If you wrote a book and haven’t published it yet, you’re not alone. Many are in the same boat. Amanda Midkiff was for decades. That all changed when she found Argyle Fox Publishing while out of school for a snow day. Get to know her and her story below!
Let’s get started learning about you. Who is Amanda Midkiff?
If you ask my sons, they would say, “She is Mom. She loves us more than the air she breathes.” My husband would say, “My best friend.” (I know, because I asked him.) My parents might say, “She is the daughter we prayed for forty-six years ago.” My students could easily answer, for they call my name enough. I hope my friends would answer, “She is loyal, and I can trust her with all the dreams and secrets of my heart.” But no matter the role or the person you ask, I hope it would be declared, “She is a Christian woman who wants to go to heaven more than anything and desires to take everyone with her.”
Tell us a bit about Where the Crops Never Fail. What is it about, what inspired the story, and how long did it take for you to move toward publication?
My husband and I shared the goal for me to stay home from teaching once we had children to raise. After our first child was born in 2004, I resigned from my teaching position and stayed home for seven years. During that time, while my oldest was four and my youngest was two, I wrote Where the Crops Never Fail.
The inspiration started when my husband and I bought an adorable picture to hang on the boys’ wall. The picture was of a young boy, no older than six, riding on the back of the cutest pig you have ever seen. After a few days of looking on that sweet picture, a story bloomed within my mind. It would not be ignored. While my sons were busy playing together, napping, or enjoying a TV show, I would type away on this ever-growing tale. As Caleb and Parker’s mom, I wanted to bless them with a wholesome story, with values from the Bible I was determined to teach them.
Upon the completion of my little story, I emailed the manuscript to Liberty Press. They immediately accepted it, but to my chagrin we were unable to afford the process of editing, illustrating, etc. at that time. Though I was disappointed—heartbroken, really, little did I know that the right time would eventually come where the publishing company and timing was perfect.
Where the Crops Never Fail merges the lives of the Jefferies family and their sweet band of farm animals. With love and determination, the characters tackle a major storm of life, literally and figuratively. Let’s face it—we all have to weather storms in this life. Young children need avenues of hope to help them understand how to do it successfully. I see boys and girls every day struggling with tempests of life, and maybe a story like mine can lift their hopes and whisk them away for a few hours to a place of refuge.
How did you find Argyle Fox Publishing, and what made you think we would be a good fit?
I never gave up on the dream of publishing Where the Crops Never Fail. When my youngest was ready to start kindergarten, I went back to teaching. While off on snow days and holidays, I frequently revisited my manuscript. I would reread, edit, and research publishing companies. At that time, it seemed that publishing companies only spoke to literary agents, and that was not something I had. Discouraged, I stuck my manuscript in a drawer and decided I would just pass it on to my boys when they leave home.
Thankfully, God had other plans. In November 2022, our school system was off from school with an unexpected snow day. I decided to revisit the idea of publishing. I reached out to a couple of companies and confided in a close friend what I was up to. Simultaneously, her friend Rachel Cherry posted on Facebook about a book she had written and published with Argyle Fox. My friend explained that the author was so impressed with the publisher (Daniel) and suggested that I submit my manuscript to his company. Well, I did, and the rest is history.
I knew Argyle Fox was the right fit for me when I called Rachel Cherry personally. She said that Daniel was an upright man with outstanding work ethic. She was right, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and certainly the correct one!
Now that Where the Crops Never Fail is published, how will you measure whether your book is a success? What is your goal for the book?
The goal was to share my story with my sons. The dream was to publish it. Because both have been accomplished, no matter what else happens, it is already a success to me.
Now that the story is published, I have fresh, new inspiration to share it with as many children as I can. I recently saw pictures on a Facebook post that made my heart happy, validating the success of Where the Crops Never Fail. The pictures were of one of my second graders opening her highly anticipated Amazon package, hugging its contents to her chest, and showing the camera the book her teacher wrote. When she brought it to class the following day and began reading it at her seat, along with a couple other students with their copies, that warmed my heart like only the fulfillment of a dream can do. It produced immeasurable joy watching those children hold my book in their hands. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is!
Your illustrator, Zarlasht Khan, did a lovely job with the art. How does her work match with your vision of the characters?
You are so right—she did do a lovely job! I’ve often heard the admonishment not to judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest, people are often drawn to a book by the artwork on the cover. From the moment the cover illustrations were shared, I heard comments about how great the pictures looked.
It is hard to dump your visions into another person’s mind, especially when you are not speaking directly to that person. With Daniel’s clear communication between our team, the illustrations came out beautifully. I knew that I wanted realistic illustrations with underlying warmth. Zarlasht did just that. Although naturally a few things are seen differently in my mind, I would say that most of my visions matched or have morphed into our combined efforts taking the place of what my original characters and settings were like.
What are you doing to market your book and let folks know it is available?
My community has made this simpler than I imagined. I’ll tell you a few fun ways they have done the marketing for me.
The school system in which I work happens to be the same one I grew up in. Because this brings a source of pride to our community, they announced my book release on the school website and Facebook. The elementary school where I work has spotlighted it on their website as well. My school also invited me to participate in a book sale and signing at our recent Scholastic book fair. That was loads of fun!
