Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A First Contract Story - Cara Putman

Today I'm pleased to have another ACFW/Barbour First Contract story, this time from Cara Putman. I hope her story encourages you as it encouraged me.

And now, Cara Putman.


In September 2006, I walked into my second ACFW conference. I was excited to see friends I’d met the prior year. I also couldn’t wait to hear Liz Curtis Higgs speak. I knew I would learn so much to improve my writing and hoped to meet some editors who might be interested in my writing.


Little did I know what God had in store for me.


At the opening evening that year in Dallas, I could feel the energy in the air. One of the exciting things about the ACFW conference is that Heartsong Presents and Barbour Publishing often award first-time contracts at the conference. It is an amazing time, getting to sneak a peek as an author gets his or her very first contract, a life-changing event that usually occurs with a phone call or message that no one else gets to see.



In 2005 when the conference was in Nashville, I watched Mary Connealy receive her first contract. As I sat at the table that’s when I realized this might actually be possible. I mean if she could get a contract, couldn’t I? Wasn’t it possible? Seeds of hope were planted in me by watching Mary’s moment.



Little did I know that 2006 would be my year.



I’m sitting at a table with a few friends waiting for the opening keynote address. Then Brandilyn Collins invited the Barbour editors to the podium. When JoAnne Simmons approached the podium, the excitement rose in the room. She held an envelope and said it contained an offer to publish Canteen Dreams.



My breath caught and my friends screamed. My mentor Colleen Coble was across the ballroom and I could hear her shriek. As I made my way to the front, she met me and gave me the world’s largest hug and spun me around.



Shaking, I accepted the letter then made my way back to the table. Pam Meyers slid a cell phone to me, but I waved her off. After a moment, I decided she was on to something and headed outside and called my husband. I’m amazed he could understand me.



The wonderful thing about ACFW is that everyone celebrates with me. Throughout the conference people congratulated me. 



Now you need to understand a bit about my frame of mind as I drove to the airport EARLY in the morning I received the contract. Late the night before I’d received an email from an agent who’d considered taking me on as a client since the prior year’s conference that I wasn’t a great fit. I appreciated her honesty, but it kind of spun me around.



Add to it the fact that the editors I had connected with at Heartsong Presents were no longer there. JoAnne had started over the summer, and I just knew my proposal and manuscript had disappeared in the transition. I walked in to the conference without an agent and without a connection to the house I’d written the book of my heart for. Everything I’d anticipated had disappeared.

As I drove to the airport, tears coursed down my cheeks as I turned over my expectations once again to God. I know that I only wanted to write if that was what God had for me. I didn’t want to force it, but it was a deep desire of my heart. That drive felt like I was offering an Isaac/dream in my life to God.



Then, God gives me this amazing gift. A public contract award. It was the beginning of an amazing emotional rollercoaster. Would JoAnne realize she’d made a mistake. Put the wrong name on the letter? Fortunately for me, she didn’t. Instead, that first contract led to five more books, all set during my favorite time period. The stories of my heart written to honor a generation of heroes.



Dreams do come true. For me Tracie and Jim Peterson encouraged me at the 2005 conference and after as I developed Canteen Dreams based on a conversation Jim and I had. Then JoAnne Simmons decided she saw something in a simple story of a couple finding love in the early days of World War II and gave me a chance. I will always be grateful for the doors they opened for me.



If you are still waiting, pray. Hold your dreams out to God. Trust Him to care more about your dreams than you do. And trust Him to provide the perfect time and home for your stories. He will.



Cara Putman is a woman living a dream. Barbour's Heartsong Presents has released six of her books, including Canteen Dreams, a WWII historical set in Nebraska that won the ACFW 2008 Book of the Year for Short Historical. She also has written romantic suspense for Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense, contemporary mysteries for Guidepost, a historical romantic suspense for Summerside, and the Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law. Cara is an attorney, wife, mom to four, homeschool teacher, occasional professor at Purdue, active at her church, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, her husband and her kids. Http://www.caraputman.com
http://www.facebook.com/caraputman

Thank you, so much, Cara, for sharing your story with us.

As an added bonus, leave a comment, and you might win a copy of Cara's debut novel, Canteen Dreams. I've read it, and I know you won't be disappointed. I'll announce the winner next Monday.

Question for you:  If you are published, what was your reaction to your own first contract?  If you are not yet published, have you imagined what you will do or say?

29 comments:

  1. I'm contracted and it still feels unreal.
    Cara does SO much! I don't know how she stays sane. What a great contract story and I hope she's found an awesome agent now. ;-)

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  2. Wow...what a beautiful, beautiful story. I could read this one over and over again!

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  3. I so love your story, Cara! And wow, we're practically neighbors! I live in Zionsville and am a ridiculously huge Purdue fan, AND I was scheduled to speak to the Crawfordsville MOPS this spring (but had to cancel due to an unforseen medical emergency). Anyway, thanks and blessings to you for sharing this! You gave me a lot of hope today!

