Author Jenifer Jennings

Today I welcome another author Jenifer Jennings. My questions are the same as I asked Gail last week her answers are quite different.  Although she is not a jubilee writer  we do share our love for Word Weavers. A critique group that dramatically effected my writing. So, be inspired and check out the giveaway link at the bottom. Jenifer Jennings Head Shot

Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.

I always enjoyed English and Language Arts in school, but it wasn’t until High School that I enjoyed the creative process of writing for myself. Most of my senior year was spent writing poetry. It became the escape from reality I needed.
When I entered college, writing was put on the backburn. There were just too many psychology papers to write and too few hours in the day. After two years, I switched colleges and majors. Writing made its way back into my life through Creative Writing classes and studying the Bible. The more I studied God’s Word, the more it made me curious about the real people behind the stories. What were they like? How did their cultural shape their life style? Why did they make the choices that they made?

Soon after graduating, I joined my first writers group. There, I learned about sharing my ideas and building a strong support network of other writers. The leader introduced me to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. I had never written that much in such a short amount of time. My group leader suggested I start easy by writing short stories for my first challenge instead of focusing on an entire novel. I spent one month planning and researching each short story. When November came, I wrote 50,001 word in 13 days. That experience lit a fire in my soul. I wanted to make writing a priority in my life. I cleaned up those short stories and they became “The Hope Chest.” I never thought my writing would be good enough for a traditional publishing house, so I decided to start my self-publishing journey with that book. Jenifer Jennings The Hope Chest Cover

Sadly, that writers group was forced to disband. I still keep in contact with a few of them and I know they are always there for me. A few years ago, I found Word Weavers. We have local chapters that meet regularly for critique sessions. The organization also hosts retreats through the year where all the members can come together in one place to fellowship, encourage, critique, and be inspired.
As my life has roller-coastered up and down, I’ve found ways of making writing more of a priority. After a short absence from writing, I got the guts to submit a short story to a publishing house. To my shock and delight, they placed my story in an anthology. It was the motivation I needed to get back to writing.
Since publishing my first novel in 2011, I’ve self-published a collection of the poems I wrote in High School, a two-week devotional on the women in the Bible, and a Biblical Fiction novel about Rahab.
Writing has been a wonderful journey and I feel I’m only just beginning. It helps me feel closer to God because writing Biblical Fiction forces me to continually go back to the Bible for inspiration and research. I want to come alongside others on their journey of faith to encourage them and show them the God of the Bible

.What is your latest published project?
I released “Crimson Cord” in January of this year. It’s a Biblical Fiction novel about Rahab from the book of Joshua. Rehab’s story has always fascinated me. I really wanted to get into her sandals and find out why she made the choices she made.

Jenifer Jennings Real Women Cover

How do you research for your books?

For “Crimson Cord”, and my other Biblical Fiction novels, I always start with the Biblical account itself. I read the passage, study commentaries, and draw out event timelines. I want it to feel real to the reader and for it to be familiar enough to really draw them into the story. My goal is to stay as close to the original story as possible with historical and fictional details added for enhancement. I do love it when someone finishes one of my books and then says, “It made me go back and read the Biblical story.” Getting people to go searching for God in His Word makes my heart happy.

What inspired you to write your book?

“Crimson Cord” came from studying the book of Joshua. Many times, preachers and teachers gloss over Rahab’s story. The focus is on Joshua and the Israelites and she gets swept up in their story. I wanted to give her a story. I wanted readers to see the world from Rahab’s perspective and give a possible backstory to her life. The very first chapter I wrote came when I was listening to the song “Whom Shall I Fear?” by Chris Tomlin. There is this moment when Rahab sees the angel army that is standing guard at Jericho before the Israelites arrive. Every time I hear the line, “The God of angel armies is always by my side,” I can feel Rahab looking down on the sand and seeing the army of God coming to fight for her. It gives me goosebumps.    Jenifer Jennings Crimson Cord Cover

 When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

It’s only been the last few years that I’ve really realized my calling to write. When I sit down to write, I can feel everything in my being shouting, “Yes! This is what you are supposed to be doing.” Honestly, I believe when God knits us together, He puts something in each person that is their absolute passion. When you find it, it feels like everything else falls into place. Writing is that for me.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

My favorite verse is Hebrews 11:6 which says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” In Bible College, one of my favorite classes was studying the book of Hebrews. I love some many of the lessons I learned in that class, but when I came to this verse it really resonated with me. My writing goal is to encourage people in their walk of faith. I want to inspire them to diligently seek after God.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

If I could tell my younger self something about writing, it would be, “Keep writing, even when life gets hard. Writing is part of who God made you and you need to keep doing it.”

