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The Universe Spoke To Me, by Judi Fennell

My "Call" story starts long before the book was even finished. Deb and I met at the 2007 National Conference when she had been a Golden Heart judge and LOVED Robin Kaye’s finalling (winning) manuscript, Romeo, Romeo. She offered Robin a contract AT National. Robin and I, not knowing a whole heck of a lot about Sourcebooks, went to their Spotlight and were blown away by Dominique and Deb’s enthusiasm and publishing history. Robin was thrilled to accept the contract and I was thrilled for her!

What does Robin’s sale have to do with mine? Well, Deb hung out with us a lot during National. I got to know her; she got to know me. I had already submitted a time travel to her so that was sitting in her queue. She got to it a few weeks after National, sadly, rejecting it. But that was okay.

Flash forward to October 2007 at the New Jersey Conference. Deb was there. We chatted. She sat at my table for lunch and I proceeded to drag pitches from everyone at our table b/c I knew Deb wanted to hear them (this is why you need to work on that “elevator pitch”/high concept thing so you can do it at a lunch setting). I happened to mention that In Over Her Head was probably going to end up in the Top 5 of the First Chapters Romance Contest. Deb wanted to know why I hadn’t submitted it to her and I said I couldn’t, according to the rules of the contest, but if it didn’t make it to the Top 5, I’d send it along. It made it to the Top 5.

Life got hectic when it was in the Top 5. I worked that final into agent interest, garnering multiple agent offers (the winner of the contest was guaranteed to be published), and accepting the offer from Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates.

Something to note: one of the final judges for the contest was Sue Grimshaw, Romance Buyer for Borders at the time. I introduced myself to her at a conference after the contest was over (and I hadn’t won) and Sue proceeded to give my story such praise that it stunned me into silence. (If you know me, you’ll know that this feat doesn’t happen all that often. Maybe twice before in my life. Seriously.) She gave me some advice to make the book marketable and I made the change.

I then saw Deb at the Long Island Luncheon where we, again, sat next to each other and I dragged pitches from everyone at the table for her. I also mentioned to someone at the table that I had two partials of the next two Mer stories ready and waiting. Deb jumped – “It’s a trilogy?”

Now, you know, we all hear to only pitch one book. Will an editor really take a chance on three books by a debut author? Here I had an editor asking me about all three when she already had book 1 in her queue. The books are stand-alones, but contain characters that you hear about in the other books, so I mentioned it. She wanted the partials.

My agent sent everything out, and then Deb emailed me to let me know she was taking it to the Editorial board with the recommendation to purchase. She told me the date and the time.

Not a good thing to do to me because of course I was obsessing all day at work that day.When it hit 3 pm and I knew she was in that meeting, I had to do something to keep myself occupied or I'd go nuts. (NO comments from the peanut gallery on the state of my usual mental faculties, please.)

So what did I do? I went shopping. If you know me, you'll know that I actually must be out of my mind to go shopping. I LOATHE shopping, almost as much as I hate the heat. (I must have been reading something really interesting when the proverbial "they" were handing out the shopping gene.) Anyhow, so off I go to the one store I can manage to stand for an hour or so. I have no idea if I bought anything because the rest of the evening kind of mind those few hours a blur. I do remember, however, that when I came out of the store and got in my car, I looked up to see the person in the parking spot across from me almost back into my car. For some odd reason, I glanced at my clock, saw that it was 4:19, and was about to lay on the horn as he/she pulled away, but got a glimpse of their license plate:

I sat there, stupefied, knowing that the Universe Was Telling Me Something.

Sure enough, I got home, ran in and opened my email. There was one from Deb with the subject line: We Want To Publish You!

It had been sent at 4:19.


  1. Judi, what a great story! It seems you and Deb were destined to work together. You can't get anymore concrete than a Mer license plate! Congrats!

  2. This is what I call a Twinkle. When the wonderful, lovely, super universe winks at you so you can't miss it. Great stories, Judi, or should I say, great stories?

  3. Wonderful stories, Judi! I bet that license plate is in Deb's garage...she's magic like that. No wonder she loved your Mer stories so much!

  4. oooh, Grace! I love "twinkle!!" I might have to use that one!

    And if Deb lived in PA, I might think it's her license plate. I just want to find the owner and see if I can get him/her to sell it to me.

  5. Judi, you are a great storyteller! Enjoyed your post and what I want to know is if you now have that plate on your car?

  6. Judi, what a great story! I call that a woo-woo moment, but I like Grace's "twinkle."

  7. Amelia - unfortunately, I don't. I want it, but short of hacking into the DMV database (which I have no clue how to do) I don't know how to get in touch with that person. Plus, I'm guessing he/she is pretty partial to it. And there are just no variations on that saying that I could come up with...

  8. Wow! I love stories like that. Awesome, Judi!



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