One thousand eight hundred and twenty days ago, I started writing my book, a memoir about going from atheism to belief. After three complete, from-a-blank-page rewrites; countless feedback sessions from Joe and my agent and brilliant fellow writers, each of which left me wondering whether I should perhaps just give up on the written word altogether; revisions that made me feel like my brain was melting; a reality show; three new babies; and a pitch process that almost sent me into cardiac arrest every time I saw my agent’s name in my inbox…I finally have a publisher.
I know I use this word too much, but there is no other way to describe the pitch process other than to say it was EPIC. When Ted, my agent, first told me that we had multiple offers from great publishers, I was thrilled. My excitement quickly melted into a vague sense of dread, however, when I realized that I could only pick one. I know, I know, good problem to have. But because my writer angst knows no bounds, I had these visions of making the wrong decision and ruining everyone’s life in the process, leaving some poor acquisitions editor so scarred that she’d spit on the ground any time she heard my name.
I prayed for direction, and to my great relief my prayers were answered. God made it clear which house would be the right fit for this project, probably because he knew that I’d turn this situation into too much of a hot mess if he didn’t intervene directly this time. Ted made some calls, we all signed some papers, and now I can finally tell you:
Ignatius Press is my publisher, and my book will probably be released either this Fall or next Spring!
Ignatius? you say. Ignatius Press? The Pope’s publisher? The house that puts out all those works of theology that make you feel like you didn’t know anything about anything until you read this book? They’re publishing you? All I can say is: I KNOW!
Our bookshelves are about half full with Ignatius books, and I’m still having a hard time believing that mine will one day be among them. Let’s see, we have:
- A Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace by Henri de Lubac
- A Refutation of Moral Relativism by Dr. Peter Kreeft
- Scandal of the Incarnation: Irenaeus Against the Heresies by Hans Urs von Balthasar
…And Jennifer Fulwiler talking about listening to Tupac on her iPod while reading the Catechism.
I keep waiting for Mark Brumley to call and tell me delicately that there’s this professor with five PhDs named Jennifer Fullwider, and, long story short, a horrible mistake has been made. But that hasn’t happened yet, and I’ve given it a few weeks, so I guess I can officially say:
Ignatius Press is my publisher!!!!
I invite you to raise a glass of your favorite beverage to celebrate this moment with me in a virtual toast. Thanks for putting up with my writer drama over the past few years (though I shouldn’t talk about it in the past tense, as if there’s not a whole lot more to come). I love sharing my story with you, and I hope you’ll continue to join me in the adventures that are yet to come!
We’re home! The baby is doing very well, my health is great, and the kids are thrilled to have a baby in the house again.
It’s been a little crazy though (by “a little” I mean “A LOT”). I’ve spent the past few days pondering whether it’s having six kids under nine or just having two under two that’s making everything feel so overwhelming. I’m thinking it’s the latter. I’d developed a dangerous overconfidence since we had a newborn as recently as summer 2011. “This’ll be no sweat. I have this baby thing down!” I declared to myself repeatedly, wondering why the big neon sign that said HUBRIS ALERT!!!! would suddenly start blinking over my head.
As it turns out, though I have had a baby somewhat recently, it has been four long years since I’ve had two under two — more than enough time for my self-preservation instincts to dull my memories of the special kind of craziness that brings. Combine that with the fact that said almost-two-year-old has been nicknamed “Decibel” by her pediatrician, “The Pistol,” by her grandmothers, and “The Texas Tornado” by a visiting friend, and let’s just say that the next time a stranger in the grocery store smiles and makes a “you have your hands full” comment, I am probably going to grab her by the collar, get in her face and scream, “WOMAN, YOU HAVE NO IDEA.”
Somewhere in this mess is MY SIGNED BOOK CONTRACT. That’s right: the deal is final, I am thrilled and honored to be working with this publisher, whom I have always admired…and the contract, which is the culmination of five years of toil, is lost in the most cluttered four square feet in the universe, a.k.a. my center island. I’d been planning to sign it with a glass of champagne in one hand, special commemorative pen in the other, smiling for the multiple pictures I was going to force Joe to take of the momentous event, but instead I dashed out a scribble roughly resembling my signature while I was on my way out the door to the NICU; I don’t even remember which night it was last week. I’m going to announce all the details soon, so maybe I can break out some bubbly for that.
