Nov 5, 2015

Thank You, Lisa Mangum, For Scaring Me

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being a part of the Northwest ANWA Retreat in Rosario Beach, Washington. I arrived on Wednesday for the write-in so I could concentrate on the work-in-progress I'd been struggling with for eighteen months. It was also the first time I went to a conference intending to talk to an editor about my manuscript.
The ladies at the retreat.  10 Points if you can find Lisa!

But we didn't have just any editor. No. We had Lisa Mangum, the Acquisitions Editor for Shadow Mountain Publishing. This may not be a big deal for some writers, but in Mormon world, having the Acquisitions Editor for Shadow Mountain, the imprint for Deseret Books, on your doorstep is a big deal.

I'd spent weeks psyching myself up for a possible encounter with Lisa. I'd rehearsed at least a dozen scenarios in my head on how to present my book as the best thing ever and convince her that I had the next Fablehaven series. My first book, Unleashed, was nearly through the editing process and I was planning on finishing the first draft of the third book at the retreat.

The first time I saw Lisa, I swear angels sang from Heaven. I was expecting some lady in a black pantsuit, high heals, perfectly coiffed hair, and flawless makeup. But Lisa addressed our crowd of forty writers in a Rush t-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes, and absolutely no make-up. It was glorious! She's a real person!

The view from the beach
The next day, the writing gods smiled down upon me, and I walked into the conference building to find Lisa, all alone, staring out a window at the ocean. It couldn't possibly be that easy, could it?

I took a deep breath, smoothed down my shirt, and marched right up to her, thinking up some stupid excuse to interrupt her reverie.

She was nice, smiling politely and even remembering me from the 'getting to know you' session the night before. “You're the lady double majoring in Social Work and Addictions, aren't you?”

I grinned like an idiot and nodded my head.

“So, what are you writing?”

I have spoken in front of crowds of nearly 2,000 people, once ad-libbing for twenty minutes when they had an equipment malfunction. I've watched my three-month-old son be wheeled out of his hospital room to have open-heart surgery, had a child nearly die in my arms, and have made business presentations to international corporations. And yet, talking to Lisa Mangum scared me most.

One of our breathtaking sunsets! Aren't you jealous?
My heart skipped a beat, my mouth went dry, and I drew a blank. “It's not ready! I don't want to talk about it.”

She gave me a funny look. “Okay, then what have you been reading lately?”

Blank again! I swear I've read twenty books in the last six months, and I couldn't think of anything except the Twilight series I'd teased my sixteen year old son about reading...for the fourth time...and some e-book series I'd read nearly a year ago. “The Scarab Beetle Series? Text books?” I stare at her hoping she can answer my question for me.

Instead, she just smiled. We chatted for a few more minutes about nothing in particular, and then lunch was called. I missed my opportunity, and I spent the rest of the afternoon kicking myself for not having faith in myself or my book. Somewhere during that split second when Lisa asked me what I was writing and giving my answer, a little voice in my head screamed, “It's not good enough! She's not going to like it!” And I listened.

Saturday morning, I almost ducked out early because it was my daughter's birthday. But Lisa was talking one more time and I wanted to hear her words of wisdom.

She talked about how she once listened to that horrible little voice in the back of her head that said, “You're not good enough.” She listened to it for ten years. But something changed in her, and she realized that, not only was she good enough, but she had a book in her that was “like the best thing ever.”

She discussed how she began to write again, how scared she was to show her story to others, and how, after it was published, she realized that we all have a story inside us. We need to get that story out. We need to ignore that negative voice in the back of our heads, and write!

I left the ANWA retreat energized, motivated, and a true-blue Lisa Mangum fan-girl.

Since then, I've finished my third story, am 14,500 words into my fourth manuscript, and have decided to split my series into two trilogies. My goal is to have my book, Unleashed, ready to submit to publishers on January 1st. And you know what? I think I may just make it.

Thank you, Lisa Mangum, for scaring me and kicking me into motion. I would never have made that leap of faith with out you!


  1. You CAN do it! Don't let anyone tell you differently--not even that little voice in the back of your head. :)

    And congrats on finishing your story and writing more! Good luck with your submissions. :)

    1. Thank you! I can say that meeting you was a life-altering experience.

  2. I love this post! It is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thanks for sharing it. I need to find someone to scare me, I guess...oh wait..that already happened. Maybe I should follow up on that! hugs~

  3. Great pictures! Were you the first photographer for the group shot? I may email you- your shots turned out great. (I'm the second photographer.) :)

    And I loved your post. I completely related to how you felt about meeting Lisa. I'm sorry your moment with her didn't go the way you hoped, but I'm glad it turned around for you. Her talk was so inspiring! Good luck with your book!

    And I also have to say, I'm so sorry about your harrowing moments with your son and the child in your arms. That is so scary and I hope they're both okay.

  4. Heidi,

    Thanks! Yes, I was the first photographer, and I'd love to hear from you.

    Yes, both of my children wound up being OK. I figure all those crazy experiences will be ammunition for future books. Oh, and I guess they're God's way of refining me too ;)

  5. Hi Susan,

    Thank you! I will email you. I do wish you were in the shot, too!

    They were both your children? Oh, thank heavens they're well! You're right that those trying times help you grow and allow you to draw on them later.

    Thanks for your reply and take care!


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