Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How Far Have You Come?

The writing life demands much from a person. You authors know what I mean. Solitude gets old, the blank page screams a bit too loudly, and if you’re lucky, a deadline looms over your head. You then bang your head on the desk. Again.

Recent circumstances have caused me to doubt the writing journey. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. My nerves are wracked, my brain is dead, and my fingers haven’t seen much action at the keyboard. What’s wrong? I’ve forgotten to remember.

My parents visited my family a few weeks ago, and while at the beach, my mom and I took a long walk. The ocean looked like it went on forever, as did the sandy shoreline. Finally, we decided to turn around and go back. As soon as I looked behind me I said, “Wow, I didn’t realize we had come so far.” That was an epiphany for me.

It’s no surprise that God told the children of Israel repeatedly to “remember”. He didn’t want them to forget all He had done for them, all of His promises and commands. We, like the Israelites, are sheep who often forget where we are or how long it has taken to get there.

Less than two years ago, I embarked on the writing path. I’ve been paid for a newspaper article and a book review. My bookshelf holds two anthologies with my work in them, as well as a Christian newspaper that includes my article. I review for several websites and I receive free books from them and a PR firm to review. Recently, I interviewed an author on my blog and reviewed her book. Tucked away in my files is a completed and edited 5,000-word short story dying for a market.

Whoa. When I take time to remember, I see how far I’ve come. Yes, God is the reason I accomplish anything. He has allowed me a measure of success and fulfillment. I’ve gone from nothing to something. No, I haven’t started my novel yet, but I’m having a blast trying. Sort of.

Are you in the same boat, oars flailing and thinking you’re getting nowhere fast? Remember what God has done for you so far. I’ll bet it’s more than you think. Give your concerns to Him and He will take care of them all.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Susan May Warren, author of Everything's Coming Up Josey - review and interview

Meet Josey Berglund, a small town journalist who fancies herself a Lara Croft/Mother Teresa blend. She wants to somehow make it big at a New York newspaper as well as change the spiritual landscape of the world. If only she can get through her sister Jasmine’s wedding to her former boyfriend Milton without throwing up.

Chase arrives at the scene, giving the day a bit of hope. Her best friend since elementary school, Chase reminds Josey she deserves better than Milton. The pick-me-up lasts only so long, though. Up walks a buff model type, who is promptly introduced as Chase’s fiancĂ©. What will Josey do now? She and Chase are the last two singles in Gull Lake, maybe the whole world, and now he’s taken. Not that she could’ve married him anyway. He doesn’t know Christ (yet) and he’s too cousinly, though the braces and acne are gone and his blue eyes still sparkle like the ocean on a sunny day.

Life goes on. When Josey hears a missionary from Russia speak at her church, she knows that’s where her life is headed. For a whole year. She’s got nothing to lose and parkas, hiking boots, converted souls and strange food to gain. Oh, boy. And maybe she can also figure out her love life while she’s overseas.

Woven within the hilarity of missionary life is the all-important lesson for Josey: God uses imperfect people to do His work. All he needs is a willing heart that wants to make a difference. We, too, can tuck that one away.

I will never again look at chick-lit in the same light. I’m a suspense/thriller gal at heart, but a good laugh goes a long way on this crazy-busy planet. This book delivered on so many levels – it's a must read. In fact, a friend of mine is going on a cruise next week, and when she asked to borrow a book from me to read, this was the first thing I mentioned (she had better bring it back suntan oil free). Thank you, Susan, for taking us on such an honest and hope-filled journey.


Susan May Warren has been writing since she was a child. She pursued journalism in college, but ended up a missionary. Having spent six years in Russia, Susan used her gift for writing by crafting newsletters, then progressed to articles, short stories, novellas and full-length fiction. She and her family now make their home in Minnesota.

Me: You wear lots of hats: wife, mom, missionary, writer. What is the secret to balance in your life?

SMW: Okay, see, that's really nice of you to think that I might REMOTELY have any balance to my life. I think it depends on who you talk to in my family and on what day. But I give it the big college effort to start my day with my Quiet Time and somehow things smooth out after that. And I try to a) not take life so very seriously. The house WILL get cleaned. Right after the kids leave for college. b) remind myself that food groups don't have to be eaten in one sitting; for example, you can have cheese and dairy one day, bread (ie, pizza) the next, and if you're REALLY feeling good, a Caesar salad the next. If you think of it in WEEKLY food needs, I think it's a lot less stressful. c) keep it simple with the kids. Climbing into bed with each of them at least once a week and letting them tell me a bedtime story is usually pretty good quality time. (Although my husband isn't thrilled with the part where he has to wake me and drag me to bed.) I take that bad. I'm balanced.

Me: Tell us how your experience as a missionary in Russia inspired you to write this novel.

SMW: Revenge? Oh, no, you want something spiritual. I know God had taught me lessons that I could share with other hopeful missionaries, or maybe just regular women like me who wondered if God could use them. And well, I had all this good material -- I didn't want it to go to waste! I mean, after you sit on a rat in your toilet, you HAVE to tell somebody, don't you?

Me: What do you most want the reader to take away from your story?

SMW: That you don't have to be perfect to be a missionary. In fact, it's better if you're not because then God can do all these great things in your life, and when you DO say or do the right thing, you'll know it wasn't you. And that's pretty cool.

Me: Did you craft any of your Russian or missionary characters from people you actually knew?

SMW: Wait, if I answer that, am I going to get sued? Okay, so Totyemilla MIGHT have been SORTA like my neighbor who brought me liver peroshke. And Larissa, well, wade into a Russian mall and pick a girl...they're all skinny, all beautiful, and all dressed like they were Paris Hilton. Yes, me and my hiking boots wanted to crawl into a corner and wail. As far as the other missionaries, let's just say there is no shortage of Susie Homemakers on the mission field (and there is nothing wrong with a Susie Homemaker -- you're talking to a girl who grew her own strawberries and made her own jam, it's just that it's not the ONLY thing attribute to being a good wife and mother) so I didn't have any one person in mind. Really. I suppose everyone is a morph of a few people scrunched together. But I'm not telling who.

Me: Tell us your favorite part of this book if you can do so without giving anything away.

SMW: Hmm...the fish story, which is a REAL story. I still laugh when I read it. And maybe the Christmas scene with the little golden rings. But mostly, every scene with Chase. I am deeply, hopelessly in love with Chase *very big sigh*.

Me: What was the hardest part of writing this?

SMW: Well, I wanted to tell the truth and poke fun at some of the misconceptions about missionaries. But being a missionary is an important thing. It takes courage and commitment and willingness to completely surrender. So, while I did some teasing, I was really poking fun at myself and not necessarily the missionary community at large, which I deeply respect. In fact, I hope to be a missionary again someday, if God opens that door. So I'm hoping fellow missionaries will enjoy the humor, and know that, if we really take a step back and not take ourselves so seriously, it is funny. And human. And in the end, God working through us to remind us that He is at work in us to the praise of His glorious grace.

Me: Thanks again, Susan. You're a super writer. I'm just kinda scared now, because I thought my reading pile was big enough already. Now I'm going to have to add a whole new genre to it!

SMW: LOL!!! I'll be sure to put you on the list for Josey 2! *g* Thank you again for letting me be a part of your webworld!