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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Linore Rose Burkard. I read some of her work, then signed up to do an ARC review of her latest novel, Forever, Lately. I thought, why not make a deal? I write a review for Linore, and she does an interview for me. Thanks, Linore, for taking time to answer a few questions about your writing/writing life.

JAN: Hi Linore. How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

LINORE: I started writing at age nine after reading My Side of the Mountain. The story, inwhich a young boy is able to live by himself in peace on a mountainside, coupled with the ways he learned to survive, thrilled me. I immediately wrote a copycat novel with myself as the protagonist. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize this as an inkling that I was meant to write; even in college, since I worked full time and wasn’t certain I could ace a creative writing class, I never took one. I majored in English Literature, but didn’t take creative writing out of fear. Only God would turn that girl around to make her a fiction writer!

JAN: What’s your preferred genre?

LINORE: Though I am a multi-genre author, I think my favorite is Regency romance. My contemporary novels seem to center on more serious themes, so there’s no fun like Regency fun. Ever since I stumbled upon Georgette Heyer and Marion Chesney in my twenties, I’ve loved that time period and the sometime madcap humor it supports.

JAN: Ahh. I certainly see humor in Forever, Lately. Tell us, why do you write?

LINORE: I think all (Christian) writers suffer from a mixture of motives along the lines of, ‘I write because I’m called to write, because God has gifted me for it.’ AND, ‘I write because I can’t help it. I can’t stop.’ While there are times in life when we can get more writing done and times when we’re too busy with family, or ministry, or just plain life, a writer will always return to the blank page. I could no more give up writing entirely than give up breathing, and to some degree, I think that’s universal for creatives, whatever their given sphere. (On a less noble vein, I also write because it’s fun. When a work isn’t making me pull my hair out, I’m loving it.)

JAN: How and where do you write?

LINORE: I can write just about anywhere. I wrote my first book mostly in one room, a basement bedroom in our house on Long Island. But I also scribbled scenes while my toddler son crawled across my lap upstairs, or in the car while Mike drove us somewhere we had to go. Since then, I have written each book in different places as my office space has changed with the needs of the family. When my oldest daughter left for college, her room became my office. When she came back, I moved upstairs. Later, I had a room at one end of the house, but then my husband started working from home and he needed it. I’ve worked on books from the sofa, from a temporary desk, on writing retreats, and in someone else’s house in order to escape home distractions. I’ve camped out in a coffee shop for hours and done writing. For me, it isn’t the space that matters most, but simply focusing on the work. I strongly prefer quieter places, but if there’s one advantage of growing up in a family with eight children, it’s that you learn to zone out noise!

JAN: Wow, that’s focus! Are you a plotter or a pantser?

LINORE: I wish with all my heart that I could say I’m a plotter. I do start every book with a good idea of where it’s going and how it must end. Aside from that, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pantser. I may have a vague idea of what the villain or major obstacles will be, but nothing too concrete. I admire plotters. I think their method is superior in terms of efficiency. But I find that the more I write even without detailed outlining, I waste less time writing unnecessary scenes. I think I’ve grown an inner sense of what’s needed and what isn’t. And it’s not something that can easily be taught. Once, during a stressful week of college, the Lord graciously gave me an outline. I mean that, word for word. It was for a paper that was coming due. And I got enormous praise from my professor for the resulting paper, the easiest one I ever wrote. (He called it “Brilliant” and other wonderful things. He was actually excited by it.) Besides learning how much God cared for me and how he knows everything, that experience taught me that GOD IS AN OUTLINER! Unfortunately, I still can’t write good outlines and stick to them.

JAN: We do what works for us. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

LINORE: I see many, many first drafts of newer writers who don’t realize that what they’ve got is only a first draft. I wish all writers understood that nearly all books go through edits, and the newer the writer, the more editing is likely needed. Too often, with the ease of self-publishing today, a writer is excited to “finish” a story and they rush to publish it. If you are a newer writer, my advice is to find three people who do NOT love you, and have them read your work and give you feedback. And hire an editor with experience. The retired school teacher, though she taught English, is not equivalent to an experienced book editor. Your book took a lot of work. Now give it the professional touch it deserves with good editing and manuscript preparation.

