Sunday, May 23, 2010

Interview with Author Tracy Crump

Please welcome my good friend Author Tracy Crump. Through our online relationship, I entered a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul, and was subsequently published. Not only is Tracy a fine writer, but she is an encourager with teaching abilities and over one hundred published pieces.

Thank you, Bill. I love being called your good friend. And I especially enjoy encouraging writers like you who take off and soar. Your third Chicken Soup story will be coming out soon, won't it?

My third story comes out in December. I have two others pending. So Tracy, how did your first Chicken Soup story come to be published?

God has blessed me with encouragers along the way, too. As a beginning writer, I had only published a couple of articles when I joined a local writers' group. The leader, Marylane Wade Koch, knew I had worked as a nurse many years ago and emailed me one day to tell me Chicken Soup for the Soul was planning a second book for nurses. “Why don't you try submitting something?” she asked. Who, me? I never dreamed I could be published in such a popular series and besides it was too long since I'd worked as a nurse. So I let the deadline pass.

Marylane emailed again. “They've extended the deadline for the nurse's soul book. Why don't you try submitting something?”

“Because I can't think of anything to write about,” I whined. Then I thought of one story idea. Then I thought of another. And another. I ended up submitting five stories. Chicken Soup held three for consideration and published two. Since then, I've published four more Chicken Soup stories as well as stories in Cup of Comfort and the Ultimate series. Now Marylane and I conduct workshops on writing for Chicken Soup and other anthologies. I tell participants, “If I can do it, you can, too!”

How did that success lead you to publish pieces in other major publications?

Once I saw my work in print, I was hooked. Most writers can probably relate to that. But I also decided that if my work was good enough for Chicken Soup, it should be good enough for other major publications. While writing is not all about the money, we still shouldn't sell ourselves short.

Thomas Smith wrote a great article along these lines in this month's Christian Communicator. He was advised early on to let his writing speak for itself. No matter how much or how little the pay, I always strive to submit my best work, and then, as Thomas suggests, I start with the top markets and work my way down. I've sold pieces to small publications for as little as $8 (and given away some for free), but I've also published articles in Focus on the Family, Today's Christian, ParentLife, Pray!, and others. And if I can do it, your readers can, too!

Bill, I'd also like to add a plug about writing for magazines. Most writers think they have to publish a book to experience success. But if you have a message you want to get out, which is the motivation for many Christian writers, magazines will connect you with a larger audience. Sally Stuart, author of Christian Writers' Market Guide, says a book in the Christian market sells an average of 4500 copies. A single article in Focus on the Family reaches 800,000 people. And it's a lot easier to write a 1000-word article than a 60,000-word book.

I’ve found some success writing for Chicken Soup. I think it’s because personal experiences hold deep emotions. What advice do you have for people interested in writing for Chicken Soup?

First, the best advice I can give is also the simplest, whether you're writing for Chicken Soup or any other publication: Follow the guidelines. You'd be surprised how many people don't. If you give a publication exactly what they ask for, you're already ahead of the pack.

In trying to write for Chicken Soup for the Soul, people seem to have the most problem differentiating between giving their testimonial (which the guidelines say they do not want) and telling their personal experience story. Chicken Soup stories are often emotional, and it becomes difficult not to testify to what God has done. When we do, however, it becomes a bit like preaching (which Chicken Soup also doesn't want).

So think about it this way: Jesus preached, but He also told stories which we call parables. In those stories, He didn't say, “God did this, and God did that.” Instead, He said things like “There was a wayward son who took his inheritance and spent it on riotous living, but his father welcomed him back,” or “A man fell among thieves who beat him and robbed him and left him on the side of the road to die. Then along came a Samaritan . . . ”

So my advice is to let God's actions drive the story. Let God speak through the circumstances.

Social networking has been the hottest topic at conferences this past year. You’re a member of FCW and The Kentucky Christian Writers group. You have a writer’s newsletter and are a member of The Writer’s View 2. Did your publishing success come as a result of your social networking or the other way around?

