Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Working through the tough times to find success

Lisa Dayley's YA historical fiction book, The Frozen Trail, has sold thousands of copies since its publication in July, 2011, in both print and e-book format.

And the funny thing is that this book almost never got published. I asked Lisa to share her experience-- how she almost gave up, and what kept her going.

"The Frozen Trail resulted from a college creative writing assignment in 1991. It had proven popular with my class and family members, so I kept it and worked on it here and there. 

"I was very busy working and raising children so the manuscript went neglected for years. About ten years ago I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. The newspaper I worked for downsized, and I needed something to do. I dusted off my old manuscript and started writing again.

"Thanks to the Internet I was able learn more about my great-great-grandmother Emma Girdlestone and her trek across the country. She was the basis for the story. I put together a book of about 44 chapters that went from what I call the Rocky Ridge Experience, the most harrowing part of her ordeal, and ended with her second husband, my great-great-grandfather Ralph Smith, being called on a Mormon mission. 

"I self published the book and sold quite a few copies on my own. I was just thrilled to sell one!

"One day I got an email about a BYU Publishing Fair and decided to go. I took down three copies of my book and handed them out to publishers. I just wanted to say that I had done it but convinced myself that no one would give me the time of day.

"About six weeks later I got the shock of my life. WiDo Publishing wanted the first 14 chapters of my book! I thought I was seeing things and when I realized somebody had accepted my book I started screaming and crying. Everybody at work thought somebody had died, and one co-worker threatened to slap me silly.

"I started the long rewrite process.  I had no idea what I was doing. I sent the manuscript back and forth to WiDo for about two years. During that time I spent a considerable amount of time on my knees praying to get the story right (or is it ‘write’?).

At one point I was so discouraged I came just a mouse click away from asking WiDo out of the contract. I felt I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had been a journalist for 25 years and this creative writing was about to do me in. Creative writing is hard! 

"I don’t know what changed my mind other than the fact that I had spent my entire life dreaming of becoming a published novelist, and I wasn’t about to let the opportunity go.

"Finally, I decided to let the Spirit take over. After doing some research to see exactly what happened on Rocky Ridge and those involved, I would sit at my computer and write whatever came.

"Whether that was Emma herself, the Holy Ghost, or some other divine being, I just wrote what I believe was dictated to me. I had had a similar experience with this “dictation” with the first two chapters that seemed to really capture everyone’s attention. Some people refer to that as “channeling” where an unseen being is doing the writing, and you’re just the instrument being used to type it all in.

"I found that this giving in – rather than relying on suggested writing tools (and they are only suggestions) – really helped me get the job done. FINALLY.

"I am so very glad I stuck with it as the book has proven a best seller on Amazon. While it was written for everybody, children seem to really enjoy it. It is also catching on in the adult market.

"If anyone would like to talk to me about my experience, they’re more than welcome to contact me at"

Lisa, thank you so much for stopping by today and sharing your inspiring story!

About The Frozen Trail:

The Frozen Trail is a novella set in the American West. It is written in a simple, clear style, making it suitable for younger readers as well as adults.

In 1856 the Mormon pioneers trekked across the Great Plains in wagon trains and pulling handcarts, to find a new home safe from persecution. This is the story of one 18-year-old young woman, Emma Girdlestone, of the Willie Handcart Company, who faced starvation, frostbite, and death so she and her family could join their fellow Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley.

This work of historical fiction is dedicated to the members of the Willie Handcart Company. These courageous pioneers displayed commitment and heroism in the face of unbelievably harsh and brutal conditions while en route to Zion.

It is especially dedicated to Willie Handcart member, Emma Girdlestone, who left behind a legacy of bravery, fortitude, and faith; and who, 155 years later, managed to change the life of her great-great-granddaughter Lisa Dayley, the author of this book.