JAN: Great advice. Thanks so much for spending time with us today, and all the best on your future writing.

Website: http://www.LinoreBurkard.com

Bio: Linore Rose Burkard is a serious watcher of period films. She wrote a trilogy of regency romances“for the Jane Austen Soul,” which opened the genre for the CBA. Now a multi-genre author, including a YA/Suspense Pulse Effex Series written as L.R. Burkard, Linore is also the founder of Lilliput Press, where  “little dreams become books.”  Raised in NYC, she graduated magna cum laudefrom City University. Now living in Ohio, she juggles family life with homeschooling, editing, novel writing, and publishing. She is Vice President of the Dayton Christian Scribes, and a Regional Director of CAN, Christian Authors Network.

“Heartwarming Regency Romance”
“Gripping Suspense”
Let’s Connect!

Linore’s latest time-travel romance, Forever, Latelyis available NOW  on  Amazon.

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JAN: Today I’m interviewing Canadian author, Sara Davison.

Sara, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

Sara Davison

SARA: I have been seriously writing for about 14 years, but it is something I have done informally all of my life. In grade 4 my class took a trip, and my write-up was chosen to go in the school newsletter. I can still remember the feeling of seeing my words in print and knowing others were reading them. I believe I knew from that moment on that that’s what I wanted to do with my life.

JAN: The power of affirmation. Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

SARA: Definitely my grade 9 English teacher who read several of my pieces of writing to the class and was a huge encouragement to me. My husband and family have also been a tremendous source of support – without them I never would have had the courage or tenacity to persevere in what can be a difficult and discouraging business. I’ve been a huge bookworm all my life too, so many, many authors have influenced me to want to imitate them and their incredible ability to take me away to another world. Writers like C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle, Louisa May Alcott, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, to name a very few.

JAN: What’s your preferred genre?

SARA: I never made a conscious decision to write inspirational romantic suspense, but every time I sat down to write, those are the stories that came out. I guess because it is my favourite genre to read. I definitely prefer contemporary to historical, and am always looking for a story that keeps me on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding, so romantic suspense is my preferred genre both for reading and writing.

JAN: Why do you write?

SARA: It’s a bit of a cliché, but true nonetheless—I write because I can’t not write. God gives me stories and story ideas and I feel as though I have to get them down on paper or I will burst. I completely understand Eric Liddell’s assertion that God created him fast, and when he runs, he feels God’s pleasure. I feel exactly the same when I am writing, as though it is exactly what I was created to do and the way that God wants to use me to bring glory to him, which I pray all of my writing does.

JAN: What a great feeling to know that God wants you doing exactly what you’re doing. How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

SARA: I love to write in coffee shops, but I do most of my writing in my office at home. I can’t write longhand as I am so out of practice that my hand quickly gets tired, and I can’t write nearly as fast as the ideas come to me, so I always use a computer. As for being a plotter or pantser, I’m actually more of a plotser or a pantter – somewhere in the middle of the two. I like to have a fairly good idea of where I am going with the story before I begin. I like to know the beginning and the end and to have a sense of how I am going to get there, but I don’t outline so tightly that the story and the characters aren’t free to take me where they will, because for me, that’s the fun of writing. I often sit down at the computer, as interested as any of my readers will be in seeing what is going to happen next. I also consider myself a reasonably lazy writer, so I only do enough research to ensure that what is included in the story is credible and accurate, but then I basically just like to make stuff up.

The Seven Trilogy by Sara Davison

JAN: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

SARA: In the introduction to Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he says he enjoys getting together with other author friends because none of them ever asks where the ideas come from – they all know that none of them know. I was very relieved to read that, as I find this an extremely difficult question to answer. I have a lot of author friends who are inspired by what is going on around them. They get excited when we’re out when something happens or they see an interesting person and they immediately start scribbling notes down to use in their stories. I don’t see the world that way. Pretty much everything I write comes from inside somewhere, not outside me. I know that God gives me the ideas because I feel closer to him when I am writing than just about any other time – writing is a deeply spiritual experience for me in that way.

JAN: I guess I don’t agree with Stephen King on that! I’ve asked this question in countless interviews and received some fascinating answers, including yours! We’re all unique.