Speaking of books:
As I bounce along this rocky road of health recovery and adjusting to having 50 or six or however many kids there are in this house now, I continue to find books to be a huge stress reliever. In particular, I love true stories of people who have gone on wild adventures and lived to tell about it. Maybe it’s because I am the least outdoorsy person in the world, but any time I read of people staying strong while being tested to their physical limits, it always fills me with amazement at the indomitability of the human spirit…and makes me really, really, really glad to be sitting in my house, no matter what kind of craziness happens to be playing out in my own life at the time. For those of you who could use a little escapism right now, here are a few books I recommend for this purpose:
Five gripping true adventures that will make you feel super happy that you’re sitting on your couch
BOOK: Shadow Divers
WILL MAKE YOU SAY: “At least my scuba gear did not just get tangled on exploded electrical wires while I’m deep inside a shipwreck 220 feet under water with one minute of air left!”
SUMMARY: This was my most recent read, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s the story of two deep sea wreck divers who discover a mystery U-boat off the coast of New Jersey, and learn about life and themselves as they devote their lives to discovering the identity of the ship and its crew.
BOOK: Endurance (the one by Alfred Lansing)
WILL MAKE YOU SAY: “At least I’m not using ice shards for toilet paper!”
SUMMARY: This is in the top five books I’ve ever read, and is probably the most inspiring of all the titles on the list. You’ll find yourself staying up way too late reading this incredible story of how Ernest Shackleton and his crew survived an Antarctic shipwreck.
WILL MAKE YOU SAY: “At least I’m not lying on a small inflatable boat in the middle of the Atlantic with the awareness that a shark could come up out of the abyss and devour me at any moment!”
SUMMARY: This is the book that made me realize that my will to live is not very strong. I would have rolled over and died after about the third of the endless setbacks that Steven Callahan faced in his 76 days at sea after his boat sunk in the Atlantic Ocean.
BOOK: In the Heart of the Sea
WILL MAKE YOU SAY: “At least I’m not in the dead center of the Pacific Ocean with an an extremely angry and vengeful 50-ton whale charging my boat!”
SUMMARY: A page-turning look at the early 19th-century whaling industry and the personalities of the ill-fated whaleship, Essex. The story has darker undertones than something like Endurance, but it’s a fascinating examination of themes like being a hunter vs. becoming the hunted, and the tragic extremes people will go to to survive. Will make you loath to mess with whales, too.
BOOK: Skeletons in the Zahara
WILL MAKE YOU SAY: “At least I’m not drinking camel urine!”
SUMMARY: The harrowing story of shipwrecked Americans who were enslaved by nomadic tribes in the Sahara desert. Like In the Heart of the Sea, the experiences of these sailors touch on the darker side of humanity at times, but the book remains a jaw-dropping tale of survival. You’ll never feel so thankful for a glass of water.
* * *
This post would not be complete without noting that the way I got time to write it was to allow the kids to raid the mega-jumbo box of individually packaged Cheetos, Doritos, and other junk chips that I presciently picked up before the baby’s birth. I told them that they each could have two bags: one as an entree, one as a side dish. At one point my 20-month-old accidentally dumped hers on the floor and kept eating (I will say that the floor had been swept recently. I think.) Anyway, as I was polishing up the post, I looked back to see my children eating Doritos with a side of Sun Chips for lunch…off the floor. New lows at the Fulwiler house!
Thanks again for all your prayers and support. I should be back to regular blogging, as long as I keep buying those bags of chips.
I’m only, oh, six weeks late on this, but I keep meaning to direct you to this webcam interview I did with blogger extraordinaire Brandon Vogt. It’s a 10-minute discussion in which we talked about evangelizing to nonbelievers, how to get traffic to your blog, how I find time to write, and the top three books that changed my life. And you can see it all right here!
Now, it’s bad blogging etiquette that I am posting the video here rather than directing everyone to the link where Brandon posted it on his own site, but I am in great need of an easy update this week, and desperate times call for ripping off other people’s content and making your own post about it. So you have to promise me that you’ll go check out his blog and subscribe to his RSS feed right now to make it up to him. You won’t be sorry: Brandon is one of the most insightful, energetic voices out there, and has a ton of interesting things to say. You’ll love his site. And I’m not just saying that because he invited me to write for his super-popular book and I’m “borrowing” his video.
