Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

My trip home from the ACFW conference was an eleven-hour “planes, trains and automobiles” affair. I flew from Minneapolis to Seattle, took a shuttle from Seattle to downtown Vancouver, and then rode two city buses to get to my front door. It was a good trip. Gave me time to debrief my conference experience and make plans for the next “final” revisions. Gave me time to pray about publication perplexities. I wasn’t disappointed that I hadn’t found a publisher. I’d been through the process before and knew what not to expect. But it had been a long writing journey and the conference had seemed like the last opportunity for publication. I was out of options. Angie Hunt’s exhortation to walk obediently, day by day, trusting God with our dreams, was a comfort.

I arrived in Vancouver, midnight-tired at 10:00, and boarded the first of my two city buses. It was crowded. I dropped into one of the few available seats, behind the driver and across from a lively little man—one of “God’s odds.” He grinned at me.

“What’s the suitcase for? Goin’ away somewhere?”

“No, I’ve been. I’m heading home.”

“Where’d ya go?”

“To a conference.”

“What kind of conference?”

“A writing conference.”

“Oh. You’re a writer, are ya? What’d ya do at the conference, write?”

“No, I went to workshops and talked with editors to see if they wanted to buy my book.”

“Did any of them want it?”

“No. No one wanted it.”

“Why didn’t they want it? Not good enough?”

I was sure our fellow passengers were thinking, like I was, that this was too much information, but I didn’t know how to stop the flow without being deliberately rude.

“No, it’s good enough. They just didn’t want it.”

The dialogue continued, covering such diverse topics as: My husband: “Why would he let you go off by yourself?” My blue jeans: “Everyone can wear blue jeans. Old people. Young people. Doesn’t matter.” My kids: “Why does your son live so far away? Don’t ya get along?”

I finally reached my stop, said a fond farewell to my new friend and thanked the driver, who grinned up at me as I left. The second bus was not crowded, but for some reason I ignored the larger empty spaces and sat down next to a young woman.

“You did a good job talking to that man,” she said. I hadn’t seen her get off the other bus. “I was interested in your conversation about writing. I’m a writer too.”

We traded pitches. After hearing mine she said, “I’ve got a friend who’s a publisher. I think he might be interested in what you’ve got. He publishes books with spiritual themes. I’ll introduce you to him if you like.”

Later that night I sat at my computer, checking my e-mail. Her midnight posting, giving me her publisher’s web address, was at the top of the list. I looked at his offerings. Several fantasies—not too dark. An historical or two. And another book about a gay man who “stops at nothing to find a perfect love, and hope for a perfect peace.” I’d love to tap into this market audience.

I have a strong suspicion this publisher won’t want me either, but it’s the thought that counts. God’s thought. I see his hand so clearly in the serendipity of my bus encounters. He’s showing me that he can pluck a publisher out of a hat in my backyard if he wants to. He’s reminding me that a loving God is at work in our world. His purposes will be fulfilled, through the small, everyday occurrences of our lives. I’m warmed by the thought, and delighted by the unexpected reminder, on my way home, that God’s ways can sometimes be stranger than fiction.

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