“Beyond Cancer’s Scars” Part Three (disappointments along the way)

Six years is a long time to hold on to a dream. Really, I’ve been dreaming the dream much longer than that. Some dreams initiate in childhood when minds are less cluttered, less bothered, and more willing to believe that it could easily and actually happen—the fruition of one’s dreams. At the age of three, maybe four I stood on Beulah Riddle’s front porch in Hartsville, IN, dreaming some dreams and forming some words.

“Beulah, I wrote a song. Want to hear it? It goes like this . . .”

I don’t remember the song or the words. I don’t even remember it being a dream at that point. I just remember the memory, singing some phrases and feeling Beulah’s pleasure. Perhaps this was my first foray into the publishing world . . . stringing words together to sing a song, to tell a story, to entreat an audience. It would be a while before I could spell those words and scribble them on paper, but maybe the dream started there, on her front porch.

It hasn’t left me—my desire to tell my story. But that dream has morphed over the years, been shaped by the harsh realities of the publishing industry. Not everyone appreciates my songs like Beulah did. Not everyone is willing to take a chance on my words. I’ve spent the last six years actively trying to get someone’s attention, trying to make it past the front porch of traditional publishing.

It hasn’t worked, at least according to the large folder of rejection letters I’ve collected over the years. I’ve made it to the porch a time or two, even gone so far as to sing a few lines of my song to some well-known publishers. But no one ever sticks around for the benediction. They have their reasons. I’ve heard them all. But none of them feels reasonable to me. Reasons (whether valid or not), don’t change the fact that when rejection arrives, rejection cuts into the dream . . . whittles away at passion and pulse.

I know this one. Past rejections regarding my written words have scarred me, not silenced me but wounded me enough to strengthen my resolve and my decisions for how I want to handle my stories going forward. I carried both my writing scars and my cancer’s scars with me when I attended a writer’s conference last summer, just days after completing my latest manuscript. I also carried this resolution: a publisher’s reluctance to take a risk on me won’t wound me as deeply this go around. If they didn’t want my story, then I would find a way to get my story to readers. Holding this confidence in my heart freed me to be me, to say what I needed to say during the five publisher appointments I snagged during the conference.

My pitches (a.k.a. making your book irresistible to publishers) weren’t perfect; far from it. I blubbered my way through each fifteen minute time slot. In the end, four of the five publishers took my proposal back to their publishing houses. A year later, I’ve yet to hear back from two of them; I almost made it past the front porch with the other two, but in the end, my words received a “thanks, but no thanks”—some kind of mumbling about how cancer doesn’t sell. And I felt the cut, once again. And then I heard these words from my son one October afternoon when my sorrow spilled over on to him (turn up the volume; Jadon used his inside voice on this one):

I did get back up from my wounding, brushed myself off, and found the one idea that worked for me. With the willing and prayerful consent of my husband, we forged ahead to publish the book ourselves, not unlike what I did with my first book. It’s been no small thing; it’s been a huge undertaking. There have been obstacles, frustrations, and a more than few reasons to find my knees along the way. But as we round the corner toward home, I’m thinking that the end result will be worth the struggle to get there. I’ve paid a high price to write this story, both with my flesh and with my bank account. I’ll never get a full return on this investment (at least when measured by industry standards), but I’m counting on something greater . . .

A lasting legacy. A living witness. A personal investment into the lives of those Beulahs who are willing to sit on the front porch with me and listen to my song. If I can give them the words that God has graciously given to me . . . if I can give them to you, then my story, as well as my faith, move forward. In the end, what else matters?

The world doesn’t get the final word on our dreams, friends. God does, and word has it, his front porch is big enough and sturdy enough to cradle them all.

“Beulah, I wrote a song. Want to hear it? It goes like this . . .”

Peace for the journey,

What dreams do you hold in your heart? Who are your “Beulahs”–the ones who’ve championed your story, your dreams? I’d love to hear your witness from the front porch today.

37 Responses to “Beyond Cancer’s Scars” Part Three (disappointments along the way)

  1. Elaine, I have heard the same rejections, although only a couple of times. Past that, I simply went to my Abba and told Him that if He wanted anything I write to be traditionally published that He would need to bring the opportunity to me, or make me hyper-aware that I needed to go after a traditional publisher. I think any writer dreams of being a best seller, but the reality of the situation is that publishing is a business and publishers only put their money into pieces and authors that will bring them a ROI.

    As you know I went the self-publishing route with my first Bible study. The one I am working on now….not sure what the Lord will do with it. Just waiting to hear from Him.

    It is a tough world, this publishing world, and not for the faint of heart. Your cancer story will touch lives and it will make a difference. Your investment will pay off in lives and hearts touched…of that, I am certain.

