I met Elaine Scott through my husband. They both teach Adult Sunday School classes at church. Elaine is a well-established professional author with over thirty traditionally published books to her credit. Her story demonstrates how becoming a successful author is often a combination of talent, persistence, and serendipitous opportunities.
How did you get started in writing?
I was a full time homemaker, raising two young daughters. When I was young (in the 50’s) women had four career options: nurse, teacher, secretary or homemaker. I chose homemaker, but by the 70’s. I felt I was failing at many elements of that task. I was no good at needlepoint. I was no good at tennis. I was no good at bridge. I was 35 years old and trying to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up.
A church friend was getting ready to publish a literary journal. She asked me if I would write an article for it. Her question came out of the blue. I was just shocked that she would ask me to do this. It was the 70’s and she was interested in promoting ZPG (Zero Population Growth). Since I had two children, one adopted and one not, she wanted me to write an article about the Myth of Motherhood – about how a woman can become a mother without biologically reproducing herself.
I sat and thought about it and then I heard a voice in my head tell me, “How you answer this question will determine the rest of your life.”
That moment is engraved in me. I can vividly recall where I was sitting, what I was wearing, what the weather was like. I drew in my breath and said, “OK, I’ll do it.”
Small Steps Lead to Big Breaks
So I wrote the article and she published it. As luck would have it, another Houston publisher saw it, liked it and got in touch with me. She asked me if I had anything else. I lied and said “Oh sure!”
When she asked me what, I told her I had a funny little piece about learning to ski downhill in my thirties. She said she wanted to read it. So I wrote it. She liked it. She published it and put me on her magazine’s staff as a contributing writer. That’s how I got started.
Boldness Pays Dividends
I was writing and getting published in Houston, so I thought I’d submit to the many national women’s magazines that were popular back then. I started contributing ideas and proposals to them, and I started getting rejection slips. There was a writer’s conference coming to Houston and I decided to go because one of the workshop leaders worked for McCall’s. I thought I’d listen to her and find out what I was doing wrong.
So I went. During an opening on my schedule, I saw there was another workshop about writing non-fiction for children. I had never even thought about writing for children, but I thought “What the heck, why not?”
I listened to the woman leading it and talked to her afterward. She was an editor with Thomas Nelson, the Biblical publisher. I asked her if she thought there’d be a market for a book for children about adoption – reasons why parents might give up a child, the difference between genes and heredity, that sort of thing. She said she loved it. I thought she meant she loved the book, which I hadn’t written. Of course, she was merely talking about the idea.
However, when I met an agent at the conference I told her, “I have an editor interested in my book.” Those are magic words to an agent. She asked for samples of my work, and I could produce those early Houston articles, which she took back to New York. That was in August. She called me in October and asked me exactly what I’d told the editor. Then she said I wasn’t obligated to that editor and she would take me on, but she wanted me to write a proposal for the book.
When You Don’t Know, Find Out
I didn’t know what a proposal was! I went to the bookstore and got a copy of Writer’s Market and learned. That agent sold my book and I stayed with her for twenty years. About ten years ago we both moved on. She was interested in going directions I wasn’t so it was time. I found another agent and we’ve been together now for ten – maybe fifteen years.
You Don’t Always Have to Write About What You Know
Elaine publishes books for Upper Elementary and Middle School, the majority on space and science topics, but also a daring rescue of trapped miners, a biography, and two novels. Since most of her books have a science theme, I thought she must have studied those subjects in college.
She did not. She was an English major, thinking about teaching English until she became a homemaker raising her daughters. A writer doesn’t have to know that much about a topic to write about it; just be willing to do the research. She does all her own research. Living in Houston, she knows many NASA people willing to introduce her to people to help with the research.
Tips for Beginners
Elaine emphasizes two golden rules for writers.
Rule Number One: WRITE. Just start. Your work doesn’t have to be good at first. You can always go back and polish your first draft. Just start writing. Get published, however you have to do it. You need a portfolio of published works to show agents and editors.
Rule Number Two: Get the most recent edition of Writer’s Market and read it. Then go forth and do likewise.
Elaine’s books are available in bookstores, particularly independent bookstores and at Amazon.
Write Away Retreat – Coming in April 2019!
Would you like some help and companionship to move your writing efforts along? Join me at the Zion Retreat Center on Galveston Island April 26 – 28, 2019 for the Write Away Retreat. I’ve structured the schedule to give you time to work on your own writing project and learn from other authors as we share insights and experiences on a variety of writing related topics. The cost for two nights and five meals is just $235. Check out the facilities at Galveston Zion Retreat Center. Register for the Write Away Retreat through Lutherhill Ministries.