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My biggest support system is a combination of my husband and my local Word Weavers chapter. My husband has always been a big supporter of my writing. Before we got married, he only finished one book in his life, “The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper. Since being married, he has read everything I’ve ever written. He is the first eyes on any of my projects and he is a great grammar editor. My fellow Word Weavers are great at critiquing my work and letting me bounce ideas off them. Knowing that I’ve got a meeting coming up in which they expect to see what I’m working on is a great motivator.

Jenifer Jennings Soul Sparks Cover

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

When I get to read for relaxation, I read Christian Fiction. I also read a lot of commentaries. They are great for research, but I enjoy reading them for fun too. Call me quirky. Likewise, I’m constantly reading the Bible for encouragement, inspiration, and to grow in my personal walk with God.

Where is your favorite place to write?

When we moved into our new house, there was an empty alcove in the living room that my husband asked the builders to leave bare. Months later, he surprised me with plans to build a writer’s desk. He tailored it entirely for me. It has everything I need to create my novels. When I sit at the desk, I get into writing mode. It’s become my favorite place to write.

Bio:
Jenifer Jennings is a Christian author. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Ministry from Trinity Baptist College and is a member of Word Weavers International. Jenifer uses her writing to grow closer to her Lord. She desires that, through her work, God would bring others into a deeper relationship with Himself. Between studying and writing, she is a dedicated wife, loving mother of two children, and lives in North Florida.

Links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jeniferjenningsauthor

Twitter: @authorjenifer

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkNIF7y1dIbBzzEZjov5i8Q/playlists (I make playlists for each of my books.)

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jenifer_jenning/

Personal Website: www.jeniferjennings.com

Order Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jenifer-Jennings/e/B006M2NSUE

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Jenifer+Jennings?_requestid=1303833

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=Jenifer%20Jennings&fcsearchfield=Author

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/jenifer-jennings/id1146332011?mt=11

Sign up for Jenifer’s reader list: http://www.jeniferjennings.com/reader-list-sign-up

Jenifer is  participating in a large giveaway May 29th -June 2nd through LitRing.com.  Here is the information:

Unicorns vs. Dragons: May 26th-June 2nd

How to Enter: The website page shows all the available ways to earn points. Pick a team and earn points. Unicorns vs. Dragons. Jenifer Jennings is on #TeamUnicorn !!!

Prizes: At the end of the week, one winner from the team with the most points will be randomly chosen and gets to choose between a Kindle Fire or a 5-month subscription to Bookish Box (valued at $200). One person from the other team will get the prize that is left. Win-Win. Plus, one author from the winning team gets a promo package from LitRing. Win-Win-Win!

What part of Jenifer’s interview did you find the most inspiring?

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Author’s Anonymous Great Example of A Bad Critique Group

people meeting around table

This past Sunday I rented the comedy Author Anonymous because the premise intrigued me. Here we have six wanna-be writers in a writers group. Each a stereo-type of the worst type of critique group participant. The movie is a tongue-in-cheek documentary with scenes ranging from funny to ridiculous.

Cast of characters

Alan, a dentist, started the group because his wife Colette has a passion to get published. He admits he isn’t really a writer, but rather an idea guy. He records ideas for plots and character names on his hand-held recorder as the thoughts come. He never finishes anything. As the founder he leads the group with no real ability of his own.

Colette, a full-time stay at home writer. She has no kids, no responsibilities and it appears no real writing talent. Writing flowery, ridiculous erotic love scenes that book publishers keep rejecting. These rejection letters give her a neuroses of self-abasement that leads her to do foolish things to get agents attention.

John, a retiree is very opinionated and self-absorbed. He considers himself the next Tom Clancy. He too knows nothing about writing.

Henry suffers from writer’s block. He is a gifted writer but is often distracted by life and the newest member of the group Hannah. Henry reads extensively and can quote lines from Hemingway and the like.

William keeps bringing the same three pages. He is unemployed and always borrowing money from the group. Sleazy best describes him.

Hannah is the newbie. She took writing classes but has no college degree and feels inferior to the others in the group. She also is not a reader.

Check out Author Anonymous trailer: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/video/download/00051273/

What these characters teach us

Other than William, who is truly the most undesirable member, we can learn from the other characters.

Let’s start with Alan. His heart is in the right place. He pursues writing because he loves his wife. Being supportive does not mean you have to join a group together. It takes a special grace to accept critiques from your spouse. Starting a group to benefit someone you love is honorable but not really helpful. Leaders need to have a passion for the craft that propels them to a higher level. This passion encourages those in the group to grow as well.

Wanna-be Colette thrives on compliments. She wants to be the first published. And she breaks all the rules of networking and meeting publishers and agents. The results of her actions hurt her marriage and her credibility. We all start out as wanna-bes. It’s how we follow the road to success that can make or break us. Follow the example of successful writers who have gone before you. Don’t worry about whether you are the first to be published in your group or the last. Enjoy the journey.

