Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - The Call with Lee McKenzie

This Writer's Wednesday, the Pink Hearters are please to have with us Lee McKenzie, Harlequin American author with her inspiring call story. Welcome, Lee!

When I began to write romance, I believed my path to publication would be short and direct. I joined RWA, finished my first book, and attended my first romance conference. I pitched that book to an editor and she requested the complete manuscript. Convinced that I was about to launch a brilliant career, I mailed the manuscript to New York. Three weeks later I received my first rejection letter. I was stunned by the speed at which she rejected it and devastated that she didn’t want to buy it.

Looking back it’s hard to believe I was so naive, but I had a lot to learn. I’m very lucky that on my eight-year journey to publication I was accompanied by an extremely supportive family, some excellent critique partners, and several published authors who constantly assured me that someday I would be published.

My first three manuscripts were contemporary romances, but then I switched to romantic suspense. Although those projects fared better in contests, they never sold.

But I was nothing if I wasn’t persistent. During those eight years I wrote six complete manuscripts and five partials. I sent out eight-seven submissions to editors and agents. I entered fifty-one contests and won or finaled twenty-nine times, including four Golden Heart finals. The highlight of being a GH finalist in 2003 was becoming a member of the Wet Noodle Posse. []

Gradually I began to realize that romantic suspense was not my thing. I’d had interest from several editors after those Golden Heart finals but no sale, and to be honest I was getting a little discouraged. I switched back to writing short contemporary romance with a more light-hearted tone and finally seemed to hit my stride.

I loved the characters and the storyline in that new book, and writing was fun again! I entered Maggie’s Makeovers in the Golden Heart Contest but it didn’t final. I worked on it some more, changed the title to Fixing Mr. Fix-it, and entered the Golden Heart Contest again. It still wasn’t a finalist. I also pitched it to an editor at a conference. The editor and I hadn’t met before but she was familiar with my writing because she’d judged one of my Golden Heart entries. Even better, she wanted to see the complete manuscript. There was only one small hitch. I had to lengthen it to fit her line.

Could I really add twenty thousand words to an already completed book? It was a challenge, but I decided to go for it. I took my time and it paid off because six weeks after I mailed the complete manuscript to the editor, I got The Call!

My daughter had a break between her college classes that day so she was at home with me when the phone rang. The editor introduced herself and told me she’d read a manuscript the day before and she wanted to turn it into a book. My book! My daughter came into the kitchen to find out what was going on. Amidst all the excitement, the editor graciously asked if she should call me back in an hour. After I hung up, my daughter and I danced around the house, hugging each other and laughing and crying. Then she made me a cup of tea while I did my best to collect myself and prepare for the next call from the editor. My editor!

She didn’t want me to do any revisions, but she did want to see a proposal for a second book I had pitched in my cover letter. Luckily for me that proposal was already written, and a week later I had a two-book contract. The first book was given a new title, and The Man for Maggie was a June 2007 Harlequin American Romance. The sequel, With This Ring, was a December 2007 release.

I’ve sold two more books to Harlequin American Romance (titles and release dates TBA) and at the end of December I was thrilled to learn that The Man for Maggie is a double nominee in the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards -- for Best First Series Romance and Best Harlequin American Romance. []

After eight years my persistence had paid off. I am beyond grateful for all the support and encouragement I received along the way, especially from family, and dedicating my first book to them was a dream come true. It’s my wish that all aspiring authors will achieve their dreams.

From the time she was ten years old and read Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, Lee McKenzie knew she wanted to be a writer, just like Anne and Jo. In the intervening years she has written advertising copy, magazine articles, and an honors thesis in paleontology, and edited conference proceedings, educational material and technical publications. Along the way her imagination demanded a more creative outlet, and she soon discovered the world of romance. Becoming a four-time Golden Heart finalist and a Harlequin author are her proudest accomplishments yet.

Lee and her artist/teacher husband live on an island in the Pacific Northwest, and she loves to spend time with two of her best friends—her grown-up children. For more about Lee and her books, readers are invited to visit her at and at


  1. Lee, thanks so much for sharing with us. I read With This Ring and really enjoyed it...such a cool twist on a holiday story.

  2. Hi Lee

    I loved your "Call" story. And how wonderful that your daughter was right there to celebrate with you! Looking forward to reading your next two books.


  3. Donna, thank you so much! It was fun to write a story set in the summer but with a holiday theme.

  4. Hi, Marin. Thanks for stopping by! My daughter has been one of my biggest supporters - being able to share that moment with her made it extra special.

  5. I was privileged to be at a local RWA Chapter Valentine's Luncheon and hear Lee present the expanded version of her call story. It's so inspiring for writers who are still struggling along the bumpy pre-publication road. Perseverance and belief in yourself are so important in this business - not only before that first sale, but afterward as well.


  6. Hi, Lee :-)! I'm delighted you decided to switch back to light-hearted contemporaries--although I'm sure I'd enjoy anything you wrote.

    Thanks for sharing your call story. I love hearing these!

  7. Thanks, Susan! On this wild ride to publication I was inspired by many people, including you. I hope I can pay a little of that back by doing the same for others :)

  8. Terry, you made my day! Thanks for being such a sweetheart!

  9. As always, Lee, you're such an inspiration to us all. What a wonderful story, especially that you were able to share the moment with your daughter. And no revisions--on your first book yet! Can't wait to read the next two. :)


  10. I got 'goosebumps' reading 'call story', Lee! :)
    (even though I always knew you'd get the call someday!)

    I enjoyed reading both 'Man For Maggie' and 'With This Ring'. Great storylines! Great characters!


  11. Oops. Make that...
    I got goosebumps reading 'your' call story, Lee!

    (Sheesh) (I can't even write a proper post today, ha ha)


  12. Lee--
    One of the best things about hanging around with writers is getting to share the amazing joy that comes with their first sale--and all the others to follow.

    Your story points out once again how important persistance, a willingness to adapt, and the support of good friends are to making it in this business.

    Your friend,

    Alexis Morgan

  13. Lee, what a wonderful story! I love With This Ring, and took it with me to the doctors office to distract me while my daughter had a root canal. Thanks for writing such a heart-warming book!

  14. Thanks, Ros! The "no revisions" part definitely took me by surprise.

  15. LOL, Joy! No one makes me smile quite the way you do. Sending big cyber hugs your way :)

  16. Gillian, I'm honored to have provided a distraction, but your poor daughter. Ouch!

  17. Alexis, thank you so much for that great comment. I couldn't agree more!

  18. Lee,what a great CALL story! NO revisions? WOW. So cool you got to share with your daughter.

  19. What a great story! And I'm so happy the editor loved those books, because I do, too!

  20. Lee- You have the best covers! Thanks for sharing your great story, and wishing you much success,
    Ann Roth

  21. Thanks, Megan! The "no revisons" part was great, but I made up for it with the second book, which was written over a much shorter period of time ;)

  22. Mary, I'm so thrilled that you enjoyed reading my books. Now I'm looking forward to reading yours!

  23. Ann,

    Harlequin's art department does some really gorgeous covers but I have to say, they completely outdid themselves with mine. I absolutely ADORE them!