When Eugene Peterson Was Unknown

As we grieve the recent passing of Eugene Peterson, we remember the first encounter IVP had with him. When Peterson was an unknown Presbyterian pastor in Maryland, he sent IVP an unsolicited manuscript. Here is an excerpt from Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. that tells what happened behind the scenes that led to the publication in 1980 of one of his most influential books.


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is nearly impossible today for an unsolicited manuscript to be published by a major publishing house, whether general or Christian. But smaller publishers, including InterVarsity Press, are usually still willing to give at least some attention to those that arrive over the transom. Three of the most successful “over the transom” complete manuscripts that arrived at IVP were Calvin Miller’s The Singer, Peter Kreeft’s Between Heaven and Hell and Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

This last book had been turned down by twenty publishers before it arrived at IVP. Jim Hoover picked it out of the slush pile and started to read. Before long he was in the hallway, grabbing whoever might pass by, and, manuscript in hand, saying, “Listen to this . . .” It was so good and so clean, he thought it was virtually ready to go straight to typesetting without any need for copyediting. As with The Singer, it would be the book that put its author firmly in the consciousness of the reading Christian public.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

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