Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Writing Wednesday: Barbara Wallace's Call Story

Barb Wallace tells of her fifteen year journey towards publication with Harlequin and its Happy Ending. Sometimes you simply have to believe.

I’m not sure if my call story is a testimony to perseverance or to hard-headedness.

I submitted my first manuscript to Harlequin shortly before I became pregnant with my son. Back then, I was certain publication was right around the corner, especially when I signed with an agent a few months later.

Flash forward to the day I got the call. That baby I was expecting was about to turn 15 years old.

During that decade and a half I made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of stumbling. The agent and I parted ways, I suffered through a disastrous E-publishing experience, I collected a lot of rejections that said my writing was close but not quite publishable.

So what changed? In short, I did. In 2004 I decided it was time to take my writing career seriously.

This isn’t to say I wasn’t serious about writing before – because I was. But in trying to balance motherhood, work and life, my writing was too often the thing that got sacrificed. I realized if I was ever going to sell, I had to make writing a bigger priority. With my husband’s blessing, I stopped accepting freelance media relations projects and dedicated my mornings to writing.
I also re-discovered Harlequin Romance. For years I jumped from category line to category line without much focus. One day I was writing for Presents, the next day Special Editions. I never seemed to find where I “fit”. Until I found Harlequin Romance and realized authors like Barbara MacMahon and Barbara Hannay were writing the kinds of stories I wanted to write. Tender, emotional, character-driven stories. In short, I found a writing home.

My changes paid off. In 2005, I finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart. Two years later I finalled again and this time I won. Winning put me in touch with the wonderfully patient Jenny Hutton. Although she rejected my winning manuscript, she provided me with in-depth feedback. For the first time since I started, I understood why my manuscripts weren’t clearing that final hurdle to publication. She also graciously offered to provide feedback throughout my next manuscript – with no guarantees, of course. Over the next eighteen months, I wrote three versions of that manuscript, each pass teaching me something new about writing category romance.

My efforts paid off. In March Jenny called to say Mills & Boon wanted to buy my manuscript.

The book, tentatively titled THE SECRETARY BRIDE, should be out in the next eighteen months.

And the moral of my fifteen year sojourn? I guess you could say there are three. First is that if you want to succeed, you have to stop putting your dreams in the back seat. Second, no matter how long you’ve been writing, you’ve never learned it all. Finally, and more importantly, never give up.

(THE SECRETARY BRIDE is the story of practical, efficient Emma O’Rourke. Emma doesn’t believe in fairy tales or happy endings. Can hotel heir Gideon Kent change her mind?)


  1. What a wonderful story - so inspirational.
    Thanks for sharing and i look forward to reading The Secratary Bride.


  2. Thanks for sharing - I really enjoyed reading your "call" story - how inspiring :)

    I could really relate to what you wrote, esp - "But in trying to balance motherhood, work and life, my writing was too often the thing that got sacrificed."

    Congrats on finally getting the call!!

    Cheers, Joanne

  3. Thanks for sharing this and for using the word "sacrifice"! It's finally made me realise what I am doing when I let everyone and everything else take priority in my life!

    Looking forward to seeing your name in print and hoping it will spur me on to do it for myself too!

  4. I adore call stories and loved your story of perservance. I am looking forward to seeing The Secretary Bride on the shelves.

  5. What a lovely story! (And so true in finding it hard to get a balance between work and family.)

    Congratulations, Barbara, and I look forward to reading your book.

  6. Welcome to "Romance", Barbara. I love your title -- and love practical, efficient heroines! -- and can't wait to add it to the teetering tbr list.

  7. Me too - practical and efficient, and it is so fun to watch them fall in love. Because falling in love is rarely practical...or efficient...

    Welcome to Romance Barb! Really looking forward to reading your debut.

  8. Wow Barb what a wonderful call story - with that kind of tenacity and will power you are sure to have an amazing career ahead of you.

  9. Thank you all for the kind words and welcome! I hope this book is the beginning of a long relationship with Harlequin. While it took me a long time to sell, I have to say getting here has been worth all the hard work.

    Amanda and Joanne: I think sacrificing our personal goals is a very female trait. We, as women, are trained not to put ourselves first. Then, when you throw children into the mix -- well, how can you not help but want to put them before everything else?

    It took me a long time before I realized that taking my own goals seriously was a way of teaching my son to chase his dreams and respect the dreams of others.

  10. I love hearing how I sold stories. They give so much hope. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    All the best...

    Mary Eason

  11. Wow! What a fab call story. I really need to hear things like that to keep me focused on writing. Can't wait to read your book :)


  12. Hey Barb - I love this line in your reply - "It took me a long time before I realized that taking my own goals seriously was a way of teaching my son to chase his dreams and respect the dreams of others."

    Thanks :)

  13. Great story, I love the romance line so am looking forward to reading your debut ... and all those that follow.

  14. Hi Barbara - congratulations on selling. Can't wait to read your debut novel.

    I also partly kept writing to show my children that if you have a dream it might not be easy but it's worth struggling for. (I was a co-finalist with you in the 2005 GH).