It has worked both ways. I joined FCW (Fellowship of Christian Writers) soon after I started writing and learned so much by being able to ask questions of experienced writers and editors such as Terry Burns and Terry Whalin. Highly successful Cec Murphey of TWV2 is one of the most encouraging writers I've ever met. They and many others played a part in helping me advance at different times in my writing. I hope I've encouraged other writers along the way, too.

I agree. We are blessed to have Christian writers like Cec who give so freely of their talent.

I also joined my first critique group through FCW. Getting sound critique is a must for those who want to improve their writing quickly. Heather Trent Beers says it's like taking the elevator rather than the stairs to get to the top floor. Like networking, critique means you don't have to go it alone. Now I'm privileged to moderate an online critique group composed of talented writers.

The writers' newsletter I co-edit is a great way of connecting with other writers and giving back a little of what I've received.

I’ve been a contributor to your newsletter and find many informative articles in it each month. Tell the reader more about The Write Life.

Marylane and I launched The Write Life (TWL) at our first Chicken Soup workshop. We began with nine subscribers. It now goes out to more than 250 writers, and some forward it to their writing groups.

The newsletter consists of a short writing or marketing tip (fewer than 400 words) and “Kat's Kernels: Strange and Interesting Bible Facts” by Kat Crawford. We know everyone's in-box fills up fast so we're committed to keeping the newsletter concise and pertinent. As a bonus, we email story callouts for Chicken Soup and other anthologies to our subscribers. We post back issues at

Because of our subscriber base, Marylane and I have been able to attract contributing writers knowledgeable in writing topics outside our experience. For example, editor Jim Watkins contributed an article on writing humor, Julie Ferwerda wrote on a little-known marketing technique called book bombing, and Max Elliot Anderson taught us how to write for tween boys.

Of course, you were our first contributor, Bill. Your article on meeting deadlines drew from your many years' experience in the corporate world. Next month, novelist Virginia Smith, keynote speaker for the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in June, will contribute an article. In the near future, I plan to ask Sally Stuart to lend her talents. Hey, all she can do is say no!

You’ve conducted workshops on several of my favorite topics such as: Critique Give and Take, Tackling Tough Topics, and the ever popular, Write Winning Queries. If writers’ groups are interested in inquiring about your workshops, how do they go about it?

They can
go to and click on Writing/Speaking. I'll present workshops next month at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference ( June 11-12.

Writers can also find information at about Write Life Workshops, such as the Chicken Soup workshop, that Marylane and I co-present. For now, we have to stick pretty close to the Memphis area (Marylane has one more year of home schooling with her daughter, Meredith), but with Meredith as our tech guru, we may one day present webinars.

I was honored to be the first contributor to The Write Life.

From my research it appears you’ve stayed in the non-fiction venue. Any thoughts about trying fiction?

I've learned never to say never. Though I don't feel I have enough imagination to write fiction, I never thought I was qualified to write devotionals either. Thirty published devotionals later, I can say I love diving into the Word and using a short personal experience to connect the reader with God's truth. If writing fiction is something God wants me to do, He will equip me to do it. That's not to say I won't have to work hard to learn fiction techniques.

In closing, what advice do you have for writers who are still at the beginning of their writing life?

Be bold enough to submit your work to large publications or major publishing houses, be persistent enough to keep submitting even after countless rejections, and be humble enough to listen to advice on how to improve your writing. Never stop learning. Never stop praying.

And remember: If I can do it, you can, too!

It’s been fun interviewing you. I wish you continued success. For those visiting this blog, you can learn more about Tracy and subscribe to The Write Life free at

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Interview with Author Karlene Petitt

Please welcome Karlene Petitt, an author, airline pilot, mother, and grandmother. Karlene is known to work in her garden in her bikini. How cool is that! I met Karlene at a Bill Bernhardt seminar and found her to be a bright, fun-loving, and interesting person. I hope you will, too.

Bill… Thank you for the interview and also for sharing with your readers that I garden in my bikini. I laughed. When you have a large and busy family, and you’re a pilot writing a novel, you learn to multi-task. Sometimes that means to enjoy the sunshine ‘guilt free’ it is in the garden working. The neighbors seem to enjoy it.

This question crossed my mind the moment I met you. With two master’s degrees and many opportunities, what took you into the world of an airline pilot?