    • I’m so glad you printed your words, Leah. You have such a pure heart and attitude about it all. I’m hopeful that you’ll get your next study in print. They both deserve the nod of a traditional publisher; rest assured they have the nod of God. You know how much I adore you!

  2. Thank you for plowing ahead Elaine and following that slip of a dream. I don’t comment often but of all the writings I follow, you have remained. Remained in my busy schedule because I know I will receive deep truths and encouragement from your pen. I love your thoughtful way of “working out” (not for) your faith. I’m with you along the journey. I also pray God will make much of your obedience. With a hug for a friend I may never meet until Heaven but who has surely helped me on this side. Margi

    • Thanks for being here this morning, Margi, and for taking the time to let me know you are here . . . on my front porch! You bless me greatly with your encouragement. May the rich blessings, favor, and love of Jesus rest upon you this day.

  3. I believe God’s plan for you is for you to write! You’ve shared that gift so freely and in such abundance to us all. You’ve blessed us, encouraged us, and given us hope with your pen. May God continue to richly bless your words!

    I have NOT read the series and certainly don’t intend to, but I learned a few days ago that the author of the ‘hot’ series, Fifty Shades, self-published through Lulu, and I think I might give that a try IF I ever finish my WIP.

    • Wish you could have listened in on the conversation I just had with my friend, Brenda Coffee. We were talking about the process of getting published and how terribly demeaning it can all be. I know it’s all part of the process, but I can honestly say I’m free from it and am continuing on. I love your encouragement here to just write. This frees me as well. Thank you for always being a support to me, and I really hope you’ll get your book out to us soon. Love the cover by the way and am ready to promote it from here to eternity and back. Keep me posted.

  4. You have a story to tell and God has pointed the way for you to do so. I have gotten close a few times but for me, the stories I’ve written aren’t the ones that I feel need to be published yet–oh my non-fiction ones–yes and I’m glad most of them have been but I am still working on writing that novel that needs to be printed. When and if I ever do, I may consider your option of going that route–until then I am still trying to figure out God’s direction for me with writing.

    • It’s going to happen for you, Terri. You have an iron will and a writer’s heart. In the midst of all the changes that are coming your way, I pray for those special hours you need to write, write, write. Perhaps going home to PA will be the perfect fit for this writing season you’re in. Keep me posted, and if you need another reader for that first chapter (even though I write non-fiction), I’d love to take a look.

  5. I’ve gone to writer’s conferences, met with agents and publishers, had them take my manuscript, plus I’ve gotten an agent who turned out to be a flake at a credible agency. Those rejections hit hard. They’re depressing and after a while, the whole business can be so painful that you just want to sit in a corner with some crayons, anything but your pen.

    Even if we’re rejected by everyone in the world, our Father God has already given us all the approval we’ll ever need.


    • Oh mercy… snorting and laughing with this one, Brenda. I can visualize myself drooling in a corner and coloring the walls with my crayola 64! This has made me laugh so much; I can’t thank you enough. You’re right–cruel and inhumane treatment at some of these events. So glad I’m free of it all. Love you.

  6. Elaine, I’m so proud of you & your determination to follow & honor the Lord. I KNOW He will use this book in ways you haven’t even dreamt.

    Continued prayers for you and your journey~

    • Thank you for being here today, Jennifer. I’m counting on God to do what he wants with this book. His plans are so much better than mine. It’s up to Him now, and I can’t tell you how freeing this is.

  7. Oh, those sweet words from your son…what is a mother to do? Be encouraged and assured that her legacy and witness are indeed lasting and living…on her front porch and beyond….

    • Jadon has always been so tender and aware of my tears. I wrote a post several years ago on the occasion of some initial rejections from publishers. Jadon (6 at the time) came to my closed bedroom door, softly knocked, and shoved two quarters through the crack at the bottom of the door. His words to me then were “Mommy, I’ll buy your book.”

      My kids have always been my biggest cheerleaders. Indeed, what’s a mother to do but to take it in and feel the love. Thanks for checking in.


      • Elaine, That’s TOO much! God has something very, very unique and wonderful in mind for this boy! I pray that he stays sensitive and pliable in His hands.

  8. I have to tell you that ‘little Elaine’ made me smile! I see that little face in her ‘big girl’ face and it is precious!

    Jadon’s words are amazing! What a kid, and he is YOUR kid! 🙂 A prophet or sage could not have said it any better.

    I wish I were as certain of some of my own ventures as I am of your venture into writing… not a shred of a doubt that God has gifted your pen with His words. It does NOT stop with rejection from an earthly publisher… these gifts are from God, and they will be used. He will have the final say, not a publisher!!

    Keep that pen handy. I’ve told you before how spoiled I am with good writing from Godly people. You are one of those treasures.

