1: How did you start writing?
Believe it or not, I started by writing letters. One of the earliest contests I won was in sixth grade. We were planning a field trip to the local dairy and my letter of inquiry to the dairy was chosen to be sent to the dairy. I then moved to essays, and won a Voice of Democracy contest. From there I wrote and presented messages, as part of a student panel to a district PTA gathering, as speaker in our local Methodist Youth Fellowship sunrise service, as Missionary President to monthly church services, and finally as a Retirement Seminar presenter for Federal Employees.
When I received letters, I noticed how they all asked about what I was doing and never told me what they were doing. So when I wrote back, I told them. Sometimes my letters were thirteen pages long!
I was always a reader. So early in our marriage, I figured maybe, as a stay-at-home mom, I could help with finances through writing stories. Sorry to say, pay does not accompany rejections slips. I took several writing courses, but the only thing I actually sold before MuseItUp accepted All Because of Chickens was a crossword puzzle to “Wee Wisdom Magazine.”
2: What is the one thing you most enjoy about writing?
The play of words. I will often rewrite sentences many times till I get just the words that convey the emotion or atmosphere I am trying to convey. Oh, not all at once. But every time I re-read after a cooling off period, I usually come up with a word that gives a better tone to the scene I am trying to create.
Besides the rejections slips? I’d say the re-reading. I do not mind the constant editing, but by the time a story is published, it has often been re-read maybe fifty times. I found I actually got sick and tired of reading my own creation! Maybe this is one of the reasons writers spend so much time reading other writers; the refreshing and rejuvenating it gives.
3: If you could go back in time and talk to anyone, who would you speak to?
I would love to hear His voice, listen to Him laugh, see His miracles, watch Him interact with the children, see His compassion with the sick, look into His eyes, and tell Him I love Him.
4: When you write do you plot out the story or do you let your muse run wild?
I start with an overall idea. Then things happen; an act, a word, and expression, or an idea for a scene. Sometimes this happens over a short period of time, sometimes over years—twenty or thirty. I often write these down, but I also do a great deal of this in my head before I ever even start to get the project on paper. But when I do start the actual writing, I will arrange and rearrange scenes and incidents to make them more natural. I have also had the thrill of experiencing my characters actually “writing the scene” for me. That’s fun!
5: Tell us a bit about your book.
It’s about twelve year old Sammy who is thrilled that they are moving back to the family homestead and heritage—farming. But Dad’s ultimatum “…no crops, no animals, no barn…” shows Dad wants nothing to do with farming—either for himself or Sammy. So why did Dad insist Sammy join a farming club? When permission slips for Ag club summer projects are due, Sammy defends his project choice with “Technically, Dad, chickens are birds, not animals.”
Sammy’s problems begin with the early arrival of his peeps and the loss of his best pals. His ingenuity to care for his chicks, make a new friend, and design a compost bin win him a new name. His biggest challenge—can he butcher, then eat, his roosters?
Summer’s many adventures include solving a mystery, fighting a hawk and being disqualified at the County Fair.
At the end of the project, has he won…or lost…the thing he wanted most—Dad’s change of heart about farming?
6: What inspired the story?
As an avid reader myself, I was appalled that the boys in our family did not enjoy reading. That included not only our sons when they were young, but our grandsons. I thought they might enjoy a “fun,” boy-centered story, centered on our own chicken raising project. Our project was not connected to an Ag club, but to my love of home canning.
I was an avid canner and liked to do one new thing each year. A friend of ours introduced me to home-canned chicken, and I wanted to try it. And what better way than to “grow our own” chickens? Since we lived in town, my husband fought the idea for a couple years with his winning argument being “We live in the city, they wouldn’t allow it.” Bless the neighbor who pointed out the city line ran between our house and the neighbor’s; we were the first house in the county. Needless to say, my husband lost his argument.
