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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Optimistic Voices

Like almost every child who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, I never missed the opportunity to watch The Wizard of Oz on TV. It was shown annually for almost three decades.

As a result, the movie is a part of who I am in a way no other movie ever has been or likely ever will be. The structure of the film (three acts, with a disturbance and two doorways of no return) and the model character arc observed in Dorothy (moving from discontentment to contentment) have affected my life as a storyteller.

So, I’m watching the film the other day and feel a holy nudge. It seems I still have something to learn from The Wizard of Oz.

My witch=the pitch
I am terrified by the idea of pitching my novel to an editor or agent—“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little book, too!” I suspect one of the main differences between published and unpublished authors is that those who are published have overcome the fear.

But, as Dorothy and gang finally approach the Emerald City—the seeming culmination of her quest—they are greeted by a chorus of “Optimistic Voices.”

You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun, step into the light

All of this merrymaking is going on and I’m thinking about my pitch. I do not feel "out of the woods." But after the movie was over, I piece together a few thoughts.

Dorothy had her friends’ help
Dorothy wouldn’t have arrived in the Emerald City without her friends. They protected her and gave her the courage to ease on down, ease on down, down her road. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my friends and critique partners who did the same for me.

Dorothy faced risks—and overcame them
Dorothy didn’t arrive in the Emerald City without surviving a few hazards.

  • She lived through a tornado. (My life has certainly swirled around me lately, as we settle, somewhat bumpily, into a new location.)

  • Sour apple trees threw fruit at her. (I’ve eaten my share of sour grapes.)

  • Someone (Cowardly Lion) who at first seemed an enemy became a friend . (Don’t get me started.)

  • Exhaustion nearly did her in until another friend (Glinda) helped her become clear-headed again. (I credit the Holy Spirit with my current clear mind regarding my writing.)

Dorothy’s end goal wasn’t the Emerald City
Though it was a grand entry, Dorothy didn’t find what she was looking for—the way home—in the city. Instead, she was forced to face, and conquer, the Wicked Witch.

And here we are, back at the nut of the problem. Facing one’s fears.

Like Dorothy, I’m finding that my experiences, though tough and at times frightening, have taught me that I do have resources within me I’ve yet to tap--and I don't need ruby slippers to access them. Oh, I may run between the turrets yet, but when I can no longer run I’ll find the gumption to douse the witch.

Before the flying monkeys come to haul me off to face my fear, I’m going to listen to those optimistic voices of my friends and family once more--and I'm going to redouble my efforts to make my pitch the best it can be.

Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope
March up to the gate
And bid it open.

Need help with your pitch? Come to the Writing for the Soul Conference in February and sign up for an appointment with creativity specialist, C. McNair Wilson. Registrations are open.

Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.


  1. Good observations, Mike. I can especially relate to the part about making it through with the help of friends (where would I be without friends on this journey? nowhere!) and the Spirit giving us a clear head.
    Also, the way it turns out the Emerald City (an allegory for that elusive publishing contract?) isn't the true goal after all. Good stuff!
    It's been more than 40 yrs since I saw The Wizard of Oz, but if I ever watch it again, it will mean more to me than ever before.

  2. I appreciate this more than you know, Mike. My fear comes even before the gate of pitching to an editor or agent. My fear is making a story good enough to reach that point. This comes at a good time, since I've recently been encouraged by friends and the Holy Spirit to go for it. Thanks.

  3. So glad to get your comment, Terri. Pleased to have been used to boost your confidence.

    And Y, IF you ever watch it again? It should be watched at least once a year.

  4. Michael,
    Excellent use of a great movie! Fear of pitching always seems to be passed around through blog postings. I have not pitched yet, and would rather remember positive info.
    You hooked me with the Wizard of Oz, and I'm grateful you didn't go into details of how horrible the pitching was or would be. My first pitching is this May.


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