Writing/Publishing

Sweet Humble Pie: Christian Book Expo 2009

On my way down to Christian Book Expo in Dallas I felt giddy with excitement. I imagined writing this cool post for you about all the people I met, the stories I heard while I signed my book, and the amazing cheesecake I had. The only part that came true was the cheesecake. And it was good, my friends, very good. I felt like eating the whole thing after my signing on Saturday when only one person came to the booth. Yes, one. Uno.

This was slightly less depressing because it happened to everyone else too. The show felt like this surreal version of the writer red carpet. “Famous” authors like Elizabeth George and Sheila Walsh didn’t even have long lines. You could walk right up and talk to them. I wandered around poking my husband and saying, “There’s Max Lucado” and “There’s Michelle McKinney Hammond.” They were just strolling by like we were in the mall on a Saturday. A somewhat empty mall, mind you. To be fair, it was the first year for the show and spring break week so that certainly influenced attendance.

(And I need to stop here to say that my publisher, Summerside Press, was amazing. They took all of the writers out to tea at a cool little café. The booth looked good and a lot of people stopped at ours compared to other places. So I don’t in any way want to imply that it was them. And they’re new so a lot of what I’m about to share doesn’t apply to them like it does to me. Now that I’m pretty sure they won’t burn my book, I’ll continue.)

I’ve been around the Christian publishing industry for as long as I can remember. My grandparents had a Christian bookstore. I listened to Petra and Carmen demo tapes. I had a key chain that said something like, “I love Amy Grant.” I carried stacks of books into the back room and spent hours curled up in an old, worn recliner. It was there I decided I would one day be a Christian writer.

I grew up and became an intern for DaySpring at the ripe old age of nineteen. I’ve pretty much been there ever since, gradually moving to the role of editorial director. I’ve gone to many CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) shows through the years. The floor used to bustle with activity and feel alive with a powerful, transformational energy.

In contrast, at one point this weekend I walked by a very traditional-looking booth. A man with silver hair and a grey suit was behind the counter sleeping. I’m not in marketing but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to sleep in your booth. I wish I could have taken a picture because it became one icon of my experience. I’m afraid there's something about our industry that may simply be falling asleep. 

My dear friend Jason got me a signed copy of Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (he didn’t have a long line either, despite the fact that his book has sold over a million copies). I devoured it on the way home and it felt so different than the show. It was gritty, and real, and raw. He talked about many different things but what stood out most to me was his idea that we are “self-addicted.” We make the mistake of believing that life, and faith, and what we do is about us.

But it’s not and it never has been. It’s about God and loving other people. What struck me most about the show this weekend is that it seemed we all just expected people to come to us. We set up our booths, put out our books, and waited. We all looked nice, were ready with our pretty pens, and somehow felt like that should be enough. It seemed reasonable to me.

Yet on the way home I had a nagging sense that this was very different than what God did for us. He came to us. He, the God of the Universe, who had every right to expect us to make the move also knew us well enough to see that’s just not how human nature works. And instead of complaining about it, He got messy, dirty, and crucified so we could be in relationship with Him.

To my fellow members of the Christian publishing community: perhaps it is time we become even more intentional about doing the same. In some aspects, we've lived fairly comfortably, safely, easily. But it could be our moment to reach out in new ways, bare our hearts, open our lives, meet people where they are and stop expecting them to come to us. If we do not, I'm afraid we risk being irrelevant.

And I want to apologize to you, dear readers, for the times when I have been part of the problem. There have been moments, and this is difficult for me to admit, that my writing has been more about me than you. I’ve written to feel accepted. I’ve written to feel loved. I’ve written to soothe my insecurity. And that is wrong. This gift I’ve been entrusted with is not for me. It’s for the Kingdom and for you—always. Will you please forgive me?

In return, here’s my promise to you: I will not fall asleep in my booth. I will not stay safe. I will be messy, authentic, and desperately in need of grace. And I will come to you. Because that’s what Jesus did. That’s what He still does. I believed that was true as a little girl in the back room of a bookstore, waiting to grow up and change the world.

I still believe it now.   

 

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Book Signing Confessional

Book Signing Confessional

Yesterday I had the very first signing for my new book—Rain on Me: Devotions of Hope and Encouragement for Difficult Times. The signing was at my church = less scary. But my church is BIG = more scary. Mark and I were there for all five services.

You will be proud to know that I did not walk into the men’s bathroom during any of them. 

I did, however, manage to do some other craziness.

The hardest part about a book signing is the beginning. The church made a video to play in the services telling everyone about the book. But before they showed it no one had any idea who I was or why I was in the foyer grinning like a fool.

