- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I interview an inspiring author from Wisconsin.
Welcome, Sandy ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I am a mother of 5 grown children and 1 stepson. But way before motherhood, I loved to write. This journey started when I was in elementary school. After high school, my writing was delayed for a few decades as I raised and schooled my children, (and a whole lot of life happened.) Then about 6 years ago, my children all suggested I begin to write my adventures and life experiences down. Then a close group of women friends said the same thing over a week long retreat in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. I signed up for a Creative Writing for Publication class, and here I am today….continuing the journey.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
As I’ve said, I have enjoyed writing and drawing since I was a little girl. I took writing classes in school, I journaled daily and kept journals of my adventures. I also wrote long letters to friends and family whenever I had interesting tales to tell. I had letters to the editor of several local papers published, along with an article about my dad after he passed, accompanied with the Journal artist rendition of my story. I helped my (ex) husband write political material for his campaigns and because he was an offset print shop owner, I sometimes helped to create text for his customers. My brother is also a print shop owner and occasionally I’ve edited or copywriter text for his customers.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
For my memoir (currently writing), I had a sort of outline of main life events to write about in a timeline kind-of-way. Then I just mostly began writing from memory and from my journals. But I have some backlash memories within the story. For my children’s book I just sat down and wrote the first draft. Then modified it and presented it first to my writing class, then the publisher.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
When I read Sammy and Goliath—my book about bullying—to school children, I love the interaction they have with my characters. I love that the book has a purpose and we have real life dialogue and brain-storming solutions for their own experiences. And of course I love that people want to buy it! As I share my excerpts from my memoir with my writing class and get positive feedback, that is a reward, as is growing as a writer. It is a boost of confidence when I think what I just read sucks, but the consensus is overwhelmingly positive from the group. It keeps me going. I mostly love that the books I hope to write will leave an impact and bring some positive change, aside from being engaging and entertaining. I also love to learn and improve, gain new words, to refine and write more richly than I have the year before.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Hearing the work of really talented writers, and becoming discouraged that mine is not good enough—that I have a long way to go to be THAT good. And also sitting here at my computer every day to continue on, to forge ahead in the midst of a zillion distractions. Then there is the marketing aspect of book selling….
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Before calling myself a writer, I was a mother, a school teacher, a campaign manager, an artist, a traveler, a mountain hiker, storm surviver, river boat sailer, bicyclist, volunteer, Bible teacher, narcissist surviver, avid gardener and played a few other roles, most of which I didn’t get paid for in cash. But those experiences did yield a harvest of character building and honing my soul into something better than I was.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I think it will be my memoir when I finish it! I’m on a slow track while I live life to the fullest, however, I want to complete all drafts this year.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
My memoir and another children’s book. I also interview people at my church ( a very large church in Wisconsin), who have interesting, life-changing stories. This is a new thing and I enjoy it very much. I write down the story after several hours of interaction and questions, and some of these stories are then made into videos for a larger audience.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The story itself inspires me to write. I think this book will entertain (my harrowing experiences while adventuring), but also help other women and men who have experienced emotional and psychological abuse from an intimate mate/spouse, and found strength spiritually, to move on and find the victory. My writing friends and classmates also inspire me to continue writing. Outside of writing, bringing hope and worth to people in various settings is inspirational. The reward of seeing smiles on people’s faces. I just love engaging with people from all walks of life.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Besides my memoir, I don’t have a specific genre. I think I’d like to get into fantasy children’s stories, I have some non-fiction spiritual works I’d like to write, teaching materials, and maybe dabble into fictional novels. I don’t want to limit myself once I get this memoir completed!!
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
I am a new writer! But I’d suggest joining a writing group. My grammar and writing skills have improved tremendously since taking this on-going class. We give constructive criticisms, learn from one another, improve skills and have a lot of fun. Plus, it is very encouraging to hear positive feedback from the group.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Yes! Even when writing my own story, it is often hard to fine the next starting point. Then I have to just begin, edit, cut and paste a lot!
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I have certain days that I TRY to set aside to write. I have a fluid schedule between jobs, so whenever the morning or afternoon opens up, I try to utilize those hours for writing.This is another reason a writing group is fantastic…if you have to have a piece to read, then you are forced to write.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE WRITING PLACE?
