Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Are You Reading Thursday: Celebrating Success with Marsha Zinberg

The Pink Heart Society is thrilled to introduce Harlequin Executive Editor Marsha Zinberg! Ms. Zinberg has been on tour talking about the Harlequin Famous Firsts – current romance superstars who published their very first novel as a Harlequin or Silhouette category romance. The Famous Firsts program is part of Harlequin's 60th Anniversary celebrations and as our readers know - we LOVE call stories.

How lucky are we that Marsha has joined us with the call stories of some of our absolute favourite authors?

Welcome to the PHS, Marsha!

As Lori Foster observed, there are not a lot of overnight successes in the publishing business, and most of our Famous Firsts authors worked long and hard to reach their goals and achieve significant milestones. I asked a number about them about how they marked two obvious turning points in their careers: the sale of their first book, and their first placement on national bestseller list.

Debbie Macomber remembers that her children were quite young when she sold her first book. They didn’t quite understand what the fuss was about, but they knew it had to be big, because their mom ordered them a pizza for dinner! Many years later, when she first learned her book had hit the New York Times bestseller list, she had just come home from swimming. She walked in the door, soaking wet, learned the news, and burst into tears. Good thing she was already wet!
Anne Stuart wasn’t in a hurry to spread her good news. She didn’t tell anyone else for an hour and a half, so she, like Debbie, could have the indulgence of a good, long cry!

Stella Cameron stood up in her home office and looked out at her children playing, when she learned that someone actually wanted to pay for something she had written. She had been given a gift of validation for all the determination she had shown, and thought she might be floating! When she first hit the Times list, the floating transformed into a grin that wouldn’t stop. The flowers that kept arriving made her feel as if she were present for a run-through of her own funeral!

While Vicki Lewis Thompson was attending her very first Romance Writers’ of America Conference many, many years ago in Washington, D.C., a trip for which she had scrimped and saved, she was fortunate to be staying at the home of a friend. It was to the friend’s house that her telephone was forwarded, and she learned just two days before the conference that her book had sold. On her friend’s suggestion, they celebrated by drinking champagne on the Capitol steps while watching a Marine band!

Gold bracelets were the order of the day for Linda Lael Miller. She, too, knows there was some champagne consumption when Daniel’s Bride made the New York Times list in 1992. Also, dinner. And, probably, shopping!

For Joan Johnston, there were lots of flowers, cake, and a celebratory breakfast with her writer friends.

The news couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient or unexpected time for Lori Foster. She was in the midst of moving house when she learned that Casey, a reissue, had placed on the NYT list. With her typical business aplomb, she restrained herself from getting overly excited. She was grateful that taking so long to get published in the first place had really taught her how to write. After all, she maintains, this is not a business for wimps!

It’s wonderful to get good news, and even more wonderful when you can share it. I hope this week brings each and every one of you a triumph large or small to celebrate!

My final stop on the tour will be at The Misadventures of Super Librarian on Monday, June 22. I’ll have a bit of a recap and answer any questions that haven’t been answered yet, so please ask away!

As a special treat The Pink Heart Society has one very cool nostalgia Harlequin tote bag (pictured above) and some Famous First novels to giveaway. It's a great prize pack! Just post in the comments and on Saturday we'll draw one lucky name!

Don’t forget that you can enjoy 16 free Harlequin novels by downloading them at

Has anyone had a recent success they would care to share?
Thanks Marsha for being here - now's the time gang, to ask questions, make comments, and put your name in the running for this great prize!


  1. What great stories!

    I don't think any of us can think of "call" stories without getting misty!

    I remember being too shocked to cry.

    susan meier

  2. It's always so inspiring to hear how authors finally got their starts many after several rejections! Perserverance!!pays off! My successes are my 4 children they've become wonderful young adults of whom I'm so proud!

  3. I just sent my first submission out to - yep - Harlequin. While in line at the post office I felt nauseous, then realized it might have been from the perfume of the lady in front of me! Once in my car though I thought I was going to cry.
    Imagine when I do get the call how I will act if I almost cried in sending a submission off!

    I do have a question - have the Famous Firsts been re-edited or are they in their original form?


  4. Oh I love a good Call Story and these are beauts.

  5. How lovely to hear about success being rewarded. What nice stories to brighten our day! I've read some authors but I must look out for the others.