How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

SARA: I’m not sure I understand the question – if it’s on the Internet, it has to be true, right? Ha ha. Okay, the thing is, as I mentioned above, I really don’t enjoy research and only do what I need to do in order to make sure that what I am putting in the book is accurate. I check more than one source (other than Wikipedia) online, but my preference is to have someone who knows more about a certain field or occupation than I do read it over. For example, since one of my main characters in The Seven Trilogy is in the military, I not only did research online, but one of my editors had been in the military herself, which was incredibly helpful. For Vigilant, since one of the heroes is a cop, I had a friend, a former police officer, read over the manuscript to ensure accuracy. For me it is easiest to just write the story and then have someone with more expertise check over it for me which, so far, has worked out quite well.

JAN: What do you like most / least about writing?

SARA: What I like most about writing is putting a book out there and then having readers respond with positive comments. The absolute best are the readers that tell me the book really got them thinking about God or examining their relationship with him. If I hear that anything in my books got people thinking or discussing anything, particularly spiritual matters, that is the greatest thrill of all. The downside of writing, of course, is that it can be an incredibly discouraging business that constantly undermines self-confidence. Over and over I have to remind myself that I am not writing for sales numbers, awards, accolades, or positive reviews. I am writing in obedience to God – to his calling on my life. I believe that because he gives me the stories, he has a purpose for them. If that purpose is for five people or five thousand or five million to read them, that’s up to him. I have to trust that if I write the books to the best of my ability and market them as much as time and resources allow, God will take care of ensuring that the purpose he has for them will be fulfilled. And at that point, whatever the response from others has been, I have to consider them a success.

JAN: Well said. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

SARA: Facebook is actually my favourite method of interacting with readers and promoting my work. Like most writers, marketing and promotion are the least appealing aspects of the writing business, but I do find an Author page on Facebook, or a closed launch team group, or writing or reading-themes groups are excellent ways to interact with other writers and readers, not only about my work but about the work of other authors I enjoy.

JAN: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

SARA: Not very well, to be honest. I love what I do – I write and I also have an editing business, both of which I do from home. The positives of that are that I don’t have to get up and go out in the morning, so it doesn’t matter to me what the weather or traffic is like. I love being home and being available to my three teenagers, and I am comfortable working in my office. The downside is that there is no way to punch out of work. Even when I do take a break to spend time with family or to watch something on television (usually sports), it’s in the back of my mind that I should be working. I have to be really intentional about taking breaks and about trying to let go of thinking about what I could be doing if I was back on my computer.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

SARA: I am just about finished Lindsay Harrel’s The Secrets of Paper and Inkwhich is really good. Next on my TBR is Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner. Actually not the genre I typically read, but I met both of them at the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat this year so I was interested in reading their books. I definitely prefer paper, but I am also slowly warming up to reading on my Kindle. It’s handy when I am out somewhere and waiting for my kids to come out of school or appointments, or sitting in a waiting room. And if the power ever goes out or I don’t want to disturb my husband when he’s sleeping, it’s great to be able to read without turning on a light. So I do enjoy it, but will always prefer the feel, smell etc. of holding an actual book in my hands.

JAN: Same. I’m getting more into Kindle because it’s so handy. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

SARA: Some of my favourite things are: live theatre; watching sports (especially hockey and baseball); chocolate; reading and writing, of course; going out for coffee with friends; movies, especially old black and white ones and most especially anything with Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant; relaxing on the shore of a lake, road trips, spending time with my family, especially weekends away with my husband. I’m not really sure what makes me unique – I lead a fairly quiet life, by choice, so maybe what makes me unique is that I am never bored and, for the most part, I am deeply content.

JAN: I get that. What keeps you going in your writing career?

SARA: Three things keep me going—the deeply-held belief that it is what God has called me to do and it is how he uses me to bring him glory and to do ministry; the support and encouragement of family, friends, and other authors; and positive feedback from readers.

JAN: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

SARA: While I have a dread fear of writing anything that sounds preachy, I do hope and pray that clear spiritual messages emerge from my writing as readers read my books. Different books have different themes, but the one constant truth I pray all my readers take away with them is that they are never alone. God hasn’t promised us that we won’t have trouble or even suffer greatly in life, but he has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us, and that is underlying theme of all my books.

