Frequently Asked Questions
Do the dogs help you write? Most definitely! Their presence gives me a sense of calm. Perhaps because they are beating hearts in the room that I know won't be asking questions or offering advice; but just being.
What time of the day is best for you as a writer? Early in the morning. It's said that's when we're closest to dreaming, the most creative activity of the brain. Plus I don't feel guilty then because no one is going to call me nor do I have to tend to anyone (except the dogs) because my husband is still asleep at 4:00 am.
Did you always want to be a writer? When I was a freshman in high school we were asked to write an essay about what we wanted to become. I wrote that I wanted to be a journalist, a secretary and a missionary. Through the years I became an administrator of a mental health program (that secretary thing :); my writing has become an extension of my faith (that missionary part) and I worked in public relations for a time so I met the non-fiction journalist category too. Writing however, combines all three. As a child I wrote poetry but I never imagined I'd have a career connected to writing.
Who are three of your favorite authors? Frederick Buechner, Anne Lamott, Barbara Kingsolver. Oh can I please add Laurie R. King and Sandra Byrd and Susan Meissner and Molly Gloss and.....
How do you overcome the proverbial “writers block”? (Or haven’t you had that experience?) I don't really experience this. I have a sign on the top of my desk that says "You don't have time for that" and I don't. But I often stop writing in the middle of a sentence so the next day I have a place to go back to. I rarely quit writing at the end of a chapter as I might not know where to go from there. And I reread a good portion of what I worked on the day before to revive the energy to keep going. I don't have time to wait for inspiration...
Which book – of all the books you’ve written – do you like the best? And why? ah, the one I'm working on now! It will always be that answer because each of the books brought something to my life that I didn't know I needed until I began writing the story down. So I am always excited to see what the latest novel will teach me and why I am in need of the lesson.
What one thing about the writing/publishing industry do you wish you had known before you started writing? That after three months the publisher has to move on to other authors and other books so I needed to be ready to promote on my own. The stories are my babies and I have to raise them up; the publisher has too many others they are supporting.
What book project challenged you the most? I think Aurora: an American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft. It's a non-fiction book that required photographs and details about quilts (I'm not a quilter) and history and involved many family stories, lots of interviews and then the design work was complicated as well. I love the outcome. It's a beautiful book and I think preserving history through story and photographs is a wonderful legacy.
What kind of factors determine from where your next writing project comes? I have a number of projects stewing around in my brain that will suddenly come to the surface though I don't always know why. Maybe something in the context of my life says "Now's the time for a story about an early reformer in mental health" or maybe someone tells me a family story they think I'd like. Sometimes it's just reading someone else's works and finding an unanswered question in the footnote. I pray and trust that the next story will appear and it always does.
Blogging, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – the world of social media – is all new since you started your writing career. As a writer, what about social media helps your career? What seems to help is the change to connect with readers from other parts of the world that I wouldn't otherwise get to "meet." I confess that I'm not a faithful blogger though I do my newsletter faithfully each month! And I have a helper for Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest who is very creative with giving me ideas of things readers might be interested in learning about me, the books, characters etc. So it's a natural expansion of research in many ways, something I thoroughly enjoy.
How have E-books changed the writing industry? You can't tell what someone is reading at the airport so it's harder to strike up a conversation about a book. OK, it's more than that. It allows people to read with greater ease as eyes become older. It's opened the door to many otherwise unpublished writers who have been unable to publish traditionally and it's broadened the market for reading. It's also made books easier to take on vacations. A friend once said one should take as many books on vacation as changes of underwear. Wow, now I can take hundreds of books...don't need quite that many changes of underwear. It does mean though that the marketplace will have to sort out the authors they wish to keep and follow rather than having a publishing house provide - or limit - that for them
What do you find most rewarding in doing things like Beachside Writers and other speaking engagements? I see over and over the power of story in people's lives when I teach at a conference like Beachside or keynote an convention or just speak at a book signing. I'm prone to do a mini presentation wherever I do signings rather than just sitting and chatting in part because I want to encourage people in their own journeys and in the telling of their own stories. Presentations allow me to do that with a few more people at a time. And of course people are also very kind to me at these events so I walk away feeling blessed and encouraged just as I hope they've been blessed and encouraged by me.