Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I've learned about writing

In high school, I received high marks in writing. One of my teachers even told me that I should write a book. Over the years other people have jokingly told me that if I ever wrote a book, that they would buy it. It's always been sort of a pipe dream, living in the back of my mind, like one of those catchy songs from a McDonald's commercial--sifting to the top, and becoming unshakable. I have several attempts at "the book," but I never made myself take the time to actually write the whole thing. Once, I had thirteen chapters. I was proud. I mean, my high school teacher told me I could write, so why shouldn't I believe it? Mank. Wrong.
I met a published author, and she told me about ACFW. God intervened and made it possible for me to go to their annual conference in 2009. Boy was that a wake up call! Everything I "thought" I knew about writing was a sham! I realized that I knew nothing, but I became determined to learn the craft.
I had entered the Genesis contest with high hopes, only to have them shattered by judges comments that crushed my ego, but not my spirit. Two out of three judges told me that they liked my voice. Ok, that was good. Another told me that my writing was outdated, good, but outdated. What? How can writing be outdated? Well, I was about to find out. The two that liked my voice told me that I ripped the characters in and out of POV and that I was head hopping. Hmmm. A new foreign language. Something else to learn. Something I quickly "googled." (very helpful.) Ok. So I head hopped. Why couldn't I do that? Well, because it's confusing to the reader. Oh yeah. The reader. Isn't that the person I'm trying to please? Right. I'm taking notes. "Cannot confuse the reader." There are "rules." I have to learn the rules and use them when I'm writing. "No head hopping. Stay in one person's head at a time, one scene at a time."
So now, I'm still trying to figure out outdated. So I asked. (Never hurts.) I found out that I incorporated too much narration, and not enough dialogue. Everyone knows that there should be dialogue on the first page. Everyone? Everyone but me. Who told me that? My high school teacher? No, but I know now.
I did a very good job with setting. Too good. I needed to back off and let go of some of my descriptions. I would be ok. Letting go of the info dump would not be as great of an emotional detachment as I was thinking. I would not be scarred for life or anything like that. This was a learning process. It would be "good" for me.
While I was waiting for the good vibrations to kick in, I had an editor appointment to attend. Just outside THE door, I saw other hopefuls crying, wiping tears, or clutching portfolio folders, waiting for their turns. The tears made my tummy feel really fluttery, and a question crossed my mind. "Just who do I think I am, coming in here like this, thinking I can talk to an editor?" That's when I heard my name being called.
I walked into "the room" with the confidence of a chicken crossing the road. I sat down and began blabbering about my story. "I like your story idea. Send me a synopsis," the editor said.
What? Send me something? A synopsis? What on earth was that? More foreign words. There I was sitting across from an editor, (a smiling editor mind you,) and she wants me to send her....something. I don't know what it is, but I'm going to get one and send it to her. I know that. I didn't ask her what it was. I knew I could "google" that too.
That first experience with a conference and an editor will forever live in my memory. But what I will remember most is the plane ride home, thinking of my thirteen chapters at home that were trash now. And I thought that I was a writer! Whew. What a crock. I ripped out one of the craft books that I had purchased at the conference and began pouring over the contents. I read an author's story about her first experience with writing. Hmm. There were other people just like me! And now they were published authors. If they could make it, I could too. Even if it takes a few years.
When I got home, I began to write diligently. I signed up for a critique group. I wrote and rewrote. I joined a not-so-local writing group, but it was worth the drive. I asked questions. I learned. When I entered the Genesis contest in 2010, I got better feedback. They still liked my voice. They could tell that I had studied the craft. Hey! I liked that. But I still didn't get enough to be a finalist. But hey, they knew I had studied! I was getting better.
I submitted a story to Guideposts. They accepted it! They published it! I signed a contract! I SIGNED A CONTRACT! And--I got paid for my story. Wow. So I really was getting better, (or they felt sorry for me. Nah. I was getting better.)
So, at the conference this past year, I met up with the same editor. I asked her if she would still be interested in my synopsis. The answer was, "Yes, absolutely!"
I'm currently working to finish the story that she really liked. I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of January. When will it be published? I don't know. I have no idea. I can only pray that it WILL be published.
I learned that I am a peon at the bottom of the totem pole. But I also learned that if I really want to be a writer, I will always be a learner, even if I have 80 published books. Sigh..... I learned that there are people who are willing to help me if I ask. I learned that God can perform the same miracle-twice. I learned that I write better when I pray--every time. I learned that writing can present all kinds of challenges, and that a six and one-half hour drive alone can make you Really tired. And I learned that a child's spilled tea will not wash off of a laptop keyboard.
My writing journey has taken its share of twists and turns, but through all of it, I have learned to trust in God with everything on my plate. He is in control of every situation in my life. And if He wants me to be published I will be. He is the author of my story................