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  4. Thanks for hosting me, Erica. I've enjoyed reading the other first contract stories, too. And yes, I have a great agent now. God opened that door through my mentor Colleen Coble.

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  5. Oh Cara, I remember that day so well. But I don't remember offering you my phone LOL. I was standing behind you and had just asked if you'd heard anything about your Canteen Dreams manuscript and you said no. Then they announced your name. I shrieked and you didn't exact walk toward Colleen, you literally ran LOL and hugged her before heading to the stage. It was an honor to have critiqued an early version of that book. What a fun day.

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  6. What a wonderful story, Cara. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

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  7. I love that everyone's publishing stories are so different as far as the timing in their lives, how they hit on their first contract, which great folks encouraged them. The constants seem to be talent, persistence, and God's grace!

    Thanks for letting us know about this post on the conference newbie loop, Cara. Blessings!

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  8. Makes me excited for the conference! I haven't submitted anything to a house publisher yet but it will be fun to see those awards!

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  9. I was at ACFW when Cara received her contract. I can still picture her running to the podium to accept her contract. I love that Barbour does that.

    When I received the call from my agent in January, I burst into tears and sobbed. Rachelle was so understanding about it though. :)

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  10. Amazing story! Thanks for sharing, especially this line.

    "If you are still waiting, pray. Hold your dreams out to God. Trust Him to care more about your dreams than you do. And trust Him to provide the perfect time and home for your stories. He will."

    Thanks, Erica, for doing these. They are so encouraging!

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  11. Heavenly days, I literally saw spots when my agent called to offer me representation! (My husband had to get me a glass of water--I didn't want to faint right then and there of all things!)To get my first publishing contract...oooh! I break out in a nervous (but excited) sweat just imagining it!

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  12. Cara's story gives me such hope for my own publishing journey. I only wish I had half her energy! Can't wait to meet her in September!

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  13. It was so fun to share it with you, Pam. and I love reading the other 1st contract stories. God is so good! Trust His timing!

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  14. Kay Chandler11:58 AM

    What a beautiful, inspiring story. Love the encouraging words: "If you are still waiting, pray. Hold your dreams out to God. Trust Him to care more about your dreams than you do. And trust Him to provide the perfect time and home for your stories. He will." If that doesn't put goose bumps on your arms, you must be already published!

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  15. What a fun story, Cara. Thanks for sharing. I just got a contract the beginning of June. It was pretty exciting.

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  16. I loved reading her story! What an encouragement it is to me! Thank you!

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  17. I didn't realize that happened at conference. As I was reading your story, goosebumps and tears formed at the same time. Hearing that must have been magical. Love it! Now, I'm more excited than ever to go and watch the person that happens to this year. Every single person in that room must have felt so blessed to get to witness that.

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  18. What a great story, Cara! So encouraging! Definitely gives me hope! Thanks for sharing.

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  19. WOW! What an amazing and exciting moment that must have been! Gives me chills just reading about it!

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  20. SO amazing what God does with our dreams. :)

    And btw, this book is still my very, very favorite you have written. :-))

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  21. Aw, thanks, Casey. It's very special to me, too. And I'll never forget my first year at conference watching Mary Connealy get her first contract and thinking it could happen to me. It's my favorite part of conference because I believe it instills hopes in those wondering if they could ever be published. I love that Barbour does that at ACFW.

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  22. Anonymous3:55 PM

    I loved your story. Starting from "the moment" and flashing back to the morning did the trick: you hooked me and who would ever have guessed how your day started?

    So, thanks. I'll be @ ACFW for the first time this fall, and hope to meet you. Not to mention, I would be delighted to win Canteen Dreams.

    Take care,

    Gail Kittleson gkittleson@myomnitel.com

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  23. What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing!

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  24. Well, you were right, Cara. This was an encouraging post. Success stories always give hope. But beyond that, it also stimulates me to get moving to produce a product eligible for publication.

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  25. Gail, can't wait to meet you! If I don't find you, do seek me out. I'd love a chance to hug you!

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  26. I was there! I remember! ;)

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  27. Hope Toler Dougherty9:58 AM

    Thanks so much for your encouraging spirit, Cara. I cried at the sweet story, and I don't even know you--yet. Love the title.

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  28. Thanks for sharing this, Cara and Erica. It's always encouraging to hear such wonderful success stories. I'm always happy to have my magazine articles accepted for publication, but sometimes I despair of getting my novels out there. It was God's nudging that sent me into Christian fiction so I know He has the process under control. I just haven't figured out what He intends my part to be, beyond the pray and be patient part. :)

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  29. Deb Wilhelm6:32 PM

    How exciting! I hope that kind of electrifying wonderment about conference, an idea that was pitched and received well, selection for a contract,fresh vulnerability about rejection, and a completed manuscript happens this year! Congrats to the lucky winner.

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