When I recently asked for some topics to blog about, Shan Dittemore asked: “Have you ever blogged about why you got into publishing? I’m curious.”
No, I haven’t. Let me give you a recounting of how I became a writer and editor. Some of you who have attended my workshops know the story, so bear with me if you’ve heard this. I’m probably going into more detail than necessary, but so be it.
Although I can’t pinpoint the origin of my love of books, I suspect it started with a gift I received on my eighth birthday. Yes, it was a Hardy Boy book; The Melted Coins to be exact. For the next several years I wasn’t a voracious reader, but I probably read more often than many of my peers. I continued with the Hardy Boys and, of course, what Baby Boomer boy didn’t eagerly devour the latest Mad Magazine?
After high school, I entered San Jose State utterly clueless about my future. I majored in English by default. My minor was journalism. In retrospect, I should have majored in journalism. During these years I developed a wider taste for books than the Hardy Boys and Mad Magazine. I began to thrive on the typical 1960s fare of J.D. Salinger (though The Catcher in the Rye was not my favorite) and some other offbeat authors. Never got into Dickens, Faulkner, or Hemingway though. Halfway through college I began my first real job. That job was with the Santa Clara County public library system. I worked at virtually every branch from the small Stanford branch, all the way down to Gilroy.
At about this time I became a Christian as did my future wife, Beverly. I thought God’s will for me was to go on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, but that didn’t happen. So, plan B turned out to be a move into a Christian commune in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. When that broke up, Bev moved to Oregon and I returned to San Jose and my job at the library, only this time as a bookmobile driver. I loved that job. Matching people with books was such fun.
Eventually, though, I tired of that and took a job as a manager of a Zondervan Family Bookstore in Aurora, Colorado. By this time Bev and I were married and parents. Our third and final daughter was born in Aurora. As much as I enjoyed my job, both Bev and I missed the west coast and our families. So what in retrospect seems like a miraculous turn of events, I accepted a job with Bethany House author Michael Phillips managing one of his Christian bookstores. At this time, I also began freelance writing. After many rejections, I received my first two acceptances the same week. I continued to write and work in Christian retail and eventually bought one of the stores I had been managing. I was so happy and had a vision for several more stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, my old stomping ground. But it was not to be. I grew too quickly and was vastly undercapitalized and eventually lost all of my four stores. That was a very hard time for us.
While working for Mike Phillips, he had started a small publishing company called Sunrise Books. For one of our first books, I suggested we republish a delightful prairie novel I had first discovered while working on the bookmobile. The original book was Remember the Days by Kenneth Sollitt. We cut the book in two and began the Ann of the Prairie series with This Rough New Land and Our Changing Lives. We had a nice endorsement from Janette Oke (“heartwarming and heart-rending…a reminder of what life was really like”). The books sold very well so I decided to write two sequels since Kenneth Sollitt was no longer interested. Those books were These Years of Promise and While Yet We Live. Those books also sold well (I MUST get back to writing fiction!!!).
After the loss of my stores, I was pretty depressed for a while. But at one point, God showed me myself as a man struggling to swim upstream. He told me that if I would let go, the river’s current would wash me up on the shore of His will—exactly where He wanted me. So I let go. It took a while, but my circumstances began to change. Since I knew I wanted to write but had no idea where I’d be welcome, I did something writers are advised not to do. I picked my six favorite publishers and wrote them a letter basically saying, “Here I am! Need anything written? I’m your man!”). Unbeknownst to me, a woman I had interviewed a couple of years earlier for a Publisher’s Weekly article was now an editor at HarperSanFrancisco, my number one choice. She called me and said, “There’s this new movement going around called Promise Keepers. Would you like to submit a proposal for a devotional book for this market?” WOULD I?????
I turned in the proposal in mid-November. The Monday after Thanksgiving I was given the green light for the book. The deadline was to be February 1. I scrambled to get the book finished and was only a few days late. To make a long story short, the book Promises to Keep: Daily Devotions for Men Seeking Integrity is still in print nearly twenty years later. Check out the nice Amazon reviews. A few weeks after the book came out, my same editor at Harper said, “There’s this new thing going around with all the kids wearing these WWJD? bracelets. Would you like to submit a proposal for a devotional for that market? WOULD I???
That book, 365 WWJD? Daily Answers to “What Would Jesus Do?” has been my best selling book, with more than 75,000 copies sold—and more great reviews on Amazon.
I then did two books for Zondervan—also daily devotionals—His Victorious Indwelling and Magnificent Prayer. (More great reviews on Amazon!). I also helped a friend, Tom Whitney, tell his wonderful story about his walk the length of California. That book is Honk if You Love Jesus.
When I owned my Christian bookstores, one of the sales reps who called on me was Terry Glaspey. Since those days, he had gone on to become an editor at Harvest House. Remembering my desire to write, he asked if I would help a Harvest House author with a book he was working on. WOULD I???? 🙂
I finished that book and shortly thereafter was offered a job as senior editor at Harvest House. Next month marks my 14-year anniversary at Harvest House. I’ve gone on to write several more books, but I’ve found it just as enjoyable to have the opportunity to edit some truly wonderful authors. I won’t name them, lest I accidentally leave someone out. I do love my jobs—both editing here at Harvest House and writing on my own. I remember when I worked on bookmobile I thought I love this so much, I would do this for free! I’ve continued to feel that that way for most of my working life.
The best thing is that I’m not finished yet. Hopefully there will be more authors to work with and more books for me to write. My latest book is Power in the Promises, which came out earlier this year. Later this year one of my previous books, Walking with Wesley, is being re-released by Wesleyan Publishing House.
God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. When I started college without a clue as to what my professional life would be, I would have been astonished to know what my future held. Truly magnificent.