I meet Rebecca Waters at last years at the Write to Publish Conference. We are kindred spirits in our writing journey as we move toward our goals, surrounded by grandbabies. I was delighted to hear her debut novel will come out in January 2014. She was willing to take time from working on her second novel to answer a few questions for my readers.
What’s your secret identity when you are not writing?
Daughter, Wife, Mother, Mother-in-law, Grandmother, and actually, for nineteen years I was a teacher in a public school. I considered it a ministry. Then, after completing my doctoral work at the University of Cincinnati, I taught teacher education at Cincinnati Christian University for fourteen years. My husband and I decided to retire in December of 2012. It gives me time to launch my writing career.
One of the most asked question for budding authors is how do you find the time to write. Tell us how you managed to write a novel while you worked full-time?
Good question. I think the key is to just write. When I was in graduate school, one of my advisors told me to write five pages on my thesis every day. She said I may wake up the next day and trash it all, but at least I would be writing. It worked. I think it has been important for me to carve out a time each day to write. Just as every morning, I make sure I read my Bible, every evening I write. I guess what I am going for here is consistency. Even if you only have two hours every Sunday afternoon, be dedicated to it.
Being a teacher what new skills did you need to add to your knowledge tool box to become a writer?
I have actually been able to draw on my teaching years for characters and dialogue in my writing. I think every profession contributes to a writer. What I needed to learn, though, was that my writing is not one of my children. I have to be objective and not believe that every sentence I write is some gift to the literary world. Treating my writing as a profession allows me to be sometimes, cold, calculating, and critical with the narrative. That was a hard lesson to learn. I tend to become very attached to, and emotional about my writing.
While honing your craft what were the most helpful components? Conferences? Mentors? Writing partners? Or craft books?
Knowing I was going to retire in December of 2012, I spent my Spring Break in March drafting my business plan to become a published writer. It included an education component. I was determined to learn everything I could about writing, editing, and publishing. In addition to an internet search I decided I needed to attend a writing conference. I researched several and chose the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, IL. I couldn’t afford the whole conference but really wanted to go. My husband gave me one day and a stay at a hotel for my birthday and my mother gave me a second day at the conference. What a shot in the arm! I met other writers, editors, publishers, and agents. I accepted a freelance assignment from a magazine editor and thought that was pretty cool. Then on the second day, my last appointment of the day, I pitched my book to Eddie Jones, the acquisitions editor for Lighthouse of the Carolinas. He asked for a synopsis and the first few chapters. I sent what he needed that night after the conference. A few months later he sent me a contract for the book.
Some authors take years even decades before they find a home for their first book. They submit to multiple publishers and agents before they hit pay dirt. Tell us about your journey.
I used to write novellas for my daughters when they were teens. I wanted them to have wholesome reading. I submitted one to an agent one time and met with rejection. I didn’t try again. I read that book recently and laughed out loud. My characters were so perfect and never made blunders. I think I had to learn to put real people in my books. Real people are flawed.
Also, when I spoke with Eddie Jones at the Write-to-Publish conference, he suggested I change an element of my story. I seriously considered his suggestion and drafted a possible storyline to incorporate that piece. I prayed about it, mulled it over, then sent him an email saying I had played with the idea, but in the end decided to not make that change. I don’t know this to be fact, but I believe he recognized me as a person who was not so caught up in herself that she wouldn’t listen to other possibilities. It was shortly after that email exchange that I received a contract from him.
Now that you’ve retired from your full-time job as a teacher how do you balance writing time with the rest of life?
I love having more time to write. Being retired gives me more free time even though in many ways, I treat my writing as a job. I write at least one exercise every day. I try to write between 1500 and 2000 words a day on my novel, and I blog once a week. I still manage to golf and bike with my husband. I am entering a challenging place in May as I have two grandchildren due to be born within a day of each other. One of my daughters lives in Wisconsin and the other lives in Ohio. My writing may take a different direction for a month or two!
What are you doing to promote your upcoming debut novel?
I have often been asked to speak for churches and women’s groups. I also used to be a speaker for the Ohio Writing Project. I am now working on my 2014 speaking schedule. I hope to share God’s love through that avenue and build an audience for my book at the same time. So if you need a speaker for your next women’s event or writer’s workshop, I’m your girl!
Tell us a little bit about it and why you felt compelled to write it.
At first glance, Breathing On Her Own is the story of a young wife and mother of two who is in an automobile accident while driving under the influence of alcohol. In truth, book is about her mother, Molly, who discovers through this nightmare that while her daughter is seriously injured, she is the one who is spiritually paralyzed.
I know a number of people who are busy raising their grandchildren because their own son or daughter made a bad decision along the way. The story began with a series of questions: What would I do if that were me? How would I feel? How much would I tell my friends? How would my church family respond to me?
I think an auto accident is every mother’s nightmare and I think we worry over our children no matter how old they grow, After exploring the idea, I decided this would be a great story to demonstrate doubts Christians of any age sometimes encounter.
Share with us any words of encouragement for aspiring novelist?
Write every day. Don’t talk about it, do it. Write what you know. Write about places you know and use personalities you understand. My oldest daughter claims I patterned one of my main characters totally after her. Although none of the events in the story have ever happened to my daughter, I am sure my character does have some of the same traits as my daughter. I know my daughter. I use what I know.
I have a young friend who is an excellent writer. She was committed to writing a story about a young blonde female detective in the Hamptons. Nothing wrong with that except my author friend is a nineteen-year-old African-American girl in Cincinnati who has never even visited the Hamptons. I encouraged her to write what she knows. Sure, you can research anything, but nothing replaces the expertise you bring as to what it means to be you and to relate your own experiences.
Finally, join a writer’s group (or start one) and save your pennies for a solid writing conference. I have learned so much from fellow writers through these experiences. Writing is a process. Tough? Sometimes. Fun? Most of the time. Rewarding? Always.
Thank you so much for visiting us today. Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add before you leave?
Only this. I praise God each and every day for the opportunity to share His message of love, forgiveness, hope, and restoration through storytelling. Jesus taught with parables. I am writing novels….and loving every minute of it!
Have any Questions for Rebecca?
Visit Rebecca at her blog “A Novel Creation” located at http://rebeccaawaters.blogspot.com . To learn more about Rebecca’s workshops and speaking engagements for your group, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for her novel, Breathing On Her Own, in 2014 published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas and available through Amazon.com.
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