Actually, the pilot career came first. And mine was an unusual start based on a challenge. When I was 9 years-old my girlfriends and I were playing the game called careers. The career choices were to become a stewardess, nurse, school teacher or librarian. All my girlfriends landed on the ‘stewardess’ spot, but not me. I said, “I don’t care, I’m going to be the pilot anyway.” One of my girl friends enlightened me that I could not be a pilot because ‘girls’ couldn’t fly planes, her dad was a pilot. That was the challenge I needed, and from that moment forward, I had made my career choice. The masters followed with the thirst for education, and writing… it has been part of my soul for a very long time. But like many I said, “one day I am going to write a novel.”

You’ve had an outstanding career flying mostly Boeing aircraft, including 747 and 757. Now you’re finishing training on Airbus A330 for Delta. You’re in the middle of a very impressive career. There has to be conflicts between flying, writing, and family life. How have you handled the stress?

The stress of life and to how to handle it…I’m thinking of a title for a best seller. I’m not sure in the early years I handled it all that well. I just operated at full speed, and sacrificed my health in the process, mostly due to the lack of sleep. Even if we don’t feel stress, long term stress will impact the physical body.

Today I am older, and hopefully wiser, and I take proactive measures to do it all, and work to eliminate the stress. Not only do I exercise daily, but I make a point to sleep, and get massages regularly. One thing about being busy… if you love what you’re doing, the only stress you feel is from the things left undone…that you don’t want to do. Schedule 2 hours a day to work on the things that need to be done, and then spend the rest of the day feeling guilt free at your computer writing! Or… if you have the means, hire someone to do them for you. I now have a housekeeper clean my house the day before I get home…A well earned gift for working hard. This frees up my time to write, or study.

When conflicts arise, I just prioritize. Sometimes that is harder to do than other times. But everything always works out.

I agree. We need to prioritize each day, making time for exercise, rest, and the other key elements of our lives.
Tell us about Flight for Control. I’ve only read the sections you submitted at our seminar, and I found the writing piqued my interest. What gave you the idea for the novel, and do you typecast your characters after real people?

The idea for Flight for Control was inspired by recent airline crashes that have occurred over the previous two years, the current economic stress, and the resulting cutbacks at all the airlines. As you know there is a great deal of stress occurring in the world today, and pilots are not exempt. I wondered: What would it take to push a pilot to their limits? What is that limit? What if someone in the TSA had their own agenda? What if terrorists took control of our planes via the flight crews?

As far as typecasting my characters… you could say that many of my characters have personalities that I have met, or worked with, in real life. Not that I created a character out of a particular person, but have adopted traits, a voice, and some portion of their personality. And more importantly… which character am I? Writers, create multiple characters in your story and keep the readers guessing.

What have been some of your toughest writing stumbling blocks, the areas you’ve had the most difficulty grasping, and how did you conquer them?

My greatest obstacle has been to find the time and money to attend a writers retreat, or conference. But once I finally made that commitment and attended the Hawaii writers’ retreat and the ensuing conference, I realized that without the retreat and conference, I doubt my novel would go farther than my living room. To all aspiring writers… there is so much to learn. The retreats assist you in honing your skills, and the retreats teach you how to move your novel from your computer to the bookshelf. My first retreat was with William Bernhardt, an incredible teacher, and I was provided an incredible foundation.

I started out as a blank slate. I thought earning masters degrees and writing training programs gave me the ability to write a novel…. Wrong. Honestly, there is nothing I haven’t grasped. There is a lot I didn’t know and still need to learn, but I think the willingness to listen and be open to advice makes all the difference between success and failure.

The question on the minds of every unpublished author is: How do you find an agent? Can you share your game plan with us?

My game plan is this… write my novel, rewrite, edit, and reedit until there is absolutely nothing I can do to improve it, and then I will attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in Seattle, July 22- 25th and pitch it ‘live’ to agents. I was told in Hawaii by an agent from New York, “It’s all about how you write it.” I will also follow Heather’s advice on the ‘how to.’ Heather has been sharing her journey of ‘writing to publication’ on her personal blog Heather now has an agent and will be pitching to editors in New York next month. She has a ton of information to share with all.

