a middle school girl finding out a boy actually likes me and I duck behind bleachers with my best friend and giggle and blush and get all the butterflies thinking, is this really true? I have those. I let them live within the safety of the people I know and trust.
And gosh I am so ready to share with you too. You have been kind and loving. You have cheered me on from a distance. You have been patient as I have taken steps toward you. Thank you.
So, after signing with my agent I worked on a book proposal for 7 months. Writing and I became more than casual. We became serious. We committed to each other. And I grew resentful. We had fights. Mostly me yelling at him. Why did you do this to us? We were happy. We were casual. You could walk away at any moment and I could too.
We. Were. Safe.
Four months into writing my proposal and after 4 months of hard conversations with my agent (ranging from, this part of your writing style is difficult and confusing to, that idea is bad) I had a breakthrough. The kind where you and your lover are standing in the kitchen just doing normal, every day life and you look up at him and think, “I am so in love with him. I cannot imagine me without him.” That happened. I had a rare breakthrough in clarity. I wrote and found my angle for the book. I sent it to my agent and she nearly gasped with joy. I looked at writing and said, “Ok, I’m better with you. You bring out a lot of crazy and ugly in me but you mostly bring out the best.”
I finished my proposal in the fall of 2015 and pitched my book to seven publishers in person. IN PERSON. I had about 15 minutes to pitch my full book idea and myself (why am I the right one to write this book? Can I sale this book?) to each publisher. I was nervous and terrified and alive. These publishers were some of the most respected in the business. I don’t think I was ever able to truly convey how honored I was for their time. The night before the conference I was fretting and restless and I showed up to a different table, the kitchen table. I made sangrias as gifts for each publisher. They were brining me so much by allowing me some time, I had to come with something of gratitude.
(By the way, the best and last sangria recipe you will ever need!)
I pitched my book each time. I gave all of me every single time. It is one of those times in my life where I felt most alive and most in my skin. If you want to see what a piece of that looked like, you can watch my interview for the Hope*Wrtiers summit. (UPDATE: Summit is now closed!) They actually interviewed me at the same conference I pitched my book proposal. They interviewed me right after first round of pitches.
And by the way, I just watched it and man was I filled to the brim with energy. Someone needed to give me a tranquilizer. But we’ll take it 🙂
In March of 2016, right as we moved to California, I signed a book deal with Thomas Nelson.
And I want to be like, “Let’s LIGHT FIREWORKS and POP CHAMPAGNE!” And I think I am getting there slowly.
The minute I signed the contract I just sat there, gazing at my signature wondering if I really comprehended the seriousness of the task I was taking on. God has called me to a lot of different projects in my life. So many of them amazing and also serious. And I don’t think serious means stern or solemn. I think it can bring a lot of joy and a lot of happiness at times. But I also think it is important to be a good steward. To be grateful along the way. To stop and say, “This is too much for me. But it is not too much for You. So please help. Please. Please. Help.” I think it is important to keep showing up.
Here is what I know. Writing this book has been hard and lonely. I second, third and fourth guess myself a lot. I vox my friends in desperation thinking, “Who am I? Who do I think I am to write this book?” One of my friend’s consoled me and said, “Bri, remember that writing keeps finding you. Writing keeps coming after you.”
And she’s right. God has used my writing to land me every gig of my adult life. This just happens to be the first one that is wholly reliant on my writing. The one where I start saying to others and start saying to myself, “ I am a writer.”
Here is what I know. I was not made for this. Not solely. I was made for God. To reflect His image. To love well everywhere He has me. Right now He has me writing a book. And I pray that my words will reflect His love and His image. I pray that He will use it for His glory. I pray that my nearly suffocating passion for writing will bump loud up against God’s will for me. And we will all say, Amen! And see a little bit more of heaven.
I also pray that you will journey with me. Pray for me? And one day maybe we can pop the champagne together and smile loud! xoxo
And for my readers, wherever God has you right now – you are right where you are supposed to be. We can do this. We can walk humbly and poke at joy and keep showing up. We can ask for help and be pregnant with joy. We can trust that He will show up right there next to us.