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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mother Superior and The Penwrights... Not a Bad Name for a Band

Last Sunday, on our way to church, my wife and I stopped into our local Barnes and Noble and purchased a copy of Gina Holmes' new book Crossing Oceans. Lots of buzz surrounds Gina's first novel, and for good reason. But as I held the book and thumbed through its chapters, my mind was elsewhere.

Back in the Fall of 2004, I was contacted by a small group of writers who had seen my entry in the Westbow writing contest. I had been out of the ministry for several years, kind of wandering spiritually, pining for purpose. Rather inexplicably, I began to sense God prompting me to start writing. The Westbow contest was my first attempt, and from it, this writers group somehow pegged me. They called themselves Penwrights, and wanted to know if I'd be interested in joining their online critique group. Huh? Critique group? What's that? And who were these people?

Well, I hung around long enough to realize the Penwrights weren't perverts or spammers. They were aspiring Christian writers genuinely seeking to learn the craft. Jessica Dotta, Ane Mulligan, and Gina Holmes were the braintrust, the steering committee, the head honcho-ettes. I used to think of them as nuns, regularly cracking my knuckles for grammatical infractions, POV slips, and an excess of adverbs. Penwrights was a fun, but tough group. And Gina was clearly the Mother Superior. In a good way.

Back then she was writing Supernatural Suspense. The more I got to know Gina, the more her book about a chick who chased demons seemed fitting. Gina was the firebrand of the Sisters of Fiction, a bit feisty and interminably strong-headed, but fun-loving and extremely generous with her time. Along the way, her sense of humor and resolve would both be tested. After oodles of rejections and equal disappointment, Gina morphed. She eventually changed agents and genres (a huge issue for a writer), but she kept plucking away, growing in the craft and encouraging other writers. I am a recipient of her selflessness and resolve. Let-downs are so common for aspiring authors, sometimes it's hard to even get your hopes up. And it's easy to just fold. But Gina would not be deterred from her novel journey. She kept refining her chops, learning the industry ropes, and networking. Which eventually paid off. I still remember the day she called me with her news. I was at work, it was lunchtime, and she was giddy. And you know what? She deserved to be.

To the average person, Crossing Oceans may be just another book. But I know there's a story behind the story. It's a story about perseverance, about hard work and adaptation. It's a story about trading self-pity for service, and keeping your eye on the prize when everything screams surrender. So when I walked out of B&N last Sunday morning with Gina's book in hand, I couldn't help but remember that story, think how much I owe her. And how much she deserves this. Well done, G.

Don't forget to enter the Crossing Oceans' Mothers Day contest. Rules HERE.


  1. Thanks for this, Mike. Connecting with you and the rest of the group was definitely a turning point for me. What a talented group! I love that pic btw...both of em. You're a good friend.

  2. I love the story behind the story. Thanks for sharing it!

    I found the book trailer for Crossing Oceans listed as "trailer of the day" in Shelf Awareness and let Gina know about it on Facebook. I think you said that was worth at least 500 entries? Okay, one.

    Blessings in the novel journey and always!


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