Tracy began her writing career at age 8 by starting stories and never finishing them. She finished them only under duress for school. In school, she wrote stories and snagged a few writing awards and had an idea she’d be a writer when she grew up, but funny thing happened on the way to college: she became a Christian. She had a misguided notion she had to swap God for this new life she was grateful for, so she threw out the stories and gave God the writing.
One day, our hero (Tracy) was working as an accounts payable clerk in a big corporation. She wrote and circulated office memos because they were more interesting than data entry. She loved those office memos. She had an epiphany: she’d rather write. She finally got it into her brain that God was not a meanie-head and that he actually gave her the writing gig, sort of like a present, ‘cause he knew that’s what she’d like. So she got the heck out of Dodge, and got a job writing radio commercials. Guess how she landed the job? They asked for a portfolio but she had no college credentials or even early writing because you know where that landed, on Altar Misguided. She gave them all she had: office memos.
Tracy wrote commercials for a year, quit to have a baby, and didn’t return to the writing job because by then she’d gone past fetching back into the kind of writing she really wanted to do: books. She didn’t buy it when a famous writer said to her face that she’d first have to write magazine articles to pay the price for writing books. She lied politely and said she’d get right on it, but once the famous writer was gone she took to her desk and wrote what she wanted, not stupid articles. Now, she doesn’t mind writing stupid articles.
Tracy heard of a writing conference nearby, the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing. Without a clue for what she was doing–and she’s discovered since then that clueless works if you’re persistent–she threw together 3 chapters and a synopsis, signed up to talk to a few editors, and sold her first books, two YA novels in a series called, Casey and the Classifieds. The books did okay for a few years. Then they went out of print, a stupefying notion that never occurred to Tracy. But she didn’t let it get her down and went looking for other stuff to write.
She wrote a play about James, one of the brothers of Jesus, called Consider It All Joy. She turned it into a novel. She got an agent. Her agent sold the book as The Brother’s Keeper. It got a starred Booklist review. The sequel is called Stones of My Accusers. It also received a starred Booklist review. Then came a book called Madman, a story about the Gerasene demoniac. It got a starred Publishers Weekly review and a Christy Award for historical fiction. After Madman, she tried to sell a few books that still haven’t sold, while doing freelance work on the side. Then she landed with Tyndale Publishers and found a niche writing stories set in historical events—the small hinges, Winston Churchill once said, upon which history turns. She likes the Small Hinges gig.
Tracy once read in a Donald Miller book that writers make about a dollar, and has found this to be true. She’d like to make two dollars, but tries to keep things in perspective. After all, it’s not the size of the book in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the book. She’s learned it’s far more important to write as true as she can than worry too much about sales, otherwise she gets Stink Head. If she keeps her head in the writing, she’s happy and relatively unaffected. “Keep your head in the writing” is a workable solution for Stink Head.