My parents loved to read. Books and Bible stories filled our home, and each night, bedtime stories and prayers were part of our routines. Church attendance was too. Although I didn’t think about it at the time, being a regular part of the church encouraged my faith, while learning hymn lyrics trained me to listen for the sounds, sense, and nuances of words.
One of my favorite books at home was A Child’s Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson, which connected poems to everyday life and nature. Thinking about this now, I just realized that my first poetry book, Living in the Nature Poem, could have been called An Adult’s Garden of Verse!
I started writing poems in elementary school, but as an adult, I wrote in every genre but poetry! When my children were small, I began with parenting articles for a magazine published by our denomination, then church curriculum and children’s stories for “take-home papers.” Those led to children’s novels for B&H, a picture book for Concordia, and inspirational romances for Zondervan. When I had a problem with my neck and spine, I heavily researched and wrote a couple of life-health encyclopedias for Facts on File, and some of those books can still be found on my Author’s Page on Amazon.
Was getting published hard?
Yes and no! I studied how-to books and annual market guides that helped me know how to go about submitting my manuscripts and book proposals to publishers in a professional manner. That was the only real option for writers, so it surprised me to learn that Christian poets and writers starting out now rarely know the basics beyond self-publishing. Hopefully, my Kindle e-book the Christian Writer’s Guide will help and the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry e-book too.
Often, my books and articles placed on the first, second, or third try, but if not, I’d just matter-of-factly send out that manuscript to the next potential market. Not so with poetry! If a batch of poems came back, I’d feel so devastated, I stopped sending them off for years! I kept writing poems and mostly stockpiling them, so by the time the Internet came along, I had hundreds of poems sitting around. As I became acquainted with e-zines and the websites of print publications, however, I felt confident again to at least try sending out my poems, so those began to be published too.
Most of my poems have something to do with God, faith, nature, social concerns, or the Bible. After the environmental publisher, Hiraeth Press, published my nature poetry, I began looking for a publisher for my Bible-based poems. For both books, many of the poems had been accepted by journals, e-zines, or anthologies that I discovered through the classifieds in Poets & Writers magazine or on the social networks. I stress this because those previous publications interested book editors, who might not have even bothered to read a full-length manuscript of poems if my poetry had never seen print. That’s what interested my editor at Kelsay Books too, so even though that’s a secular press, they just released my book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, and also plan to publish Beach Songs & Woodchimes, my first book of children’s poems this year.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere! This morning a haiku came to me as I looked out the window and saw our lovely spring colors had greyed in the rain. Just before that, a poem came about when I saw a band of vultures beside the road. This reminded me of a cryptic Bible verse in Luke 17, which found a place in the poem. And before that, a humor poem arose when I spotted a lizard beside three crayons my grandson had left by his little desk, and I wondered which color Lizzy would choose!
How long does it take you to write a book or manuscript?
I used to take at least a week to write an article, but blogging honed that down to an hour or two. Nonfiction books, children’s books, and novels have taken me anywhere from a month to nine months, depending on the research involved since I write full-time and would take the time to do a synopsis for each novel and an outline for each nonfiction book. This not only kept my writing on track, it gave me what I eventually needed for a book proposal.
When it comes to poetry, however, one poem might come to me full-blown in ten minutes, while another might take ten years to show me what’s needed or how to revise. In a way you could say my poetry books have taken a lifetime.
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing?
I enjoy being involved with the sweet-spirited people of our little country church where I love hearing their insightful responses in our weekly Bible study group.
Since we live in a rural area, we’re on an unpaved road, which works well for leisurely walks or a quick bike ride, and we’re only 45 minutes from the Atlantic, so we enjoy beach strolls too.
Also, I like to read the Bible so much, I began the Bible Reviewer blog to tell other people about each of my favorite translations or editions, and now Bible publishers send me free review copies, which is nice! I enjoy reading poetry, too, and occasionally will review books of poems sent to me by traditional publishers on my Poetry Editor & Poetry blog.
Do you find certain times of the day or certain things inspire you to write?
When I first wake up, I’m apt to catch whatever God puts on my mind, but during the day, my thoughts often race so much, it’s harder to hear. Usually, a “time out” on our deck or other quiet time will help me to feel refreshed and inspired again.
What advice would you give to a new writer wishing to make it in the publishing world?
Make friends with grammar and syntax. Study your favorite genre by reading classical literature and the works of prize-winning poets and novelists. Learn, learn, learn, and put what you learn into practice as any other artist or musician or chef or seamstress must do.
We'd love to hear a few quirky facts about you...things that don't normally come up in an interview!
On my first day of school, my teacher called my mother to come in and made me stay late too. For years I thought it was because I’d been messy when my left hand smudged the paper, but no. Mother told me I’d written everything neatly and perfectly – backwards. When I’m tired now, that touch of dyslexia kicks in again, so do not even try to beat me at Boggle!
Anything else you want to add?
Yes, Brooke, thank you for asking. I love the church, and I believe it’s time for Christians to stop acting like sibling rivalries!
We ARE God’s Family. We ARE the church. We ARE the Body of Christ with the power of our Risen Lord working in and through us, and yet we’re not having much of an impact in the world.
As Christian Poets and Writers, however, we have a unique opportunity to change this! So I pray for God to guide, empower, and inspire us to forgive our Siblings in Christ, administer healing to one another, and focus on what each denomination has in common. May we write lovingly, accurately, biblically, and well in all genres in Jesus’ Name.