As my date of departure for the Florida Christian Writers Conference drew near, people kept saying, “You must be getting excited.” “Excited” was not the correct word.
I was overwhelmingly aware of the amazing gift I had been given, and I was anxious not to blow it. I knew I was going to Florida for Rise and Soar, as it was still called, and I was anxious I wouldn’t give it to the editor of God’s choice. My husband pointed out on many occasions that if the Lord was able to work the miracle of getting me from South Africa to the conference in Florida, He was surely able to get me to the correct editor.
It was a very long trip. I flew from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and then cross-Atlantic to Atlanta, USA. There I changed planes for the hop to Orlando, and a cyber friend drove me from Orlando to the conference centre in Leesberg.
When I arrived in my room, I discovered I had a double room to myself. I was supposed to have had a friend with me but she broke her wrist the day before we were due to fly. It was great having the extra space, so I carefully spread out all the material I would need for the various sessions. In particular, I checked I had the five envelopes, each of which contained a proposal forRise and Soar with a cover letter.
We were allowed to submit a proposal before the conference commenced to the editor of our choice. These would be returned with feedback later in the conference. We could make appointments to meet with other editors during the conference.
I had addressed four of the cover letters personally to the editors I hoped to meet. There was one editor, Vicki Crumpton of Revell/Baker, to whom I didn’t intend to show the proposal. Although this publisher seemed ideal for my manuscript, the company had just signed with my cyber friend and critique partner, Yvonne Ortega, for a second edition of her book. Hers was also a book of devotions geared for the cancer patient. I knew Baker wouldn’t be interested in another of the same genre, so I wasn’t going to waste her time (or my opportunity) by showing it to the Revell/Baker editor.
The fifth envelope was not sealed, and contained the letter addressed “Dear (blank)”. If I found another editor I wanted to show the manuscript to, I would just have to fill in the name and seal the envelope. I may be the foreigner in their midst, but I was determined to be efficient. I didn’t plan to use this however, as it didn’t look as professional.
I picked up my folder and walked the considerable distance through the freezing wind to the main reception area. I was looking forward to meeting Yvonne for the first time. She was coming to this conference especially so we could meet. I walked into the reception room, and then it struck me. In my eagerness to be there by the time Yvonne arrived, I had left my manuscripts on the bed in my room.
Back out into the cold I went. When I got to the bedroom, I realised I hadn’t looked to see which editors were available to look at the proposals before the conference. So much for efficiency.
To be sure I didn’t leave behind the one I needed, I picked up all the envelopes and returned to the reception area. I looked around to see which of my four chosen editors had boxes available. A sweet lady came up to me and asked what I was looking for.
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, she beamed, plucked an envelope from my hands and said, “That’s fine dear. It goes in here.” She dropped the envelope into a box and turned away to help someone else.
To my horror, I realised she had put it into the box for the committee to decide who would read it. I could have cried. I looked around for someone to help me retrieve it, but they were all busy. I remembered my husband’s words, that the Lord would choose the editor, and I hoped he was right. The Lord would have to get it to the editor of His choosing. I had just blown it.
As I watched more and more envelopes going into that box, I knew I’d hesitated too long. My proposal would be going to someone, but almost certainly not any of the editors I had planned. Worse–the cover letter wasn’t even addressed to anyone.
As I walked outside, I spotted Yvonne pulling up in her car, and pushed the manuscript out of my mind.
Some time later I got back to my room, I looked at the remaining envelopes. I discovered, with a sense of rising panic, that I had given the lady the wrong envelope. She had taken the one with the letter that commenced, “Dear (Blank) . . .” So much for efficiency. You never address a letter to an unnamed editor. The conference hadn’t started yet, and I had already messed up.
I swallowed down my disappointment. “Lord,” I muttered. “I’m blowing it here. Please somehow get that envelope into the right hands.”
The next morning, I was sitting at breakfast with Yvonne and other writers, when a tall lady came over to our table. She looked at my name tag and said, “Shirley Corder, from South Africa?”
“We need to talk. I was given your manuscript to look at. Make an appointment to see me.” She smiled as she turned to go.
The other writers all let out an excited “Wooooh!” but I sat staring after her in amazement. I had just caught sight of her name tag as she turned away. “Vicki Crumpton: Revell/Baker.” The very editor I had not intended to meet with. Could this possibly be God’s choice after all?