Guest Blogger: A First-time Author Shares Her Story

March 14, 2010 | Written by admin

Chip asked me to tell the story of how I got published. Here’s the thing: I have the world’s worst memory when it comes to things like timelines. Maybe all writers are the same. Maybe just women. No idea. Regardless, consider this my official disclosure if dates and details are a little fuzzy or a year or two off here or there. But I think I can recount the gist of how this all worked out for me.

In 1997, I had the brilliant idea that I might be able to be a stay at home mom if I could actually bring in some cash. Writing had always come easier for me than most, so me being the genius that I am knew that this would be the way to bring in some fast, easy, cash. Ahem, yeah, well…

So, for the next six months or so I wrote everything from greeting cards, to articles to short stories, poetry, and my personal favorite—rhyming children’s books with strong morals featuring talking fruits. I sent this little gem to all the best New York literary agents in fancy, twenty-four point font, wondering how I would ever decide which agent to allow the privilege of representing Anna Banana.

Needless to say I collected quite a pile of form rejection letters. I cringe to think that some of my earliest work is probably framed above some agent or editor’s desk just for laughs. Despite my stupidity, laziness, and lack of knowledge in the publishing world, I did manage to get my first pay check six months in for a magazine article. I was a published author!

I had a little more luck over the years which followed—a few articles, but not a whole lot. In 2003ish, a girl at church was talking to the congregation about writing her second novel. My mouth dropped. She was just seventeen! If she could do it, surely I could. With all the know how I used to launch my rhyming fruit books, I set about penning my first novel.

In six weeks I had my first novel. I took this masterpiece, (which was so good it needed no editing,) to sell at the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference. It was at this conference that I picked up my first copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, a book that would teach me a thousand times more than I previously knew about editing. I also met my critique partner Ane Mulligan, who I half suspected was insane. Turns out she is, but pleasantly so, and together with Jessica Dotta, the three of us have remained critique partners for the last 6 years.

It was at this conference that I also met the man who would become my agent, Chip MacGregor. He scared off a lot of people with his brash frankness, but I saw a truth teller. I pitched him that first novel. He blinked at me a few times, smirked a little, then said, “Gina, I’m with Alive. We’re the top agency in the business. I’m really not looking for authors who are just starting out….in fact, I’m a little surprised that you’re pitching me.”

Ouch. Undaunted, Chip and I prayed together before I left that appointment and I’d made a friend. With the help of Self- Editing and my new critique group, I spent the next year or two editing that first novel, and learning the basics of the craft of writing. After that, I wrote my second, third and fourth novels, all suspense. All of the novels I wrote came close to publication, but somewhere between an editor’s interest and the publishing board meeting, interest waned and rejection after rejection . . . after rejection followed.

Through all these years, I ran Novel Journey, wrote, edited, mentored and was mentored. I attended many writer’s conferences, built relationships in the industry and learned all I could about the business. I had several agents who weren’t quite right for me and then at an ACFW conference Chip announced he was starting his own agency. He also made it clear that he was interested in representing me. Chip and I were friends, our philosophies lined up and I knew he was very good at what he did, so the partnership was a no-brainer.

Over the following months, I would get calls from Chip every now and then making sure I wasn’t planning on jumping ship just because it was taking us a while to get a contract. I think we were both concerned we were letting the other down during this time. Chip always kept my spirits up by letting me know he believed in my writing and that I would get published eventually because “greatness will out.” I think he represented me close to two years before I was contracted.

In 2008 I think, I started reading things like Memoirs of a Geisha, Peace Like a River, Jane Eyre, Watership Down, etc., and thought that maybe I was writing in the wrong genre. I wasn’t sure, so I figured the only way to find out was to try writing something a little different.

 I presented a third-person medical mystery to Chip along with a few chapters from my first-person women’s fiction novel about a young mother dying of cancer. I asked Chip which one he thought we ought to pursue. He said, “They’re both good and I can probably sell either, but Crossing Oceans seems like your true voice.”

That was it. I knew he was right.