JAN: I’ve certainly “heard” that theme in your books. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

SARA: I strongly believe that Christian fiction needs to be rooted in solid theology, so I am very careful about what I include in my books. I check my own theology against the Bible and against the teaching of hundreds of years of church history and against solid contemporary theologians. If I can’t prove what my characters are saying or experiencing on a spiritual level from the Bible, I won’t include it in my books, so I have learned a lot of theology and doctrine since I have started writing, which actually could be included in my list of favourite things to do.

JAN: What is your ultimate writing goal?

SARA: My ultimate writing goal is to produce works of excellence that glorify God, draw others closer to him, and fulfil whatever purpose he has for them.

Sara Davison’s latest book

JAN: Any advice for beginning writers?

SARA: A writer I admire once said that we have no idea what we don’t know when we are starting out as writers. Personally, I have found that to be true, so the two biggest pieces of advice I like to offer beginning writers are 1) be teachable. Take every opportunity to learn and grow. Accept constructive criticism and try to learn something from negative feedback. Be humble and always, always strive to go deeper and achieve greater excellence with every piece of writing you produce. And 2) if you believe in your work, never ever give up. Perseverance is the key to making it in this crazy business, so take every rejection as an opportunity to learn and grow and to improve your writing and then submit it somewhere else until you find someone who believes in it as much as you do.

JAN: Great advice. Thank you so much, Sara, for taking the time to answer these questions so we can get to know you and your work better. I wish you all the best as you continue on in your writing career, as God has called you.

To learn more about Sara, check out her website. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

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Today I’d like to introduce you to Bonnie Rawling, a new author with one book out and another in the works. Since Bonnie has written a non-fiction story about her life, her responses will be different from my usual fiction authors’.

      Bonnie Rawling

Bonnie, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

BONNIE:  I started my book about 15 years ago, and after many failed attempts, along with the busyness of life, I finally finished it in 2016. I always knew I would write a book about my story, I just needed to get through to the other side of some things before I could write from a healthy perspective.

JAN:  Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

BONNIE:  I would say my biggest influence was my desire to share my experience of how God completely healed me by His touch, and began the metamorphic changes in me.

JAN:  What’s your preferred genre?

BONNIE:  Real and authentic stories.

JAN:  Why do you write? You’ve hinted at this already, but fill us in a bit more.

BONNIE:  I write because I want to share a message of hope to a hurting world. If I can impact just one life with my story and my writing, it will have been worth it. If I can help just one person know the Jesus that I know, it will have been worth it.

JAN: That’s a lofty and worthy goal, and after reading your book, I’m sure you are greatly influencing your readers.

How and where do you write?

BONNIE:  I have to write near a large window or outside on the deck. Always with my feet up in my recliner or glider rocker with my lap table on my lap.

JAN: What inspires you?

BONNIE:  I can only imagine writing about real stories.

JAN:  How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

BONNIE:   I am a journaler. All of my sources for my books have involved reviewing stacks of journals.

JAN:  The best way to accurately reveal what happened at certain times in life. What do you like most/least about writing?

BONNIE:  What I like most about writing is the depth of being able to bring a thought or an experience to life so that my reader is able to know and feel exactly what was happening in the moment. What I like the least is final edits, more edits, and more edits!

JAN:  Yes, that’s a challenge and seems to go on and on. I can’t seem to stop tweaking mine! What are your favorite/most effective methods of promoting your work?

         Bonnie’s first book

BONNIE:  The best way that I have found to promote my book is touring with my husband where I speak and he sings, or I send books along with him when he goes on tour by himself.

JAN:  That’s a great opportunity for you. Do you have favorite social media that are effective for promotion?

BONNIE:  To be honest, I try to avoid social media, though I know it would probably help my book distribution. I’d just rather not join the drama.

JAN:  Understood! How do you balance professional time with personal time?

BONNIE:  All of my children are grown and out of the house, so balancing professional and personal time is easier now. I usually write for three to four hours in the afternoon, after I’ve finished my personal devotion time. If I’m really on a roll then I write until I am tired and can’t think anymore.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer print or digital?

BONNIE:  To be honest I am not really a reader, but currently I am reading through the Bible again. It’s a pretty good book! I would recommend it! I much prefer print!

