Keeping Grounded

As I move in publishing circles, I notice that those in and out of our profession tend to grant some of us larger-than-life personas.

Writers admire agents.

Agents admire publishers.

Publishers admire readers.

Readers admire writers.

With this circle of admiration, everyone should be happy, right? Maybe, but only in moderation.

In His wisdom, God didn’t allow me to become an agent until I was experienced enough to handle the esteem—and a few barbs, too. And before that, He didn’t allow me to become a published author until I literally thought my first book would be published posthumously—even though I was still in my twenties. I had worked so hard and what seemed like so long to see that first book in print that publication felt anticlimactic. I am so very, very grateful not only to the Lord, but to many wise editors who turned down my early efforts along the way, and then were patient with me as I continued to write for publication.

At conferences, more than one author has choked and shaken visibly before trying to find the words to pitch to me. This makes me want to cry because I know how unworthy I am. My eyes are misting as I type this. I’m so sorry—I am truly not trying to be maudlin or silly. But it’s true.

Okay, I’m back. If talking to me, querying me, or contacting me in any way makes you crazy nervous, please remember that I:

Always must have a good answer to the question, “What’s for dinner?”

Wash and iron clothes and otherwise try to keep the house running well.

Pack my husband’s lunches for work.

Check in with relatives to be sure they are well.

Work. As with any work, some is fun and glamorous. Some is tedious.

In other words, I do the same things you do. Except maybe you change the oil in the car and cut the grass. But basically, we are the same. Yeah, it’s fun to be called awesome and all those descriptors; but, please, look at me as a potential team member, wife, mother, daughter, and your sister in Christ. Otherwise, I have no desire to be a celebrity.

Your turn:

Who do you admire most in publishing? Why?

What keeps you grounded? How?

46 Responses to Keeping Grounded

  1. Avatar
    Janine Rosche September 20, 2018 at 4:26 am #

    I admire who take time to get to know and encourage aspiring writers. I keep a notebook with “breadcrumbs” in it. I take note of all the small things people have done to help me find my way and not let me starve on the journey. I want to remember them, pay it forward, and maintain humility in case I am ever in their shoes.

    • Avatar
      Kathleen Denly September 20, 2018 at 5:27 am #

      Janine, what a fantastic idea! I hope you don’t mind if I copy you. I love the idea of having a written record to remind me of all those people who have helped and encouraged me. So much better than trying to hold it all in my more fallible memory. Thanks!

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    Diana Derringer September 20, 2018 at 4:51 am #

    I never thought about the circle of admiration. Thank you for a new perspective.

  3. Avatar
    Donna Mumma September 20, 2018 at 5:15 am #

    I admire the agents and editors who desire to remind us they are human, that they hate saying no, and those who offer help and encouragement to those of us who have yet to “arrive”. You have done so for me at FCWC several times and I’m thankful for that.

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    Leola Ogle September 20, 2018 at 5:30 am #

    I think what I deeply appreciate is sincerity and humility in agents, editors, and publishers. I felt that sincerity and humility in this post. What resonates with me the most in what you said is it’s all about God’s timing in our writing journey. I have to trust God’s process in preparing me for whatever the final outcome is with my writing.

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    Kathleen Denly September 20, 2018 at 5:32 am #

    What a wonderful post, Tamela. I most admire those who keep our Reason for writing (for living, really) at the forefront of their minds. That usually looks like kindness, patience, encouragement, gentle reality checks, and the ability to lovingly redirect discouragement or pride toward the true source of our abilities and accomplishments.

    As for keeping myself grounded . . . That would be the 4 kids at home who don’t much care where I am in my career. They will still ignore my instructions to clean their room and smother me with hugs and kisses every night.

