My journey to publishing a devotional book based on Jane Austen’s prayers all started with a children’s chapter book about mice.
I woke up one morning several years ago with a children’s allegory burning in my heart. I wrote the book and showed it to a few people, all of whom encouraged me to “do something with it.” I spent the next two years perfecting it, having it critiqued, attending writer’s conferences, and pitching it to editors and agents. There was a lot of interest in it, but in the end, I heard the same response over and over: “Christian publishers aren’t looking for this kind of book right now. We love the book, but it’s just not the right time.” I kept trying, but every door eventually closed.
I found myself wondering why God gave me that story – and brought me into the world of Christian writing – only to bring me to a dead end. I felt like I had finally found my place, my purpose, and my calling. I knew I couldn’t just give up, but I didn’t know how to move forward.
I began praying this prayer: “Lord, please open and close the right doors. Your closed doors are just as important as your open doors. You know best!”
In the waiting, I continued to do what I always do: I read my One Year Bible, just like I had every year for over a decade. I went on teaching writing courses at the college near my house. I kept serving and loving my husband and kids. I wrote and edited materials for churches, ministries, and small businesses. I attended prayer meetings on Saturday evenings and Bible studies on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays. I read voraciously—from Christian biographies to literary classics to children’s books. I also continued to speak, teach, and write about one of my favorite authors: Jane Austen.
Jane had always been there, from the first moment I read Northanger Abbey in the eighth grade to the many weekends I spent watching Austen films in high school to the year I spent writing my master’s thesis on Pride and Prejudice in graduate school.
After graduate school, I started speaking about Jane Austen’s novels at libraries, teas, book clubs, and literary events. The Lord opened the door to teach Jane Austen seminars and write for a Jane Austen blog. I enjoyed it all immensely, but over the years I sometimes wondered, “What are your plans in all of this, God? I’d love to teach or write about the Bible! Why do you keep opening the door to Austen instead?”
Little did I know, God was doing something else . . . something so unexpected and yet so obvious that I couldn’t see it at the time.
One afternoon at Mount Hermon, my writing mentor asked if I’d ever considered writing a book about Jane Austen’s faith, given my background and experience. I leaned forward and confessed, “I’d love to write a book about her prayers.” As soon as I said it, we both knew I was supposed to pursue it. The idea took root that day and would not let go!
I prayed about what the book would look like and began to research and write a manuscript about Austen’s faith and prayers. The Lord gave me vision for the project, an outline, a format, and a title. He put it on my heart to write a devotional book that takes readers through Austen’s prayers one line at a time for 31 days. I wove reflections, Scripture, and moments from Austen’s life and novels into each daily entry.
After a lot of drafting and redrafting, things finally clicked. I caught a glimpse of how God wanted to take my years of Bible study and my years of scholarly work and tie the two together. I wrote an introduction, a set of sample devotional entries, and a non fiction book proposal for a book titled, Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. One day after yet another children’s book rejection, I took a deep breath and emailed two people I’d met at Mount Hermon to ask if they’d be interested in seeing my Praying with Jane proposal. I heard back from both almost immediately.
One of those people was Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Management, who is now my agent and one of the most amazing people I know. She loved my proposal and send it out to several publishers. After a few weeks of nail biting and prayer (wherein I tried not to lose my mind!), Bethany House made an offer to publish the book. It was surreal! I signed the contract last fall, wrote the rest of the manuscript, and turned it in at the beginning of the new year. Praying with Jane released on October 2, 2018. To God be all the glory!
After so many closed doors over the years, it was incredible to watch God open the doors wide for this project. All along the way, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to use my writing to serve God. I’ve always felt about writing the way Eric Liddell felt about running: When I [write], I feel God’s pleasure.
God had a plan all along. He was preparing me for something I could never have planned or dreamed on my own. God has a plan for you as well, and you must press on. If you can’t see what he’s up to, don’t lose heart. He will open the floodgates at exactly the right time.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT)
About Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen
For more than two hundred years, Jane Austen and her novels have charmed readers from around the world. While much has been written about her fascinating life, less is known about Jane’s spiritual side. In this 31-day devotional, Austen’s faith comes to life through her exquisite prayers, touching biographical anecdotes, and illuminating scenes from her novels. Each reading also includes a thematically appropriate Scripture and a prayer inspired by Jane’s petitions.