March 5, 2021
Welcome to the Winners' Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL students. Today we are celebrating published author Rick Merfeld and his book Caught Up in Christ.
What is the name of your book? Who is the publisher?
Caught Up in Christ: Spiritual First-Aid for Believers and Seekers
River Birch Press, Daphne Alabama
Give us a short summary of your book or article.
Can you feel it—the heartbeat of a country out of rhythm… the heart of churches throbbing in crisis…a friend or family member who can feel their heart pounding at the sight of a spiritual wound. Perhaps you have been searching your heart for any feeling at all and are ready to give up and surrender to the numbness of a flat-lined faith life.
We wake each morning to a world that is more and more anti- God and anti-Christian. Confusion and fear run rampant in our emotionally charged, hyper sexualized, me-driven society.
Unanswered questions lead to doubt and, if left unchecked, mature into total disbelief. People hear about the latest mass shooting and stand by utterly dismayed and perplexed by the increasing presence of evil in our world. With everything going on in our country, around the world, in our homes, and in our hearts, should we be surprised that many of us are in need of spiritual first aid?
We will go beyond the warm and fuzzy metaphysical discussions about heaven and the intriguing debate about hell. Faith must be more than a pass card to the streets of gold or simple fire insurance against the flames of hell. We will go beyond the simple tips and tricks of Christianity and talk about a faith that can generate a measurable difference in how you experience the world and how the world experiences you.
The singular goal of this book is to invite you into a conversation that will impart spiritual first aid, uncover evidence, answer questions, and help you set or reset your faith firmly on the foundation of Christ. How we traverse our todays and transition into any tomorrows does not depend on how many times we genuflect in sacred spaces. However, it does depend on our inviting God into our heart, professing that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and living out the full extent of the Gospel message. I invite you to join me as we get caught up in Christ.
Tell us a bit about your path to publishing, from idea to submission to published.
In October of 2018, I was asked to give a talk at a local Christian retreat in spring of the following year. Going into the practice talk with the team in early February, I knew two things: it was too long, and it was off target. I had given the talk before, along with talks on other subjects for similar retreats. Before I left the room, one of the men took me aside and said, “I am not sure what you’re working on but keep working on it. The Lord may have something else in mind.”
I took his advice and kept writing. I shared the outline of the developing project and received favorable reviews. By May of that year, it was becoming clear that the project had potential. I decided to seek the assistance of a literary agent.
This was new territory for me. I sent out query letters, if you will, to five literary agents whose portfolios included Christian subjects. I received three responses right away. Not interested! It seems like the fast responses are always NO!
The fourth and fifth responses were no response at all, but the websites warned this would happen if there was no interest.
I know, for successful writers, Nos are like vitamins! Granted, they may drive us forward but they aren’t much fun. Into my second round of agent searches, I reached out to Keith C. His website spoke of a 5 minute complimentary phone consult. I reached out and secured the consult. I have experience as a salesman, so I prepped for the call as I would a sales call. I think it helped. The five minute call lasted 20 minutes and Keith asked for a copy of the manuscript.
Five weeks later, I received an email. Keith was ready to share his reactions. He prepped me so I knew the outcome of the call would be one of two things. Keith would offer me a complimentary professional review, a few suggestions, and wish me well. Or, he would offer me professional review, a few suggestions, and a contract to represent my book.
I got the contract!
Working with Keith the next 10 months was amazing. We had numerous calls and exchanged dozens of emails. Keith was 50 % writing coach, 50 % marketing consultant, and 50% cheerleader.
Keith walked me through a process that helped me prep the manuscript for submission. Keith targeted a number of larger publishing houses, as well as a few smaller ones focused on emerging trends in publishing. He had an offer for me to review in less than a month. I’ll never forget where I was and what I was doing when I received that message. I signed the contract in October of 2019. The book was published in April, 2020.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing for nearly 30 years. My first project was a children's book about a firefly named Flambeau. I must have received 20 rejection letters. Every once in a while, I find myself wondering if Flambeau and I should try again.
What's your favorite genre to write and why?
I like writing non-fiction for young adult and adult markets. I enjoy telling stories of real life people.
Please list the course or courses you've taken with us.
Special Publishing Course and Beyond the Basics
How has taking our course/s helped your writing and/or career?
The courses helped me in many ways but I would highlight two specific ways. They helped me refine my writing techniques and find my voice.
Have any of your class assignments been published? If so, where and when?
"Red Tailed Angels" Boys’ Life
"Student Government in College is Cool" College Bound
Do you have a favorite writing tip you'd like to share?
Write, regularly. It might be journaling, working on an article, or outlining and writing a full book. The point is to write. There’s a discipline that must be nurtured, like success in any arena.
If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of writing advice, how far back would you go, and what would you tell yourself?
I would go back to college and tell myself that the harvest is years into the future but the process has begun. Keep at it and keep your eye out for those moments when you identify an internal passion that lines up with external confirmation.
Please tell us the best or most valuable thing you learned from your experience with us.
I learned that writing is not just about giving voice to my passion, but it is also a vehicle for me to share my passion with others.
Do authors need to be involved in the marketing efforts of their work?
My writing agent Keith helped me clearly understand the publishing world has changed. Prior to the internet, authors wrote and publishers did the lion-share of marketing. Now, with the growing number of books flooding the market due, in part, to self-publishing, authors, especially new authors, are responsible for promoting their work and driving sales. How that is done is another story but here’s the lesson: writers write but authors promote!
Rick Merfeld earned a psychology degree from Luther College and a Master’s Degree in Counselor Education from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He began his professional career providing mental health services for children, couples, and families. He lived and worked among college students for over 25 years before moving into an executive leadership position with a non-pro?t organization. Rick and his wife, Dagmar, have been married for 31 years and reside in Iowa. They are parents of three adult sons and have three grandchildren.