Thursday, August 20, 2015

by Carrie Stuart Parks

I never thought I could write fiction. Non-fiction, how-to draw books, absolutely, but make up a story? Never. That is, until I actually tried it.

Thomas Nelson, 2014
I wrote the first draft of my novel in 2004. I felt it was quite brilliant. Steller writing. Quite Extraordinary. I proudly shared it with a writing friend of mine. She gently told me it was good for a start. 

Huh? A start? I worked hard on it. Couldn’t she see how terrific it was?

I passed the manuscript on to my mentor, NYT best seller Frank Peretti. He would obviously be in awe of my talent. He told me that I needed to discover the dead body in the first chapter, hopefully on the first page. I just couldn’t see how to do that. The reader needed three chapters of backstory to understand how the body came to be a . . . well, a body. 

Thus began a nine year journey to publication. I had soooo much to learn. High school and college English classes, even creative writing programs, didn’t prepare me for the world of novel writing. Learning to craft a compelling story, create characters with depth, and the fine points of showing, not telling, were some of the writing challenges I faced. 

I had a vision in my head. I was competitive and wanted to be published by a major publisher, not self-publish or even go with a smaller publishing house. I wanted my writing to be unique enough (in a good way,) and riveting enough to catch the eye of “the big guys.”

Like all adventures, this one had wicked witches, winged monkeys, and fields of poppies. One month after Frank agreed to work with me to teach me to write, I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. My mom was already dying of emphysema and I was her caretaker. I was under contract to write and illustrate a drawing book, and I was teaching forensic art. Getting through some days was all I could hope for.

Chemo ended September 15, 2004, and I could spend more time learning to write. I attended writer’s conferences and learned more. Mom died April, and I wrote through the tears. I found an agent who sent me back to the editing phase. Completing the manuscript, my agent sent it off to thirteen publishers. Thirteen rejections.

Putting that story aside, I began on the second novel. My agent closed her agency. I wrote on. I found a new agent. He offered to represent me the day after he received the proposal.

Had I finally done it? After years of research, writing, reading books, critique partners and groups, conferences, on-line classes, mentoring, and edit, edit, editing, had I finally learned the craft?
It would seem I had. My first novel, renamed “A Cry from the Dust,” sold at auction to Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins Christian. It went on to final in the Christy, Carol, and Selah awards.
If there is a lesson in all this, it’s to keep going down that yellow brick road. Don’t let the winged monkeys, wicked witch, or poppies pull you off track. Look for snow, good friends, and Munchkins to help you along the way. And keep your eye on going home to success in your publishing vision.

God Bless

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. Along with her husband, Rick, she travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement as well as civilian participants. She has won numerous awards for career excellence. Carrie is a popular platform speaker, presenting a variety of topics from crime to creativity.

Animals have always been a large part of her life. Her parents, Ned and Evelyn Stuart, started Skeel Kennel Great Pyrenees in 1960. Carrie inherited the kennel and continues with her beloved dogs as both an AKC judge and former president of the Great Pyrenees Club of America. She lives on the same ranch she grew up on in Northern Idaho. Visit her at


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