    Back to one of our favorite words…. FORWARD! 🙂

    • Thanks for being a champion of my kids! Amelia still talks about the time she received “a little bit of money” from mommy’s blogging friend. Just precious.

      What dreams/ventures do you hold in your heart, Sonja? Tell me about them sometime. I’d love to weigh in.

    • I remember that day well; thank goodness, I had the wisdom to catch a “retelling” on camera. Some day, I hope it will serve as a strong anchor/reminder to Jadon about the faithfulness of God.

  9. I believe the strength of character you developed through the whole cancer experience has stood you in good stead for remaining obedient to the “call”. You ARE gifted…but (as someone said above) publishing companies are businesses. Money is their reality and bottom line. They have bills to pay; PEOPLE to pay.

    Seems to me, SOMEone in their editorial/purchasing dept. would know cancer statistics and a hunch that “cancer DOES sell”…………Especially when written with the skill and understanding God has POURED into you.

    Your response to these disappointments is inspiring and instructive (and I know NOT w/o pain and personal angst)!

    • I’m just ready to get this launched so I can rest, Rebecca. God has been my confidence and strength through-out.

  10. Precious…the words of a child that sooth the soul!

    Rejection, no matter the kind, can destroy and kill. It is so tough to live through yet it makes God’s amazing interventions that much more miraculous when we see them in the end!!

    I do expect to be one of your first to receive an autographed copy!!

    Your amazing!! Pamela

  11. I have thought of writing my own story, and getting it published. Someday hopefully that desire will become a reality for me. I just need to have the same kind of focus and determination that you have.

    But what I really want to say is this: first, Jadon is amazing. His words are so encouraging, and full of wisdom. Secondly, I have a number of friends who are cancer survivors… and I have no doubt that they will easily relate to your story, because part of it will be a re-telling of their own stories. Once your book is out, I can help promote it to my circle of friends. I am also sure that your book will be a signpost that points the way to heaven. I’d also love for my friends who are still searching to find that way through your heartfelt words.


    • Thank you, Lidia, for being here today and for your continuing support of my ministry. My greatest hope for anything I write is that it would serve as a signpost to heaven! I hope you’ll continue to put words to your story. Your life serves as a sign-post as well. Blessings.

  12. The song “Little Is Much, When God Is In It” comes to my mind when reading this. And by no means to say that your writing is ”little”. Just that you may assume that because some big publisher has not grabbed up your writing, you do not have a big work! That is soooo not true! You will never know in this mortal flesh just how many people you have influenced through your writing! And in my way of thinking you may be storing up many more rewards in heaven than another Christian writer who is on the best seller list and reaping their rewards here on earth!

    Love you faithful Elaine!

    Marilyn…in Mississippi

  13. That was so precious. I also can see that God has incredible plans for Jadon…a future writer/teacher??? Definitely already a beautiful encourager! What a treasure you have in your lovely family! I’ve missed you…but my summer break has kept me off the blog for a good amount of time. Just enjoying my favorite season. This post was such an encouragement, Elaine! Thank you! And I join Jadon in saying that you will succeed…and our wonderful Lord has already gifted your readers with strength and insight from the wisdom of your words imprinted on our hearts. May the holy spirit continue to inspire you. Love in HIM!

  14. OK, I’m just catching up here. Read part 1-3. Love this quote “Courageous are those who are willing to allow pain to serve as a crucible for heaven’s increase rather than hell’s determined purposes” AMEN, sister! So, thankful for the journey. In part two, the directive from God is nothing short of beautifully amazing. I get super excited to hear another’s “God story” I crave that voice and love the sound of HIm echoing in my heart! And here in part 3 I don’t know what I like best – your pic or your son! They both are soooo precious. Oh, child, thank you for sharing! xoxoxo

  15. wifeforthejourney:

    Here we are, on the other side of our TN trip and getting back to our Fayetteville routine. As I’m catching up on things here at church, I am at your blog and finding a lot to remember and resonate with in my reading and watching. You are such an authentic author and individual. This post is honest, vulnerable and available to any and all who have experienced disappointment.
    As we live, our disappointments become part of our history. Disappointment can be crushing, heart-breaking, despair-producing experiences – especially if we have no one to confide in. Obviously God is ever present and I’d never want to discount the Spirit’s power in our lives BUT it does seem to please God to often use other people to encourage us — enter our son and Thomas Edison.

    Thank you for being the one that has encouraged me time and again in my own seasons of disappointment. Through your writing you are making yourself available to a world full of people that need someone just like you!



  16. How precious is that video with the words from your son. You are leaving an incredible heritage to your family – as we all should do! I am thankful that there is no rejection with God for those who are in Christ Jesus! Love you and miss you! Prayers go up often!

    Living in the fullness of JOY,

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