  6. I danced around the room with my mother the day I sold to Intimate Moments - and when I sold again to Harlequin Romance after I'd sold 5 books and then nothing for more than 2 years, I just sat there with a big stupid grin on my face.

    Melissa James

  7. Very encouraging and inspirational. thank you for sharing these stories of persistence. It gives me hope.

  8. Have to say my call story involved one misty eyed writer trying to help chaperone a class of 30 8-year-olds on a swimming trip while texting everyone she had ever met with the news of her sale!! None of the kids drowned so I considered that two major successes in one day.

    Loved these call stories, and love the authors even more. Wow. Harlequin has started the careers of some super fabulous writers...

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  10. I loved the call stories. It is simply wild to believe that the best selling stars once stood in their kitchen in shock when they sold, you know? I was at my inlaws on holidays when I got the e-mail from my editor and then she called me there. I remember going out on the deck and jumping up and down in a not very dignified manner. :-)

  11. Congratulations to all writers who succeed after all their determination to get published. I just want to say THANK YOU to all authors who give me a story I can enjoy. I have read some of the writers you mentioned but not others.

  12. I love call stories. It's always fun to hear what they were doing when they received the call.

  13. The call stories were wonderful and thanks for sharing. Debbie and Stella live in my hometown and I've had the pleasure of meeting Vicki...I can just see her on the Capitol steps!

  14. I love call stories!!!

    My own came when I was 5 months pregnant with my first child.

    I delivered 2 'babies' that year, my child and my first book.
    Special :)

  15. These call stories are so inspiring, especially knowing how successful these authors have become. Harlequin sure knows how to spot talent!

    Thanks to all the authors that have also shared their call stories with us in the comments section. Fascinating.

  16. I love call stories!! Mind you I try and celebrate every step on the road. Finishing the blasted thing, revising it, sending it out and welcoming it back home with an R. It all calls for champagne!

  17. Wow, sounds like most of you have much better "call stories" than I do. I swear, by the time I finally got the call, I'd been trying so long to get published that I'd just become numb. LOL
    I remember being relieved more than joyous.
    For those who sell within a year or two of submitting, it has be fantastic! For me... it was the end of a very long road. LOL

    Great blog, Marsha. Thank you for including me.

    Hugs to all,


  18. Thanks, Marsha for all the great authors and wonderful stories! Congratulations and Happy 60th Anniversary Harlequin!

  19. congrats to everyone author who gets a 'call'. wonderful news to be sure.

    What a lovely prize of tote/books.

  20. Lori - so glad you could stop by! I think your readers all agree it was worth the wait....

  21. And congrats to Julie Rowe who has won the prize! Will be doing up a quick post...

  22. Wonderful post and I love the comments! Does anyone know where I can read Lori Foster's Call story? Her comment has certainly intrigued me, and I can't see it on her website.

  23. Hi Mulberry,

    I can quickly tell you that I wrote over 10 books, and it took over 5 years, for me to sell. That was back in '96, and I didn't buy a computer until after I'd sold, so all the changes/revisions were on a typewriter.

    I submitted a story to Hq Temptation and the editor there liked it, but told me it had way too much male point of view. She asked me to cut out a lot of it.

    I did so.

    She got moved to a different line.

    At least 6 months went by before that editor was replaced.

    The new editor said... are you ready? That I didn't have enough male point of view.

    So (still on a typewriter)I had to add back in most of the male pov that I'd taken out.

    Then she wanted me to move the love scene as close to the first page as I could get it.

    More retyping.

    I'm not sure how much time had passed at that point, but after another 6 month or longer waiting, she bought the story. And nope, I didn't really celebrate. I think I just sort of collapsed in relief.

    These days, the wait time for a submission from a new author can be well over a year. Editors are the busiest people I know!



  24. Oops, I meant to say a big "Thank you" to Donna Alward, too!



  25. Lori - thanks for coming in and sharing! Is it good ju ju that I was five years and 10 mss as well? LOL. I dearly hope so. Your success has inspired many many writers (including the PHS founder, Trish Wylie!).

  26. Oh Donna, I would LOVE to think I've inspired people. Honestly, if I can do it, anyone can. LOL.