Thursday, June 30, 2011

Humility in Writing

When I first wrote 'Jackson Jones', it took me a year and a half of sitting in coffee shops and drinking lattes. It was very laid back and I enjoyed my time. I realized I was rather funny. I figured I shouldn't have a problem getting published.

A year later and 72 rejections (both from publishers and agents) I began to think that perhaps I wasn't so funny at all. That all the writing I had been doing throughout my life was just junk. I gave it to God. "God, if it be Your will, not mine, I'd love to be published." I finally found one that said yes. Which happened to be through someone I met at a conference who liked my spunk.

Then illustrations were to be added. Oh what fun! I would have an illustrator. I was sent preview copies. And I loved some and I liked some. But it didn't matter what I thought, because I no longer had a say. Just like I no longer had a say in the cover, the title (was originally titled 'Jackson and his Great Aunt Harriett') or that my name was the same size as the illustrator.

Instead I sulked in the corner. I complained to my husband. I complained to God (oh, if I had a nickle for everytime I complained to God!) and I cried and seethed and stomped my feet. And then I was reminded who published the book. Who decided to give me a chance. Who was watching to see how I'd handle issues. Oh. Sorry, God.

I cried when I opened the box holding my ARC's. I was shocked that it actually happened, that I was now a published author. And pleased. Then the hard copy came out and was on bookshelves. Oh look at that! Look at me! I am a published author! Look at me!

Then the reviews came out. Kirkus slammed it, Quill and Quire enjoyed some of it, and some advanced readers wrote scathing reviews about my narrator's voice, calling me 'the most annoying narrative ever.' Ouch.

I stomped my feet. How dare they? How dare they criticized what is obviously an amazing book? They didn't know any better, they were adults.

Who published your book?
Eep. Sorry, God.

Three months after I found out Jackson Jones was to be published, I was asked to write the next one. In six months.

Can I have eight months? No.
Can I have more money? No. But I deserve more money.
Who published your book?
Sorry, God.

So I wrote the second book. Full of confidence and humour. It was brilliant. And then my editor contacted me.

"Um, Jenn. You have no plot."

So I rewrote it all within a month.

In January I was honoured to attend the Canadian Library conference in Toronto. I got to take the train! I was put up in a gorgeous hotel! I felt pretty good. Of course there would be a line-up to see me! I was brilliant! I was writing middle-grade fiction that would compare to 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' sales. I was changing the world of writing for kids.

And then I met her. The woman who has written many children's books. The woman who has won awards (no, I'm not naming her). And when I was meeting other authors and attempting to be as humble and sweet as possible (my game-face) she would literally take a step directly in front of me and begin speaking, "Would you like me to sign your book?"

Now, I could have shoved her out of the way. I'm no lightweight. She obviously wasn't a Christian Fiction Writer because she never would have acted that way, otherwise. And I was going to say something but then, that voice...

Are you here to be grateful? Are you here to be a shining example of My love for the world? Are you here to be who I would be?

These past couple months have been the hardest for me. I have another Jackson Jones book in my head, but the publishers don't want it yet. They want to see how the sales go. How dare they? And there were illustration issues, editing issues, publishing issues. And this time, I put it all aside and asked God to please take care of it. Because it's not my book, it's His.

And just as I ask God to give me the ideas to write, to give me a computer that won't break down, to remember to save it to the hard drive, to bless my words, to bless the readers who read my books ... I ask God to keep me humble. To not let me sell a zillion books if it means I'll put money before Him. To not let me become vain or expectant of things. To not let me write if I am not glorifying Him.

Are you doing that? Along with asking for God's blessing, are you asking Him to let your book be in His will? That He would make your will, His? And are you writing things that are glorifying Him? Are you remaining humble in your tiny successes and grateful for the hardships?

Because in order to live for Him, to fully surrender to Him, you have to let Him write your books too. And decide whether they publish. And let Him decide whether you'll change the world with them or not.

Jenn Kelly is the author of Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf and a Very, Stinky Fish. Her second Jackson Jones book, Jackson Jones: the Tale of a Boy, a Troll and a Rather, Large Chicken comes out September 2011. She is currently working on an adult amish/thriller/contemporary/whatnot which has been shelved for the moment while she tries dystopian YA.


  1. Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us and reminding that we write for God, our stories come from Him, belong to Him,and He is in control.

    Your books have intriguing titles.

  2. thanks Ruth Ann. Yes, well, the titles are for middle-grade fiction, so they are rather ridiculous...

  3. Thanks for the reminder of who we do this for. I understand the push-n-pull all too well!

  4. Jenn, great post! It's so easy to get distracted by other things and forget who we write for and why we write. I hope to hear you have a contract for Book 3 very soon :)

  5. Oh, yes, Jenn! It's all a journey and who we are is somuch more important than what we write. Well, really, who He is! Thanks for the honest reminder.