Have you ever experienced hope deferred? Not outright defeat, but the delaying of your fondest dreams? That was me seven years ago. For more of my adult life I’d been writing, and rewriting, a novel about a young woman in the chaotic spring of 1968 when America was coming undone. She puts all her hope for the future on Senator Robert F. Kennedy, only to be devastated when he is assassinated. The manuscript bounced from publisher to publisher, most of them saying nice things about the story line, but concluding, “This isn’t right for us.” The book didn’t fit into any of their existing categories. During those years my mom would told me, “This book will be published. I know it. Hang in there.”
Finally an editor read, and loved the book, scheduling what I then titled On a Steed of Iron for publication in 2013. Then came the editing phase, which I thought went very smoothly, followed by developing the cover, which did not. The marketing folks hadn’t worked with novels before, and they just didn’t “get it” with this one They kept making my main character, Melanie, a hippie. But she wasn’t. She was a preppy, right down to the tips of her Bass Weejuns. I got frustrated. They got frustrated. They pulled the plug. I was heartbroken. I had come so close!
My mom hugged me and with her face set said, “This book will be published. Don’t ever give up. I know it will.”
My agent and I had some hard conversations about what we could change, including the title, which became Sweet, Sweet Spirit after deciding Melanie would find hope for the future at the February 1970 Asbury College Revival. The title reflects the anthem of the revival. I almost rejoiced that the earlier Steed hadn’t been published because now I could introduce the amazing visitation of God to the Asbury campus during a bitter time in American history. In addition, the book would fit nicely into a series I’d envisioned about various revivals throughout America’s past.
There came more rejections – until Deb Ogle Haggerty of Elk Lake Publishing caught my vision for the series, and Sweet, Sweet Spirit. I launched the book this past February at the 50th Anniversary of the Asbury Revival, in Wilmore, Kentucky. What an amazing time I had being in Hughes Auditorium, the epicenter of the revival, and fellowship with those who’d been there in 1970.
Last night at AWSA’s Golden Scroll Awards, Sweet, Sweet Spirit came in third place as the Historical Novel of the Year. While I sat there thanking God for the affirmation, I couldn’t help but smile as I pictured my mom encouraging me never to give up, knowing beyond any doubt this book would be published. Wouldn’t she be happy to know it also is award-winning as well! Thank you, Mom, from this side of Heaven.