My artroom/office is where I do most of my writing. However, I have a strong pull to stop typing and go create an art piece instead, so it is a bit dangerous. I have two sunny windows, so this works fine. Until summer weather calls me outdoors…so many distractions. I finally bought another (working) laptop so I’m not confined to my room anymore.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Besides what I’ve stated before, a great joy is writing something very profound. When I use compelling words or analogies that hit the mark in a smart way. Then I feel I’ve accomplished something, and it is satisfying.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I can’t say I have a favorite. I like a book that absorbs me, whether its fiction or non-fiction. I’ve been reading some of Erik Larson’s books. I like his books because he tells a great story while highlighting a little piece of history. (I hope my memoir will be something like this…a moving, living story), I like memoirs that show survival and overcoming tremendous circumstances, and survival stories in general. I recently finished Frank McCourt’s memoir, Angela’s Ashes.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
From Sammy and Goliath, one comment I loved was, “William loved your book. We read it over and over.” And the nice reviews I received on Amazon. With my memoir, it was a comment from a classmate who said, “This is so captivating! It reads like a movie!”
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Hmmm, I have not had any negative comments to my face about Sammy and Goliath, and I’ve had many comments from my writer’s group suggesting changes, or received the big question mark and the word, “clarify!” next to a paragraph. Some comments are biting, because writing expresses who we are and it is a very vulnerable thing to reveal yourself through writing. But I usually take the remark and make the necessary change.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Hahaha, if anyone is following this dialogue, then you know I’m writing my memoir. My life has indeed influenced who I am today. And I believe it is interesting enough to write down and share because I’m sure plenty of people will relate.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Foremostly, (I know that’s not a real word, but sometimes you have to make one up when it makes sense in the moment)…foremostly, I love God. Through the whirlwind of life, and dark seasons, I have come to know Him as personal and good, even when He was greatly misrepresented to me in a warped way. And many times I didn’t understand His ways. But I’ve learned to trust over the long-haul. I love my husband, who has supported me and given me back an identity that I lost in my first marriage. He believes in me. I love my children. And people in general. I love Outside. Gardening, kayaking, hiking, strolling, swimming, sitting in the breeze looking at a lake, reading, taking warm baths, a good glass of wine, good conversations, helping people….I love a lot. I also have a passion to serve, I volunteer in a number of organizations that help people—homeless and marginalized people (find their dignity and worth), mentoring students, inner city ministries….very rewarding. I’m the more blessed by it.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Not my children’s book. It was semi-professionally edited by my classmates. And they’re pretty good. I think I will with my memoir.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My best day would be one in which I sleep in until about 8a.m., my husband brings me a cup of coffee with frothy milk on top, I sit outside on my patio in my pj’s listening to the birds for an hour or so. I plant something colorful before it gets too hot in the day, then take a scenic paddle in my kayak down a slow moving river with whoever else is up for it. We stop for a picnic. Maybe a swim if the river has a nice sandy bottom and is clear. Later on I read a good book in the shade somewhere, and my husband and I find a rooftop restaurant to have a beer or a refreshing Margarita. (This is a summer scene of course. I could live perpetually in summer)
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
I might need Mark Watney (Martian character) to use his scientific skills to grow some food in the desert sand. Or Matt Damon, the actor who played his character would be a good substitute! —In truth, my husband, John, of course. He is my best friend, I trust him, he has boy scout skills :) He is my cheerleader and confidant. We would do the hard thing of survival together, and have fun doing it.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
In lieu of Billy Graham’s recent passing, I’d say, listen to what he had to say. He was the twentieth century’s most influential world leader and global spiritual front-runner. His words were powerful—calling on politicians to lead with integrity and to work together in global crises, but they were also eternal. There is a Being who brought about the Universe and holds it all together. It would be wise to seek Him for direction in the grandiose as well as the detail of human purpose and survival.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
After I publish my book, I hope it will become a springboard to speak at some events (church conferences and other events) about aiding rather than shaming women who are in emotionally abusive relationships, and talk about the adventure parts of my story as well. I also want to write more children’s stories, and Christian-based books as tools for overcoming hardships. I want to continue to adventure and do more meaningful trips with the purpose of helping people (mission trips, organizations that help immigrants, street kids, wounded women etc.) I want to laugh a lot, keep playing outside, watch my children develop their lives and hope to experience grand-parenting.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I haven’t really watched book trailers, so I guess that speaks for itself. I like book recommendations more than anything. But if someone has has had success in book trailers then I suppose they sell books. I don’t think I’d invest in marketing my book that way unless I knew and trusted an author who has found it to be a great marketing tool.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Yep. I’m the main character. Once my memoir is completed, I hope to write some fiction, and would create other versions of myself in the story to one degree or another. It is experience after all, that brings to my mind stories that others could relate to, or want to relate to. Or pretend to relate to!