On another note: I barely recognize the woman in that video.
For one thing, I look small. And fuzzy. One thing we did not discuss in our interview is how Brandon managed to look normal and clear, while I look like a redheaded hobbit, broadcasting from a distant planet where the webcam signal can’t quite reach planet Earth. Maybe we’ll hit that next time.
I seem startlingly energetic too. Where did all that go? Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, me right now is much less like me in that video, and more like Henri the Existential Cat:
In the interview with Brandon, I laughed out loud at the part where he asked me how I have time to write, and I said confidently — as if this is just second nature of put-together people such as myself — that I simply get up early. Yes! You know, so that I can do a lot of work! In the morning! And be on top of the day! Did you hear that, internets? You just have to GET UP EARLY — LIKE I DO.
This interview was recorded back in my “six for six” phase when I was actually getting up around sunrise all the time, so I guess I thought that this might become a lifelong habit and was momentarily feeling proud of myself about that. Long story short, when a friend asked me what I was working on these days, I explained that my big goal for the summer is to see how late I can sleep, each day trying to top the morning before. The other day all five kids (or at least the ones little enough to be unable to feed themselves breakfast) slept until 9:40, but I feel certain that we can top that. 9:45 FOR THE WIN!
Oh, speaking of ennui: I’m still finishing up some book edits, and will probably be at it for another 10 days or so, but after that I should be back to something that looks like regular blogging. I very much look forward to that, for a lot of different reasons.
See you Friday!
Occasionally I post updates about the progress of my book for the amusement of fellow writing nerds. Those of you who don’t care about writing and/or the fact that I’m writing a book can safely skip this one and move on to something more interesting. (Like this blog post by a local man who doesn’t believe in killing scorpions, EVEN WHEN THEY STING HIM IN BED.)
Well, I finally went back and re-read the first draft of my book after a two-month hiatus. I think I secretly hoped that I’d find that my memories of a mediocre draft were completely inaccurate, that I’d behold my completed book to realize that I had written The Great American Memoir without even realizing it. Uhh, no. Now that I’ve looked at it with a fresh set of eyes I see that it needs a lot of work to even get it to the level of being decent. Like, a whole lot.
I’ve been avoiding coming to this conclusion for a couple weeks now, but after a lot of thought and discussions with my husband and some trusted friends I’ve realized that I need to rewrite it. “Rewrite” as in open up a blank Word document, “it” as in the 212-page, 78,000-word book that I JUST SPENT A FREAKING YEAR WORKING ON.
Well, I’m being slightly melodramatic. I think there are a couple chapters that can be salvaged, and there are plenty of little scenes throughout the book that are worth keeping. But it’s not a matter of just editing and revising what I have. I don’t know how I didn’t see it until now, but I was approaching the entire subject the wrong way — writing in a voice that I don’t usually write in, taking the subject too seriously, and not having a clear vision of the structure of the story from the beginning. The result isn’t terrible, but it’s also not very good. I don’t think I’m capable of writing a classic for the ages, but I do think that I am capable of writing a book that’s a good read, and this one just isn’t there.
For a few days I was tempted to just polish up what I have and send it over to my agent. With his help I think it could have been fixed up enough that he could probably even convince some publisher to buy it. I had poured such a tremendous amount of time and energy into this project that I was ready for it to be over, to move onto something else. I found myself at a fork in the road: I could continue to let myself mentally check out of this project and just pray that God would find some way to salvage it, or I could check back in, rekindle the energy I felt when I first signed the contract with my agent, and do what I needed to do to put a good book together. I decided to do the latter. And, surprisingly enough, I’m now really excited about it — maybe even more excited when I first started last year, since this time I feel like I know what I’m doing. My agent supports this decision as well; he’s told me from the beginning to forget about timelines and just write something good.
In a perfect world I would not have, you know, spent TWELVE MONTHS on a project that was headed in the wrong direction. But I say with my teeth only slightly gritted that I’m sure God has a plan here, and I know that my effort was not entirely wasted since some of the material is still usable. Besides, at least I learned a lot. And I know without a doubt that it’s the right thing to do, even though it demolishes the timeline I originally had set in my mind. It might not mean that the new version will be great, but at least it will be much better. If even just a couple of people take the time to read what I wrote, I want them to know that I gave it 100%, that it was truly my best effort, and that I took the time to get it right.