At the ACFW conference that year, two editors asked to meet with me.
Normally, I’m the one stalking them, so this was way different for me. They both had some suggestions on improving my story. One editor was on fire for it. The other, was really more passionate about seeing me get published because she thought I’d done so much to help others. In the end, one pursued me and my story and that passion is what won out at the end of the day. I sold my novel before it was completed. It’s rare to do it, but we did. Not only that but Chip scored me an advance that far exceeded my expectations.

Long before I understood that Tyndale was really going to publish Crossing Oceans, Chip knew. He kept congratulating me before we’d even had an official offer. I trusted him, but was afraid to get my hopes up. Finally, he called me when I was at work in the hospital nursery, surrounded by crying babies, nurses and doctors. Via cell phone, he said, “Gina we have an offer. It’s okay to scream now.”

I had to sit down. The whole nursery grew quiet as everyone listened in. My coworkers knew I’d been at it a long time. I spilled a few tears, so did some of them. That night, I couldn’t get anyone on the phone. Not my critique partners, not my family, no one. I couldn’t tell anyone that after ten long years of rejection my dream was really going to come true.

At least I get to tell you. That’s my story.


Gina Holmes’ first novel, Crossing Oceans, will be released by Tyndale Publishers on May 1. 

Posted in Career, Publishing

  • Holly

    I love this! Hard work and prayer and some more hard work and prayer. Hmmm, looks like you are onto something!

  • Cecelia Dowdy

    Wow! What an inspiring post! I’m glad you shared that with us!

  • Wendy

    So cool to learn about how you slid into your “writing skin” Gina. I love each of the books you mentioned reading in 2008.
    Can’t wait to read Crossing Oceans.
    ~ Wendy

  • Nicole O’Dell

    Great story! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • Sharon A Lavy

    Yea Gina!

  • Sharon A Lavy

    Chip, I wish you would post a photo of your guest bloggers.

  • Kathleen L. Maher

    I read this blog all the time but rarely comment. This one deserves a big “wa-hoo!” Gina, that was a wonderful story. Thanks for posting, Chip.

  • Julie Garmon

    Beautiful story of how it really is. Can’t wait to read Crossing Oceans. I meet with Ane twice a month–she’s amazing. :-)

  • Heather Sunseri

    What an incredible journey of perseverance! Thanks, Gina, for sharing your story, and thank you, Chip, for the guest post. All writers should be encouraged by Gina’s story.

  • Jan Cline

    So happy for you. I could feel your excitement as I read. You have the best for an agent – you are blessed. Just think of what the next ten years will bring!

  • Meg Moseley

    Thanks for sharing your story, Gina. I’m very happy for you!

  • Gina Holmes

    Thanks for letting me tell my story, Chip. And everyone for your generous encouragement.
    BTW, Ane isn’t really insane. I just like to tease her. She’s probably the nicest, most giving person in the CBA. Jess and I like to say the three of us are an oreo and she’s our sweet center. How she puts up with us crumbly, not so sweet, cookies is a mystery.

  • Shawn Smucker

    Thanks for sharing your story. Lots of fun.
    Chip, perhaps this could be a regular post where authors (published or otherwise) could share their journeys?

  • Brandt Dodson

    Congratulations, Gina!!

  • Carla Stewart

    Thanks for sharing your story, Gina. And congratulations on CROSSING OCEANS.

  • Melody

    Wow. That’s dedication. Congrats!

  • Cara Putman

    Huge congrats, Gina. So excited for you!

  • Rachel Hauck

    Great testimony, Gina! Congratulations! Can’t wait to read the book.

  • Christina Berry

    Way to go, Gina! So proud of you … and of Chip for seeing your genius. :)

  • Carrie Turansky

    I loved reading about your journey to publication! So happy for you! I am looking forward to reading Crossing Oceans.

  • Elizabeth Ludwig

    You’ve worked so hard, G. I couldn’t be happier for you. Many, many congratulations to you, and sincere wishes for future success.
    God bless you and your pen!

