Two seemingly unrelated thoughts have bounced around in my head for years. About three years ago, though, they came together rather quickly and became the story behind my novel Miracle of the Christmas Star.
Thought #1 is that I have always been amazed by the healings of Jesus and wondered at the faith of the families of the people He healed. The story of the people who lowered their crippled family member or friend down on a pallet through a roof to get him into the house where Christ was preaching especially has touched me. Being handicapped back then must have been even more challenging than being handicapped today. In my heart I have always believed that if my daughter Dawn, who has cerebral palsy, and I had lived during the time of Christ I would willing have crawled with her on my back if need be as far as possible to bring her to the Savior to be healed.
Thought #2 is that I have wanted to write a short, inspirational book that I could sell at Christmastime, much like a book I had read a few years back.
About two or three years ago in my writers group, I had been reading sections of a book I had written which had previously been rejected because, as the publisher who rejected it had said, “It wasn’t a page turner.” So I was rather discouraged about that.
One night I was getting ready to go to my writing group and decided to just quit and give up trying to publish another novel because it’s just too hard. But then I thought about the parable of the unwise steward in the New Testament and thought that since I had been given a talent of writing, however meager it seemed to be, I needed to do all I could to magnify that gift. So I got in my car to head for my meeting, grumbling and praying the whole way. “OK, I’m going, but what good will it do? I’ll never be a successful writer.”
A while later as I was sitting on the couch at my meeting and contemplating my desire to be a writer, I glanced up to my left and clearly could see what appeared what I can only describe as a visible shaft of inspiration coming down and landing on me. It filled my mind and heart with idea to write a short book about just such a mother as I hoped I would have been if Dawn and I had lived in Biblical times. I would write about a mother who lived at the time of the Savior and who was indeed willing to crawl on her hands and knees with her daughter on her back to take her to the Savior to be healed.
I knew then what my story was. I started writing it the next day.
I had planned for it to be only about 100 pages long and to write it quickly. It turned about to be a longer story, about 176 pages, and took longer than I thought to write, about a year as I recall. Then I quickly sent it off to a publisher, expecting the miracle of publication to happen quickly because after all, I had been inspired and I had acted upon it. Well, it was rejected quickly and then I wondered what I was supposed to do.
I did the only thing I knew to do—I picked it up and tried to figure out how to write it better. I had a couple of good readers read it and give me some good suggestions, so I made those changes, cleaned it up, and tried again.
I knew I had to do something I had never done before, which was find an agent, because very few general market publishing houses will consider unagented manuscripts. I bought a subscription to an online literary agents website and began the process.
And a complicated one it was. I first had to identify only those agents that considered religious manuscripts and then tailor each query to what they wanted. Some of them that required about six pages of text (synopses, abstracts, bios, marketing ideas, etc.) to be emailed off, only to get a terse email back the next morning that the agent wasn’t interested.
That didn’t seem to be working, so I sent it back to a different imprint of the publishing company that had rejected it the year before, hoping it was better and that they had forgotten it . . . or had gotten different editors.
The rejection letter several weeks later boosted my confidence, though, because it was a personalized one instead of a form rejection and you only get those when your work is good. The editor writing said they had seriously considered publishing my book and it had been the subject of many discussions, but in the end they were sorry but they couldn’t publish every good book that came across their desks. I even read the rejection letter to my writers group!
Then the thought came bubbling up in my mind to send it back to a previous publisher ,even though my last book with them hadn’t sold well. But the thought kept coming back, and I began to think that maybe it was inspiration. So I prayed and asked and basically told the Lord, “OK, I’ll send it to them, but I don’t think anything will come of it, but maybe it is inspiration and this is what You had in mind from the beginning. (But I don’t believe it is.)”(I suppose the Lord recognizes parenthetically prayed statements.)
I got it ready to mail and wrote what I hoped was a persuasive cover letter, telling them there were several reasons I thought this book would be a bestseller for them. And I sent it off.
A couple of months later—waiting to hear from a publishing company seems interminable—I was going through my emails the day after an exhausting day and into-the-night work trip to Washington, D.C., and their answer was pretty buried far down on the list. I saw the address and my heart sank, knowing it was a rejection email, but then I saw it had an attachment and a glimmer of hope appeared.
I was so nervous I could hardly click on the email. Then I read “Congratulations! We would like to publish your book . . .” I jumped up and ran downstairs to where my husband was fiddling with starting a fire and started shouting, “I sold my book, I sold my book.”
Then I worried I had misread the email and made him come back up and read it to make sure. Then I was so nervous I could hardly text and call everyone. But I did!
And that is the story of how my book Miracle of the Christmas Star came to be published by Cedar Fort publishing company in Springville, Utah.
I really hope lots of people read it because I want people to know the story of Sariah and Hannah. It really is a written testimony of my faith in the divinity and healing power of the Savior, however long you have to wait for that healing to occur. The story is the culmination of my struggles so far with having a handicapped child and my faith in her ultimate healing.