Henry decorated his walls with rejection letters. Because of his writers block he comes to meeting after meeting with no pages. The group feels cheated because of the one-sided participation of Henry. Once he gets his priorities straight the words flow, and he eventually gets a publishing contract. Rejections and writers block are part of a writer’s life. How we handle it is the key. Write no matter what. Even uninspired words get us moving in the right direction. Take those uninspired pages to your group. Their input can unlock inspiration. Rejection letters are better than no response at all. If you are lucky, there may even be helpful advice or edits included in one of those letters.

Hannah is the most unrealistic character of all. She writes but does not read. She gets an agent and a contract right out the gate. To add insult to injury for the rest of the group, she gets a movie rights contract and a best-selling author to mentor her. And still she does not read. Writers who do not read are not the best writers. Ask any best-selling author what he reads and his list is extensive and varied. Writers can glean so much reading others works. Whether it is old classics or the latest top ten.

Attitude is everything

The reaction of the group to Hannah’s success can sadly be true. The other group members put on fake smiles and celebrate her good fortune. But walls come up. Everyone becomes jealous of Hannah, refusing to critique her work. They no longer want to help her improve her writing. (Getting a contract is only one rung on the ladder to success. Don’t be small about helping with needed editing.)

John, the guy with the giant ego becomes so jealous he goes the vanity publication route. No way is he going to let the newbie get published first. His book is printed in China and is available in a few weeks. The back cover is written in Chinese and the front cover of his novel Roaring Lion features a barking Chuhuahua. Although vanity publishing isn’t quite this bad, it can be pretty awful. Full of typos and lacking professional editing with odd covers and incorrect back cover information. (Let me clarify, I am not referring to self-publishing which is becoming an accepted route if done properly, i.e., well-written and edited manuscripts.) John’s book is published prematurely with no real marketing plan or network leads. His home is full of boxes of unsold books. He becomes bitter.

Jealousy makes the group toxic and ends with its demise. Critique members need to guard their hearts and seek to encourage each other to do their best and reach their goals. Giving sincere praise and encouragement when others are successful.

Let’s summarize

Critique groups fail or succeed based on the attitude of the group. Leaders should have a passion about writing and helping other writers. Their feet should be doing a happy dance for every success in the group. Newbies should feel nurtured but challenged to improve their skills. Sleazy people should be ejected from the group. And those who are only playing around as writers will leave on their own as the group continues to challenge one another.

I have been part of a wonderful critique group Word Weavers for almost four years. Click here to learn more about them.

Tell me what you love about your critique group?

 

TADA! Time to  announce the winner for last weeks Give-away. An autograph copy of John Turney’s novel Innocent Blood: Equinox of Reckoning is: Mary Deborah Dornedon. Congratualtions! Innocent Blood

One Way A Writer Can Be An Encouragement

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Critiquing a book for an award nomination can give great insights into what publishers are looking for.

One of my goals as I walk this life as a Christian is to encourage others. As a writer I want other writers who meet me to go away uplifted and confident in their ability. This past week I had three opportunities to critique. Critiquing is a great way to encourage. In contrast to being critical, critiquing is helping others improve their craft while letting them know what they have accomplished is noteworthy.

Accountability Partner

Recently, I gained an accountability partner through my affiliation with Word Weavers. I receive encouragement, and I encourage in return as we critique each others work. I am gaining a lot in the process.

E-mail and snail mail critiques

Last week I also received an email from a woman I had met at a writer’s conference who asked me to critique a portion of her short story.  What a surprise to be remembered after a year.  The book I agreed to judge for an award came in the mail that week too. Neither of these activities came with a return-the-favor benefit as with the accountability partner. However, I fulfilled a directive from the Lord to be an encourager. I took the time to give suggestions to this acquaintance to make a good story great. Her story premise was fantastic, and I was honored to give my input.

The book I read and critiqued for the award took hours of my time. The benefit I gained was proving to myself that I could complete this task in a timely manner. It was great discipline for me. I can’t wait to hear the winners announced knowing I was part of the process.

Gaining fresh perspective

All of the critiquing I did helped me look at my own writing with fresh eyes.  The book I judged gave me deeper insights into what publishers are looking for. I was reminded that encouraging others is not all about cheering for the sake of cheering but for sharing insights and observations that can strengthen my fellow writers.

When you give your work for someone else to critique, it’s risky. Receiving your work back with positive affirmation along with constructive tips makes the heart resonate an “I can do this” attitude.

And as one who critiques, if the individual I help is inspired to continue forward, that same positive energy motivates me to press toward a higher calling in my own work.  Christian writers involved in a writer’s community whether online or in real time gain more than they can ever possibly give out. Encouragement is a hard calling that is not always reciprocated.

What have you gained through critiquing?

 

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