Award-winning writer Patricia Raybon is author of two critically acclaimed books, “I Told the Mountain to Move” and “My First White Friend.” Her personal essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, USA Weekend, Charles Stanley Ministries’ In Touch Magazine and have also aired on National Public Radio. She writes full-time on life-changing faith.
What is the most “Unique Experience” that you have had during your literary journey? Please explain in detail.
I was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on her show back in 1995 for my forgiveness memoir, My First White Friend. That was significant. However, my most unique experience was getting published by a major publisher right out of the gate.
I’d worked as a newspaper reporter for a dozen years, working eventually as Sunday Magazine editor at The Denver Post. From there, after a year’s break, I started teaching at the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism, where I was required as a faculty member to be published on a national level. So I started writing personal essays about my life as an African American, a wife, a mother, a Christian and so on. Almost every time I submitted an essay—to USA Today, USA Weekend, National Public Radio, then to The New York Times Sunday Magazine –the essay would sell and get published.
Then, after publishing a couple pieces in The New York Times, agents started contacting me, asking if I’d written a book and could they represent me. I hadn’t written a book. But after about the 30th or so agent contacted me, my husband gave me a pep talk, saying, “Maybe it’s time you wrote that book.” So that’s what I did. I wrote a racial memoir, My First White Friend. However, I had an agent before I even had a book idea. Highly unusual. It doesn’t happen like that anymore.
But there’s more to the story. That agent was friends with an editor at Penguin Putnam, a major publishing house, and they offered me a book contract. But my agent turned it down, asking for more money, and Penguin agreed. Again, it doesn’t happen like that anymore. So I’m grateful this unique aspect of my journey to publication.
Many writers struggle for years to find representation. But, for some reason, I was blessed to land an agent, a publishing house and a contract for my first book—which is still in print. I learned a lot in that experience. The main thing it taught me is to believe in yourself, especially as a writer. I didn’t know a soul in New York, but I submitted my essays to the New York Times and the magazine editor bought them. I also learned to always present my best work. I’ve had success selling my articles and books, I believe, because I aim for excellence. Editors appreciate that. Readers do, too. So that’s what I try to offer. Quality work.
I also try to watch what God is doing—and let God lead. When I get ahead of God, whether in my book life or my family life, I get off track. The Bible says God sees the beginning from the end, so I try to follow where God is going. When it comes to book writing, His path for me is always uniquely best.