I don’t really know where to start this story. Julie Andrews says we should start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start.
So maybe I should start in 1995, when I was a junior in high school and I visited Kiev, Ukraine for the first time. While there, I was invited to dinner at the friend of a friend’s house to meet her grandmother, a World War II survivor.
That dinner changed the course of everything.
I sat at the table of a small, grey haired babyshka named Maria who told me her story of survival in a German slave labor camp. Maybe it was the twinkle in her eye, or the way the light glimmered in her silvery hair, but something happened inside me that evening.
That was the night I fell in love with the Ukrainian people – the night the story was born.
But maybe I shouldn’t start there. Maybe I should start 1999. I was twenty-one, and I sat behind the desk as the professor explained the goal of our two semester course.
We would leave Baylor with a finished novel.
He encouraged us to begin brainstorming what we’d like to write about, but I already knew. I wanted to tell the story of Ukraine, of the devastation at Babi Yar, the darkness of those desperate years, and the partisans who pushed back against the Germans.
I also wanted to encapsulate Maria in a character, right down to the way she tutted over a plate of food.
Of course, I could easily start the story in 2003, when my mom and I (and my five-months pregnant belly) hopped a couple of planes and returned to Ukraine where we would tour the country for a month interviewing countless veterans as I continued on my quest to publish this book of stories.
I already had a publisher lined up at that point. It would all end up falling through at the last minute, but the stories I pulled in that month would simmer a little longer. They waited for me through the birth of three children.
The story needed me to tell it, but first I had to live a little.
Technically, I could start the story in 2011 when I finally found the voices of each character. I knew, in the flourish of a few sentences, that the book was taking the shape it was always intended to take.
I tapped away at the stories in the tiny slivers of my day. Nap time. Early morning before the kids woke up. The occasions now and then when I was able to sneak away and write. It was a slow process.
I guess I could start the story in 2012 when I attended the Blissdom conference, and I sat in Jeff Goin’s break out session on writing. I sat at a table with Anne of The Modern Mrs. Darcy, Megan from Sorta Crunchy, Ruth from The Better Mom and Laura, the Hollywood Housewife, and I sort of vomited out my dream of finishing this book and having it published.
They were all beyond encouraging, and supportive, and genuinely sweet. And perhaps slightly baffled by my tangle of words trying to explain my need to finish this project?
I can’t tell the story without looking at 2013 when we saw the collapse of our adoption. Writing was the only thing that pulled me out of depression. Tapping into the heartache of others healed my own wounded heart. I typed THE END in 2013.
The only other place I could see beginning this story is last fall. Two years after finishing the book, I still hadn’t been picked up. I’d queried so many agents and publishing houses, and was always met with the same comment:
“Love the concept, and the writing is great. But fiction is a hard sell.”
So I waited, and I sent more query letters. So many queries. And last fall, someone took a chance on me. A literary agent saw potential, and she appreciate my passion. She took the manuscript cautiously, and two weeks later I received a text:
“Just finished your book and WOW can you tell a story. We’re going to see what we can do with this.”
But that’s a lot of beginnings, so maybe I should just begin with the phone call I took three weeks ago with Kregel Publications when they told me they would be publishing my book next spring.
Did you hear that?!
My novel will hit bookshelves in the Spring of 2016.
After our conversation, in which we spoke of the novel and topics for potential future books, I hung up and walked out to the kitchen. As soon as I saw Lee, I burst into tears.
It all felt overwhelming. Twenty years of dreaming, of writing, of perfecting and refining the story all came to fruition in a minutes long phone conversation.
I’m a novelist.
I can’t wait to share this book with you all. Stay tuned for more information!
(And for more on my publishing journey, check out this post where I share the news that my second book will release in September next year. 2016 is going to be crazy!)
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I have chills. So excited for you!
Thanks, Kristin! 🙂
Tears. Literal ones. And can I just say that that was the most beautifully crafted blog post. Woman, can you tell a story!
I love you, friend. You’ve shared a giant bulk of this journey with me. So thankful for you!
Wow…happy tears with and for you, Kelli!! So many happy tears! <3 This is a beautiful story in and of itself…and it’s just the beginning. <3 <3 <3
Thank you, Meredith! Thank you for your enthusiasm and your support!
Kelli- Absolutely thrilled for you! Can’t wait to read it and help promote. Cheers!
Thank you Katie! I so appreciate it! 🙂
Soooo excited for you. And inspired! Can’t wait to read it!
Thank you Michelle!
And you have impeccable timing because that’s about the point in the year when I am so homeschooled out and desperate to read a piece of good fiction that has nothing to do with educating my children, and yet, I just know this will be one my bookworm middle child will devour and love as a way to learn WWII on deeper level. So win-win-HUGE WIN (for you!).