JAN: I agree. There’s no other book like the Bible that I can read again and again and never tire of, and always learn something new. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

BONNIE:  My favorite things: spending time with my Lord…days of fasting and prayer, my grandchildren, gardening, sewing, knitting, soaking up Vitamin D, swimming, curling. What makes me unique…my abandoned faith.

JAN:  What do you mean by abandoned faith? Does it refer to living your faith with abandon?

BONNIE: I suppose the best way for me to explain abandoned faith is using the illustration of Peter getting out of the boat.

Seven years ago, the Lord called Bruce and I to sell our acreage in Taber, Alberta and come follow Him. So we sold or gave away, or stored everything that we had, left our careers behind, and moved into a bus.

That began a wonderful journey of listening closely to “the Wind of the Holy Spirit” and being trained in obedience to go wherever he sent us. It’s kind of like the last paragraph in my book where I describe the horse that has been bridled to be broken, submissive, and obedient to His will for my life.

JAN:  Thanks for the story. Your faith-in-action inspires me. What keeps you going in your writing career?

BONNIE:  I don’t really feel that I have a writing career; I just wanted to write my story and share my faith.

JAN:  Simple and honest. So how is your faith reflected in your writing?

BONNIE:  My writing is all about my faith, I hope that is what is most reflected in my story.

JAN:  What are some things you learned from your own writing?

BONNIE:  One thing I learned from my own writing is that I can be very repetitious and wordy! Lol

JAN:  I know what you mean, speaking for myself here! What is your next writing goal?

BONNIE:   To finish my second book.

JAN:  That would be a good focus. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

BONNIE:  I would consider myself a beginner writer so I don’t feel I could offer any advice.

JAN:  Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me, Bonnie. I encourage you to keep telling your story so others can benefit from the hope you offer in Jesus. This world certainly can use that kind of hope. All the best as you continue to allow God to use you in His service.

 

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I recently came across the following quote sometimes attributed to motivational speaker Tony Robbins: “If you do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.”

The quote resonates with me, because I am preparing to launch a new book the same way I launched the previous two, yet expecting it to sell better than they did. How can I honestly expect anything different if my plan of action is the same as it was? Or if I don’t really have a plan? Obviously, I desperately need to redirect the process this time.

              photo credit to pixabay.com

If my expectations aren’t being met, if my goals go unachieved, then something has to change.

How will I go about making the necessary changes?

  1. Become aware of the problem. In other words, stop pretending it’s not there. Stop denying.
  2. Decide what I want to accomplish. What are my goals? My expectations?
  3. Decide when I want to accomplish my goals.
  4. Decide how to meet these goals. This may take a bit more effort to break down, but this might be a good time to put the SMART method into action. I was reminded of this at an InScribe WorDshop I attended in Saskatoon this spring, in a workshop led by Sally Meadows, who expanded the acronym to SMARTER:

S — Specific

M— Measurable

A— Actionable

R— Risky (discomfort can be a catalyst for growth)

T— Time-keyed

E— Exciting

R— Relevant

  1. And one more thing. I need to make myself accountable to someone, at regular intervals. I need to reassess my progress from time to time. And I need that objective viewpoint to encourage me forward.

               photo credit to pixabay.com

Even if the changes I make are small, the outcome will improve. And life is for learning.

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JAN: Today, I’d like to introduce you to Sheila Webster, a gifted friend who writes and speaks and does anything else that needs to be done.

Sheila, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

SHEILA:  I have been writing since I was young, probably from grade one or two. The first prize I won for writing was in grade six for a fictional piece called Agerstoa. I won a whole dollar bill.

JAN:  Wow, back when there were dollar bills! Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

SHEILA:  I don’t think anyone influenced me to write; I always did it as I had a form of mutism as a child and another learning disability. It was easier to express it in writing.

JAN:  Do you have a preferred genre?

SHEILA:  I used to say my preferred genre was non-fiction, and I do the most in that. However, lately I have discovered the fantastic way fiction can convey truths more easily to some audiences.

JAN:  I certainly get that. Why do you write?

SHEILA:  Because I can’t not write.

