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Writing Career by Divine Intervention

Updated on October 19, 2011
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is a published author, freelance writer, and photographer. She also specializes in horses.

Just Minding My Own Business

 

Writing The Book of Miniature Horses: Buying, Breeding, Training, Showing, and Enjoying came about through divine intervention, or some might say - networking!

One day I was minding my own business down here in a small North Carolina town, working at my desk on an article. I don't remember what the article was about. The phone rang. I didn't recognize the number on my caller ID but saw it was from New York. I have relatives in New York, so I answered it hoping to hear my cousin's voice.

Domino, My Introduction to Miniature Horses

Photo by Donna Campbell Smith
Photo by Donna Campbell Smith

Working with Bruce Curtis

One day I was minding my own business down here in a small North Carolina town, working at my desk on an article. I don't remember what the article was about. The phone rang. I didn't recognize the number on my caller ID but saw it was from New York. I have relatives in New York, so I answered it hoping to hear my cousin's voice.

The voice was that of Bruce Curtis, an award-winning photographer from long Island, New York. When he introduced himself I remembered an email I'd received from the editor of the children's horse magazine, Young Rider. I'd written some articles and short stories for the publication. Bruce had contacted this editor hoping she'd write the text for his photographs, but she was busy already working on a book of her own. She thought of me. She asked me if she could give my contact info to a photographer who was looking for a writer to do some work with on a horse book. This was the guy!

I did a quick google seach (my standard proceedure before I work with anyone new)and found he was very much legitimate. The project Bruce had on his mind was a book about horse racing. He had some charming pictures of miniature horses too. He had in mind a "cute" picture book with me basically writing little blurbs for the pictures. He would send me the photos and call me back.

I said "okay" and let him know we'd need a contract of some kind. He said that was fine. I got the pictures and I did an Internet search on how to write a non-fiction proposal. One look at Been There Shot That showed Bruce had a long list of books to his credit. I began to let myself get excited. I went to work on the racehorse book, and then typed up a short outline for the miniature horse idea. Bruce said they were fine and forwarded them to his agent. I continued on with my other projects and didn't think much more about the proposals or Bruce.

A Publisher and an Agent

 

One day I got a letter from an editor at Lyons Press. Editor Steven Price said they liked the miniature horse proposal, but they wanted a more comprehensive book about minis - all about how to care for them, what to do with them, and about breeding miniature horses.

I took a deep breath and called Bruce with the news. I re-wrote the proposal and sent it to Steve. He accepted it and then asked if I had an agent. "No, but Bruce does." From there it was a whirlwind of firsts for me. Not only did I have my first non-fiction book accepted - I had a New York agent! Bruce shipped me a box with about 2000 slides of miniature horses. That began my crash course in collaborating with a photographer to produce a book.

Did I mention that in the beginning I did not even own a miniature horse? My daughter owned one for a short while, but sold it for a healthy profit so Gizmo didn't stay long at our barn. But, I had been to a miniature horse show and the bug had bitten me. So, shortly after I began writing the text for The Book of Miniature Horses I bought Domino, an AMHA black stallion that stood 29.5 inches tall, cute from head to toe. I did have about thirty years experience with horses in general and my two-year associates degree in equine technology as tools for writing about the little horses.

My own horse expertise coupled with miniature horse owners from all over the country enabled me to produce my book. Like people who own "big horses" I found the miniature horse owners to be friendly and helpful, all willing to share their knowledge and tips. In spite of my long-time horse association I soon learned there were some things about minis that did not apply to the general management of horses.

It turned out I had to take a few photographs to fill in some empty spots, including attending a miniature horse auction. Now there is a place where you really must sit on your hands! Every little horse that was led into the sales arena was a candidate for stuffing into the back of my station wagon, but I was to broke to barter. I took lots of photos and met a lot of very nice people.

I found the biggest and best of all miniature horse websites, Lil Beginnings. There I met more nice people who knew plenty about miniature horses. As word got around locally I found more friends who owned minis. The whole thing snowballed and when I finally finished the first draft I had made many friends along the way. Two of my new friends were Tammy and her mini, Rambo. See their story at this link - Rambo

Steve (by being the wonderful professional he is) hurt my feelings right to start with after he read my manuscript. He didn't like the way I had it organized (or disorganized) Notes in red ink like, "Why in the world would you do this?" was not the southern way of telling someone they'd made a mistake. But, I got used to him and his New York personality. He taught me a great deal, and I will be forever grateful that he did not soften the blows, because I learned from him. We eventually got the manuscript in shape and I made it by deadline. Next step was the copy editor, then the galleys, and after another long wait I got my first advance copy. That was a very exciting day. Everyone who came to the barn for the next week was subjected to "seeing my book." My first non-fiction, my first hardcover, my first agent, and my first miniature horse all happened in one year.

Bruce seemed pleased enough, but he was already working on new projects. The Book of Miniature Horses sold out its first printing. Then a year later Lyons Press released the trade paperback version with a new cover that I really like even better than the first. Both photos were Bruce's of course. I have gotten a good number of emails from people who bought The Book of Miniature Horses. I also run into folks on Lil Beginnings and other horse forums that've bought copies. That is so much fun, hearing from people I don't even know, but have this connection of miniature horses. It has been fun. Also, it was fun getting my first royalty check this summer.

But, The Book of Miniature Horses was just the beginning. Since writing it I have written two more books for Lyons Press - The Book of Draft Horses (2006) and The Book of Mules.  They each represent a new "first" for me - The Book of Draft Horses is the first book in which I did the photography myself. (Bruce was too busy with other projects) The Book of Mules is my first book printed in full color - and also with my own photography.

Now, as I re-read what I have just written I am more convinced than ever - it has all been by divine intervention!

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    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      9 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Absolutely. He has been a wonderful mentor, although via long distance.

    • profile image

      Linda Oleksyk 

      9 years ago

      The encounter you had with Bruce Curtis is not unusual. His selfless nature and quiet photographic genius make him a great collaborator. You were lucky to meet this seasoned professional so early in your literary adventure.

    • profile image

      Ana Louis 

      10 years ago

      A great success story. It is amazing where life can take us when we open the right door. May all your dreams come true.

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      10 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Yes, I am. I have also said "No" to some things. What I try to do is give myself time before I answer, do some research (that is so possible nowadays) and do some thinking; then decide.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Very interesting story. I'm glad you said yes to those things. Just think what you might have missed if you hadn't.

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      10 years ago from Central North Carolina

      You are so right.

    • pacwriter profile image

      pacwriter 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      I think it simply amazing that our writing doesn't go where we planned. Way back when you started writing You never imagined doing a book about Mules did you?

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