In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

In My Words: How Author James Scott Bell Helped Me Conquer Discouragement

I've met bestselling suspense author James Scott Bell twice.
I don't think he will remember me, but I most definitely remember him.
 Mr. Bell--what, you think I'm going to call him Jim?--encouraged me when I was a newbie-nobody writer. And I've never forgotten him.
More then ten years ago, I attended the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park. I'd paid for a critique of a chapter with another established author who was teaching at the conference. I wasn't expecting a "You're on the fast train to the New York Times best-seller list" type of critique, but I didn't expect to have my hopes dashed. Don't get me wrong. The author told me I could write. Told me that my story was good. And then said I needed to change the setting and the time period. Since my story was biblical historical fiction, I was perturbed. Change the setting? Change the time period? I might as well toss my book out. (Caveat: I understood the advice. Biblical historical fiction wasn't selling back then. I just didn't like the advice.)
Immediately after this 30 minute appointment, I had a 15 minute appointment with James Scott Bell. I'd never met him. Never read any of his books--but something in his bio made me think, "He's probably a good person for me to talk to this weekend."
I had no idea.
I walked to the appointment. Sat down.
JSB (the professional author wearing a driving cap): "How can I help you?"
Me (the oh-so-discouraged newbie-nobody): "I don't know why I'm here."
At this point, Mr. Bell could have said something like, "Great! We've got nothing to talk about. I've got 15 spare minutes to go get coffee!"
I wouldn't have blamed him.
Instead, he looked at me and said: "Well, maybe I can help you with that."
And he then proceeded to listen to me talk about the critique, the feedback--and help me unpack it, even giving me suggestions on how I could make my story work, maybe even turn it into a three book series.
Did I follow his advice and go on to writing success, massive royalties and a movie producer optioning my book?
But I learned a lesson: Encouragement is invaluable. It may not solve all your problems. It may not launch you to an instant book contract--but encouragement gives you hope. Encouragement enables you to dust off discouragement, put it in perspective and try again.
I met Mr. Bell again at the 2010 ACFW conference--ran into him in an elevator jam-packed with people. I managed to grab a few seconds as the elevator went between floors to say, "You probably don't remember me but ..." After all the years I finally thanked him for encouraging me.

In Your Words: I am forever thankful that James Scott Bell took the time to speak hope into my life. What about you? Who has spoken hope into your life when discouragement threatened to destroy your dreams?

I seem to have an encouragement theme weaving through my blogs this week. To read about best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs, who prefers to be known as an encourager, check out my blog post at the MBT Ponderers: 4 Key Truths for Writers from Encourager Liz Curtis Higgs (& a book giveaway).

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At 2:32 AM, Blogger Jeanne T said...

I'm loving this encouragement theme! :) God has blessed me with many encouragers. My biggest is my husband, who has encouraged me to chase this dream to write. I said it before but I have to say it again, God has used you greatly to encourage me in writing the story He gave me. He's also given me a circle of friends, each of whom has encouraged me to be more than I am. Thanks for helping me think on those encouragers in my life!

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

I know many people have helped me along the Writing Road, Jeanne. Even you, as a new writer pursuing her dream -- you remind me to be prayerful and passionate about my writing.
I'm thinking "encouragement" is becoming the theme of the week.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Linda Yezak said...

How wonderful that he was so encouraging for you! My experience with him was a bit different, and involved shoving my foot in my mouth (again). Whenever that happens, it makes for terrific blog posts, so of course I wrote about it. (Just in case you're interested:

If you meant that you met him in an elevator at the 2010 ACFW conference, that means we were both there, and I missed meeting you by \------/ this much! Drat!

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Well, of course that's what I meant--2010. Isn't that what I wrote? (Duh. That typo is fixed. And thank you.)
I can't believe we didn't meet back then--will you be there this year?
I am going to read your story about meeting JSB now!

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Melissa Tagg said...

I took a class from James Scott Bell once. It rocked. He was an amazing teacher...and...he used awesome movies in his teaching. You know the teacher's good if he shows clips of Double Indemnity and cites the oft-ignored talent that is Fred MacMurray.

I, too, love the encouragement theme. My biggest encouragers: My parents and grandparents, always! Susan May Warren - amazingly so. Of course, the Ponderers. And most recently, a fun email from one of my favorite authors ever!! Most of all...the Holy Spirit. That is, when I choose to listen to His voice over whatever else crowds my thoughts.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Melissa Tagg said...

I almost forgot - Jon Acuff's book Quitter has been a huge source of encouragement to me lately. I may not know him, but his book spoke HUGE encouragement to me...

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

I love John Acuff--but hadn't heard of this latest book, Melissa. I'm reading the "Gazelles, Baby Steps, and 37 Other Things Dave Taught Me one.
Another book to be added to the To Be Read pile.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Edie Melson said...

Beth, I've been blessed beyond belief by those willing to speak encouragement into my life. I have to say (at risk of sounding like I'm trying to be a teacher's pet) you are one of the top three! I'm also eternally grateful to Susan May Warren and all she's done through

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

I am thrilled to be in your top 3, Edie--and I will strive to stay there! You are a wonderfully talented writer who is always willing to help me out--and to pray for me. (How am I doing?)
All I said was heartfelt!

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Sarah Forgrave said...

After I got a rejection, a dear writer friend and mentor of mine pretty much shouted (very fervently, mind you, not angrily :)) at me over the phone, telling me to not give up. I still replay her words when those doubts come back and knock.

We never know when we'll be the ones on the encouraging side. It just goes to show we can't pass up any opportunities to speak a kind word.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Well said, Sarah. (Um, I didn't shout when I said that.)

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Robert Browne said...

Jim Bell is a friend of mine and one of the nicest and smartest guys you'll ever meet. I'm not surprised at all by his words of encouragement.

I urge you to check out his books on writing on Amazon, as well as his novels. He's a terrific writer and you won't regret it.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

If Jim (yep, I call him "Jim" now) writes it, I read it.


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