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes. I wish it was simpler, and less time-consuming to market a book and get it seen. I also wish it was less expensive when going the self-publishing, or Indie printing route. I think there are many good Indie publishers, but they are costly and I haven’t found one that does much in the way of trying to help authors promote (without running up an astronomical marketing bill). Trying to go traditional is tough for new writers, because one has to be proven first, an oxymoron. I’d like to experience traditional publishers that see the value of investing in new authors, and giving us the time of day.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
I haven’t thought of quitting because I have too much invested at this point. I do get discouraged a lot.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE?
Why? I’d have to say this memoir, since it is the real first manuscript I’m writing. My children’s story was not a long endeavor. My memoir poses challenges (length, research, quotes) and I’ve been working on it a number of years. It will be highly rewarding to see the completed work. I think it will not only be entertaining, but informative and give other readers hope and direction who might find themselves in similar relationships. And perhaps spark good memories for the sailing, biking, hiking exploits in the book.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
I’d say you are successful as a writer when your work improves and you can easily draw your reader into your story—when the emotions, the people and places are viewed from the reader’s eye because the story is vividly penned. And of course selling the story is a fine example of success too! Sometimes success is merely writing a good word. Then a sentence. Followed by a paragraph, and then pages. And voila—the book emerges.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
My books will be successful if the reader walks away believing they have gained something by reading them. In Sammy and Goliath, I want students to have tools to fight bullying and feel confident in public places. I want them to have learned the lessons outlined by my characters, and learn to be kind-hearted to everyone. In my memoir, I hope readers will feel the tension in my harrowing adventures, the very spray of the water, the heat on my back, and flies in my face—to feel my emotions, my frustrations, my doubts, and root me on to the end. I want them to gain a sense of triumph with me. I hope to portray some Spiritual truths that will dispel false representations of the Christian faith, and aid others in their quest for worth and truth.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I’d love to see my memoir made into a movie! It has the external elements of harsh environments on a timid, novice adventurer, (battling hurricane winds on a sailboat in the North Sea, flooded waters of the Mississippi, and a strenuous cycling trip loaded down with gear). It also reveals the internal struggles brought on by an oppressive marital relationship, my efforts to comprehend spiritual (perceived) mandates, my failures, my internal conflicts with who I should be and who I wanted to be, and the intertwined love/hate story. To summarize, it is a true life story that consists of exciting adventure, a love story, twisted complications and much tension. There are endings and beginnings, with personal growth and revelation. With a dynamic ending. But no, I have never written a screenplay. (Well I wrote several for Sunday school classes, but that doesn’t count.)
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
I got a vision of what I wanted on the cover of my Sammy book as well as this memoir pretty early. The illustrator captured the heart of what I explained for the children’s book. I hope the same for my memoir. I do believe the cover should capture the attention of the reader. I see too many book covers that look the same.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
My dream has always been to write a best seller that moves people, and becomes a classic. I also would love to be an awesome motivational speaker. I’d like to be a world changer on an individual level.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Yes, I’d like to speak in different venues to whoever could gain something from my story. I’d do interviews, radio shows, conferences, and blogs like this to gain more of an audience. I would attend authors’ events where I could read an excerpt of my story. I already visit schools to read Sammy and do book sales and signing, and find local book fairs. I’m open to travel to market my book(s). But beyond marketing my book(s), I teach Biblical truths, and lead studies on various topics.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Sammy and Goliath is published by Orange Hat publishers, an Independent publisher. I’d love to submit my memoir to a traditional publisher.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Teachable, thoughtful, spunky, artistic, helper
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Evil done to children, especially at the hands of parents. It is unthinkable, and a terrible tragedy beyond words.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles was absolutely fabulous. My husband read it and suggested I read it.
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
…and in the course of time—after the dark adverse days caused by injuries from others, and the clouded nights due to failures of her own, and during the sunshiny, golden hours of the dawn—she lived an abundant life, finding sweet honey within the bitterness. And stepping into eternity, she heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
To observe my children successful in their lives; not necessarily devoid of hardship, but able to persevere and gain strength, fortitude and show integrity of character in the midst of their trials. To know they are settled in their spirit with their Creator and finding peace and joy in life.
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Thank you Clancy for inviting me on your blog spot and introducing me to your readers. I hope you will invite me back when my memoir is published! But in the meantime, for those who would like to purchase Sammy and Goliath for a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, student, library or to support a starving author, you can find it at under the title or on my website at , (mention this article when you purchase from my website and I’ll give you free shipping and sign the book!) You can also find me on LinkedIn and Wisconsin Writers Association here:
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Sandy, and good luck with that memoir. Good for you for writing a book about bullying. I have done the same, but sadly, bullying in all its shapes and forms continues.