At one point a woman approached the booth looking eager. I lit up and leaned across the counter. She dug in her pocket. “Yes,” I thought, “My very first customer.” She pulled out a wad of cash the likes of which I have never seen.  It must have been four inches thick. “I bet this has never happened to Max Lucado,” I humbly reflected.

Then, as if in slow motion, my husband reached out and took the entire stack of cash. He nodded and said to the woman, “Thanks for getting fifty one dollar bills for us so we can make change.” My book-signing fantasy went right up in a little puff of ego.

But I wasn’t too concerned because I still had a back-up plan for getting people to come to the booth. In my twisted little mind I had a theory that went like this, “No one knows who I am (besides my ever-faithful friends and Jesus) and no one has ever heard of my book (except my relatives and Jesus).

But every woman loves chocolate. So I will put Dove milk chocolate eggs that coordinate with the book cover (yes, they really did) on the counter in little glass bowls so people will come over here.” If that sounds a bit like bribery to you then here’s what I’ve got to say about that, “You are very perceptive.”

Christmas Open House 002

I also decided I needed to make my little booth look pretty. I bought a vase of red tulips and as I was putting them in the water, I broke one in half. Yep, just like that—snap, snap—and my lovely tulip went from stately to stumpy.

Not to be deterred, I taped it back together and shoved it down in the middle. It never quite stood tall like the rest. At one point a little girl asked, “What’s wrong with that one?” I said, “It needs hope and encouragement.”

As for the actual signing of the books, I felt clueless the entire time. I didn’t know what to say, which page I should write on, or what kind of pen to use. I was also paranoid that I would spell a name wrong. Someone would say, “Please sign it to Pat.” And I would ask, “How do you spell that?” Then they would look suspiciously at me as if asking themselves, “Did she really write a book?”

In the end, I did spell a name wrong. But it was not Pat. It was Holley. Oh, yes, my friends. Upon reflection, I’m fairly certain I spelled my own name incorrectly once. So if you’ve got a book and my first name is missing an “e” then see me for a refund. Or sell it on eBay. Whatever works for you.

People were truly very gracious and kind. The best part of the day was talking to them and hearing their stories. It was wonderful and humbling to know where my little book is going. I kept inwardly repeating one of my favorite prayers, “Oh, Lord, please use me in spite of me.”

I’d like to conclude my little confessional by thanking Mark, my banker and husband, for keeping me focused and not letting me do math. Thank you to our dear friends who came and helped. And thank you to my wonderful church for all the support.

And finally, I’d also like to thank all of you amazing readers who know my quirks and keep coming back here anyway—even without the chocolate.   

 

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Exciting news and a surprise for you!

Exciting news and a surprise for you!

Rain on Me   

My first devotional book was recently published and I’m thrilled about sharing this “prayer come true” with you. It came out of a storm I’ve walked through the last four years and having it printed feels a bit like having my first baby.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction…

Your first drop may have been a diagnosis given by a doctor with a grim face. Perhaps it was a note left on the kitchen table that said, “I’m sorry but I don’t love you anymore.” It could have been a phone call late at night and someone on the other end telling you the unthinkable.

Or your first drop may have come so softly you didn’t even recognize it. You tried to start a family and after another negative pregnancy test realized something might be wrong. You took a promising job and one day discovered that your computer screen might as well be a “dead end” sign. You began a relationship only to discover that your dream come true has started feeling a bit like a nightmare.

No matter how your first drop fell, it was probably followed by another…and another…and another. Now your heart is soaking wet and you’re wondering if you’ll ever feel warm and dry again.

The good news is God knows even more about rain than those scientists. He knows the destruction it can bring. He also knows how to redeem it and use it to bring beauty and hope to our lives.

Take a quick look out your window. Every flower or tree you see owes its life to rain. Every bird singing, every frog hopping, every living thing draws its strength from storms.

I’m not saying God caused the storm in your life. We live in a broken world and things are not as they should be. But I do believe that God is the Redeemer of the Rain. He longs to bring beauty out of brokenness, healing out of hurts, and new life out of losses.

I know this is true because I’ve experienced it personally…

To download the rest of the introduction, table of contents, and the first devotional, click here: Download Rain on Me Excerpt

Dayspring is graciously featuring Rain on Me on their site along with a set of cards and two exclusive necklaces. Here’s the surprise…The book is already 10% off and if you enter holley20 (my special code for friends and family) when you check out you’ll receive an extra 20% off everything you purchase (no expiration)! I’d love for you to share your discount with friends and family too.

I appreciate you and I’m so grateful for your support. May God redeem the rain in all of our lives…

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