  6. Avatar
    Elisabeth Warner September 20, 2018 at 5:53 am #

    Tamela, I truly admire what you said about your writing journey. I’m in my mid-twenties now, and God inspired me to write a book when I graduated college. That was FOUR years ago! Comparing myself to those who have “made it,” all they have to do is cough and it’s published as a bestseller. I’ve spent hours, days, weeks, working on this novel, solidifying the plot, molding the characters, maintaining the theme throughout each page. Despite four years of working on this novel, I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing because I haven’t published it yet.

    I’ve never wanted to say that to an agent because it wasn’t “professional.” We’re supposed to have it all together. We’re supposed to have research and thousands of followers and awards to back up our credibility. However, your story reminds me that my experience is part of everyone’s journey in the beginning. I’ve had doubts. I’ve wanted to quit. Your story encourages me today, as I write my FOURTH rewrite of my novel, to keep going. You understand. And for that, Tamela, I admire you 🙂

  7. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott September 20, 2018 at 5:56 am #

    I admire those who graciously share their knowledge, encouraging others to follow God’s call. People like you, Tamela, and the others who post words of wisdom here. Thank you.

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    Loretta Eidson September 20, 2018 at 6:07 am #

    I love the admiration circle, and you’re absolutely right, I admire, respect, and appreciate my agent! I have a whole new admiration for publishers, too. The more I learn, the more I realize I still need to learn. Looking at the circle of admiration, it ultimately starts and ends with the writer. What a responsibility and what a broad ministry for writers, agents, and publishers? More the reason to strive for perfection and utilize the power of words to spread the gospel.

    What keeps me grounded is my relationship with Christ, staying humble, and pursuing the tug in my heart to write truth even through romantic suspense. Not to sound all religious, but because of Him, I am who I am through my obedience to Him.

  9. Avatar
    J.D. Wininger September 20, 2018 at 6:09 am #

    Thanks for today’s post Ms. Tamela. Those I admire most are the ones who take the time to encourage, improve, and guide fledgling writers like me through what seems “treacherous waters” of publishing. There’s so much some of us don’t understand that often God’s helpers point things out to us that we honestly never even knew to think about. Those who allow God to work through them are the folks in the writing/publishing industry I admire the most. Folks like you, Bob, Steve, and Dan. God’s blessings ma’am.

  10. Avatar
    Sarah Hamaker September 20, 2018 at 6:16 am #

    I also keep that in mind–that we’re all human and have families, friends, and life outside of the publishing world–when receiving rejections that seem unfair, a face-to-face meeting that didn’t go well, and the other disappointments that happen in a writer’s life.

    I try to remember that it’s not only on the agent, editor or publisher to make ME as a currently unpublished fiction writer feel welcome or at ease, but it’s also up to ME to be kind, courteous and pleasant in order to make them feel welcome and at ease. It goes both ways, and I’d much rather return disappointment with grace, resting in the providence of a loving Heavenly Father, than behave badly even when “justified” by another’s actions.

    We writers do have the power to ruin an agent or editor’s day by our reactions and words, either spoken or blasted out on social media.

  11. Bob Hostetler
    Bob Hostetler September 20, 2018 at 6:31 am #

    I must differ slightly with your sentiments. I DO desire to be a celebrity. Tom Selleck, actually. But that one’s already taken, doggone it.

    • Avatar
      Mary Felkins September 20, 2018 at 7:44 am #

      Wait. Aren’t you Tom Selleck? I’ve been fooled all this time…

  12. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 20, 2018 at 6:53 am #

    As I write this lymphoma is trying to ground me, with chest pain that is making every breath a struggle, and there is continued bleeding from the pancreatic tumour made manifest in a way I’ll not describe.

    But I am not grounded; my heart is soaring an singing, because the crucible of pain and the flames of fear serve to make every moment, every day precious; I have the privilege of offering encouragement to my wife and my fellow writers, and I get to die wearing the honour of kindness.

    I may not be awesome, but I ride on the Shoulders of a God who is.

    • Avatar
      Jaime September 20, 2018 at 8:37 am #

      You are inspiring, Andrew.
      And I know I’m not the only one here praying for you. And thanking God for all of His promises. He will lift you up.

