Thursday, August 26, 2010

Out of the Forest

Jennie Helderman, author of As The Sycamore Grows

My friend, Jennie Helderman, is deep in the forest of self-publishing. You may remember Jennie as one of the writers I admire posts of several months ago. A few yearsa go, she took a writing class and wrote an article for an assignment, one that the instructor liked so much that he encouraged her to consider expanding the topic and making it a full book.

And so Jennie's trip into the forest began with these first steps. She spent many hours interviewing the once-husband-and-wife couple to learn the details of the horrific story they lived. She asked for and received permission from them to write the story of a woman caught in an abusive marriage who finally flees to an emergency shelter. Jennie wrote and wrote and wrote, and as the story grew, chapter by chapter, she began submitting them individually to our writers critique group. We gave her fair and honest critiques and she used our comments and suggestions in her rewrites. Sometimes, she rejected the suggestions, having strong feelings that it should be the way she wrote it in the first place. That's the nice part about critique groups--the writer always has the final say.

As the book neared conclusion, Jennie began looking for an agent to represent her. So many who had read the chapters she'd completed urged her to start working on getting the book published. She walked even deeper into the forest, feeling blindly as she went. At one of our wac conferences, she pitched her non-fiction book to an agent in front of the entire conference attendees. That cannot have been easy to do, and I can say that she did an admirable job. When she finished her near-perfect speech, all of the conference attendees let out a collective sigh of relief. We were with her on every word she spoke. The agent asked Jennie to send a few chapters and said she'd get back to her later. This particular agent did not accept the book nor did other pursuits for agents and publishers work out.

But giving up is not in Jennie's character, so she kept going. She looked into self-publishing, but she didn't want just anyone to help her do it that way. She researched carefully and approached a self-publishing group that she found to be one she could respect and trust to do a good job. Suddenly a glimmer of light showed up in that too-dark forest. She was exhilarated and determined to carry on.

That happened last April, once again at one of our wac conferences. At least, that is when she received word that the publisher was willing to work with her. She was so energized that she left the conference a day early to start the working process with the publisher. She contacted her attorney, a book cover designer and who knows what else? She's worked tirelessly for months with a number of people, but the road has not been smooth. She's run into several bumps along the way. And she's given great consideration to the marketing of her book.

As The Sycamore Grows by Jennie Helderman will be released early this fall. Book signing parties have been scheduled and friends have made requests for autographed copies. Soon, Jennie will be out of the forest and into the light. I'll let you know when the book is available. I'm looking forward to reading my autographed copy. You can read more about Jennie's baby--er, make that book, at

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