JAN:  Ah. How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

SHEILA:  I probably spend more time plotting in my head, sometimes years before I write something. I can speak as a pantser sometimes but usually on topics I have crafted in my head beforehand.

JAN:  Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

SHEILA:  My ideas have always been with me and I have had the same basic themes my whole life: tragedy, drama, obstacles, joy in minutae and others. Music, nature, emotion—these inspire me.

JAN:  How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

SHEILA:  I research by asking, by trolling, by reading, by finding common denominators amongst all sources. Since the internet I trust nothing; there is a lot of opinion, false news, conspiracy theory, etc. I look at who publishes what is written and what slant is behind the publisher of the piece. Everyone has an agenda these days. I think praying for wisdom works best!

JAN:  Very helpful. What do you like most / least about writing?

SHEILA:  I love writing. I hate the idea though that everyone has a book in them. Maybe everyone’s lives could be a book at some pivotal point, but not everyone should or can write.

JAN:  What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

SHEILA:  Word of mouth, conferences, networking, passion, not enough people write with true passion or knowledge. Too much opinion and not enough well-crafted or thought-out pieces are published. Passion will always market. I believe in natural marketing. My documentary naturally marketed itself and for those that didn’t see it, I probably didn’t target their market for internal reasons.

JAN:  What are your favorite / most effective social media?

SHEILA:  I don’t really like social media, pretty much at all. It is glutted with inane and urgent things that are not helpful in today’s unbalanced world. If I had to choose one it would be short audio clips or video. My favorite is still the radio interview.

JAN:  How do you balance professional time with personal time?

SHEILA:  I don’t … that’s honest. I still raise children and currently I work full time as an addictions worker in a detox. I probably write the way I always have—in bits and pieces, and culling the storage places of my mind for cross references. I am always trying to stay alert to what is current in media or news though to see what may be relevant.

JAN:  What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

SHEILA:  Currently I am reading something about psychoanalysis and neuroscience and where the cross section is. I read my son’s poetry book over and over to different groups aloud and I see what a huge impact it has. John Grisham is my staple for fiction. Tolstoy. I reread some things like Desert Fathers each year and of course my Bible. James, Psalms, Isaiah, Acts and portions of the gospel are standard.

JAN:  What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

SHEILA:  Everyone tells me I am unique. I just am, people say. I do things they haven’t seen others do. In teaching at detox I am my most creative because I have such a varied audience each time. I love picking up the mud of life and crafting personal impact for clients. My fav things are a couple of my good buds, laughing with them, crying with them, deepening our stories through community. I love being alone, I love wind, trees, water, sun, and fire. I like driving a decent car with tunes on and windows open. I like church but different kinds of church for different kinds of life.

JAN:  I’m glad you are uniquely you! Few people have the courage to truly be themselves. What keeps you going in your writing career?

SHEILA:  I am one of those people who has also written because I do…there are no stops or false starts. I write because that is the life God poured into me and my last piece will be a note to someone as I lay dying. I was born to write and will do so without thinking about it.

JAN:  How is your faith reflected in your writing?

SHEILA:  It is written in everything but I only write evident faith in sermons. Most of my faith is a watermark behind my writing, but it is always there if you know me.

JAN:  I like the watermark idea. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

SHEILA:  That I am not as dumb as I used to think I was, that I haven’t changed much since I was five or six years of age, that I am way more passionate about individuals than crowds, that I love more deeply than I let on, and I am way happier as an introvert than my socialized extroverted persona. Also, that no matter what my external mortal body has done or gone through, that God is written in my DNA and pours out in different ways.

JAN:  Beautiful! What is your ultimate writing goal?

SHEILA:  To release as many God stories in others as humanly possible with God’s help, before I die.

JAN:  Advice for beginning writer…

SHEILA:  Just be…and begin…

…love God and life deeply

…hold all else loosely

JAN: Thanks for the lovely interview, Sheila. All the best in your writing and all the other wild and wonderful things you are involved in!

Sheila Webster

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I belong to a writing group that meets twice a month. It’s great to talk shop, critique the pieces members have sent out ahead of time, and discuss in a group the ideas we have concerning the submissions. We learn as much from critiquing as from submitting.