  • Casey

    Wow, this was incrediable. Congratulations on your book, I wish you the VERY best! Maybe there is hope for the rest of us after all… Now did I see an “email me link” up there under Chip’s picture?? LOL! Great post, thank you SO much for posting. :)

  • Ane Mulligan

    So I’m sitting in a spa chair, getting a pedicure, when my cell phone rings. It’s Gina calling to let me know she outed me on Chip’s blog. ;)
    I don’t see where, I mean aren’t we ALL in this business a little bit insane? :)
    The best thing that happened to me was when God brought Gina and Jessica into my life. We’re more than an oreo – we’re a cord of 3 strands. We’ve pushed each other to higher heights than we knew we could go. We’re not afraid to be really tough on each other.
    Gina’s not afraid to tell me a chapter is so boring it’s like reading the book of Numbers in the Bible. And she was right. I wasn’t afraid to tell her when she first changed voices that the first attempt was stilted. She kicked a cabinet or two then tried again.
    That second try was absolutely and utterly brilliant. She had indeed found her natural voice. I’m SOOO proud of her and Crossing Oceans that I can’t wait for everyone to read it. The story is terrific and the writing is beautiful. It’s the kind of story that lives on in your memory once you finish it.
    I love you, G. I truly couldn’t be more excited if it were me. Maybe close, but not quite. ;)

  • Michelle Griep

    Yo G ~
    A whoppin’ big palm stinging high-five to you little cowgirl!

  • Cynthia Hickey

    Great post, Gina! You’re an inspiration!

  • Darcie

    So encouraging :)

  • Pam Meyers

    Thanks, Gina, for sharing your story here. It’s brought tears to my eyes. I think for all of us who write, it was like reading a been there, done that story. The rejection part that is LOL. Your story is an encouragement to the rest of us.
    And about Ane, you’re right she’s not insane. A little bit nuts at times, but not insane. LOL. Truth be told she’s a great encourager. I know because I’ve been on the receiving end of some of that myself.

  • Tina

    Great post and I’m so happy for you, Gina. :-)

  • JTronstad

    Gina, congratulations! What a journey you started way back then.

  • Susan Meissner

    Loved hearing all the little details that I hadn’t known before, and some of the things I did, like your special friendship with sweet Ane with one N! What a great way to encourage other writers,
    Awesome story,

  • Angie Breidenbach

    Gina, this was very encouraging to me today.

  • PatriciaW

    I read lots of “Call” stories, but few come across with as much emotion as Gina’s. If this is your voice, can’t wait to read your novel, Gina. Congratulations.

  • Sandi

    Congratulations, Gina! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Now I’m looking forward to reading Crossing Oceans!
    By the way, I liked how you mentioned King and Browne’s book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Dave King is a contributor on my Book Doctor blog:

  • Gina

    G, I feel like I’ve walked with you for part of your journey. I remember when you were writing super natural thrillers and a few years ago when we played the “when” game at conference. So thrilled your “when” is HERE!

  • John Robinson

    Gina, this is so cool for you. I remember several years back when you had me as your guest on Novel Journey; it was very much an honor.
    Since then I’ve had a couple of nasty knocks, but as I re-start my writing career, your wise words comfort me. Blessings.

  • Donna Perugini

    I feel like I’ve just joined a party! A toast to Gina and Chip!
    Gina, you are tenacious and your friends are a blessing to you. Whether your time line was in order or not, you ‘knocked it out of the park’!


    Congrats Gina! I look forward to reading your new book. :-)

  • Lee Smith

    I love stories like this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Marla Taviano

    Congratulations, Gina! That’s stinkin’ awesome!!

  • Vasthi

    Congratulations Gina!
    And thank you for Novel Journey. It is a blog that informs, entertains,and connects writers. I have enjoyed it for years.

  • Stephanie Barnum

    I am so honored I was witness to that scene in the nursery…I think I told you it was okay to scream anyway..heehee.
    LOVED IT LOVED IT!!! Can’t wait to read it again!!