When we got the chickens our younger son took them over. He would even go into their coop (yes it was an a-frame, built by our older son) and watch them lay eggs! A lot of the happenings are some of our actual experiences, some were stories told to me by our neighbors about their experiences. And one was based on our daughter’s high school science project with a baby peep.
7: Is this a series or a stand alone novel?
It started out as a stand-alone novel. But since then I have had several ideas for additional novels growing from the original. So far, there is one follow-up in progress, with ideas for two to four more. And, no, I don’t think it will take twenty years to develop the sequels, at least, I hope not!
8: What advice would you give an author just starting out?
Don’t give up. And develop a filing system early! Over fifty years, I have bits and pieces written for story ideas—on envelopes, napkins, odd pieces of papers—whatever I could grab. As these ideas would develop, along came more envelopes, napkins—well you get the picture. I am currently trying to sort through a big box of pieces and putting them into labeled file folders.
9: How do you balance writing with the demands of everyday life?
Not very well, actually. Writing is very time consuming—at least it is for me. I will spend a good eight to twelve hour day, or maybe a couple days, writing a single two to three thousand word chapter. My friend, Lois, will read it in—what, less than an hour?—and give me a critique. If I could just write as fast as she reads!!
Sometimes I resent that I have to sleep, cook, eat, do dishes, weed flowers, clean house, do laundry, shop—you know, live life!
10: How much research do you do for your writing?
Well, so far, I would say not too much. A lot of All Because of Chickens was just relying on what I knew, although there was a little research. Over seventy years of living has given me a wealth of resources to draw from. Its sequels, however, may take a fair amount of research, since I am going to have to rely more on the experience and knowledge of others.
11: If you met a genie, what 3 things would you wish for? Why?
I haven’t the slightest idea. There are so many needs in this world, how could I choose?
World peace, healing of the sick, and that the USA would return to putting God first, though would, I believe, be priority. Then I think everything else would take care of itself.
12: What is the one thing about the writing world that most surprised you?
The comradery between authors, at least the MIU authors. They are an extended family, eager to help, encourage, sympathize, lift up and pray for each other. Much different from the cut-throat competition I expected.
13: What are you currently working on?
A light romance, which is almost done; a sequel for Chickens which is half done; and seeking a publisher for a couple finished children’s picture book. These are the pen and paper (really, computer) ones. Mentally, I am working on a Young Adult anthology I would like to see become a television series…how’s that for reaching for the stars?...and a Bible study course.
14: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
Read, visit with family and friends, sew, knit, remodel our home, bake, cook, can, watch movies…oh, a host of things.
15: What is the one thing you’d like people to know about you?
Maybe that I am more than my writing? I have fond memories of growing up in a small town in a very different era, the thrill of travel, interesting employment, fun hobbies, joys and sorrows, loves and hates. I love to reminisce and share with those who like to listen.
5 Bonus Questions
16: What’s your favorite color?
That is difficult. Color, shades and hues, is something that attracts me, that I delight in. But if I have to pick one, I would say blue.
17: What’s your favorite food?
I have an eclectic taste in food, too. Oriental, Italian, old-fashioned regular food…roasts, chicken, stews. And of course, deserts! And I love salads. But I guess I would have to say my most favorite is bread, especially fresh bread.
18: Favorite TV show?
My all-time favorite is “Murder She Wrote.” That is the one that keeps me writing. But close behind is “NCIS.” I even relish the reruns!
19: Favorite Movie?
This one is harder to pin down. “Happy Feet,” “Ratatouille,” “While You Were Sleeping,” “Picture Perfect (with Richard Karn),” “Borrowed Hearts,” “Independence Day,” “Hunt for Red October,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “You’ve Got Mail.” I play my favorites over and over.
20: Favorite Song?
“You Raised Me Up,” has special meaning for me. It rang in my head constantly as a witness of the prayers for my husband and me while he was in hospital away from home and I was staying with him. And I love the rhythm of “Deep Calls to Deep.”
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