Thursday, June 10, 2010

Answers to Your Questions

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for me to answer. If you have any new ones, feel free to ask them in the comments. This helps me to make sure my posts contain things that interest YOU! Without further ado, here are the questions and answers.

Rachel Turner: What do you think put your book over the top in the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest? Any advice for those writers looking to enter this year?

I wish I knew! Ha ha. Seriously, all I know is that I wrote the best book I could at that time. The Operation First Novel contest entrants never receive back scores or comments, so we don't really know for sure what makes or breaks our novels.

But with that said, I can offer a few tips for folks looking to enter this year. First, make sure you're submitting your best work. I don't recommend writing a novel and then dashing it off to the contest without editing it yourself first. (Though if I recall that's close to what 2006 Winner Tom Pawlik did, so what do I know? :) But you have a better chance if you give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts if need be.

Second, remember that even if you don't place in the contest it doesn't mean you're a failure and you should abandon your novel. 2007 winner Jennifer Erin Valent (Fireflies in December) submitted her novel to the contest, didn't win, and then after revision entered her book again at a later date, and it won! The same thing happened to me.

Martha Ramirez: Did you ever feel like giving up? How did you deal with rejection?

Oh, my yes, Martha. There were (and still are, frankly) days when I wonder if I'm on the right track, if I should just throw in the towel, if I wasn't meant to be a writer after all. But what I'm learning is that most times we have to disregard the doubts and press on. God puts desires in our hearts for a reason. I have a feeling Satan puts doubts in our minds for a reason too---to thwart the plans of God. It's imperative to press on no matter what!

I heard advice early on in my writing to never take rejection personally. Often it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Rejection can come for a variety of reasons, only one of which is the quality of your manuscript. Reminding myself of that helped when rejections came. I determined I was going to stick with it until I got where I wanted to go. No matter what. Did I have bad days? You bet. But I tried to keep my eye on the prize on those down days.

Julia Reffner: I think it's really neat that you were homeschooled all the way through. What part did your parents play in nurturing your gift of writing? How do recommend fostering a love of writing and reading in our children?

Mom never said one negative word to me about pursuing writing. Everything was always positive. And still is, I might add. She took the time to notice my interests and provide all the necessary tools. That’s what she believes is so important for homeschooling moms to do. It’s a parent’s job to water the dreams of their kids, not to impose their dreams on their children.

My parents never hesitated to take my sister and I to the library, and they never complained when we came home with bags and bags full of books. Mom created curriculum around our interests. She made sure we read some of the classics like The Scarlet Letter, The Old Man and the Sea, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the like.

She also had us keep a journal from an early age, making sure we knew she wasn’t going to read them (she felt this was important to tell us up front). She just wanted us to be creative and write without editing. I still journal to this day.

And she made us learn how to type! Of all the things I learned homeschooling, that’s one thing I use every single day.

As far as encouraging your kids to read, it’s one thing to tell your kids to read, it’s another to read out loud to them. By doing this you’re practicing what you preach, and you get some great quality time with your kids. This opens up the door to discussing what you read too.

Books are doorways into countries we might never explore in real life. Through books we can travel to worlds beyond the solar system. We can learn history and how not to repeat it and discover what character traits were noteworthy in others. Through reading we learn without even realizing it.

Next post will answer Koala Bear Writer's question, "What's a day in the life of a published novelist like?" The answer might surprise you ...


K.M. Weiland said...

I was homeschooled all the way through too. I can't thank my parents enough for the opportunities their decision to do so afforded me. I doubt I would have developed same initiative and time-management skills had I not had to put them to work as a homeschool student.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks so much for posting an answer to my question, C.J. I've heard that students have much more opportunity to pursue their interests through homeschooling.

I think reading and writing skills (as well as public speaking) turn out to be so essential no matter what career my kids choose.

My kids look forward to read-aloud time all day. We are just beginning to teach handwriting and reading to Elizabeth. Now that she is reading short books we let her stay up a few minutes later to read her books. That is building the excitement.

I love hearing stories of those who have been me such encouragement as a beginner.

Koala Bear Writer said...

My mom taught me a lot of the things your mom taught you. Both my parents read to us often and we were at the library a lot. My dad taught me to type, actually, and bought me journals as fast as I filled them.