Journey to Riverbend by Henry McLaughlin  

Posted by: Lynnette Bonner in ,
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The story came to me as an image of a man standing on a ridge looking down on a small town. It triggered the question, why is he there? I wrote the first chapter in the mid-1990s. At that time, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. (Some might say I still don’t). I dabbled in it more than I actually wrote. I estimate I wrote the first chapter fifteen times before getting serious about writing approximately six or seven years ago. When you’re a procrastinating perfectionist like me, dabbling is about as deep as I could go.
Then in 2002, I had a significant experience. I went in for heart surgery and received, for no extra charge, a double dose of complications on the side which nearly sent me to heaven. I didn’t have an out-of-body experience, probably because I was too medicated to realize it. When they finally moved me from ICU to a regular floor, the ICU nurse referred to me as their “miracle patient.” I am blessed with a praying wife, Linda, who wouldn’t quit and who wouldn’t let me quit either.
In late 2005, I found an ad for Christian Writers Guild in a magazine. If I was going to be serious about writing, I needed to do something significant, make a meaningful commitment of my time, open myself up to criticism. Over the next five years, I completed CWG’s Apprentice, Journeyman, and Craftsman courses.
In 2006, I attended my first writers’ conference, North Texas Christian Writers, near my home. I began attending a local writer’s group and opening myself to be critiqued.
The Father has blessed me in this experience by helping me to receive criticism without personalizing it, to develop a thick skin as Jerry Jenkins calls it. This is in itself another miracle.
2009 was the breakthrough year for me in many ways. I focused on rewriting my novel. I attended two fiction mentoring clinics with DiAnn Mills. I attended the Writing for the Soul conference, the North Texas Christian Writers conference, the ACFW conference and the Ridgecrest Writers Retreat. I was exposed to and inspired by excellent faculty who had a profound influence on me. People like Brandilyn Collins, Steven James, Angela Hunt, Doc Hensley, Mary DeMuth and many others. I dug into my local and on line critique groups.
Under the Lord’s direction, I entered my novel into a contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House.
In early November,2009, I was informed I was one of 10 semifinalists for the award. Later in November, they announced the four finalists. I wasn’t among them but I was humbled and honored to make the semifinals.
In February 2010, I attended the writers conference sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild. On the first night, Jerry B. Jenkins started to announce the contest winner but first said a mistake was made: There were actually five finalists for the award, not four, and read my name. While I was still absorbing that information, he announced my book as the winner. The prize: $20,000 and a publishing contract with Tyndale House. God’s favor and grace opened the door for this to happen. My part was to obey His call to the best of my ability. God is faithful and blesses and rewards when we are faithful to His plan.
Once the contract was signed, we began the editing process. I worked with Tyndale staff under the leadership of Stephanie Broene and a free lance editor, Anne Christian Buchanan, Tyndale assigned to the project. The editing process was intense but it was a pleasure to work with professionals dedicated to having the book be the best it could be. The process was a learning experience in meeting deadlines, working as a team, and burying ego. I know it helped me develop as a professional writer and gave me lessons I will carry with me as I pursue this career.