My fascination with the written word began at a very young age. Unfortunately, the traditional stories about Dick, Jane, and their dog Spot did nothing to fuel my active imagination. My grandmother came to the rescue by introducing me to the Little House series, one book at a time for Christmas and then my birthday. Thankfully, she did the same for my brothers with the Black Stallion and Chronicles of Narnia so I could indulge my reading addiction. Every time I brought home a Scholastic book flyer from school, I would scrounge through the couch cushions for spare change to buy just one more treasure. Stories lived in my head, and at recess I acted out potential scenes using my favorite characters.
An obsession with stories didn’t necessary mean I could write them. Or at least write them to the satisfaction of my junior high, high school, and later college English teachers who didn’t seem to appreciate my creative efforts. Somehow all the emotion I envisioned failed to translate to the written page, while my essays and other papers earned the higher grades. I transitioned toward more academic writing, became a science teacher, got married, started a family, and soon found myself elbow-deep in therapy appointments for my special needs daughter while managing a chronic illness of my own.
But stories kept coming to life in my dreams and I’d awaken with a consuming need to scribble pages of notes before the wisps of a scene faded away. I checked out stacks of books from the library, then imagined different ways to spice up the boring or predictable ones. I decided that once my toddlers were both in school, I would finally write a book for those who loved stories as much as I did. In the meantime, I wrote stories of a different sort through emails and annual family Christmas letters, while still thumbing through my collection of story ideas from time to time.
A few years later, a surprise addition to the family almost derailed my dream, but God used a timely sermon to set me straight. I still remember sitting in the church parking lot and asking God which idea I should write first. I drove away with the outline for a non-fiction book comparing faith and the game of football. Not exactly the story I had in mind! But since my brain was flooded with ideas and examples, I faithfully downloaded the words old-school-style; with pen and paper before later typing each chapter during the baby’s nap.
Now what? I had written a whole book so the rest should have been easy. My uneducated journey continued as a random connection asked me to write a newsletter article. The editor liked it so much she recommended a nearby writer’s conference where I discovered how much I didn’t know. Over the next several years, I honed my craft through a writing apprenticeship course, attended more conferences, had a dozen articles published, outlined another non-fiction book, and learned about queries, rejections, deadlines, and the business side of writing.
With a solid foundation, it was finally time to try writing fiction. I expanded one of those earlier ideas into an outline and started the first book of a romance series. A mentor pointed out that the story didn’t really begin until the last line of the first chapter, so I revised … and joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) to learn more. When a new critique partner read the new version and wondered why she didn’t feel any emotional connection at all to the heroine, I discovered the importance of using internal beats. On a whim, I tried weaving all three of my series characters’ plotlines into a single story, and I found my voice. I entered the opening in the ACFW Genesis contest, was thrilled to be named a finalist, and then disappointed when no one wanted to buy women’s fiction despite the threads of romance.
Back at square one, I started a new story with series potential in a more mainstream genre, semi-finaled in the Genesis contest, got interest in the full manuscript from a publisher at a conference, and then a personalized rejection. Frustrated? Sure. But each step of the journey brought me closer to my goal and I took the plunge to again try my hand at writing a true “he-said-she-said” romance rather than a single point-of-view story with a strong romance thread.
By the fall of 2014, ten years after scribbling a book outline on the back of a church bulletin, I had assembled the building blocks of a writing career. I had a website, blog, and basic social media presence complete with professional head shots and online summaries of each of my writing projects. Thanks to all those previous queries, one-sheets, proposals, and conference appointments, I knew how to pitch an idea and communicate professionally. Contest feedback and working with critique partners had taught me how to accept and grow from criticism while reading craft books, attending conferences, and interacting with other writers taught me how to construct a better story along with glimpses into the traditional publishing process and market trends. Then to cap it off, my two new contemporary romance manuscripts were both Genesis finalists.
With all the pieces solidly in place, God finally used the name recognition from the ACFW contest, a blurb on my website, and a Facebook connection to start the conversation that led to a proposal that led to a contract and my coming debut with BLING! this fall.
Anybody can write, right? Perhaps. After all, English teachers across the nation do their best to teach us how to communicate clearly using the written word. But it took stubborn perseverance to keep learning, practicing, and growing until I got my chance to see my dream in print.
Candee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.