Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Do Mission Statements Change?

I've been writing professionally for most of my adult life.  My first novel, THE JOSIAH FILES was published twenty years ago by Thomas Nelson
When I began, I attended a Finding Your Mission Statement workshop at a Christian writer's conference.  Through prayer and much thought I came up with one. It guided my life and my writing for a whole bunch of years. My intent was to write about real Christians who were suffering, real people who felt ostracized and out of place within the Christian culture. I had gay people in my books who were still gay at the end. I wrote about a minister’s wife who loses her faith, and by the end of the book she is still searching and unsure. I wrote about a Christian woman who is abused by her Christian husband and by the end of the book they don’t reconcile, but she finds the strength to leave him.
I used to think mission statements were sort of like getting married. They were yours for life.  I think maybe the workshop leader even told us this. 
I'm not sure I believe that anymore. Corporations change their mission statements from time to time. Companies change their names and their logos. Before I wrote novels  I was a news reporter for a local paper in western Canada.  Every five to ten years the newspaper would go through a complete metamorphosis. Masthead, colors, and logos would change. In other words their 'Brand' changes. 
My website has changed. My brand has changed. Even my name has changed. I’m writing mysteries under the name LR Hall now. 
Life has changed me. I’m reminded of the old joke about the child psychologist who had six theories and no children and then went on to have six children and no theories. I had all the answers back when I started. Armed with my mission statement I was going to change the world. Everything was black and white. 
The publishing industry has changed astronomically in twenty years and with 18 novels, I've been there through all its ups and downs. Back in 1992 the highlight of my day was not checking my e-mail, but waiting for the mailman to come. My acceptance letter was an actual letter. With a stamp on it. (In case anyone is wondering what an actual letter is.)
In twenty years my own Christian walk with the Lord has grown such that I now see things in shades of gray.
Many of my years with Christian publishing were very good. I’ve worked with some remarkable editors who saw my vision, mission and helped me turn my books into the best they could be.   

But then, as publishing changed, things became “tighter”. It became more and more difficult to find a publisher willing to go out on a limb with me and publish Christian books that weren’t somehow “safe.” One publisher told me, “We just don’t know how to market you.”
So, for a short while I wrote the kind of books they wanted. I could write for hire couldn’t I? How hard could that be? Hard, it turned out. Really, really hard. I felt like I was losing part of myself. I had to leave Christian publishing. (Or Christian publishing as I know it now.)
I’m moving into the general mystery market with a brand new name. And so what is my mission statement now? It’s not very fancy. I still want to write about real people. I still want to write about struggles. I want to pour myself into my mysteries and make them the very best I can.  
But there’s more. I want to be a friend to people. I want to learn more about kindness. I want to take time for people and my family. I want to go for walks every day. I want to enjoy music and spend time with God every day and simply write the best books I can. That, I guess, is my mission.


Peter Black said...

Linda, thank you for opening this window on your writing and publishing and spiritual journey.
It is interesting how we begin to see a range of shades as we progress along the way; how we begin to see more, feel and understand more, and love more as we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word.

Krysti said...

If you can't keep your characters real, they aren't going to grip anyone else's heartstrings either!

:-) I hope this change of direction brings higher levels of accomplishment for you!

Linda Hall said...

Thank you so much Peter and Krysti!

Deb Elkink said...

Linda, I met you at my very first writers' conference, and you encouraged me so greatly because you were a full-grown woman when you published your first novel, and I saw that there was some chance for me yet--at the ripe age of 39 myself! You gave me hope! Now here you are (mature in even more ways) encouraging me with your spiritual growth and the confidence to live it out. Thanks--you're a exemplary trailblazer for me in ways that go beyond writing.

Linda Hall said...

Thanks Deb. How kind of you to say that - you are a fine writer in your own right!

Diana said...

I agree with you, Linda, about how Christian publishers (and maybe many writers) are choosing safe. And that's okay if that's where their heart is. But I do think we should be able to talk and write about the gay Christian (who hopefully, tho gay, is celibate) or an alcoholic who dies drinking at age 48, tho he is also a committed Christian (my brother). There are more like you writing in the not-so-safe places; "edgy" Christian stories I've seen them styled.

God bless all your efforts. I will look for your new books.

Linda Hall said...

Thank you Diana!

bookcrazy-lhj said...

Linda, I am so excited for you. This is spot-on. I don't know what else to say because you said it all. Lissa

Linda Hall said...

Thanks Lissa! Stepping out and doing something different - something not 'safe' does have its challenges!

Marcia Lee Laycock said...

You go, girl! Praying this new direction takes you to soaring heights in all kinds of ways. :)

Linda Hall said...

Thanks Marcia! I'll see you at Write Canada! It will be nice to catch up on news.

Bonnie Leon said...

Linda, I love your mission statement. I think I'll borrow it.

Grace and peace to you.

Judy Christie said...

Thanks for a thought-provoking post! Judy Christie

Carol J. Garvin said...

So much has changed in the publishing industry lately, but good writers continue to be read in whatever format or genre they produce. Venturing in this new direction will undoubtedly have some challenges, but your reasons make sense. I wish you God's guidance and blessings, and I look forward to reading your new stories.

When talking with James Scott Bell at a conference last year he mentioned that edgy Christian fiction is finding more acceptance with some publishers. For those just trying to break in, however, I think it's still a hard sell.

Donna Mann said...

I have followed your books since Josiah's Files - often looking in those old pulpits when I preach, to see if there is a letter. 8<} Writing is a call of God. You've been a faithful follower through the years. And now, God has called you into a new space. I pray it will take you places unknown even to you, inviting you to trust deeper. And may you find this place filled with even more of God's blessings.

Liz Flaherty said...

I really loved this post, though I have to admit I've never read your book--that saying IS true: so many books, so little time. I think authors' niches all over the place are narrowing more than is comfortable. Good luck with your mysteries--and I'll go back-list digging. :-)

Harriette said...

Hi Linda,
I discovered your books just this past summer, some of the older ones. What I liked about them was the quality of the writing combined with themes of faith that were not preachy. Also this summer I read a non-fiction book about vocation Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller. It reminded me that being a faithful Christian in your work involves competence in the work itself. I appreciate your competence and I will keep looking for more of your books.

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