This month's contest was judged by the very kind and charming Marybeth Whalen from Cheaper by the Half Dozen--a blogger that I've only recently come to know through her own entries in previous contests and who has been so kind to volunteer her time that I'm now officially in her debt.
A southerner with six beautiful children Marybeth has been a professional speaker and writer who has written a book, The Write Reason, has contributed to other books AND has a new one coming out next year. She shares some helpful and concrete hints to help you break into offline publishing and maybe even write that book you've been thinking about.
How did you get your first start in professional writing?
I was fortunate to get connected with a ministry called Proverbs 31 Ministries when it was in its infancy-- waaaay back in 1993! I called the editor at that time, prepared to beg her to let me write for the little home-produced newsletter (now a color magazine, we've come a long way, baby). Little did I know she had been praying for help to come along-- she was writing most of the copy herself!
We became friends, the ministry grew, and the rest is history, as they say. I did take several years off when my third child was born with a severe birth defect that required a trach and a g-tube, live in nursing care, frequent hospitalizations, etc. Then God called me to homeschool and I had to take more time to adjust to that. I didn't write much during that time-- only in journals-- but God was at work, preparing me and molding me during that time. So much of who I became during that time is reflected in my writing now. When it was God's time for me to come back to it, He just started opening doors.
What was your first published work?
I still remember the first published work was a magazine for homeschoolers called TEACH Magazine. I was so grateful to Lorrie Flem for giving me that chance-- she believed in me and offered me my own column after that article ran . . . me with my own column! This was the first time outside of P31 that I had written. It was so great to have someone outside my little circle accept one of my pieces. This one "yes" gave me courage to keep putting myself out there. But it was a LONG time before I earned a single dime writing!!
Tell us a little about the experience of writing a book—how long did it take you? How did you find the time? Do you have a regimen to make room in your life for writing?
If you can write an article, you can write a book (nonfiction, that is). When you think about it, an article is usually between 1500-2500 words long. Most books are going to shorter chapters, so most chapters are about that length now (what does that say about our national attention span?) Most trade paperback books are about 50,000 words long-- up to about 70,000.
When you think about it that way, it is really just a series of articles that have been expanded slightly on the same theme bound in one place . . . at least that's how I have to think about it to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed! I write one chapter at a time, just like I write an article. I think in terms of chapters, not word count. Otherwise the mere numbers would make me shut down.
As for the time to write, well I could write a whole post on that--a book called Pen on Fire helped me immensely with the concept of training myself to write whenever and wherever I had the time . . . fifteen minutes here and there can add up to a lot of writing. But you have to practice at that--or at least I did--building up your endurance, so to speak.
I used to have to have total silence and HUGE blocks of time to write . . . now I can write in complete pandemonium with the kids running amok. I will just pull up whatever I want to work on, walk in, jot down a few sentences, then get up and do something else, then come back in and pick up where I left off. Keeping it pulled up all day is a good idea, I have found. There's that little cursor blinking right where you left off! Another great book is Time To Write, which offers lots of tips from writers on finding the time to write, or making the time, as it were.
Do you have any suggestions for ways that beginning writers could break into publishing?
If you can go to a writers' conference, by all means go. The best connections and relationships are formed in those forums. Also just write for anyone who will let you write. Don't get caught up in the big venues and trying to get paid at first--just write. The doors will begin to open from there, I promise. It might take years longer than you originally thought but it will happen with perseverance and good old fashioned tenacity.
What are your future goals with your writing?
I would love to write novels--that is really my first love, but it's not something I am certain I can do. I have to find out if I have what it takes. Novels are a different beast entirely because you have to write the whole thing, you can't just propose an idea like in nonfiction. So if you write the whole thing but are terrible at it, you will have wasted your time! I am fearful of doing that, yet feeling more like I will eventually. It's a new challenge.
I am currently working on a follow up to my book on writing I did-- this one will be on speaking. I also have a proposal out that my agent is trying to find a home for and I'm waiting to hear on that. A friend and I are working on a book idea together that we might propose (still praying through that). My husband and I did a book on finances and marriage that will be out in early 2009 and we are excited about that release, especially with the financial news being such as it is. Basically I love having lots of irons in the fire and it keeps things interesting!
How do you find fulfillment as a mom? As a woman?
Someone recently asked me what I do for myself-- this person seemed truly concerned that I don't take time for "me." The truth is, I am fortunate to be doing something that I LOVE. So when I get some time to myself, I want to work on my latest project, write articles, blog posts, or make outlines for my speaking, etc. That makes me feel good, fills my tank, etc. I also like to read and someday would like to get back to scrapbooking. Also, the occasional chick flick with a friend, dinner out, and regular dates with my husband is essential.
Have you had a chance to meet many other bloggers in real life?
Yes, at the Proverbs 31 "She Speaks" conference (a weekend conference for women who want to write, speak or are involved in women's ministry) I got to meet many! That was SO fun! I also got to spend a long weekend at Disney with bloggers from all over the country for the first annual Mom Blogger Mixer. Wow, that was an incredible blessing! Bloggers are awesome people!
Interested in more writing contests? I'll be helping to judge the HOME (Homes Offering Meaningful Education) contest for homeschoolers. The deadline is October 1st and the details can be found at their web site.
Stay tuned for next month's Write-Away topic, judge and prize--I'll be announcing all the details on Friday October 3rd and The Company Store will be furnishing the Valuable Prize!
Sponsored by The Fine Art of Family--Fine quality heirloom jewelry by artist Monica Rich Kosann.
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