    • Avatar
      Judith Robl September 20, 2018 at 5:38 pm #

      Andrew, you ARE awesome. Your courage and fidelity inspire us. Your sense of humor and wry wit entertain us and prod us and make us think again. We are grateful for your presence here. And as Jaime said, she is not the only one praying for you and thanking God for your presence with us.

  13. Avatar
    Sharon Cowen September 20, 2018 at 7:02 am #

    I’m responding to both yesterday’s post and today’s. First: I’m so glad to hear Shakespeare did rewrites. Second: maybe I need to put some of my poetry out there and get published. I am trying a few other avenues now, though I still have hope for my novel which I put out there too soon. I’m learning.

    Third: about Andrew’s visit from a stray dog. Yes, animals come with grace on their shoulders, especially many dogs, who love so unconditionally. What a beautiful gift you received! ( I’ve used my one alloted explanation point.)

    Fourth: Thank you, Tamela, for “the circle” in your post today. Love it.

  14. Avatar
    Sy Garte September 20, 2018 at 7:16 am #


    I dont know you, but I know that you are awesome, and that our Lord will welcome you with great love when the time comes. I am praying for you and your family. Peace.

  15. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D September 20, 2018 at 7:21 am #

    I admire folks who are willing to take their time and energy to help newbies (like me) develop and grow. Sound like anyone you know?:)

  16. Avatar
    Janet Ann Collins September 20, 2018 at 7:33 am #

    Before my first writers conference I thought editors (there were no agents in the Christian publishing industry back then) glowed in the dark. But, as I got to know some of them I realized they were humans like me. Now I consider some of the agents and editors personal friends and realize rejections are just part of the business.

  17. Avatar
    Mary Felkins September 20, 2018 at 7:47 am #

    Tamela, I love your heart, sentiments born from a place of authenticity. We do – unnecessarily – shake and tremble in the presence of “celebrity status” people while I think nothing of slumping carelessly before Almighty God in the morning when we meet together over coffee and Bible reading. Oh, and prayer. If I should quake in the presence of anyone it ought to be the Lord first and foremost. Thanks for sharing this!

  18. Avatar
    Jaime September 20, 2018 at 8:43 am #


    I do admire you, for your humility, authenticity, wisdom, and in general your good, good heart. I want to be just like that when I grow up (if I can’t be like Tom Selleck).

    It makes me want to switch to writing fiction so I can meet you at a conference! You are a lovely blessing to those in your circle, including those of us who read this blog.

  19. Avatar
    Norma Brumbaugh September 20, 2018 at 9:09 am #

    Who? I admire anyone who has made it, has a successfulcareer going on, and are loving it
    That said, on the other hand, do agents get discouraged?

  20. Avatar
    Ann Coker September 20, 2018 at 9:10 am #

    I admire good authors. I am a writer (published devos & articles), and won’t consider myself an author until I’ve published a book. I also admire those in my writers group and those, like my daughter and writer-friends, who proof my work.

  21. Avatar
    Abbey September 20, 2018 at 10:35 am #

    Thanks Tamara.
    I so appreciate the humility expressed by the agents at SLA which is what I was searching for before submitting my MS to an agent. At least if I’m rejected, I will know it was done with humility and sincerity, and especially at God’s direction. I can accept that as I wait on God’s timing and learn from the process.

  22. Avatar
    Joey Rudder September 20, 2018 at 10:36 am #

    Tamela, I just love your posts. I also must have an answer to that dreaded nightly question, “What’s for dinner?” (So thankful for our slow cooker and meals I can throw in the oven!)

    But I love that you allow us to peek behind the AGENT ONLY curtain to see the real you. We get glimpses of your sweet spirit and tender heart…it makes this process a lot easier to know you are there and how much you care. (And it also helps with how “crazy nervous” I was when I emailed you…how’d you know? 🙂 )

    Back to writing…I’ll just “let” my husband change the oil in the car.