Our group holds a workshop every year, supported by the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild, of which most of us are members. This year’s guest asked what we did in and with the community to make people aware of our existence and to promote the art of writing. We were silent as we looked around the table at each other. We meet regularly, but don’t reach far beyond that. The presenter encouraged us to become more visible and active in our area.

“Let’s host a coffeehouse,” suggested one of our members. “We can each present a short reading and invite people from the area.”

The event was organized and advertised, and the people came. Not a lot, but more than just the readers and their families. A good beginning.

image credit pixabay.com

We invited a local businessman/musician to play guitar and sing for us, which added to the ambiance, and each of us read a short piece from our work. Of course, there was coffee and snacks as well. At the end of the evening, the emcee, not a member of our group, announced that this was the first “annual” writer’s workshop, and the audience applauded. Those who had never heard of us before, or didn’t know who “we” were, said they were looking forward to next year’s offering, and would bring others with them. We, as members, felt supported and positive.

Not every community needs the same kind of event, but if you are part of a writing group, it’s good to create a way others can hear about you and offer interest and support. Why not set up a short program and put the coffee on?

image credit pixabay.com

 

 

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JAN: Please help me welcome a good friend and fellow writer, Sheri Hathaway to my blog. Sheri, How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

Sheri Hathaway

SHERI: Now there’s a rabbit hole I’ll have to wander back through to find the beginning! I’ve always been a note taker, diary keeper and letter writer so is it fair to say, since the day I was born? In Grade 12 I considered taking a journalism course after graduation but when I found that the nearest university offering it was in Calgary, I was intimidated by the distance, size of the city and moving to an unfamiliar city. What a farm girl I was back then! I returned to thoughts of writing when I took a Canadian literature course at Lakeland College, Lloydminster and studied the life of Susanna Moodie. I thought to myself, if she can raise a family, manage a farm, and write, well then, so can I. I put out a feeler, as it were, and sent a story to the Western People, a supplement of the Western Producer,and to my surprise and horror it was published. Getting published for the first time is scary business.

JAN: Yes, it is. One feels very vulnerable. Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

SHERI: Susanna Moodie for sure, but later, I began reading biographies of other writers. I discovered that most writers have lived through messy lives and many, many rejections and still persevered, so that encouraged me.

JAN: What’s your preferred genre?

SHERI: Historical non-fiction for sure. Everyone has an interesting story. Reading about them is a way to be nosey without being told I’m nosey.

JAN: Why do you write?

SHERI: Sometimes a story starts developing in my head and keeps stirring and bubbling around until finally I have to let it out, just so I can sleep at night. It’s a very satisfying feeling to dump my brains out. It allows me to think of other things, or just relax. I have wondered about the cave drawings. Did some prehistoric man or woman have to get that story out of his/her head so he/she could sleep at night? I think writers have existed all through history.

JAN: That’s funny, Sheri! Tell me, how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

SHERI: The kitchen table used to be the throne of inspiration for me until I got a computer, and then it moved into a separate room. That works better because there are fewer distractions. I have to write in silence. I can’t travel to another place and time in my head if the present keeps bringing me up short.

I’m a plotter when it comes to articles, definitely. The book I’m writing now is about my parents’ lives so the plot has already been laid out for me, making it a very easy task as far as plot goes, but I have a theme of personal strength and overcoming adversity that helps me choose what stories to put in.

JAN: I like your line about how the present brings you up short. How true. Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

SHERI: I write about my interests: farming, pioneer life and the wars. There are so many stories, I will never run out. While writing one story, questions pop up that I have to pursue for another story later, and so it goes.

JAN: Great to have that continuum. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

SHERI: I once referenced Wikipedia on an article to the Western Producer and never did it again after the editor told me it wasn’t a reliable source. I read an article recently which advised it may be all right to find your first answers from Wikipedia but then go to the other sources listed at the bottom of the article. That seems like good advice to me. I use the internet a lot but I use sources such as universities, government websites, books and magazines that have been published in hard copy originally. When a publication has gone through the rigors of editors and fact checkers, you can rely on the information. Using blogs or websites that use a person’s opinion or memories without any references to other books, etc., is never a good idea.

Interviewing people on their experiences is an accurate source as long as you remember that it is one person’s memory of the event, which may be skewed with time or their perception. You can quote that person as long as you state that it is their memory or opinion.

