I am one of the most blessed individuals on the planet, in that I have as a dear friend and mentor, the incomparable Mary Connealy. If there is a more genuine or giving writer out there, I haven't met her yet. Love you, Mary!
Mary Connealy's First Contract Story
My first writer’s conference ever was ACFW and I’d never done anything like attending a writer’s conference before. It took all the courage I had, plus the begging and pleading and….let’s face it ladies…threatening of my critique group to get me to that conference when I found myself a double finalist in the Noble Theme Contest (now the Genesis). Vickie McDonough was the third finalist in my category.
I went but it was so terrifying, I just never did stuff like this. I sat alone at my desk, all alone, so very, very alone…I was happy there. That’s what makes me a writer, that odd ability to sit alone having both sides of a conversation myself. That is much less likely to earn you weird looks (especially if your lips move) if you’re writing a book. But my critique group lured me out of my lovely private world and I attended the conference and I won. I won. I’m sorry, repeating myself doesn’t advance this story at all, but let me just say one more time.
As a result of this contest that I WON, I got requests from eleven different publishers for five books. That may not be accurate. The number seems to go up every time I tell this story.
At any rate, I got asked for a lot of books. And I had a lot of books written, so I had something for almost everyone. One of those requests was for Scent of Heaven. A lovely contemporary romance about a hermit woman who grew roses and made candles with the scented blossoms and the big city boy who wants to build a mansion up the hill from her that will destroy her rose garden.
It’s a beautiful book.
And then the rejections started rolling in. The only one that didn’t end in a rejection was Barbour Publishing, they showed interest in Scent of Heaven –This wasn’t the book that had won the Noble Theme Contest by the way, that was Petticoat Ranch.
I went back and forth with them about edits and trying to revise the book to suit them.
When it was nearly time for the next conference Cathy Marie Hake, who had asked to see my contest finalist entry at ACFW the year before, asked me if I’d like to go in on a three book series with her and Kathleen Y’Barbo?
So we got a proposal together and Cathy sent it off and then came the conference, my SECOND conference. This time I was excited to go.
Every year at the ACFW conference Barbour Publishing gives out a contract to an unpublished author. My first year, Vickie McDonough (nickname—The Show-off) got named the recipient of that contract. The second year I knew I had a shot. Barbour had been talking with me for most of a year about Scent of Heaven.
Well, just before the big moment, the evening dinner where Barbour would make the announcement, Lena Nelson Dooley came up to me and told me she knew Jim Peterson—who, with his wife Tracie Peterson was the acquiring editor for Barbour’s Heartsong Presents line, wanted to work with me. I can’t remember exactly what Lena (nickname—The Brat) said to me but whatever it was, I took it to mean….work with me someday…just not yet.
I was totally deflated. Anyway, I mentally squared my shoulders, determined to work harder, learn more and get a book to Jim that he’d love enough to buy.
So, the evening event came. Tracie Peterson went to the microphone. I had no hope (thank you, Lena) and Tracie announced the recipient of the contract was (please supply your own drumroll) Kathy Kovach!!!
Kathy (nickname—The Canary in the Mineshaft) was seated about one table over from me and I can still hear her screaming. I saw her blow out of her seat. I clapped. I was happy for her. I WAS!!!! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Kathy went up to receive her contract. As she came down off the stage, Tracie said, “And this year we’re giving two contracts and the other one goes to Mary Connealy.
I get chills writing this. Of course the air conditioning in my building is set on frost, but still it was a wonderful moment. It’s all a blur after that. I didn’t scream like Kathy. I almost curled up in a ball. Two people slammed into me. A vague memory suggests it might have been Audra Harders and Debby Guisti, who were already my Seeker buddies back then.
I started crying…and I am sooooooooo not a crier. I suspect it’s a tear duct issue because I never cry. I tear up sometimes but never cry. Not at my children’s graduations or weddings. Not at funerals. Never.
But I did. And not crazed sobbing, tears just started to leak out of my deformed tear ducts. I couldn’t stop them. I walked up front and at this point I think Ruthy Logan Herne (another Seeker) leapt out in the aisle and hugged me. She’s a skinny little thing. She’s lucky she survived the impact. And that hug may have been on the way back to my seat—like I said, I was stunned.
I walked up to the stage and, standing down on the floor in front of the stage, I reached up for the contract and I can remember this so clearly, Tracie said very kindly(like she was speaking to a slightly backward fourth grader), “Come up on the stage, Mary.”
Dumb thing to remember, huh?
So, because I’m happiest sitting behind my computer having both sides of a conversation myself, I reluctantly went up on the stage and Cathy Marie Hake and Kathleen Y’Barbo were there. I tell you this because it’s important but it really didn’t register that it was important at that moment.
We all hugged. I got salt water on everyone, then I took the paper Tracie Peterson gave me and went back to my seat. I sat there crying quietly for quite a while…minutes at least. Then it occurred to me to look at the papers Tracie had handed me. It didn’t tell me I’d been given a contract for Scent of Heaven a book that had as it’s most endearing trait…being finished.
It was for the proposed book with Cathy and Kathleen…which would explain what they were doing up there.
I needed to quit crying and go home and write a book.
Go home and write a book was exactly what Mary did. That first contract, for Golden Days, led to about a zillion more. Her latest is Out of Control, and you can find it by clicking HERE.