This post was originally published on Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media Association (LDSPMA)’s blog in January 2019.
“I have never sought to do anything other than to build His kingdom,” Sheri Dew said. “And as a result, I have had the opportunity to be in the presence of prophets, seers, and revelators.”
I heard those thirty-two words at the third annual conference of the Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media Association (LDSPMA). I was sitting roughly ten feet from Sheri Dew—CEO of Deseret Book; executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation; former general officer in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and prolific, well-known author. She was among many admirers of her work and could have opened with anything! I expected her to start with something much grander about herself. But she chose to open with a line that praised the Lord and placed herself in the position of a humble servant rather than as a great leader. Her example, expressed in just 32 words, struck me. They changed how I view myself as a writer.
I had long wanted to be a published author. Those yearnings began when I was about seven years old and someone told me I was a good writer. I heard over and over again that I had a talent with the written word. This was great news because I enjoyed writing! And it’s always nice to hear that you’re good at something.
When I became an adult, I was asked when I was going to finally publish a book. I’d start to write one, but I always got in my own head, wanting to craft something great. Something that I’d be remembered for. So I’d always feel disappointed with what I wrote. I knew I had talent, but when would I finally write something worthy to be on a shelf next to the great writers of the past? I wanted my name in lights. I wanted to be well-known. And the paltry stories I kept churning out just kept falling short.
A particular book idea had been forming in my mind off and on for several years—ever since I’d returned home early from my mission. I had written a memoir and tried to get it published, but the manuscript was rejected because the topic was “taboo,” in the publisher’s words. Furthermore, memoirs generally don’t sell well unless they’re written by someone famous.
I was actually okay with the memoir being rejected. I was still hurting deeply from having to leave my mission early and still grappling with feelings of failure. I had much more of a journey to walk before I was ready to write such a book.
Years passed and I healed from the experience of returning home early from my mission. But thoughts of the book persisted. Over the years, my idea changed from writing a memoir to a resource book. No such book had been written for early-returned missionaries, and I realized that I could become the first to do so. I might even become famous for doing so. I tried not to let that thought persist, but it came back, as self-aggrandizing thoughts have a tendency to do.
During the LDSPMA conference that Sheri Dew spoke at, I met an acquisitions editor from Cedar Fort and pitched the book idea. She loved it. She told me to dust off the old manuscript, spruce it up, and give her a call when it was in progress. These words were an aspiring author’s dream come true!
I was in a daze the rest of the conference. Me? A published author? At last? The experience was surreal as a writer.