Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You Can't (and shouldn't) Win Them All! by Terry's Client Deborah Dee Harper

Who’d ever imagine that losing $20,000 and guaranteed publication of my novel with a powerhouse publishing company would be a good thing—a very good thing?

Certainly not me—at least not back in the days when I was one of five finalists for the 2009 Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale Publishing House. That event stood, to-date, as the pinnacle of my writing career. Yes, I’d been published before, but this was the big time. This was the culmination of years of study, the completion of the manuscript I’d worked on for two solid years. Achieving finalist status in that prestigious competition was proof that somebody—somebody in the know, someone besides me—believed I could write.

I fretted for four months. But that all changed about thirty seconds after hearing Jerry B. Jenkins make the announcement at the Writing for the Soul conference last February that someone else (a very deserving man) had won, Misstep had not, and I was officially a loser. (Well, he didn’t say it exactly like that.)

Strangely, after my initial disappointment faded, a great relief washed over me. I was free! No more waking up to thoughts of winning. No more drifting off to sleep worried about losing. It was settled. I could get on with my life. Sure, winning would have been nice; I could certainly use $20,000 and I’d love to have my Christian novel published by Tyndale. But I realized it wasn’t the right time in my career to bypass the hard work of pitching my manuscript. I needed to speak with learned professionals from the publishing industry—the agents, editors, and publishers from around the country who were present at the conference. It was imperative that I hear what they had to say, soak up their knowledge, immerse myself in the atmosphere and camaraderie of like-minded individuals whose collective goal will always be to honor our Lord and Savior through our writing. It was up to me to prove I could deliver what they needed, that I had what it takes to be not only a writer, but also a published author. I had to believe in myself before I could ask them to believe in me.

So I hit the floor running and for the next two days, I pitched and smiled and asked questions and soaked up advice and acted the part of someone who had a product to offer that she believed in. I left the conference energized and optimistic (albeit sans the $20,000), returned home, and sent out requested proposals, manuscripts, and thank you notes. Then I prayed.

Four months later, Misstep and I are represented by Terry Burns, one of best agents in the business, and I’m now officially a proud member of the Hartline Literary Agency family. Through Terry I met Linda Glaz who not only helped me with my manuscript, but brought many a smile to my face in the process. I have a new batch of colleagues who have welcomed me into their midst with warmth and encouragement. Now that’s winning.

And I owe it all to being a loser.

Deborah Dee Harper


Lynda Schab said...

Very inspiring post and an even more inspiring attitude! I think we could form our own version of "The Biggest Loser" and make it about people who lost something, only to turn that "loss" into something positively bigger. You sure did.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Whoa, what an excellent attitude! I'd say you ARE a winner, Deborah. Thanks for sharing your experience, and your heart of grace.

Blessings on you,

writer jim said...


Great story and lesson. No doubt, in God's eyes, you took a big step with your wonderful attitude, and stedfast motive of honoring Him with your writing.

Praise God!

Parralel with attitudes and motives, I believe that 'obeying God' is our greatest of opportunities...and it gives us incalculable potential.

Once I took a giant slice of my net worth, and purchased silver. I knew silver was going to explode in price shortly. I expected for the first time in my life, to make a lot of money the easy way.
In a matter of months the price explosion fuse was lit. One evening, I contemplated the good things I'd be able to accomplish for my family and some missionary friends with my sooncoming fortune. But suddenly, God spoke to me, "Forget the big fortune. Sell all the silver, and give all the proceeds to...." (someone I didn't like at all)
Do I need to explain all the ways I felt? I was even going to lose my huge initial investment. But there was only one possible response that made real sense to me. I would OBEY GOD. I rose up early the next morning and took care of the business of FULLY OBEYING GOD.

Yes, silver went sky-high, and I would have made the kind of money to change my families' lives. I had to sweat and get filthy dirty working, working, working to try and make up just part of my own initial investment.

But that experience was a tremendous success in God's eyes: I was given an opportunty to SHOW God how much I desired to be obedient to Him. And I succeeded!

Deborah, you used your experience to show God your good attitudes and pure motives, desiring to honor HIM. I do fervently pray HE honors your writing efforts in such a great way, that it will add even more meaning to the narrative you shared with us.

Kelly Freestone said...

Yaaaay! Through heartache and frustration, you found your home!
So exciting.

Great testimony.
Thanks for sharing.

Shmologna said...

This blog makes me so happy. God is so wonderful like that. The world says LOSER, but God says, "I have another opportunity for you. Learn. Grow. And be doubly bless by what I have in store for you."

Again, thank you for this inspiring post.

~Britt Mitchell

Deborah Deetales said...

Lynda, Jeannette, Writer Jim, Kelly, and Britt...

Thank you so much for your kind thoughts. A few years ago, I'd have thought I'd be crazy to think losing something like that would have been not only God's will and a far better thing for me (and my career) than the prize and publication. It's meeting great folks like you who drive home that point more and more. I love the support we give one another on this blog. That makes us all winners!


Caroline said...

Wonderful post, Deb. You're definitely a winner w/that kind of attitude!

Deborah Deetales said...


Thank you :-) I'd do it all over again (losing and all!) to be a part of this group of talented writers. Being a part of the Hartline family has been so encouraging.