Friday, November 17, 2017

My Call Story by Merrillee Whren

I started writing stories just for fun when I was in high school, and I shared them with my friends. But it was many years before I decided to write something with publication in mind. I wrote for many years before I sold. Winning the Romance Writers of American Golden Heart Award in 2003 was something that gave me a lot of encouragement and kept me writing, but my targeted publishing house had already rejected my winning manuscript. So I was a little down after all the hoopla of the conference and the excitement of winning had worn off. However, I had two other completed manuscripts. One of them I had entered in some local chapter contests.

A couple of months after the Golden Heart win, I received word that my story, Second Chances, had won the Dixie First Chapter Contest and the full was requested by the judging editor. I gave that baby a once over and sent it off to Steeple Hill. Then I got busy and polished that other manuscript while I was waiting to hear. In the meantime that manuscript won a contest judged by the senior editor at Steeple Hill. She requested that I send the full to the editor that had my other manuscript. Talk about everything falling into place. I sent that manuscript off after sending the editors a letter to make sure they wanted to have both manuscripts there at the same time. A few weeks later, I called the editor to find out what was happening with the first manuscript, but I always got her voice mail. When she returned the call, I was always out. She talked to my husband and indicated that she was sending the manuscript to the senior editor.

So here's how it all happened. Friday morning February 20, 2004, I went to get my haircut. When I got back home and walked in the door, I saw the light blinking on the answering machine. I punched the button to play the message. "This is Diane Dietz from Steeple Hill. Please call me." My heart was racing, and I was thinking this has got to be THE CALL. (I missed it!!!) At least this time my husband was busy on his business phone and didn't have the chance to answer. But then I thought maybe she wasn’t calling to buy my book, but I thought surely she wouldn't call unless she's going to buy the book. (Was I a little neurotic or what?)

My husband was still on the phone, so I couldn’t even scream or talk to him. Instead, I got teary eyed and waited around until he got off the phone. I told him Diane Dietz called. I think she called to say she wants to buy my book. He said to call her. I said I was afraid. What if she wasn’t calling to buy the book? He just shook his head. I said that I would call when I got myself together. So I took a few minutes to calm myself down. Then I punched in the number, hands shaking. She answered and asked me if I was sitting down. I was. She said, "I'd like to offer you a contract on Second Chances." At least I think that's what she said. I had to be very calm because my husband was still on his business line just up the stairs. I told her that was fabulous. I think she was a little disappointed that I was so calm. I told her I'd taken plenty of time to calm down after I listened to her message. Anyway, she went into details about money, time lines of revisions, option book, publication, etc. And she explained some of the revisions they wanted.

After I hang up and my husband wasn’t on the phone, I screamed, "THEY WANT TO BUY MY BOOK. I GET TO GO TO THE HARLEQUIN PARTY."

Here is the cover of the first book I sold to Love Inspired, which was Steeple Hill at that time. As you can see they changed the title from Second Chances to The Heart's Homecoming.


I've written thirteen other books for Love Inspired, and now I am publishing books on my own. Here are the books in my new series, FRONT PORCH PROMISES


I will be giving away a copy of A PLACE TO CALL HOME, the first book in my Front Porch Promises series to one person who leaves a comment. I will draw the winning name on November 19, 2017 at 9PM MST.

Merrillee Whren is the winner of the 2003 Golden Heart Award presented by Romance Writers of American. She is married to her own personal hero, her husband of forty-plus years, and has two grown daughters. Connect with her on her Facebook page and sign up for her newsletter.

33 comments:

  1. I have enjoyed your writing in the Love Inspired books! I haven't read any of your Front Porch Promises series but I've heard good things about them. Thanks for writing great stories!

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    1. Sprinkles (Love that), I'm glad you have enjoyed my Love Inspired books. I hope you'll give my Front Porch Promises books a try.

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  2. What a great story, Merrillee. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

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  3. Fun story, Merrillee! There is nothing like that first call. Playing phone tag (and hubby being on the phone when you needed to call) only made the end result all the more wonderful. Congratulations!

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    1. Christine, playing phone tag with an editor made me a little nervous.

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  4. Wonderful story! I got those familiar butterflies in my stomach (even though my "the call" came 30 years ago) just reading your story. The feeling of making a sale or hitting a milestone in one's career still is so exciting. Thanks for reminding us of that today! And I'm glad you had your hubby there to celebrate. Mine always seems to be on a plane and out of contact when I've got great news to share. LOL!

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    1. Jo Ann, it was fun just remembering that day and all the excitement.

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  5. This is an encouraging story of perseverance and trusting the Lord. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. The writing life has its up and down, and you always have to keep persevering. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. Merrille, I sold my first book in 2004, too. June to be exact to Joan Marlow Golan. Diane Dietz was also my first editor and I remember meeting you at the RWA convention and sharing our First Sale Call stories. We were such dewy-eyed newbies back then but the Harlequin Party was everything I hoped it would be and more.

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    1. Patricia, I also remember meeting you at RWA after we sold. We were just starting this publishing journey. What a ride!

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  7. Very cool, Merrillee. Love the covers of your Front Porch Promises books, btw.

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    1. Thanks, Arlene. I've had fun writing these books, too.

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  8. Great story, Merrillee. My first book was Second Chance on Love.

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    1. Margaret, I think they might have kept that title, but there was a book out just a few months earlier called Second Chance Mom or something close to that, so I had to change my title. But then I've learned that most likely they were going to change my title. Out of all my books, I kept two of the original titles.

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  9. Screaming is totally allowed when you get that "first call." And we must remember...it's all about the Harlequin Party. (Said tongue in cheek.) Great story, Merrillee.

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    1. Thanks, Leigh. I believe you won the Golden Heart a couple of years after I did.

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  10. What a great story! I love how one of your first thoughts was getting to go to the Harlequin party.

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  11. I love the Love Inspired books! Our library has some on a spin rack at the back wall. You are allowed to take as many as you want and bring them back when you are done,they are not really checked out! I’ll look for your early ones! Thanks for the chance to win your more recent title.

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    1. Some of my books Love Inspired books were printed in hardcover, and I've donated them to a couple of libraries where I have lived.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your story. It always encouraging to us who are still in the process.

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    1. I'm always glad to encourage another writer. This business requires a lot of perseverance.

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  13. Merrillee, I'm laughing about your mention of getting to attend the Harlequin party! Too funny...but the party is amazing and I always wanted to attend as well. Still enjoy going. It's always so special. No wonder we love writing for Love Inspired!

    Congrats on your Front Porch series. Love the titles and covers!

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  14. Fun story! I love that you had to be calm then exploded with joy.

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  15. What an exciting, fun story. So glad you were published' I have enjoyed every book of yours I have read. Thanx for the giveaway.

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    1. Jennifer, thanks. So glad you have enjoyed my books.

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  16. Merrillee, I love your blog posts! Thank you for writing! Blessings!!!

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  17. I would love to win the first book of your new series, Merrillee! Thank you for the opportunity! Ruth Hufford.��

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  18. You are great. Thanks for sharing your story. Best of luck for future.

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