    Thank you so much, and blessings to you!

  23. Avatar
    Lois Keffer September 20, 2018 at 10:36 am #

    The ones who are really worth admiration don’t intimidate. At all. They just groove you right into the conversation. Like you, Tamela. And maybe, just maybe Bob Selleck up there. I’ve ridden with various great names to and from events and they’re lovely folks. Like all of us, beloved children of a loving God.

  24. Avatar
    Abbey September 20, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    OOPS…hit the wrong key, Tamela! Sorry, I should have checked before hitting post! 🙁

  25. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan September 20, 2018 at 11:12 am #

    I love this post and all the responses. Do I say that every single time? Probably! But these posts from all of the folks at SLA write come from years of experience.

    I think I’ve been rejected, first MS, oh, about 12 times. Humbling and teaching. Some of the words were not so nice, but still gave me the ability to move forward and reach higher.

    My first attempts were simply to best my sister in finishing a contest (I am so not ahem, competitive). Then onto wanting to be published. Of course it was all about me. Cough. Later, I changed my perfect MC into a horrible, self-serving woman and added the Gospel in there. What a revelation. It was about my walk, and how God gave me a good shake of the shoulders.

    Best ever. Watching my walk go from nothing to a better (but so far from Him still) that it (including the rejections) became a joy. The latter agents have been so gracious in their rejections. I could see the cringe where there was a difficult letter to write on the agent’s part. Very humbling for me to see. And, how could I not be gracious in return? The suggestions were awesome, and I have some new direction to go in my rewrite.

    I love the SLA because of the agents, and you put this so well. I will do my utmost to remain calm in my approach to any/every agent I meet since apparently you guys are human too!

  26. Avatar
    Carol Ashby September 20, 2018 at 12:07 pm #

    Tamela, I admire you, Bob, Dan, and Steve for putting so much time and effort into helping people who will never be your clients and whom you may never even meet. The ROI in terms of cash in your pocket is probably minuscule. I’m so glad you all welcome me as a member of the writer community that takes part here, even though I’m a deliberate indie so we can keep the rights. But if I ever were to want representation for traditional publishing, I’d want your agency because of your faithfulness to Christ and the love and care you show to everyone.

  27. Avatar
    Pam Halter September 20, 2018 at 12:35 pm #

    What keeps me grounded? My writers group that meets once a year because we lived scattered. We’ve been together since 2003. Planning our 2019 weekend now. I would have totally give up without them.

    And you know what? My first novel is releasing in October! Took me 12 years to write, revise, pitch, revise, get rejected, revise, pitch, get rejected, revise, pitch, get rejected, revise, and pitch before getting picked up by a small traditional house.

    And you writers in your 20s? Dear sweet things. My novel will be releasing 4 months shy of my 60th birthday. Woot!

    Don’t give up! Never give up. 🙂

  28. Avatar
    Dennis Brooke September 20, 2018 at 1:10 pm #

    Fun post and a great perspective. To answer your question, the people in the industry that I admire the most are people who serve as personal mentors. I’ve been blessed to be mentored by talented people like James Rubart, Kathleen Freeman, Kim Vandel, and others. And I’ve had my chance to do mentoring as well. Guidance and encouragement has taken me from writing novice to published. It’s those relationships that keep me going and inspire me.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan September 21, 2018 at 4:56 pm #

      I love mentors. I have been blessed to have been mentored by a woman who is not a Christian. Imagine how many times she’s heard the Gospel… LOL.

  29. Avatar
    Janice Garey September 20, 2018 at 1:43 pm #

    One group I highly admire is made up of the conference directors and staff who work diligently to bring everyone to the table year after year. They have to carefully weigh the needs of the whole group against the needs of some on a more personal level while at the same time meeting the bigger requirement of pleasing God. Just writing that felt overwhelming. I can’t imagine doing it.