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kim Vogel Sawyer-All About her new book, "Courting Miss Amsel"

Well here it is, my first author interview on my blog. And it's with my favorite author, and a wonderful friend, Kim Vogel Sawyer. I met Kim in 2009 after my husband gave me her book, "Waiting for Summer's Return" for a Mother's Day present. I've been a fan ever since. I tell people everywhere that my favorite thing about Kim's books is that the plan of salvation is included in her writing. So, besides being hard to put down fiction, they are great witnesses to share with someone who may not know Jesus!
I asked Kim some questions, and she gave me her answers. If you don't have a copy of this book yet, you may just have to go out and get one after reading this!

1. Short intro about you. Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of seventeen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Carol Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren.
2. If you could take only 5 books with you on a journey of ten years, which ones would you take? The Bible, To Kill A Mockingbird, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Christy, and some sort of encyclopedia of knowledge.
3. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren't writing? I'd be "kidnapping" my grandkids more often or indulging in my love of quilting.
4. Who's your one biggest fan/supporter of your writing? It's impossible for me to name just one person--so many people have blessed me with support and encouragement. But if I had to choose the ones who have been my longest-running fans, then I would say my parents. They believed in my dream of being a published writer before I dared to believe.
5. How do you decide on your character's names? Well, not to sound creepy or anything, but they usually introduce themselves to me. So my characters choose. lol
6. What are some of the spiritual themes that you like to write about? I always want to incorporate a spiritual thread in my stories--God is a main character in my life, and He will always be a main character in my books. Although the themes can vary from book to book, one underlying element always seems to emerge, and it has to do with hope. If we place our hope in anything other than the truth of who God is and how much we mean to Him, then we are pretty much hopeless. That tends to come through in all of my stories.
7. What gave you the inspiration for "Courting Miss Amsel?" My own years as an elementary school teacher was a huge influence on this story, but the "inspiration seed" came from a snippet in an article concerning women's suffrage. In 1888, if Nebraska had amended their state constitution, the women of Nebraska would have been the very first in the U.S. to enjoy the privilege of voting. That little bit of historical information led to the creation of Courting Miss Amsel.
8. How much of your own experiences are in this book? Considering the classroom setting, quite a bit, actually! And then there's Edythe's tendency toward stubbornness, her independence, her desire to make a difference in the world... Oh yes, there's more than a pinch of Kim lurking between the covers of this story. lol
9. Short intro to the book. Edythe Amsel is delighted with her first teaching assignment: a one-room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. Independent, headstrong, and a firm believer in a well-rounded education, Edythe is ready to open the world to the students in this tiny community. But is Walnut Hill ready for her?

You can find out more about Kim on the web at : www.KimVogelSawyer.com
She also has a fan page on Facebook. Look her up if you're not already a fan!
"Courting Miss Amsel" is now available at Christian Book Distributors online.

Thanks for stopping by to read my post about Kim, and thanks to Kim for sharing with me. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did! Look for her new Katy Lambright, young adult book, coming out in February, 2011. It is the third in the series, "Katy's Homecoming." I'm looking forward to reading this one too!