Many people have spread the news quickly and enthusiastically with posts and word of mouth. I couldn’t be more grateful.
I was terribly excited when our local public library director reached out and asked me to speak and do a book signing this summer. She purchased several books that will now be part of circulation in our county.
Another neat thing is that Where the Crops Never Fail is on shelves in several local stores, thanks to my sisterhood of sweet merchant friends. There are also several events happening soon: vendor events, a book party, and a possible television news interview. Of course, I frequently reach out on social media via posts or through specific author groups on Facebook.
I’ve also had interest from other locations (Canada and Tennessee) where I mailed copies to be reviewed and possibly sold online, in stores, or in schools.
Finally, I’m truly getting buff toting around books in my backpack purse. Having them handy and mentioning them in conversation has led to several sales. This has surprisingly become a new passion for me!
What feedback have you received so far on your book?
Before its release, I had a little trepidation wondering if people would like it. After all, I originally wrote it for my sons. Doubt crept in. But then it released, and the sweet feedback came. Oh, the relief!
I have learned one thing about myself over the years. Words matter to me. I collect them in the form of cards, emails, and memories, and they all go straight to my heart. Thankfully, I have received only words that bring tears of joy. You will see what I mean when you read this one:
“Where to begin . . . I cannot recommend this book enough, especially if you have children. I read it in two days because I couldn’t put it down. It’s extremely hard to find good reading material with life lessons anchored in the Lord, and this book is exactly that. I’ve known Amanda almost my whole life and I can honestly say this book is a true testament to her character. Parts will make you want to smile, laugh, and keep turning pages so you can find out what happens next. This book allowed me to self-reflect and see how my actions in life have a ripple effect, and I want to make sure it’s a good one. Amanda poured her heart, time, and soul into this book just as she and her sweet husband did their two boys. If you’ve ever met them, you can see the well harvested crop of love, dedication, and strength in those boys—a crop that never fails, just like in her book.” (By the way, I have encouraged this young lady to become a writer!)
One of my favorite “word collections” was from a lady who recently said, “Where the Crops Never Fail should become a movie like Milo and Otis!” Wow! (That would be so cool, by the way.)
Another frequent comment I hear is, “Will there be a sequel or other books?” No sequel is planned, but you bet there will be future books! I have found that people are hungry for wholesome literature. Maybe this story has been created for such a time as this.
What do you now know about book publishing that you wish you knew before getting started?
I learned so much, from collaborating with an editor and illustrator to marketing. It was all brand new, and I love it all!
Honestly, Argyle Fox Publishing made everything so smooth and easy that I never felt out of the loop or overly worried. Although I didn’t know much about publishing, I was never made to feel inept when I asked questions. It was such a wonderful journey; I just want to go on it again and again!
What would you say to other authors who have been sitting on a manuscript for a few years and aren’t sure if they should publish?
What do you have to lose? If it is truly within you, burning like a little flame, do not smother it or allow it to go out. Life is short. Do it now. Your story could bring special meaning to the lives of others.
Do you have another book in process? If so, do you mind telling us a bit about it?
Oh, yes! I hope there is never a time that I don’t have new book ideas. I have two stories that I have started. One idea is a rhyming picture book based off a story I made up while my boys were young. Before bed I would tell them of a special dragon named Tiki. They would beg for me to tell it over and over. (I envision Tiki as a series in which Tiki learns new things in each book.) The second idea is that of a young kangaroo. I am very excited to eventually share both ideas with Argyle Fox, so I will not say anything else now. That said, I have found that it is challenging to go from writing a chapter book to a picture book. The struggle is condensing my thoughts into meaningful phrases, particularly. I must be long-winded.
Where can readers find you online?
Is there anything else the world should know about you or your writing?
I grew up in a time where kids played Mother May I, Red Light Green Light, and tag outside until dark. We roller-skated during the day and collected lightning bugs in a jar at night. We couldn’t wait to wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch Looney Tunes because there weren’t other kid shows on during the week. We were raised to respect authority and our elders. I often wish our world could go back to those days, where innocence was common and God was on the lips of our fellow Americans. No matter how much I’d like to go back to those good ol’ days, I know I can visit there in my mind and my writings. Creating stories that bring readers to a sincere desire to live a peaceful, respectful life is what it’s about for me.
Sometimes generating stories takes me back to my earliest memories where I find my younger self sitting in my bedroom closet with a dim light and little desk writing about kids going to the fair or starting up secret clubs. I reminisce of sitting in my window seal on rainy days, reading The Babysitters Club and Ramona Quimby, dreaming that one day it would be my books in children’s hands. With God’s help, my dream has come true.
One final thing that I would like the world to know about me is that I have been through some bitter, heavy storms of life, and those times are a tutor. What I have learned from them is that it’s best to be grateful every day, attitude is everything, and with a heart of generosity, days are filled with happiness. I have learned you cannot outgive God, life is brief, and thankfulness makes the world look completely different. I am wide awake to the fact that my dream has come true and sincerely grateful that God allowed my story to break free from that stuffy desk drawer to greet the world.
Thanks so much, and here’s to success!