Publishing Deal! Author Erica Colahan-Ruggieri signs with Chrism Press for 2024 release of her historical fiction
The Oystercatcher of Southwark!
Have you ever heard God speak to you? It could have been a whisper in the wind while you gazed at the ocean, an impression when you touched a baby’s soft skin, or a fleeting thought while walking. Perhaps, it was in the form of a neon sign blinking bright red lights in front of your face while a man yelled into a bullhorn pointed at your ear. While the God of the universe has the power and privilege to speak to us in any way He deems fit, we rarely hear a direct form of communication from the Almighty. Not me, anyway.
In November 2021, inspired to write my great-great-grandmother’s story, I joined a delightful community of authors called Hope*Writers. I enjoyed collaborating with more than 3,000 fellow writers, editors, speakers, and creatives as I learned the craft of writing. It was a joy (still is) to join weekly author interviews, take surveys, participate in book launches, vote on cover designs, and support others along the writing journey while being supported in turn.
Every year, H*W hosts a conference in North Carolina in November. Upon starting with the group, my goal was to have my manuscript ready for the following November. I would walk into the conference with my head held high and my book in hand and pitch to the agents and publishing industry experts in attendance.
When October rolled around, I knew I would never have the manuscript complete in time. More character development was needed, plot holes required fixing, and ideas had to be fleshed out. Plus, I still needed to start the daunting editing process. Considering my options, I hung my head in disappointment. “I guess I’ll have it ready for next year’s conference.” I immediately heard a voice say, “No, March!” My head snapped up, and I looked around the empty room.
God had spoken. And so, I listened.
The hustle was real. For weeks during the fall and winter of 2022, I wrote for at least three hours every night after the kids were in bed. I scribbled in the car while waiting to pick up my daughter from preschool. I typed at the library on weekends while the kids made new friends and played with blocks and puppets. I wrote, and wrote, and re-wrote.
At some point during the last week of February 2023, I finished. I had shaped the novel to the best of my ability and was ready to share it with the world. But first, I’d need to pitch it. I had three pitch sessions that week and two were with literary agents, the gatekeepers of the publishing industry. Hope*Writers taught me I’d need an agent to get a traditional publishing contract. There are exceptions to every rule, though, and if you live long enough, you’ll become the exception eventually.
One of the three pitch sessions was with Karen, a lovely acquisitions editor from Chrism Press. Chrism is a division of Whitefire Publishing, and its slogan is “Anoint Your Imagination.” I had exactly six minutes to anoint Karen’s. I had to convince this discerning professional that my novel would be successful in the publishing industry.
That my book would sell!
Karen asked for my book proposal—an intensive business plan for the novel—which I had already prepared. After sending it to her, I dove headlong into what some writers call “query Hell.” A query letter is a sales pitch to a literary agent, providing as much information as possible—in under 400 words—about your book, yourself, your ideal reader, and your marketing plan to reach said reader. A strong query letter should be tweaked to each agent’s requirements. Many authors send over one hundred individualized query letters for their work. I was on number 25 when I received an email from Karen asking for my full manuscript.
She wanted to read the entire book! My book!
I pinched myself. Keep your cool, Er, she may not even like it.
To stay grounded, I continued navigating the quagmire of query Hell.
Three weeks later, Karen presented me with an offer for Oystercatcher. I went into shock. Everything was surreal, and I couldn’t be excited yet because, clearly, this wasn’t happening—this was a dream.
A lively phone call with Karen proved it to be real—very real. The folks at Chrism believe in the message of my novel. They are rooting for Mary, and her story that somehow shows hope through tragedy. They get it. During the phone call, I scrolled through my calendar and my notes and confirmed the hazy memory forming in my mind.
The pitch call with Karen had taken place on March 1st.
Yes, Lord. I’ve received my marching orders, and I’ve followed them—happily.
Here I am, signing the publishing contract with Chrism Press.