A Few Moments With ... Terry Burns
There’s an overused saying: When it rains, it pours. For author and literary agent Terry Burns, 15 years ago the troubles came down in buckets. Within a matter of months his father and only brother died, he lost his job, his marriage fell apart, and his car was destroyed by hail. The deluge was upon him.
“It was the lowest point of my whole life,” Burns said. “If it could happen, it did.”
Burns said things got so bad and his depression so deep he even considered “a permanent solution to what was a temporary problem.”
God will bend your knees
A Christian since his teen years, Burns has never fallen away from his faith, never abandoned the holy call on his life, but there were times, he said, when he’d strayed. That period was one of those times.
We see God best from our knees, and sometimes when we are not there, He puts us there.
But even in times of straying and backsliding, even in the lowest of valleys when the clouds let loose and the bottom never felt harder, God remained faithful. For Burns, that faithfulness came in the form of his mother. She asked him to get a copy of Max Lucado’s In the Eye of the Storm to give to her sister knowing Burns, an avid reader, would read it first.
In the book, Lucado wrote, “We see God best from our knees, and sometimes when we are not there, He puts us there.”
“I immediately knew God had put me on my knees and things weren’t going to change until I learned the lessons He required me to learn,” Burns said.
Surrender it all
He realized then that he had no power to solve the problems raining down upon him, that all he could do was turn it over to God and trust Him. Not an easy step to take when you’re a self-sufficient man. But eventually, Burns fell to his knees and surrendered everything to God.
I learned to say yes when He asked me to do something. My walk became much closer.
“I became more submissive to His will,” he said. “I learned to say yes when He asked me to do something. My walk became much closer and my life turned around immediately.”
Burns began seeking God’s will. He’d been writing for most of his life, but most of it involved his work with the Chamber of Commerce. Rarely did he write for the pure enjoyment of it.
‘Go here, Terry’
Shortly after his turnaround, Burns received a brochure in the mail for a writer’s conference in Glorietta, New Mexico. He brushed it off, though, because the cost was too high. Later that day his wife came home from work and said an audit at work had produced payment for some un-reimbursed overtime—the exact amount needed for the conference.
That conference helped Burns identify his gifts, focused him, and motivated him to begin writing what he loved—what he felt called to write. He said at that time his writing had an emotional edge to it and now “if I need to get in touch with some strong feelings I can find them by thinking of how I felt in that time period.”
Refocusing on others
In his writing, Burns drifted toward westerns and has published 10 novels in that genre. Nancy Lohr, editor at BJU Press said, “As an author, Terry has a solid list of his own work over the years.” His teen western, Beyond the Smoke, published by BJU’s imprint, JourneyForth, won the 2009 Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction for Young Adults. He has also penned more than 20 nonfiction books.
Burns is generally among the top four agents on the Publishers Marketplace list of agents getting debut authors published.
Four years ago Burns redirected his efforts and concentrated on representing writers as a literary agent with Hartline Literary Agency. Focusing mostly on unpublished authors, Burns has had tremendous success, sealing nearly 100 deals in the last 18 months. He is generally among the top four agents on the Publishers Marketplace list of agents getting debut authors published.
Encouraging new authors
Burns enjoys working with new authors (see Terry with many of his clients at right), encouraging them, and helping them hone their writing skills and tailor their proposals. He is very popular with his list of clients.
Bonnie Calhoun, author of the upcoming 2012 Abingdon release, Cooking the Books, and a client of Burns, said he “fosters camaraderie, prayer, and sharing of resources among his clients to create a large cohesive unit.”
And Jennifer Hudson Taylor, another client, and author of historical fiction said, “I’m so glad God has used Terry to launch my writing career. I’m amazed at how personable and approachable he can be no matter how busy.”
It seems Burns has found his niche in the publishing world, one where he can use his God-given gifts, years of experience, and fulfill the calling on his life.
“Terry is an encourager,” Lohr said, “and that’s a rare breed these days. He is gracious, kind, and biblical, probably not in that order, but always in that combination.”