"The winter of 1856 was an intensely bitter one, and wind nipped cruelly at the pioneers of the Willie Handcart companies as they trudged their way across the frozen plains. The experiences and hardships faced by the pioneers of those companies is something difficult to put into words, and even more difficult to understand, but Lisa Dayley has somehow done just that." --Weekly News Journal, Mini-Cassia, ID

"A thrill to read, Lisa Dayley crafts a genuine pioneer story with just the right mix of fact and fiction. You’ll find this book hard to put down." ~Jay Lenkersdorfer, newspaper publisher and columnist


  1. That's a great story, and very inspiring!

  2. I just put up an icon and link for Celery Tree on my blog. Thought I did that a while back when I did a promo. Anyway, its there now. I'll do another promo in March for it as I think its a great idea!

  3. Good for Lisa for continuing to work on her manuscript and not giving up, and good for her for turning her book into a bestseller! I especially liked the part she wrote about giving in, because I think it means that she listened more to what her heart and mind were telling her to write than what other people were telling her to write.

  4. What an inspiring story! While it's always a good thing to e-pub a manuscript with a good story and a proper formant, I sometimes think books I read are too 'commercial' (for lack of a better word) and would enjoy the book more if the author just let her characters live life.

  5. Emma Girdlestone sounds like a most formidable and inspiring woman. Good luck Lisa with your historical fiction novel - it's great that it's doing so well. The inner struggle you faced and overcame to complete this novel was so worth it! Take care

    1. Hi Kitty: Yes Emma was "Most Formidable" and inspired me greatly. Emma didn't take anything from anybody. She divorced her first husband at a time when that was sooooooooooooo shocking. I believe she may have gone to the Mormon Prophet Brigham Young where she demanded - and received - a divorce from her first hubby. She was quite the little business woman and supported herself for five years by sewing before remarrying. She was a tiny little thing: black hair and blazing blue eyes. She went on to have nine children and lived to be nearly 80 years old.

    2. Yes, Emma was an incredibly "formidable" woman despite being barely 5 feet tall. She didn't take anything from anybody. I know she later demanded - and received - a divorce from her first husband after meeting with Brigham Young, the Mormon prophet at the time. She proved quite the little business woman and worked as a seamstress for five years before marrying her second husband, my great-great-grandfather. She had nine children, all but one living to maturity.

  6. What a fantastic story. Thanks for sharing, Linda and Karen!

  7. I love historical fiction, and this story gives me hope for my historical fiction novel coming out next month about my husband's grandmother who played and explored in Bryce Canyon as a child before it became a national park.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. So fantastic, Lisa. Thank you for such an inspiring story. I have felt that feeling of someone taking over and writing my words. It was amazing and I think I need to let go more often. Just added your book to my TBR. Thank you Karen and Lisa!

  9. Wow, what a journey to publication!

    Congrats, Lisa! and thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Karen!


  10. Sometimes you just have to let God guide you.

  11. While I was reading this, "Come, Come Ye Saints" popped into my mind, early on. Really weird. I haven't heard that for a long time. It was on a record of my parents. (I'm not LDS, but I used to know all the words; a friend who was an LDS Bishop clued me into the history of the hymn.)

    Loved your comment, Lisa, "I had been a journalist for 25 years and this creative writing was about to do me in. Creative writing is hard!" Except we both know that journalism is hard work, if you're going to do it well. Just a bit different kind of hard work.

    As for creative writing, a book is WAY too much for this old Bear. Which is why I blog.

  12. Rob, A little of fellow journalist humor, right? I know I'd be horrible at journalism. I'd be making things up to make the story more interesting LOL.

  13. Great story on how the book came to be. Sounds like an interesting read. I'll add it to my ever growing TBR book list.

  14. Thanks for sharing this story Karen/Lisa. ;)

    It's so great to hear such a wonderful success story!

  15. Complelling story, thanks for sharing it! Great blog:)

  16. what a great story! And I love a good historical tale - thanks KG :)

  17. What an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing it. The book sounds wonderful and I am definitely going to add it to my TBR list. Congratulations on your success, Lisa!

  18. How wonderful was that? But you wrote your story from your heart and your desire to know your great great grandmother. That must have come through when they read it.