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