The Bittersweet Humility of My Name on a Book Cover

logcabinTwo summers ago, I worked hard to get myself organized for the launch of my first novella, “The Dogtrot Christmas,” which appeared in Barbour Publishing’s A Log Cabin Christmas Collection.

It felt like a dream come true and when it went on to make the New York Times October 2, 2011 best-seller’s list, I was simply stunned.

(And really, given this tiny last name– 2/3 vowels– don’t you think I should be a clue in The NYTimes crossword puzzle? Or would that be just a little over-the-top?) 🙂

This September 1, A Log Cabin Christmas Collection is being rereleased–the same gorgeous cover, deckled pages and great price.

But a second Christmas book with my  name on it also is being released on the same day: A Pioneer Christmas Collection.

This is an embarrassment of riches.

But it also provokes an interesting dilemma: how to market two similar books at the same time?A Pioneer Christmas Collection

(I’m not alone in this; Margaret Brownley has stories in both books, too.)

Over the next month, you’ll have ample opportunity on this website to read about my stories, the other novella writers, their Christmas stories; and even take a chance at winning a fantastic gift basket (offered by the Log Cabin writers) or a signed copy of A Pioneer Christmas.

For today, a moving day for me, I’d like to repeat a post I wrote about what it meant to me to be published.

Thanks for reading.

The Bittersweet Humility of a Published Book

Michelle Ule; Log Cabin ChristmasSeveral years ago I sat in my rocking chair to “have it out with God.”  I was tired of talking about writing and trying to write. I needed to know if this desire to write was from God, or was something I only wished was from God.

I was willing to set it aside and do something else–getting a Ph.D. in American history has always been the fallback–if this wasn’t something God wanted me to pursue.

I’d been reading about prayer and one book exhorted us to “dream big,” and “ask for the impossible.” We also were advised to scrub our hearts and desires to determine what we really wanted.

While I’m not a “name it and claim it,” Christian, I decided to ask for the one desire of my heart.

“Okay, Lord, I want to write a book.”

Ping. The light went on in my brain. I’d already written several books.

“Okay, Lord, I need to revise that. I want to publish a book that makes a difference in someone else’s life.”

I don’t think God said this, but I laughed at myself–was that my second request?

I don’t worship a genie God who waves His hands and gives me the desires of my heart. I worship a God who gave me gifts that He might be glorified through them. The honor and acclaim needs to be His, not mine.

That’s easy to say, but what does it really mean? I needed to confront my reasons for wanting to write.

So what was the state of my heart? Why did I want to write a book?

I hated to admit it, but the real, honest truth, hidden deep in the recesses of my soul was, I want to prove a point.

Unfortunately, the people I most wanted to impress were dead. Long dead and will never know I actually wrote a book that was published.

Mom’s sacrifices

My mother always expected me to amount to something–she put up with a lot to make sure I had a secure and happy childhood. If I wanted to be a writer, she wanted to make sure I had the opportunity. I’m sorry she’ll never know my name appeared on the cover of  A Log Cabin Christmas Collection, A Pioneer Christmas Collection, Bridging Two Hearts and The Texas Brides Collection.

She lived long enough to see my name on the masthead of the UCLA Daily Bruin and to get a copy of Military Lifestyles Magazine when I won the grand prize short story contest. She saw the biography I wrote about my grandmother and of her parents. She knew I was writing Pioneer Stock, but never learned it ended up in the Library of Congress, much less in genealogical libraries around the country.

I’m sorry, Mom, it took me so long.

What do you have to write about?

Aunt Rosie gave me a Webster’s Dictionary for my tenth birthday. I loved words even then and still have it, the pages brown and spotted with age. She asked one day when I was in college what I planned to do.

“I want to write.”

She laughed. “Really? What do you have to write about?”

“My thoughts and stories.”

She sniffed.

Aunt Rosie lived long enough to read Travels with Jeanette, a story I wrote about touring Europe with my mother. Not published, but complete. She liked it, as did her brother, because it brought my mother alive again for them.

Aunt Arly, read Travels with Jeanette as well, and liked the parts about my mother but wanted me to write a mystery next.

They’re gone now, and never held my books in their hands.

So, what else was I trying to prove?

I spent twenty years following my naval officer husband around the world, raising our children in a variety of locales, teaching Bible study and doing little professional work. Unlike my children’s godmothers, I did not hold a job. To publish a novel would demonstrate all my fine IQ points were not wasted on raising children.

Except I know, as many of you know, that I didn’t waste all those years raising children, making a home and teaching Bible study–not to mention working at pregnancy counseling centers, volunteering as a Navy Relief budget counselor and all the hours at eleven different school districts.

I know.

You know.

But I didn’t feel accomplished.

After that day praying, I knew there was no point in God answering the desire of my heart to be published if I thought being published would be the pinnacle of my life. I needed to recognize Click to Tweet

Intellectually, I understood completely. Emotionally, I struggled.

When A Log Cabin Christmas arrived, I held the book in my hands and looked at the green embossed title, my own name in small letters on the bottom line. I flipped through the pages and marveled at seeing words I typed on this computer, printed into a book.

It felt humbling and marvelous.

It reminded me of holding a new baby: the joy, the awe, the wonder.

But you know what?

A baby is more valuable than a book. Click to Tweet

I am honored, now, to have four books with my name on the cover. I wish my parents and my aunts had lived to see it.

But more importantly, I know my parents and my aunts lived long enough to see my four children and my happy marriage.

They thought I was a success, even then.

Thanks be to God.

What defines success in your life?

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Wow, Michelle, in many ways your story echoes mine! May you see your name on many more covers … and may we both keep it all in perspective. 🙂

    Reply
  2. What a lovely, moving post today – I’m sure you touched many hearts, and brought tears to as many eyes.

    My definition of success actually came tonight, with something of an Epiphany.

    I have dreams, I have plans, and I also have a life that makes such huge demands on my time that I’ll never accomplish most of them in this life.

    It doesn’t matter.

    Not a burst of nihilism, but the realization that I’m a child of Eternity, and that my success lies in realizing that – and joyfully living it. There will be time for all of the dreams to come true.

    And there will be time for even bigger ones to grow up behind them.

    Reply
  1. The Dogtrot Christmas--original Chapter Three | Michelle Ule, Author
  2. On Being Published: 5 Years Later | Michelle Ule, Author

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