Interview with 2016 Editor’s Choice Award Winner: Jenna Fernandez

 

Jenna group photo

Here I am with Jenna Fernandez 2016 Editor’s Choice Award winner, Editor and presenter of the award, Rowena Kuo and past winner Author John Turney.

I’m welcoming Jenna Fernandez to my blog today. She is the 2016 winner of the Editor’s Choice Award. The award is for perseverance and potential. Rowena Kuo of Lighthouse of the Carolinas Publishing presents the award to unpublished authors who show these two character traits in pursuing publication.  The prize is an editor/mentor to help polish your manuscript. I won this award in 2014 and it changed my life. Now it’s going to do the same for Jenna. 

Congratulations my friend. Now that the dust has settled how are you feeling as an award winner?

Grateful. This award is both an honor and an opportunity. I see it as an open door to getting the help I need to become a better writer, and to get my manuscript to where it needs to be for publication.

Jenna, I know you almost didn’t attend Write to Publish. You considered quitting writing altogether. Why quit? And what changed your mind?

I’ve been writing for many years, yet see little fruit from my labors. Sometimes it’s hard to discern whether the lack of fruit means to continue persevering as a farmer, planting seeds until the time of harvest, or whether it means the season is just not right. While I know we often won’t see the impact of our words until the other side of heaven, I wondered if it was time to let go of writing and focus more intently on other things I’ve been called to.

The fact that I couldn’t stop writing assured me this IS what I’ve been called to do. Even if one person is touched by what I write, it’s worth it. I don’t write for the sake of results, but because I love writing, it’s a calling that won’t leave me, and there is at least one person out there who will benefit from what I have to say.

How do you juggle your writing with life?

I’ve learned that the best writing is life-inspired writing. There was a time when I thought that the life of a writer involved only sitting at a desk with an awe-inspiring view and typing away. Instead, the writer’s life involves a lot of living in between writing. Words that most connect with people are words that have been lived out first.

The more I let go of the notion that I’ll spend the bulk of my day writing, the more relevant my writing becomes. I’m able to write from experience, not just theory. As a result, much of my best writing comes after 9pm until well after midnight, when the kids are in bed, I’ve lived a full day, and I have focused time to weave life into words.

How do you feel about winning this award?

More than anything, I see the reality of the journey that lies ahead. I’ve worked hard until this point, and that won’t change. The difference now is I have an editor with an eye for excellence mentoring me along the way, helping me to hone my craft.

The key words related to this award are “perseverance and potential.” I didn’t come to the conference as a complete package—the editor’s dream. My writing is not perfect, but it has potential. My work is not finished, it’s only begun, and it will require much perseverance.

Many writers imagine they’ll hand their work to an editor to the tune of this reply, “This is exactly what I’m looking for! It’s what the world’s been waiting for—the epitome of perfection. I wouldn’t change a thing.” They think the writing life comes without labor. This award is more of a reality check, a humbling reminder that I haven’t arrived as an author. But God knows he’s called me, he’s the one who’s given me the potential, and because of this I’m willing to work hard to bring forth the best result.

What do you hope to gain from the mentoring and editing?

I’m looking forward to gleaning from the wisdom of someone who’s walked before me in this arena. We writers often like to work alone, but the best work requires humbly recognizing our need for help. It’s a relief to know there will be an expert set of eyes reviewing my manuscript, ensuring the story is at it’s best and the message speaks through the characters in an honest way. And I know I’ll apply what I learn from this experience to everything I write in the years to come.

Tell us about your manuscript, City of No Return?

City of No Return is a modern-day exodus story set against the backdrop of human trafficking. It tells the story of Tasha, a teenage girl on death row for a crime she can’t remember committing. Believing death is her only escape from slavery, Tasha is willing to face the punishment regardless of her uncertainty of guilt. But when memories from her past start to surface, she begins to wonder whether her life is worth fighting for.

What prompted you to write it?

I was involved in an inner city ministry for fourteen years, and we worked to help people find freedom from addiction, gang violence, prostitution, and other life-controlling habits by sharing the good news of forgiveness, healing, and redemption in Jesus Christ. Story is among the most powerful means of helping people to see themselves and their circumstances for what they are. City of No Return was originally a musical drama I wrote to communicate the easter story in the language of those we were working with. It’s a parable of our own bondage and the power of Christ to set us free.

My husband encouraged me to turn the script into a novel. I’ve been working on it since, hoping it can be a tool to raise awareness on the reality of modern slavery and speak hope to its victims.

Do you have any words of wisdom for other struggling writers?

Your most important words are those written for one. Don’t get caught up in the idea that fame equals success. You’re most successful when you’re obedient to God, writing the words he has you to write, even if that means only one person will benefit. The best words are those written in obscurity, drawn from the life you’ve lived, not from theory of what life would be if only you’d lived as much as you write. And don’t give up if you don’t see fruit right away. If you can’t stop writing, chances are you’re a writer, even if you don’t see the fruit until the other side of heaven.

