Friday, April 13, 2012

Twenty Feet from the Door

Carolyn Boyles is the winner of the book, Writing So Heaven Will Be Different. Congrats!

     The following is an excerpt from the book, Writing So Heaven Will Be Different, 35 Years of Encouraging Stories From the Write-to-Publish Conference, compiled and edited by Joyce K. Ellis & Tammie Edington Shaw. This article tells the story of Tim Shoemaker's journey from unpublished writer to an author of eight books.

Please leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for this book, Writing So Heaven Will Be Different. Contest ends Thursday, April 19 at midnight. Please remember to leave your email!

Twenty Feet from the Door

by Tim Shoemaker

I’ve got to get out of here. I stood in the hallway of the Billy Graham Center on the Wheaton College Campus—alone—for the moment. Everybody else sat in classrooms scribbling notes on how to write better. I’d had enough, though. Obviously I’d misread God’s cues. I don’t belong here.

 Shouldering the strap to my canvas briefcase, I made tracks for the exit. Who did I think I was to go to a writers conference? I’d been fooling myself, and now I intended to face reality.

I had come with a manuscript in my canvas bag and a dream in my heart. Somehow I had felt that publishers would be looking for the story I’d labored over. It didn’t take long at the conference, however, to realize my writing left a lot to be desired, especially by editors.

I needed to go back to my day job. Back to where I knew what I was doing. Rounding the corner, I passed the book table. Neatly stacked how-to books promised the writing dream, but for me it was time to wake up.

The doors were just ahead. Once I hit the crash bars, I’d never go back to the Write-to-Publish Conference—or any other writing conference. But for some reason a woman standing near the exit started talking to me. I stopped no more than twenty feet from the door. In a matter of seconds, I would have been of there. 
Outgoing and friendly, faculty member Marlene Bagnull introduced herself. “Tell me about what you’re writing,” she urged.
            I don’t remember what I said. All I knew was that I wouldn’t be writing anymore.
           “Let’s take a look at it.” She led me to a place to sit down.
           With a bit of fear and, by now, embarrassment, I handed her my manuscript.
           Marlene read quietly for a few moments. I’m not sure what I expected at that point—probably that she’d whip out a red pen and run it clear out of ink.

 “Well it’s obvious you know how to tell a story,” she began. Instead of picking it apart, she found good things in my writing. She pointed out little elements that impressed her. We talked and prayed, and our visit fueled me with encouragement and hope.

Turning around

 Moments before, I’d been thinking my case file was buried somewhere at the bottom of God’s briefcase, or maybe it had blown off His desk. Now I realized He’d scheduled a divine appointment for me. Marlene’s presence in the hallway was no coincidence. My perspective changed. This wasn’t just about publishing a story anymore. It was about God’s call on my life. A new call. A fresh chapter. This was about a plan he had for me that was so unexpected that I hadn’t even imagine it existed.

I stayed for the rest of the conference. In addition to learning writing skills in the workshops, I also met many people, such as staff members Carla Williams and Jane Rubietta, who eventually helped shape my future. Before I left, I spent time at the book table and went home with a stack of those “how-to” books.

I kept writing, going to conferences, and meeting other writers who impacted me. By God’s grace, and in His time, things slowly changed. It took years. I wrote skits for the youth group at our church. I wrote a series of devotions to use with my wife and three sons. My original story never went anywhere, but an editor I met at one of the Write-to-Publish Conferences bought a different one. That company also published many of the youth-group skits.

In 2002 Christian Publications published my family devotions as Mashed Potatoes, Paint Balls, and Other Indoor/Outdoor Devotions You Can Do with Your Kids. This book and its sequels were picked up by WingSpread Publishers and re-released in 2007.

Taking the leap

By 2004, God had led me out of my day job and into full-time writing and speaking. I teach at men’s, parents, and children’s ministry conferences around the country. And I’ve been teaching at writing conferences since 2005. I have now published eight books, and am under contract for three more. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t rack these things up on my scoreboard. These are evidences of God’s amazing grace. These are the results of God’s plan, one I never saw coming and almost ran out on. For me, it all started at the Write-to-Publish Conference.

Now when I’m at a writer’s conference, I recognize the lost look on the faces of many overwhelmed conferees, especially if they’re attending for the first time. Others carry the disappointment and frustration of failing to find an editor interested in their work. I love to look at their writing, encourage them, and pray with them.

Maybe you’re still waiting for your “break”. You feel inadequate or discouraged. You’ve been at this for a long time and you’re still getting rejections. It’s embarrassing when family and friends ask if you’ve had any nibbles from publishers. Maybe you’ve even thought about giving up.

Don’t do it. Keep going. I don’t know a published writer who hasn’t experienced those feelings. If you’ve ever felt God was moving you to write, don’t stop. The process takes far longer than most people expect. If you walk out now, you’ll probably shortchange yourself and others of God’s rich blessings. Others may need to read what you put down on paper.

Just twenty feet. Not much more than an average car length. That’s how close I came to giving up and missing God’s plans for me. Thank God, He stopped me twenty feet short, and now I’m miles ahead of anything I could have ever dreamed.


By God's grace, Tim Shoemaker is a speaker and author of eight books. He has three grown sons and has been happily married for over 32 years.
Tim’s first contemporary suspense novel, published by Zonderkidz, came out last month. Code of Silence is targeted for 8-12-year-olds (especially boys), and is the first in a three book series.

Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for Writing So Heaven Will Be Different, which includes 33 other stories like Tim's, to encourage your writing dreams. Contest ends Thursday, April 19, midnight. Leave your email!



  1. Ah, Tim. You were the first person I met at my first Write-to-Publish in 2009. Since then I've signed a contract for another novel coming out this fall as well as a memoir I cowrote. Though I arrived at my first writer's conference with one novel published, I was still as green as can be as far as conferences and networking. I'm so happy to read how God led you—and that you give the Lord the glory for it. Your advice is spot on. Never, ever give up. We all have to start somewhere, but God has a plan for good if we'll wait on Him. Tim, you have no idea how encouraging you were to me when I arrived at my first conference. Finances haven't permitted me to return, but maybe I'll be back and see you again one of these years. Thanks.

  2. This was just what I needed to hear. I will be attended Write To Publish for the first time this year. I have been a stay at home, home school mom for 17 years, and not only have I been testing the writing waters, but I just had my first interview for an executive director of a non-profit organization. So many changes at my heart, I want to pursue writing full time, but I was encouraged by others and felt compelled by the Holy Spirit as well, to try for the position. I am looking forward to the writer's conference, to the people I will meet, and perhaps any opportunities that might come my way as a result. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story here.

  3. I'm a relatively new writer and have some publication credits, but I'm trying to learn to write with the disadvantage of a Traumatic Brain Injury which inhibits my ability to sequence and thus to plot. Any book I can get my hands on which might help this situation would be very welcome.

    authorboyles at


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