I was totally planning that way. Because I like to accommodate my friends. 🙂 Love you, friend! Thank you for being my cheerleader!
hooray! can’t wait! 🙂 so happy for you and all that God has been doing and will continue to do through you & your story.
Thank you, Layla!
ohh, the wonderful bubbling joy that comes from sharing this celebration with you!! This is the embodiment of God’s purpose and design as he created each one of us for specific good works. This post is a beautiful glimpse of how words pour out of you, faithful and lovely girl. We are so privileged to share this exultation with you!! I can’t wait for the book to arrive. I’ll be first in line to get an author-signed copy 🙂
You, my sweet friend, are so near and dear to me, and have been such an integral part of this book. Without your keen eye and brilliant mind, it would never have made it into the hands of an agent or publisher. So thank you, truly.
I can’t wait to read it! So proud of you and your patience in seeing this dream through to the end!
Thank you, friend! So thankful for you!
I am so very very happy for you!!
Thank you, my dear friend!
How wonderful! Can’t wait to buy & read my signed copy! I’m a first time reader of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom right now so I am really looking forward to this!
I am in tears of Joy and excitement for you as I type this comment. What a dream and what a way to have it unfold. WOW! God is amazing, his timing is just right even when we think it is not quick enough or long enough. I can’t wait to get this book in my hands! I know this is your dream but thank you for sharing because just in this shared the Promised Hope that God has given us all. WOW! Can’t wait to see what God has for you down the road, but Praising God with you that He has brought your dream to life! May God richly bless you and your future endeavors.
Thank you so much, Milinda!
I love what Bethany said and echo her thoughts – which are perfection!
I also couldn’t help but see the beauty and reward that there is in waiting. Notice, I said nothing about it being comfortable or always enjoyable … but WORTH IT??? Oh my, YES!
As I read your description of walking into the kitchen, seeing Lee and bursting into tears … my heart longed for the day when our FAITH we be our SIGHT! You have tasted a bit of what it means to “stay the course” , “fight the good fight” and “persevere”! Your journey and the generosity of your words bring encouragement to not only keep
dreaming and working
and dreaming and working
and dreaming and working
but to also BELIEVE that what God begins He brings to fruition! Even our SALVATION, girlfriend! What JOY! What Hope! What a Creator!
Wow. Wow. Wow.
So … Hurry up Spring of ’16!
Can’t wait to devour your labor of love!
Ah, Vonita! You are such an amazing encourager. I’m so very thankful and grateful for you! Thank you for that amazing comment. It brought tears to my eyes!
Do I get to say, “I knew you when…?”
So happy for you!
You sure do! You were on the very first trip I made over there. That counts for a lot! 🙂 Thanks Amy!
Kelli, what a beautiful “story about your story.” I am so, so excited to read this novel!
Thank you, sweet Angie! So grateful for your encouragement!
You are amazing. I have tears of joy for you. Congratulations! Can’t wait to buy and read your first novel!
Thank you, Diane!
KELLI! SO EXCITED FOR YOU!
Woohoooooo!!!!! So excited to hear and see this!! And definitely cannot wait to read it! 🙂
Thank you so much, Jolanthe!
I am so flippin’ excited for you, girl! Congratulations! Can’t wait to pre-order my copy!!!!
Oh friend-THANK YOU! That means a lot. I may be contacting you for tips on launching a book because SO OVERWHELMING!!!!
I’m over the moon excited for you! Congrats!
Thank you Stephanie!
I’m so happy for you. Congratulations on a huge accomplishment!!
Thank you, Anne! That means so much, especially since you were there at kind of a pinnacle moment for me in the writing! 🙂
That is so wonderful, Kelli! I’m so happy for you!
Thank you Donna!
So happy and so proud of you. I am not much of a reader (wish I was) but I will become one to share in the excitement of your novel. 🙂
Ah, thanks Jen! I’d LOVE to make a reader out of you! 😉
Hey Kelli! I will be buying your book and can’t wait to read it. Such a cool story! Such a great example of not giving up on a dream and a calling no matter how many seasons you had to walk through.
Phil! Thanks so much, friend. That means a lot. You were there when this all started for me! So crazy to think back on that trip now isn’t it?! That was a long time ago!!!!
YAY, YAY, YAY!!! From one Baylor Bear to another, congratulations! I am so excited for you. What an amazing journey of perseverance you have been on. I cannot wait to purchase a copy for myself. We will definitely need to alert the Baylor Magazine as well. 🙂
Thank you Shay!!! Sic ’em Bears!!!! 🙂
So proud and estactic for you Kelli!!!!!!
Thank you so much!