The only constant is change, and nowhere is that more true than in Christian publishing. My newsflash: In a couple of weeks, my freelance contract with Authentic Media for commissioning/acquiring great Christian titles is coming to an end as they narrow their focus primarily to children’s books, Bibles, and DVDs.
When Rob Bootes from Koorong, Authentic’s Australian parent company, came to me four years ago asking if I wanted to join the team, I said no – being an editor was in the past, I thought, for I wanted to be a writer. A few months later he got in touch with a different proposal, and on a whim I said yes to one day a week consulting as a commissioning editor/publisher – for three months! Crazy me; I so got the timing wrong. It’s been a fab four years as I’ve worked on such amazing books as, in the early days, How to Like Paul Again by Conrad Gempf and Am I Beautiful? by Chine Mbubaegbu, and more recently Digging for Diamonds by Cathy Madavan and the forthcoming The Only Way is Ethics series by Sean Doherty.
I’ve seen in these four years that I don’t have to approach my life-with-words in a black-and-while either/or way; it can be a both/and prospect of being a writer and an editor – the two roles feed each other creatively. Although I’m sad to say goodbye from an editorial point of view, I’m thrilled that my association with Authentic will continue with me as an author.
For as many of you know, Authentic are publishing my first book this autumn – woo hoo! Here with my Big Reveal (well, some of you have seen this already), is my fabulous wonderful cover. I hope you love it as much as I do. Writing for Authentic has been a dream process, as it’s been a team effort with Steve Mitchell, Kate Beaton, Lawrie Stenhouse, Liz Williams, and Becky Fawcett on the Authentic side, and Jennie Pollock as my freelance editor. (Liz and Malcolm Down are no longer with Authentic either, as the narrowing of the focus included the elimination of their jobs too.)
Steve Mitchell, managing director, believed in me as an author, and last autumn took a punt in signing me up for my first book. (I recount my Tangled Writing Journey [yes, it deserves capital letters] here if you’d like to read the background.) With his over twenty years in Christian retail, and with my over two decades’ experience as an editor, we worked together to come up with what we hope will be a cracking good read. I wanted to write a devotional or a memoir; he suggested instead that I focus on my unique angle. Write, he said, about being an American in the UK, and while doing so I should incorporate my story and the spiritual insights I’ve gleaned with my cultural observations about this small island. There’s even a chapter about plumbing.
My publisher likes to say that Finding Myself in Britain: Our Search for Faith, Home & True Identity is a bit like Michele Guinness meets Bill Bryson. I love that characterization, not least because Michele is one of my heroes, a magnificent writer and speaker who humbled me with her foreword. Here’s a bit of what she says:
There were moments when Amy’s honesty and pain choked me, others when she made me laugh out loud. From toilets to tea and tennis, drizzle to driving, reserve to religious observance, sarcasm to self-deprecation, queuing to cricket, not to mention language, class, and vicarage oddities, it’s all there – the British foibles that make other nations think us bizarre… Yet in Amy’s gentle hands it’s a revelation – funny, challenging, surprising, chastening, and cheering.
Yes, I’m excited about finally being a Proper Author who has written a book. Look for the finished product in October, from bookshops or from here at my website (or at the big online retailer for pre-pub orders). I owe so much not only to the Authentic team but to my editorial friends and encouragers.
So although I’ll no longer be commissioning for Authentic, I’ll work with them on the launch and marketing of Finding Myself in Britain. I think back to a decade ago, when I went through what felt like a massive redundancy when Zondervan eliminated my editorial job. At the time my world was rocked, for so much of my identity was intertwined with my role. I’ve now seen how the Lord has worked through the years, honing me as he’s helped me pursue my deep desires such as writing. And how he’s even “enlarged my territories” (if I can use the Jabez language without anyone cringing too much). I trust that he’ll use this present change for my growth and flourishing – but I am making sure I take the time to grieve the passing of the season, as is right and proper to do.
Yet I also know that losing my contractual freelance work might just be the boot-to-bum that I need to pursue some other dreams – such as a master’s in Christian spirituality. Watch this space!