Not able to find an answer to why my mother had short-term paralysis in 1947, I recently asked my doctor’s professional opinion. He told me what he thought it probablywas, and that is how I’m explaining it in my book. The medical records no longer exist, so I’m going to say that it is impossible to know for sure but this is the opinion of my doctor today, that in all probability, this is what happened. Sometimes you can’t find an exact answer, but you explain that uncertainty to your readers.

JAN: Very interesting observations from your experience. Thanks. What do you like most / least about writing?

SHERI: I love doing research and finding answers to questions about life in a former time. I love explaining that to my readers. It’s like teaching a class of really interested students. It’s a dream come true.

What I don’t like about it is the delayed gratification. It takes a long time from writing something to seeing it in print, and then getting a paycheque. A writer must have faith: faith in God that he made you this way for a purpose, faith that you are doing good work, and faith that eventually you will see the rewards of your labour.

JAN: What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

SHERI: My first book isn’t published yet, so I can’t comment on methods for that. For my articles, though, Facebook is the easiest way to reach the most people. I have an author page as well as a personal page and share posts about my writing across both. I have a website but don’t get the same response. I’m not a real avid social media user, so I don’t have a lot of different social media memberships. I have Twitter account but sometimes forget to use it. I need to be more diligent in that.

JAN: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

SHERI: In former lives I’ve been employed outside the home and later ran my own business. I treat my writing as if it were a job and go to work every weekday morning, leaving weekends for things like house cleaning and socializing. It doesn’t always work that way and I’m prepared to be flexible. If a friend wants to have coffee on Tuesday, for example, I don’t turn her down because it doesn’t happen often, and friends and family are a priority. I make up the difference on the weekend but I don’t keep close track of hours. I have a list of things I’d like to get done each week and try to stick to that.

JAN: I’ve seen your determination to plan and carry out, and it’s motivating for me. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

SHERI: Last year a friend took my hand and placed a book in it, the first in the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. I’m not usually a fiction reader but these books hooked me and I think it was the mysteries. Every researcher is solving a mystery and I was interested in the unwrapping of that process. She also has great character development. It’s made me think about incorporating better character development into my stories.

JAN: What keeps you going in your writing career?

SHERI: When I’ve emptied my head onto the “page,” I sleep better at night, feel accomplished and proud of myself, and I know I’ve done what I was made to do. If I never got published, I’d keep writing journals, poems, and letters because of that feeling of satisfaction and the game of playing with words.

JAN: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

SHERI: Most of my writing cannot be called faith-based. I write history about farming and war and my faith doesn’t enter it obliquely, at least, not yet, but values such as family, honesty, trustworthiness, and ethical choices is all about what I write. When I get to know a new friend, I don’t come out and tell them right away that I’m a Christian, but when it does come up, they’re never surprised, so I think, like my character, that aura of Christianity hopefully surrounds my writing. Nothing is ever written in stone, either, and down the road, my writing may turn into a Christian genre.

JAN: What are some things you learned from your own writing?

SHERI: I was surprised that people actually wanted to read it! But seriously, researching other people’s lives and finding out what they lived through and gained victory over has always been an inspiration to me. I hope others gain that same inspiration from what I write.

JAN: What is your ultimate writing goal?

SHERI: I have several books that I want to write, so just to write them will be a major accomplishment. I have worked at other jobs most of my life and it prevented me from concentrating on a major work like a book. I’m finally at that place where I can write full-time, but it took me so long to get here and start a book that I was afraid I might die before I got even one done. Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, is quoted as having the same fear and I think many writers are in the same place. I feel like I’m living the dream now just to have this opportunity.

JAN: Do you have any advice for beginning writer?

SHERI: Don’t get discouraged. Life may throw rocks at you, but remember that later on in life, you can look back on those rocks and write about them. A person has to live a life before they can write about one effectively.

Also, seek out other writers. I have learned a lot about writing by talking to other writers, going to workshops, reading magazines and books on writing and then practicing what I learned by writing and writing and writing.

JAN: Well said, Sheri. Thanks so much for letting us get to know you better today. All the best in your writing journey.

 Sheri’s Facebook page.

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