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Writing Journey

JoAnn Durgin - Writing JourneyAnd the man said… “Peaches!”

It’s interesting how the Lord affirmed in my mind that Awakening was the “one” the Lord wanted me to pursue getting published first. Even though it’s the first in a series, I had written a number of stand-alone books prior to this one, and I was in the middle of writing this series when the following happened.

Let me preface my remarks by telling you that my core character in Awakening, Sam Lewis, loves peaches any way they come.

One day at lunch, I got into the elevator of my office building with two gentlemen. As soon as one of the men said something, I looked at him and said, “If I closed my eyes, I’d think I was in this elevator with Nicolas Cage.” As you may know, Nicolas Cage is an actor with a rather distinctive voice. The man laughed and said, “I hear it all the time.” He even laughed like the actor. When we stepped off the elevator, I asked him to please humor me and say something to my friends – yes, it was that uncanny. The man was very accommodating. He walked over to the two ladies, planted his feet apart, literally threw his arms wide, and said, “Peaches!” I think my friends could have scraped me off the floor. Of all the words, phrases, or anything the man could have said, he said something that had personal meaning to me and my writing, and my core character.

There are many more interesting things – call them signs, call them indicators, call them whatever you want – along the way. I’ll share more as we go along this journey. Stay with me and enjoy the ride!


Long and Winding…But So Worth It!

A few writers have asked me, “How did you get a book contract so quickly?” Little do they know! This journey has been a long and winding road. I think because I showed up on the writing scene only in the last year or so, it might be perceived that I’m a new writer. But nothing could be further from the truth!

To get published takes a measure of talent, of course, but I know there will always be more literary, more talented and prolific writers. I wouldn’t wish to be saddled with high expectations, for then I’d surely fail. But our gracious Lord has equipped me with the ability to tell stories and has opened doors for me in HIS timing. But it wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight. There’s also something to be said for dogged determination and developing a thick skin.

I first tried writing a novel when I was a stay-at-home mom in Philly. With our oldest daughter away at a Christian summer camp with my husband for a week, and an infant at home, I slept when the baby did and wrote pretty much around the clock. I sent it to one publisher, and it got the attention of an editor. She suggested changes and to send it back…and then moved on to another publisher, and then the line folded. I continued to write, but more for my own enjoyment, and never sent anything to any editors or agents.

Then we moved to Boston. I sent something to one of the biggest Christian literary agencies, too ignorant to know they only took on published authors. I told them I’d written three books, but I never told them I was published. Through one of God’s “flukes,” it got their attention. I didn’t get published, but they told me to keep at it because I had “something.” And told me to come back when I was published…

Not long after, I put my writing – but not my passion for it – aside for a decade and stayed busy as a wife, mother and pastor’s wife. God used that time in my life to equip me with life experience that helped contribute to my own unique “voice.”

In November 2008, I picked up some Christian romances. By this time, we’d moved to my native Indiana, “home in my heart.” I told my husband, Jim, “I think my books at least measure up.” I literally blew the dust bunnies off the manuscripts bound in notebooks beneath our bed. The last manuscript I wrote in Boston took me all of a week to write. I picked it up with fresh eyes 10 years later. But, I only had the second half. I told Jim, “This could be the start of a series.” I hated the thought of having to reconstruct it, and of all my stories, it’s the one I remembered the least. But I also knew THIS was the story God wanted me to tell.

My daughter found the antiquated disks, but they couldn’t be read. I kept praying, and told Jim, “We need to go to our knees on this one. If this is the story God wants me to tell, He’ll give it back to me.” Two weeks later, I plugged the disks back into the computer again. The backup disk did something it never had before. The hourglass appeared with a prompt, “Do you want to read it as text only?” I pressed the button and waited, praying with one eye open as it churned in the computer. Something popped up, and it wasn’t gibberish…it was English! I printed it, saved it, and rushed to compare it to the other half, and it was SEAMLESS. I’m crying again as I type this – as I do every time I relay this story. God gave me my story back. The story HE wants me to tell.

That manuscript got the attention of one of the top Christian agents. He was right in telling me it wasn’t quite there yet. It was slaughtered by one published author who basically told me a story about a couple in a missions camp wouldn’t sell in today’s market and to leave those characters on the proverbial cutting room floor. But it was loved by another published author, and she encouraged me to keep going. I did.

In November 2009, the Lord saw fit to remove me from my full-time paralegal position. I never shed one tear. It was truly a gift of the Lord. Armed with a generous severance package, I was able to sit at my computer and make the necessary contacts in the writing world. I entered some contests – finaled in one, scored 100% from a judge in another and that judge is now a very dear friend and writing mentor. And the Lord orchestrated it so that my book found its way into the hands of Torn Veil Books, a new Christian romance publisher in Canada. Torn Veil was the first entity to request and receive the entire manuscript. Lo and behold, they sent me a contract on May 1, 2010, a day forever burned in my memory.

The Lord has given me my stories for a reason. To SHARE them. And I pray that someone will be blessed.

More Fun Facts

*I graduated from Ball State University (but a few years behind our famous alum, David Letterman) with a degree in Journalism and English. Imagine that.

*I’m related to both an oil millionaire and a PGA Golf Master’s Champion.

*I shook hands with Danny DeVito on the streets of Concord, MA, and had to lean over to do it.

*I sat on the 18th green at Pebble Beach and saw Gary Crosby (Bing’s son), Clint Eastwood and O.J. Simpson walk over the crest of the hill. Surreal. But keep in mind it was in the late 1980s.

*My winegrower boss in California owned a second home in gorgeous Carmel-By-The-Sea and flew Jim and me in his private plane to dinner in Monterey one evening. But that was the end of my jet-setting career.

*I’ve been to Europe three times but never to the Colorado Rockies. I must go one of these days.

*In every spare (but rare) moment, I’m doing something connected with writing. I’d appreciate your prayers as I continue along in this writing journey.