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 Rowena Kuo of Lighthouse of the Carolinas Publishing presents the award to unpublished authors who show these two character traits in pursuing publication.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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Great reward for those who consistently attend writer’s conferences

My award. I am so blessed.

My award. I am so blessed.

For those of you who have never attended or no longer attend writer’s conferences I challenge you to rethink that. After attending writer’s conferences for six years, I have finally reaped an awesome reward. I was chosen as the recipient of the Editor’s Choice Award at the 2014 Write-To-Publish Conference. This award is for perseverance and potential. It entitles me to professional editing of my novel and mentoring and the opportunity to have my novel presented to the publication board of Lighthouse Publications of the Carolinas. Whether they actually decide to publish my book is another story. But it’s a win-win because my manuscript will be ready to present to any other interested party.

The truth about attending conferences

Often beginner writers approach a conference expecting to get a contract with the first editor they pitch their story to. They lug around their manuscript hoping someone will take it home with them. Those stories of instant contracts are few and far between, and if you get down to the real nitty-gritty of details, you will find most of these authors have paid their dues. They have attended conference after conference as true students of the craft of writing. Taking home all the information gleaned from the pros to apply to their own manuscript and marketing strategies. Networking with other writers to be encouraged as well as encourage.

Rowena Kuo presented me with my award. She is one of the wonderful editors full of enouragement for writers that I meet at Write-to-Publish.

Rowena Kuo presented me with my award. She is one of the wonderful editors full of enouragement for writers that I meet at Write-to-Publish.

Writers encouraging writers

For me, my first conference was a learning experience. I flew to Colorado Springs for the Writing for the Soul conference. On the plane I sat next to a published author. I don’t recall her name, only the blessing she was to me. During the flight she took the time to instruct me how to pitch my story ideas and who might be a good fit. She encourage me to enjoy the conference and have fun meeting others. At the conference one devotional editor took the time to mark up my devotional to show how it would best fit her needs. She gave me tips on the right attitude to bring to the editors I would pitch my novel idea to. The editors and agents were encouraging. I went home ready to write my novel.

Guess what, folks, I returned the next year to the same conference pitched my story, got interest. Went home and sent off my novel and got all rejections. 😦

Learning from rejection

That is the nature of the beast. One publisher was brave enough to say the writing wasn’t to their standard. 😦 😦 To his credit he was absolutely correct. I knew nothing about POV and many other fiction craft techniques. So, I took another class and read more craft books and continued submitting articles and writing skits and doing whatever writerly thing God brought my way while rewriting my novel.

Arthor Cynthia Ruchti not only was such a wonderful encouragement on my writng journey but she autographed her novel for me.

Arthor Cynthia Ruchti not only was such a wonderful encouragement on my writng journey but she autographed her novel for me.

Benefits of attending even if you don’t get a writing contract

The next four years I attended Write-To-Publish conference. Each time I went home and sent off my manuscript to those who requested it. Each time it was rejected. But I picked up other smaller writing assignments that gave me more publishing credits. I started this blog and a Facebook page. The third year I received excellent edits with my reject manuscript. I persevered through family tragedies and lots of life interrupting my rewrites and still wrote articles and short stories. Some getting rejected, others published.

This last year I reaped the blessing of my perseverance with this award. That is six years from my first conferences. Don’t wait until you have the perfect manuscript to attend. Don’t skip the opportunity because you have nothing to hawk. Come because you need to grow your craft, you need to network with writers, agents and editors. The secret ingredients at all conferences is the knowledge you can take home and the life-long friends you make. Both can grow your writing career at a faster pace than those who don’t attend.

 How has perserverance at a writer’s conference benefitted you?