Optimistic Voices

With the American Christian Fiction Writers conference just around the corner, I am reminded of The Wizard of Oz. Like almost every child who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, I never missed the opportunity to watch that movie on TV. It was shown annually for almost three decades.

Begin the journey here

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 me deeply. In a real way, the movie marks the beginning of my journey as a writer and storyteller.

So, I’m watching the film the other day and feel a holy nudge. It seems I still have something to learn from Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and even the Wicked Witch of the East.

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 I suspect one of the main differences between published and unpublished authors is that those who are published have overcome the fear.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

Surround yourself with friends

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 I’ve looked for a new job and opened a new freelance editing business here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com.)
  • 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 my experiences, though tough and at times frightening, have taught me 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 a bit 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 fight my fears.

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

What help do you need to get to whatever “home” is in your publishing journey?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line


18 thoughts on “Optimistic Voices

      • They’re all under grave markers in a small cemetery in my back yard. Please send flowers. Okay … I dug one up just to show you I exaggerate not: A Marine Corps reservist takes his dying wife on a cruise and ends up shipwrecked on a wild, remote island with three helpless castaways. Go ahead, have at it while I run my errand!

  1. Steph: Reposting your pitch here: A Marine Corps reservist takes his dying wife on a cruise and ends up shipwrecked on a wild, remote island with three helpless castaways.


    1. Is it a comedy or drama?
    2. Is there a theme song? “The millionaire and his wife. A movie star. The Professor and Mary Ann…here on Stephanie’s Isle”
    3. What are some emotional characteristics of the characters?

    http://www.novelrocket.com/2012/09/pitch-to-win.html See Linda Rohrbough’s 3-log line system in this post on Novel Rocket.

    • I know … mention a deserted island and the listener starts singing “Giligan’s Island.” Sigh. See what I mean? Does it help that it’s an island in the Philippines once held by the Japanese? The island is a character in itself. Uh, yep, it’s a drama, not comedy. Describing the character arcs sounds equally boring. Protag is a Job, feels abandoned by God, moves from an obedient (therefore God owes me) Christian to grasp what trust means. The other main shipwrecked character is a federal district att’y, the target of the drug lord who staged the shipwreck. She keeps her identity secret, not wanting the protag to discover she is unwittingly the reason his wife drowned.

      I’m dragging my poor corpse back to the graveyard, then I’m off on my second errand.

      • Infuse with some emotion and stakes and this perks up pretty well, I think.

        A Marine Corps reservist, running from God and his life, takes his dying wife on a cruise to (why?) and ends up shipwrecked on a wild, remote island with three helpless castaways, including one with a secret that could mean the end of them all.

      • I don’t know you Stephanie but I love you! Your wit alone comes out in your posts and I’m a huge fan of it. As you describe your characters the story becomes immediately interesting–too interesting to hide behind the fear of pitching. Keep at it!

  2. As a Kansan – I loved this analogy. How delightful too, this … My witch = The pitch

    That had me in a stitch. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that. 🙂 So yeah, pun intended.

    Dorothy was an over-comer. Thank you for reminding us that we can be as well. Thanks too for modeling the servant’s heart in this: “Let’s workshop it right here. C’mon. Post it!” Too cool. You’re a teacher my friend, and wonderfully approachable.

  3. Michael this was wonderfully written and very creative. I had to laugh at the “and your little book, too!” Thank you for the encouraging analogy packed with so much truth. My witch is the synopsis and the pitch. I’m terrible at both. I tell myself I’m working on it but it’s so much easier to work on other things (social media, editing what’s already been written, that next project, etc.). Hence, I never query because the presentation materials aren’t up to par. As for the ACFW conference, I will be praying for you and I wish you the best!

    • Tanara, thanks for your encouragement. You bless me with every post. I do agree that Stephanie is funny…you should meet her in person, she’s so quiet (yeah, right…). She is a lot of fun and the Queen of Grammar.

  4. The optimistic voice that always stood out to me, even as a child, is as frustrating as it is encouraging. At the end of the movie, after this great and perilous adventure where her life was on the line several times, Dorothy misses her chance to go home when the Wiz and his balloon float away without her.

    In despair, she turns to Glinda, certain she will never get back to Kansas now. And what does Glinda say? “You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.” Fortunately, Dorothy was a dignified young lady who didn’t go postal on this sparkly, somewhat condescending woman who, as they note in the musical Wicked, had a tendency to come and go by bubble.

    I’m not sure I would have been so forgiving. And as I struggle to write and get published and pursue my dream, I often fight self-doubt, the fear I can’t do it. The balloon has sailed away without me and I’m standing there like a dope, hoping for a second chance. But at some point I have to believe the years I have put into my craft have been for a reason. And though I haven’t had the power to succeed on my own all along, I have always had God on my side, enabling me to accomplish what he has called me to do.

    So, when those self-doubts come, what I should say is, “You have no power here! Begone!” 🙂

    • Sharyn, There are so many things in the movie I wanted to comment on, but doing so would have made the blog post a novel!

      Yours is a very astute observation. Here’s my take on it: Many of us realize God’s giftings to us late or later in life than others. For instance, I was unable to name my gift of discernment until late in life, though when I realized what it was I could see it active throughout my life.

      So the fact that Dorothy didn’t realize she could have sent herself home doesn’t bother me. In fact, because of what she needed to learn, she “couldn’t” send herself back even though she always had the power to do so. Why? Because she hadn’t yet learned that piece about herself yet. Because God hadn’t revealed that gift perhaps or she hadn’t needed it — or more likely, because she hadn’t learned what she needed to know to use it.

      Again, I see a parallel in my life. Until I learned to feel real gratitude for what I had in my life–the job I had, my friends, my family, I wasn’t ready/able to ‘click my heels’ and take the next step. Once I learned to be grateful for all aspects of my life, God opened up His will in my life–and I could ‘go home’, so to speak.

      It’s a rich, rich movie…thanks for allowing me to share a bit more about it and it’s connection to me!

  5. Doh. I came back to read Mike’s suggestion and discovered Tanara’s kind comment. Thank you, dearie, for loving me and my shuddering corpse, and hugs back to you from me (yeesh, but not from my corpse). BTW, Mike has not met me, but I hope to meet both of you next year at the ACFW conference in Indy. I’ll be the lady with a shovel in one hand and a suspicious parcel in the other.

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