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More about Jenna

When I was a kid I asked my dad to build me an airplane. Every day after I woke up fully anticipating my bright orange, red-striped 747 would be waiting for me in the small field outside our house. You can imagine my disappointment when my dad came home with an armload of boxes, certain he’d appease my childhood dreams with a cardboard, duct-taped jet.

My mom thought my imagination would be better suited for authorship than aviation. So I started writing stories, poems, songs, and inspirational articles, and I haven’t stopped since.

I’m older now and, I hope, wiser. Years of working in the inner-city tempered my imagination with a hefty dose of reality. Marriage, parenting, and teaching have given me an overflow of inspiration. And an endless stream of trials and disappointments have added fuel to my writing fire.

Above all, my greatest source of motivation comes from knowing God has given me life and breath, that he’s loved me and saved me for a purpose greater than my own.

Visit her blog at https://thislifeandbeyondblog.wordpress.com/ or friend her on Facebook.

 

Jenna,  I’ve enjoyed learning about your writing journey so far. I’m sure you’ve inspired my readers. I look forward to reading your book. Thanks so much for stopping by to share your story.

 

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Busting The Writer Stereotype

 

When you think of an author which one of these photos fits the stereotype?

Here’s an interesting tidbit from my many years of attending writers’ conferences. Because I don’t fit the normal stereotype of an introverted shy writer, I talk to people. Complete strangers get my attention. I’ve discovered one interesting fact.

We are not cut from the same mold.

Not everyone who is a writer has been creating stories since they were able to pick up a crayon. Another myth busted.

During the course of these conversations with writers, I’ve discovered a few interesting categories.

  • The messengers.

They have one passion. It might be loving God, prayer, abuse, disabilities or a host of other topics. Everything they write focuses on that message. If it’s articles or books, the core theme remains the same. They felt called to share their heart through the written word.

  • The degreed.

These writers have BA, MA or PHDs. Not necessarily in writing or even English. Often they are retired. However, young college students or new graduates are part of this group. Writing for this group is either a new direction or a lifelong dream.

  • Lifelong learner.

Like me, we only have a high school diploma, but we educated ourselves over time and continued to learn what we don’t know about writing well.

  • Underachievers

This group were poor students in school, and English class was not their friend. A few admit to graduating in the bottom ten percent in college. Others only have a GED.

  • Accidental 

Illness or unemployement gave some wouldbe wrtiers time on their hands. So, they gave it a try.

  • Second language.

I’m always impressed when I meet writers who’ve mastered English and are able to articulate well on paper. Their determination to get it right is admirable.

This is not an exhaustive list.

No comparing

The point is there is no formula of what qualifies someone to take on writing as a career. Our differences give voice to our writing. Each individual journey has the same destination: publication. Whether it takes us a day or years to reach publication, it tastes as sweet.

Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others on the same journey. Because I never went to college, it’s easy to let tendrils of inferiority surround my self-esteem when in the presence of the degreed. Then I remind myself we’re two different breeds of wordsmiths, and I enjoy their company and our exchange of ideas.

The best place to look when you get a bit discouraged is your heart. It’s not about fitting into the perfect stereotypical mold. It’s not about degrees or loving English. It’s not even about being a shy introvert who loves being alone with words. Rather, it’s the call you feel on your heart. The need to put words on paper even if they aren’t very good. The passion to change lives. And the willingness to persevere.

I’m sure you’ve figured out the photos are all writer friends of mine. Not a stereotype among them.

Tell me about your writing journey. I’d love to hear about it.

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Three Free Marketing Platforms For Novels

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graphic from iconion.com

Again today I want to share a few tidbits from the writer’s conference I attended last week. No matter how often I attend a conference I always something to learn. Last week was my tenth consecutive conference. The industry is constantly changing. Besides writing skills, workshops including marketing skills. The internet has ushered in new ways and creativity in marketing.

More and more marketing is done by the writer, not their agent or publisher. So, we need to learn it, use it and find ways to do it cheaply. The biggest marketing tool you can use—and it’s free—is social media. I took a continued class on the subject taught by best-selling suspense author DiAnn Mills.

Wow! So much to learn.

The number one social media tool is Facebook. Twitter following a close second. And if you write YA, Instagram is the go-to media. YA readers apparently think Facebook is for their parents.

All of these are free to use. You can grow your following and get readers excited about your books.

The key is not to talk a lot about your book.

I saw that. Your eyes popped for a moment while you scratch your head. Why use social media to market your book if you’re not going to talk about it.

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graphic from softicon.com

Facebook

The formula is 1 to 5. For every five posts only one should be about the sale of your book. The other four should be about your reader. Memes of fun things. (A meme is a cartoon or photo with a quote on it.) Comments about your life.

