/ / Articles

If You Want To Make God Laugh…

So last month, I spent a Monday night seated in front of my computer. My wife would tell you that this, in and of itself, is not unusual. But that particular night, I was watching the liveblog for the Christy […]
| Jul 2, 2014 | 6 comments |

Numb-CoverSo last month, I spent a Monday night seated in front of my computer. My wife would tell you that this, in and of itself, is not unusual. But that particular night, I was watching the liveblog for the Christy Awards. As some of you may know, my book, Numb, was up for a Christy in the Visionary category and I was waiting to find out what happened. Last year, when my debut novel, Failstate, was up for a Christy, I made the trek down to St. Louis for the awards ceremony. This year, due to finances and scheduling concerns, I wasn’t able to go. But I did want to find out what happened.

I knew I faced some stiff competition in Patrick Carr’s A Cast of Stones and Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Dragonwitch. Personally, my money was on Patrick’s book. That isn’t a knock on Anne’s work; there’s a reason why she won this year. But even though I had a pretty good idea that my name would not be called at the awards ceremony, I still had to write an acceptance speech just in case!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to whip it out and force you to read it.

I will say, though, that this proved to be a bit of a challenge. If you haven’t noticed by now, I have a bit of a self-deprecating, sardonic sense of humor that kind of bubbles up in a lot of what I write. But I was worried that if I tried to include that in my speech, it would come off wrong, especially since someone else would have to read it for me. In the end, I stuck to a very short speech that hit the necessary points.

But now I faced a new challenge: who would read the speech on my behalf should the extremely unlikely occur?

My first thought was to ask my intrepid agent, Amanda Luedeke, to do the honors. But, it turns out, she wasn’t going to be there. So my next choice was Steve Laube, the current owner and publisher of Marcher Lord Press…er, Enclave Publishing. It makes sense. Numb is a part of his offerings and he would be there. Steve graciously agreed.

And so that Monday night, I waited. I waited, and tried very hard not to laugh myself silly.

See, the closer the time came to find out who would take home the honors, the more a sense of absurd irony overwhelmed me. And to explain why, I need to rewind about five years and tell you about the nicest rejection letter I ever received.

Five years ago, I was still pounding on doors, trying to find someone who would check out my books. I was attending ACFW conferences to meet with editors and agents, hoping that one of them would give me a chance. Five years ago, I was pitching this little science fiction story I had created, a book called Numb. And, much to my delight, the project got a nibble, a request to see the full manuscript. After putting one final polish on it, I sent it off with a prayer and my fingers crossed.

A month later, I received this:

Dear John,

Thank you for sending us your proposal for our review. While your project exhibits merit it is not quite what we are looking for at this time.

This is a clever story. It may be that you should seek the services of a general market agent who can put your stories in front of the editors of DAW or Ace or DelRey with more success.

The reviews came back with the comment of “overwritten.” I think the comment has some merit. It feels like you are trying too hard.

Note the pages I returned with the name “Crusader” circled. This is a craft issue and is highlighted because of his unusual name. But repeating it so often on page three is a problem. Also note that Crusader has dropped, slunk, pressed, dove, calmly spun, waited, emerged, surveyed and peeked…all on one page.

The immense number of proposals we receive, our full client list, and the intense nature of the competition in the marketplace causes us to be highly selective.

Up until that point, I had only received generic “no thank yous” when submitting materials. This was the first rejection letter with a personal message, and a somewhat positive one at that. In spite of the (admittedly spot on) criticism of the overwritten nature, this one rejection letter gave me enough hope to keep trying, specifically with a story about a teenage superhero competing on a reality TV show.

So who was it who sent me this? Why, none other than Steve Laube, the very man who could possibly be accepting a Christy Award for the book he rejected.

Bizarre. Ironic. Deliciously ridiculous. Delishculous? Can I trademark that one?

Now I’m not sharing this with you to embarrass Steve in any way. Like I said, I understand why he rejected Numb when he did. He was right to do it. It wasn’t ready yet. I hadn’t learned enough. That’s probably still true.

But if you had told me five years ago that I’d be reading a Live Blog, waiting to see if the book that had once been rejected would win an award, one that would be accepted by the guy who did the rejecting in the first place, I’d have laughed in your face. Obviously, though, God had different plans.

I once had a bumper sticker on my car that read, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I normally don’t try to derive my theology from pithy statements on the back of a rusty bumper, but this one is true. We often get it into our heads that things are going to be one way when God intends to have it a different way. And when His plans unfold, sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh along with Him.

John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he’s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. He lives in Blue Springs, Missouri, with his wife and two boys. Keep up with him at JohnWOtte.com.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

Really appreciate you sharing this story, John. Awesome blog.

Steve Taylor
Steve Taylor

Excellent post. An entertaining way of getting a point across. Congratulations on your nomination.

Steve Laube
Steve Laube



I’ve yet to read Numb, but I’m looking forward to it.

Thank you for a nice reminder not to get upset when God doesn’t stick to our ideals. His ways are indeed ‘higher’.

Matthias M. Hoefler
Matthias M. Hoefler

Delishculous? Can I trademark that one?


Uh, drop what you’re doing and make it happen now. My trademark-needed word is

Katytastic, but it really doesn’t make sense unless you know her.


So true about how sometimes you figure life will go one way, but when the time comes, our Creator creates an outcome we wouldn’t have thought of no matter how much time was allotted.


I like to think God is laughing with us, not at us…   🙂

Michelle R. Wood

Thanks for the fun story John, and congrats on the new novels coming out. I had a similar experience in prepping for college. I was THAT kid, the one who’d mapped out every class I would take each semester before I even entered the school. I had my life entirely figured out through graduating with my degree.

As might be imagined, what I thought would happen did not come to pass. Instead, I’ve been on a stranger, wilder journey than I ever expected. God has continued to provide for me in ways I least expected, and held away things from me that in retrospect might not even have been good for me to have. I’ve come to learn that part of faith in recognizing my own inability to truly understand what I need. He does, fortunately.