  30. Avatar
    Tyrone September 20, 2018 at 2:41 pm #

    Probably my most favorite blog post from Steve yet.

  31. Avatar
    Ben Miller September 20, 2018 at 3:27 pm #


    I thoroughly enjoyed this blog post, though I seem to be an anomaly. My esteem falls outside the circle of admiration you mentioned. I admire other authors who are able to touch readers in a way that provides a lifechanging experience, be it through some sort of personal growth, deeper understanding, or spiritual healing.

    When a reader puts down the book, pauses for a moment, and feels changed in a positive way, the writer has truly given them a gift. Those are the writers I admire, and I aspire to join their league. I’ve written hundreds of magazine columns, a bestselling book, and two more in the history genre, but my new manuscript is my first foray in Christian literature.

    As strongly as I believe in it, I am unproven in the Christian genre. This new book is the best thing I’ve ever written, but I don’t know how to make others believe in me or how to get it published. The publisher of my previous books specializes in regional topics. He read the new manuscript, gave great feedback, but it’s beyond the scale of what he is looking to do.

    I feel lost in a sea of obscurity and I don’t know where to turn for help. Mainstream publishers told me to remove God from my manuscript to make it more marketable and Christian publishers want me artificially to insert more religious content in it to make it more Christian. Meanwhile, I just want to write, and I want my work to be meaningful.

    My goal is to change lives and I’m stuck at the starting line.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan September 21, 2018 at 4:53 pm #

      Ben –

      I actually feel your pain. But as I took my work to Scribophile (not sure if you’ve been there), a worldwide critique group ($65 a year), I began the first manuscript and started sharing the Gospel in 2012, while correcting a lot, ie structure, syntax etc.

      Not one single Christian was interested in reading it, not one on the entire site. Not one. BUT. That was perfect.

      You may not need the kind of editing I did, but after 6 years, the Gospel had been spread all the way from the US to Canada, UK, Mexico, and to someone who’d lived in Pakistan, and 2 raised Muslims, a few ‘backsliding’ Christians and a handful of agnostics and atheists.

      God uses us even if we don’t publish. These are folks — so many — that I pray for the Scribophile bunch since I can’t recall all of their names.

      So don’t feel discouraged when you are sharing. Even when your previous agent read it, it was sharing the Gospel.

  32. Avatar
    Janet Ann Collins September 20, 2018 at 3:37 pm #

    Ben, I suggest you attend a Christian writers conference, if you can. You’ll make the connections and learn everything you need to change genres.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan September 21, 2018 at 5:01 pm #

      This is a great suggestion, Janet. When I started writing I wasn’t aware of conferences (I was that naïve). I have a haircut, new wardrobe (beyond scrubs or holey jeans) to attend one, and am saving up for the next PNW Christian conference! Now if only I can learn to walk in the heels I bought…

      • Avatar
        Janet Ann Collins September 21, 2018 at 6:16 pm #

        Claire, if you lived in or near California I’d suggest the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. It’s WONDERFUL!

    • Avatar
      Ben Miller September 22, 2018 at 8:26 pm #

      Thank you, Claire and Janet. I really appreciate your suggestions. And great work sharing the Gospel in such a difficult environment, Claire!

  33. Avatar
    Rebecca LuElla Miller September 21, 2018 at 12:13 pm #

    Thanks, Tamela. This is a timely post!


  34. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray September 25, 2018 at 7:36 am #

    I was at the ACFW conference when this post went live. Thank you all so much for your encouragement and sharing! God has given me the world’s best blog community!

  35. Avatar
    Anne Carol September 25, 2018 at 12:08 pm #

    I’m just reading this now, and I have to say, you were so easy to talk to, Tamela. Yes, I was a bit nervous, but you put me at ease and just allowed me to speak calmly! Thank you for your words of encouragement in the meeting as well as your encouraging post here. No matter where God takes me in this writing journey, I feel blessed to be a part of this supportive community.

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