I never thought of myself as a writer. My older sister, she was the writer of our family. Even as a third grader, my precocious sister’s short story about a Chinese revolution was published in our school district’s anthology. Later, she earned a Ph.D. in English and chaired the English department at her university.

Not me. I mostly wrote silly stories and song lyrics in my junior-high journals. Of course, my sister always encouraged me and gave me helpful feedback on my writing, and my teachers commended my essays, but I had never seriously considered becoming a writer. Writing as a vocation came unexpectedly as God suddenly changed my plans of what I thought I would be doing in this season of life. 

Called to Write
Vocation comes from the Latin word, vocare, which means “to call”. Writers of faith often share that they felt God called them or inspired them to write their stories. 

My call to write came when I was lost. Tracey and I first met in the hallway of my son’s school looking for the Moms in Prayer meeting. They had moved their meeting place and we couldn’t find it. Finally, we found the classroom and paired up to share the names and ages of our children so we could pray for them.

It had been only eight months since my youngest child’s death, and I was still navigating how to converse about my loss. I weighed in my mind the numbers—two or three? Should I include the death of my son in my intro? (That would require more explanation, and did I have the energy or time to do that here? Did I want to go there?) However, that day I chose to share about my son to a stranger. 

Afterwards, Tracey asked, “Are you always this calm when you share your story?” 

I don’t quite remember how I responded, but I probably fumbled some answer.

Tracey was a writing coach, who led workshops to help women tell their stories. She encouraged me to write and share my story. I reflected on how I found healing on my grief journey through listening to the stories of other women who could empathize because they had gone through similar losses. Maybe God could use my story to encourage others too. 

I found out later that Tracey had moved out of state during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I never got to talk to her again. However, our one conversation planted a seed that began to sprout in my heart—perhaps God was prompting me to write and share my story. But what did I know about starting a blog or publishing a book?

I soon realized that I was not alone. Some published authors share that they struggle with imposter syndrome at times. Who was I to think that anyone would want to listen or read my story? Did my story matter?

My Writing Journey Begins
As I researched how to start a blog and invested in designing my own website, I soon discovered that writing was also a business and much more work than I had originally anticipated. Although attending writers’ conferences helped hone my craft, connect with other writers, and learn about the publishing industry, I sometimes felt discouraged as I lacked the marketing and entrepreneurial skills that were expected of authors.

In the midst of platform-building and publishing, I also struggled with my own perfectionism that led to procrastination. I felt overwhelmed learning about querying and deciphering the different types of writing from elevator pitches to loglines to synopses to book proposals. Somehow, my vocation—”the call”—got lost in the busyness of business.

Pray. Hear. Write.
The opening line to Pray Hear Write: 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting for Breakthrough in Your Writing, by Jevon Bolden, helped me refocus on why I began writing in the first place: 

“Writer, you have a unique weapon at your disposal that can bring healing to the world. That weapon is the written word.” 

I had read writing books on craft and participated in webinars on the business of writing, but Pray Hear Write guided me to invite God into each step of my writing process. I didn’t need to walk this writing journey alone. During those times when I questioned whether I really had anything new to say, Jevon’s words assured me that there was room for my unique voice, and to pray boldly for God to give me favor and “to do immeasurably more than all [I could] ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20, NIV).

I accepted the 21-day challenge to commit to praying and fasting for my writing, which centered my writing on glorifying God. I experienced new breakthroughs in my writing through this consistent daily time of asking God what I should write, taking time to listen to him, and praying for my readers. Surrendering to God all aspects of my writing from craft to draft to publication to promotion, rekindled my passion to bring hope to people through my words for God’s greater purposes.

Responding to Rejection
One of the hardest parts of traditional publishing is responding to rejection. The fierce competition can lead to unhealthy comparisons, feelings of inadequacy, and a scarcity mindset. Disappointments can cause us to doubt if God really called us to write in the first place. For authors of color, rejection can lead us to wonder if there is room at the table for us. On top of it all, writing about racial trauma requires us to expend more emotional energy, therefore, needing more times of respite. Yet, this is hard to do in the hustle of striving for a book deal. 

