We all know people who have worked hard writing, who have finished manuscripts, who have taken classes, joined groups and have diligently pursued this publishing avenue. And we all know they are about 2 seconds away from getting that first contract otherwise known as 'The Call.'
Today our Somebody is---------------------------
1) What Genre to you write?
I tend to cross barriers in the area of genre. I am drawn to the drama and intensity of relationships in Women’s Fiction. It’s also important to me to include inspiration throughout my story, whether it is subtle or more involved and based on a specific Bible verse. Most of the books I recommend to others are stories that made me feel as though I took part in an uplifting experience along the way. Last but not least, I enjoy the challenge of portraying a romance in the making. Although it can be difficult to include all three of these elements in one story, it makes for a more enjoyable writing experience and journey for me.
2) How long have you been writing?
Writing has been a way for me to express my feelings for as long as I can remember. As a young child from a divorced family and then thrust into a blended family situation, I took to writing to help me work through my emotions. I wrote my first complete story in elementary school with my best friend providing the illustrations. We won first place in a school wide writing contest. At some point in time, the story got lost and I still wish I knew what became of it. I suspect it ended up with my friend from long ago. In high school I published my first poem. During my sophomore year in college, I met my husband through mutual friends. After our first date, I gave him a poem expressing the fun I had and my interest in doing it again. He claims it was one of the reasons he was brave enough to ask for a second date. On our first anniversary he gave me a beautiful wood writing box to keep my favorite notes, cards, and writing ideas. For many years the joy of writing also led me to create a small ministry of making homemade cards with uplifting messages, which I still do occasionally when I find the time. It wasn’t until three and half years ago that I began the process of writing my first novel. Once again, writing became a wonderful therapy for me as I went through several years of difficult circumstances. When you create a character that is hurting and needs to go through a healing process, it is amazing what it can do for your own heart.
3) Do you have an agent?
I am fortunate to have a wonderful agent who represents Inspirational Fiction. Her advice to significantly lower my word count made for a stronger, more interesting story, and I am glad I had her guidance. No longer bogged down by over descriptive words, phrases, and adjectives, I feel more confident knowing my work meets the requirement of word count for most publishers today. As an unpublished author trying to emerge into a very tight industry, I believe an agent is indispensable in bringing a new author’s work to the attention of the right publisher.
4) Do you enter contests-if no, why not. If yes, what is the most helpful aspect of entering contests.
I think contests can be beneficial if you find the right fit for your genre. Entering an inspirational women’s fiction manuscript with romantic elements will not do well in a single-title romance category (something I learned the hard way). Do your research. Find contests that offer a category for your specific work. I also suggest entering contests where reputable agents and editors contribute to the critique of the finalists. Be prepared for feedback that you may or may not agree with. Take what makes sense to you and learn and grow from it. Disregard anything that you do not agree with. These are simply opinions to help you, not to hurt you. That can be hard to remember when your work is torn to pieces but a complete stranger, but the key is to keep trying and improving. Never give up on your dream!
5) Do you attend writer’s conferences? If no, why not. If yes, why would you suggest conferences for authors who are seeking publication.
I wholeheartedly believe in attending writing conferences and workshops where you can meet other published and unpublished authors. Making contacts in the writing industry is vital. You never know, you might meet a wonderful friend in the process, which is exactly what happened to me when I attended my first RWA conference in Orlando in 2010. Conferences offer workshops that not only challenge you, but also help you take the next step toward publication. Writers are very open individuals—ready to share their journey, mistakes, pitfalls, and ready to offer feedback on ideas. It can be expensive, but classes and conferences within your local ACFW or RWA group can be less expensive. Budgeting for a National conference is a must at some point if you want to take your work to the next level. Your ultimate goal is to be published, and at conferences you can pitch your idea(s) to top professionals in the industry. What better way to get feedback and get your work out there?
6) What is your favorite aspect of creating a novel? Character development or learning the story?
I love every single aspect of writing. I love learning who my characters are and what story they have to tell. Character development and learning the story go hand in hand for me—they usually form simultaneously in my mind. I am big picture writer. I have to know where I’m going before I can begin, so all aspects of the story come rushing forth before I take it too far on paper. Once I have a good idea of the basics, I let my creativity take over. I try not to plan it too perfectly or I get bored and lose my connection to the characters and setting. I keep it interesting by not knowing every little scene or chapter up front. I let the characters tell me every day where we are going and how we are going to get there.
7) Tell us something fun about you!
I owned a gourmet pastry business for several years and love to bake. My specialty is cheesecake. Turtle cheesecake, chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, strawberry vanilla bean cheesecake . . . Mmmm, maybe I’ll have to head to the kitchen soon.
My love for baking made for a fun character in my first novel as she is a famous pastry chef in Chicago! ;-)
Thank you, Melanie. And readers, I've had the pleasure of being the recipient of Melanie's baking--O.M.!! Such sweetness-such deliciousness!!
Her sweets are as fabulous as her writing.