Author of The Final Ride, Linda Yezak posts silly things about her coffee addiction. And Shelley Arnold, author of The Spindle Chair, shares her cooking fiascos. Others post word-for-word humorous dialog that took place with family members or co-workers. Sharing sales of other authors’ books or favorite books is another option. You don’t need an author’s page to do this. Although if your goal is over 5000 followers, you will need one. (Or if you want to separate your author life from posts only for family and friends on a closed group page.)

Twitter

graphic from softicons.com

Twitter

Same formula applies. However, Twitter gives you an opportunity to reach all your followers with the same sorts of things in 140 characters or less. Twitter unlike Facebook, has no algorithm that selects which of your followers get your posts at any given time. So, Twitter is a better promotional tool for announcing book signings and speaking engagements. Don’t understand Twitter? Google has lots of how-to info. And You-Tube has step by step instructions.

instagram

graphic from iconarchive.com

Instagram

All I know about it comes from watching the young people in my life share photos. I don’t write YA so I’m not adding that to my marketing arsenal. I want to focus on the best tools for my genre. Women’s Fiction and Romance readers are found on Facebook and Twitter.

This is only a small portion of what I learned about using social media for marketing. I’m still digesting all the information. Later I’ll post some other insights as I perfect them myself. (Maybe not perfect. Rather, figure out. J )

How is marketing through social media working for you? Which of the social medium platfrorm do you enjoy using? Share in the comments.

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Copyright factoids for writers

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Copyright symbol from Microsoft publishing

It never ceases to amaze me the fun facts or should I say unbelieve facts I learn at writer’s conferences. One I’d never heard of before is making me rethink a line in my latest novel.

Did you know?

We should all be aware that you need to check for copyrights for photos used in our materials. Don’t want to get sued. And if you’ve done your due diligence you may also know that you often have to be sure you have permission to quote from other sources. There’s a percentage formula. And you need to double check what percentage. The information can be found in the front of your source book under the used by permission disclaimer. Song lyrics have the same rules.

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Copyright symbol from Microsoft publishing

Hard choice

Here’s the fun fact making me rethink my dialogue. Lines from movies not only need permission but you have to send a copy of the page of your manuscript where the line appears and the page before and after. This is a snail mail process with a SASE. No emailing here. And any and all of this asking permission could cost money.

So, I think I’ll just change the line. It can almost sound the same but it can’t be a direct quote. However, I’m free to mention a title because they can’t be copyrighted.

Other foot perspective

Some people think it is terrible for authors, musicians and scriptwriters to insist on permission. And to have to pay them no less. Well, if it was your words being used by others for free you might feel differently about it. If you invented a product and someone was stealing it off the shelves without paying … The flip flop is on the other foot and not so comfortable now is it.

rejection figures-lawsuit-2Be Proactive

Get your permission before you submit. Publishers are trusting you to do it. Add a line in your proposal mentioning rights have been granted. It creates huge problems to discover the material you quoted can’t be used in any form after the submission. The publisher may not be willing to give you the chance to rework your manuscript to exclude it, instead they may return it. How embarrassing. Be professional and get permission.

How have you waded through the copyright quandry?

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Conference Tip #10 Notes, Books and CDs, OH NO!

The Write To publish Conference starts tomorrow. I am trying to catch up on last minute things so I’m ready. Here is my final tip and is always a challenge. To buy or not to buy.

JUBILEE WRITER

Shopping at the conference and having enough paper for note taking are two subjects dear to a conferencees heart. Photo By Charles Huff Shopping at the conference and having enough paper for note taking are two subjects dear to a conferencees heart. Photo By Charles Huff

Here is my last piece of advice for a successful conference. This answers the biggest quandary writers have at conferences.

Note Taking Needs

I had a friend email asking me how many notebooks she should take to the writer’s conference. My response—one. Think back to high school. It took a few weeks or longer to fill up a spiral notebook with notes from any given class. Most conferences run from two to four days. Often handouts are given with many of these classes. I’ve been given a three ring binder at conferences with outlines to fill in. One notebook or some loose leaf paper to slide in the binder under the classes you are taking is usually enough. If you’re still afraid you won’t have enough paper…

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Conference Tip # 9 Dress For Success

I’m getting ready to go through my closet to choose wardrobe for my time at the Write To Publish Conference coming up next week. Looking your best definitely applies to a writer’s conference. Check out Conference Tip # 9.

JUBILEE WRITER

Often people envision a writer as some shy soul who wears out-of-date clothes and blends in with the walls. At a conference be sure to project a different image. Dress for success is an old adage that still holds true. Don’t clone the look of your favorite author. Aim for conservative and comfortable.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on wardrobe, but you do need to leave your lounge pants, shorts and flip flops at home. (Flip flops might be Ok at a conference in Hawaii or Florida.) Choose clothes that reflect a serious attitude. You’re at the conference to meet people, get leads and promote your manuscripts. Dress so you are approachable.

Casual business defined.

Women’s business casual consists of dresses and skirts in conservative lengths. Slacks, not jeans; tops, not t-shirts; and avoid denim. If you want to pack light, think of mix and matching. Neutral shades…

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