On day 10 of the challenge, I distinctly remember feeling very discouraged and telling my husband during lunch that I was a bad writer. I didn’t have the platform agents and publishers required; I hadn’t heard any responses to my queries; and maybe I should just give up. 

Right after our meal, I opened my computer and surprisingly, in my inbox was an email from a VP of a major publishing house in New York. She had found my manuscript in her slush pile four months after I had submitted it, and had already brought my manuscript to an editorial meeting. God had been working behind the scenes all along. 

Although this interest in my manuscript did not ultimately result in an offer (yet a different publisher acquired my book a year later), this delayed reply provided the encouragement I needed to keep writing.

Furthermore, Pray Hear Write made me aware of spiritual attacks that may arise to distract and discourage us when we are writing. Just when I was making progress on a book to help others struggling with infant loss, and had an editor interested in my book idea, injuries from a car accident, and a frozen shoulder, impeded my ability to type at my computer for long hours. I could barely lift my arm to dress myself, press a soap dispenser, or pick up a piece of paper off the ground without pain. 

This book exhorted me to rely on God’s strength, to persevere and pray through any problems that impeded my writing process. God was trustworthy to provide for whatever I needed to see a project through to completion. God’s mission would not be thwarted despite my weaknesses.

New Perspective on Platform
Social-media platforms seem to promote self-centeredness that I feared would directly contradict growing in Christian humility. In addition, being an introvert (one who cmould spend a whole day contemplating whether to use a comma or an em-dash to convey emotion,) made the whole task of using this technology daunting.

But Pray Hear Write transformed my perspective about platforms: “[Platform] is a tool to be used to amplify God’s words spoken, written, sung, or demonstrated through us so that the world can see it, hear it, read it, and be blessed.” 

In fact, Jesus said believers (and likewise, Christian writers) should be like a city on a hill. The book helped me examine whether I offered my words, and served others, from selfish or pure motives. Freedom in my writing came when I focused on our God of abundance; this overflow from God caused a spirit of cooperation to grow in me. Platform no longer had a negative connotation, but was an opportunity to build community. 

I truly believe it was God’s perfect timing that on the second to last day of my fast, I had a divine appointment and met with Jevon for the first time. Her voice sounded familiar because I had spent the prior three weeks hearing her heart for writers through her written words! I told Jevon that I thought she was out of my league, yet she offered me representation. I am so grateful that God provided an agent who is an amazing advocate for authors of color. 

As I look back on these past two years since I read Pray Hear Write, I am reminded of how many open doors and unexpected new opportunities God has faithfully provided during that time. In one journal entry from my 21-day fast, I asked and prayed for specific writing mentors, such as Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young. Since then, God has provided the opportunity for me to be mentored not only by Dorina, president of the Redbud Writers Guild, but also fellow Redbuds Tasha Jun, Dorothy Greco, and Helen Hope Kimbrough, and to connect with many more authors, artists, and editors. I am in awe of how God moved the hearts of some of these people to contact me while I was still praying whether to take the initiative to contact them. 

Also, God faithfully fulfilled another request for my research, bringing the help of historians, archivists, librarians, and descendants of my hidden figure to fill in the missing pieces of my story. I treasure these times when I can see God’s hand orchestrating and piecing together my story mosaic. Pray Hear Write contains a “Divine Connections Tracker” to reflect and list these God moments. Whenever I need encouragement, I reread the ways God provided for my writing in the past and how he will sustain me in the future.

Writing as a vocation is not where I expected to be today, but I can confidently say that God has exceeded my expectations in redeeming my pain and causing my story seeds to grow. I learned that although God commissioned my writing work, it may take time for it to fully come to fruition. Today I wait patiently to see what God will do next . . . my story isn’t finished yet. Until then, I will pray, hear, and write.

Mamie Tape: A Chinese American Girl’s Fight to Go to School (title subject to change), a picture book for 6-9 year olds, is scheduled to be released by Harvest House publishers in winter 2024.

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