Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When Nashville Won't Let You Sing....

Almost 19 years ago I moved to Nashville to sing. I learned really quickly no one wanted to hear me. While back in SC in my small little hometown of Camden I could have been a superstar, in Nashville, well, not so much...  I found myself working in the parts department of a Heating and Air Conditioning Company in Lavergne, Tennessee. Yep, Like Shirley and Lavergne. I was the receptionist with a lady named Roz who chained smoked, cussed like a sailor and wore mink coats. (Why she has not yet been a character in one of my books is beyond my power of imagination...)

I made one of those 911 calls home to mom and dad, (who still love to hear me sing by the way) and told them if something didn't happen soon I was coming home. Little did I know that an article I had written about an organization called Mercy Ministries of America was being read at that moment by the President and Founder of the organization. She called me the next morning and told me that they were working on their Autobiography and had hired a writer but they just weren't happy with how the book was turning out. They wanted it to read like my article, so would I come help them finish their book. I said, "Nancy, I don't write."
She said, "Yeah, you do."

Through the years I've come to realize the power that we have to call people into their destiny. Because that is what she did for me. She also introduced me to the man who would be come my husband as well. For ten years I wrote for other people. You name it I worked on it: Allegory, gift books, self-help. Have story...will help! During that season I began to teach as well. I spoke at women's conference, at churches, and did some things for the Billy Graham Association and write songs. My husband was a recording artist at the the time, (that was as close as I could get!) and he would write the music and I would write the lyric. But I decided I wanted to write my own book. I wanted to write a non-fiction book that could really help change people's lives. Speak to them in their deep places. I found an agent in New York at William Morris, who had a connection with my husband's manager. And fourteen rejection letters later, on my first non-fiction book called "The Passage", I asked her not to send me anymore.

One day on my back porch I thought, wonder if I can write fiction. I had never written fiction a day before in my life. I had loved it. Consumed it. Hid books behind my text books in class. Had journaled extensively through college, even worked on a screen play, and had written some rather nifty poetry to a few guys I had crushes on in High School, but beside being able to tell fiction pretty well, I had never written it. So, sitting on my porch drinking a Coca-Cola I thought, "Well, if I write fiction where would I set it." I decided on Savannah. I had been there once. Thought it was beautiful, so it worked for me. Then I thought, "I could name the main character Savannah, and everyone could go around calling her 'Savannah from Savannah!'" And that is how my first book about a young woman named Savannah who grew up in Savannah, Georgia, moves back home after college and begins to write human interest stories for her local newspaper. And the first one she thinks is of human interest is about a rigged beauty pageant of which her mother is a former queen of.

The day I walked into the office of my publisher to sign our contract it was very bitter sweet. I thought, "Here I wanted to be known for books that changed people's lives and I'm going to be known for a book about a rigged beauty pageant where women tape their boobs and spray their butts. Not exactly what I was going for!

That was eight years ago. I have had five other fiction books come out, my latest which released this summer, called "Hurricanes in Paradise". Through the last eight years I have also still tried to get non-fiction published multiple times. I formed a ministry called The Whole Woman Revolution, where I lead an inter-denominational Bible Study here in Franklin and we do a VBS for Women event each summer. And so non-fiction has still been a dream.

However, three years ago I walked through the heartbreaking divorce of my 13 year marriage. I was devastated. I walked away from a new three book deal. Didn't speak or teach for almost a year. Basically did nothing but focused on my healing. In the middle of that a new blog came to life called Flying Solo. A blog for singles of all kinds, never married, divorced and widowed. One day my agent asked me if I would be willing to possibly pitch the journals from divorce for a book. I said, "Nope."
"But you're already putting your journey down on your blog."
"Still nope."
"Will you think about it?"
I did. And in December my first non-fiction book called Flying Solo: A Journey of Divorce, Healing and a Very Present God will release. How interesting that I tried all those years to get non-fiction published and it what ends up being a book is something I would have never wanted to walk through and a story that was never meant to be a book...

Life is sweet and full today. On April 10th, I married a precious man and became the bonus mom to five beautiful children. I had never had children and it had always been a desire of my heart. We're all acclimating...some days are more challenging than others...but in the middle of it all there is this beautiful tapestry of story. Our story...Each of us is always writing our story, whether on paper, or whether in the things we do, the words we say or the way we love. Thanks for giving me a few minutes to share mine...

Denise Hildreth Jones makes her home in Franklin, Tennessee where she loves a good game of Sorry, a good book, a long bike ride and a Coca-Cola. She lives with her husband, five bonus children and two shih-tzu's. (At least that's what she calls them on a good day...)
www.denisehildreth.com

2 comments:

Karin Gillespie said...

That's a great story, Denise. I love to hear what brought people to writing. I started when I had my son and couldn't act in play anymore.

The Pulpwood Queen said...

Denise, this is the "real" Cinderella story and one where I would have loved to have been one of those little mice getting you ready for your ball, (wedding)!
My hopes and dreams for you are and they lived happily ever after! Keep those books coming, my book club members love you!
Love,
kat