Life is about continual improvement and growth. To bring life to our novels we must adapt that philosophy, and never give up. Do what ever it takes. You can believe that I will never give up on this journey. I have far too many novels and stories that need to get out, and they will.

Social networking is a must for new authors. You’ve managed to establish a blog, twitter account, Facebook, and other networking connections. How difficult were these networking tools to create, and how hard are they to maintain?

They were not difficult at all to set up. The most difficult part is jumping in that pool, but once you’ve committed, then you find out how much fun it is, and yes… how time consuming too. Time is the greatest issue. But I have met so many wonderful people on twitter and Facebook. I wish I had more time to talk to them. I met another pilot/author, who was Flight to Success’ featured Fabulous Flyer on May 14th, Nate Carriker. Many of my Friday Flyers are via twitter.

During my conference last summer, I also met three wonderful ladies and we began a blog together: Jule, Linda, Heather and I have come together to share our journeys and experiences. Sometimes we have a theme, other times we discuss whatever comes to mind, but we always have something for other writers, like ourselves, to connect with. A combined blog really helps on the time commitment, one day a week is very doable.

Since I have been in a five week, very intensive training program learning the A330, I had to put my novel on a shelf to simmer. That was very challenging because I have lived with it for four months. However, I did not want to lose touch with my ‘right’ brain so I created a blog that would connect writing with my training. The response has been overwhelming. And fun. Yes… a ton of work. And this blog is how I studied. And if you’re so inclined to earn an A330 type rating… you too can read and pass the training.

Is there another novel coming after Flight for Control? And, is there anything you’d like to share with our readers about your writing adventure so far?

Yes, there are many more novels to come! I have two more aviation thrillers in the works, followed by a series, similar to Stephanie Plum’s, but with a female airline pilot and her humorous adventures. Shifting gears a bit, I also have a Young Adult novel, Twist of Faith, ready for a major rewrite.

I have found a new home within the writing community. The opportunity to meet fellow writers, work with authors such as William Bernhardt, and watch my novel grow, is an opportunity of a lifetime. Bill, your support to your fellow writers like myself, is so much appreciated.

A message to your writers, don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot make it. Dedication, hard work, and commitment… you will get there, just don’t ever give up. One day at a time and in no time you will have your novel complete.

Thanks for sharing with us, Karlene. I highly recommend looking at the The concept works at so many levels. I also thank you for your willingness to be open and share from the heart. I’m sure will see each other at conferences over the years, share a cocktail, and autograph each others’ books. Success to you and friendly skies.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Interview With Author Delia Latham

Welcome Author Delia Latham: a mom, grandma, California transplant, and the first woman to persuade me to read a homespun Christian romance. Her new novel, Yesterday’s Promise, has been released in electronic format through White Rose Publishing.

Hello everyone. Thank you, Bill, for allowing me to share your blog space. I’m especially touched that you were willing to endure a romance novel for a fellow author—that’s true generosity of spirit! I hope, at the very least, that it’s a storyline you’ll remember for a good, long while.

Your writing career includes too many achievements to mention in one interview. How long have you been writing professionally, and what have been your most memorable successes?

Kind words, those! I’m just a struggling author, but I am grateful for the opportunities God has laid in my path.

I’ve been writing in some capacity for too many years to mention without giving away my age. I’ve been writing something almost as far back as I can remember, but didn’t really begin doing it for serious publication until 1986, when I took a position as a Staff Writer for a large daily newspaper. That led to my freelancing for an upper-echelon regional magazine. But I didn’t write my first novel until 2005. It was published in 2006, and Goldeneyes followed in 2008.

Goldeneyes will always be the book of my heart, I suppose. I set it in Weedpatch—the little California farming community where I grew up, and I borrowed names for many of the characters from people and families who were a big part of my life there. Getting that book into print was a major achievement for me, and I consider it one of my greatest successes.

Tell us about your association with White Rose Publishing. They’ve split the White Rose line away from TWRP. Has the new organization been easy to work with?

They’re wonderful! It’s great to work with a group of editors who “speak the language” of Christian fiction so well. I’ve been completely happy with my experience with White Rose.

Marketing e books has become the primary method for putting books into the hands of new readers. Many people now use a Kindle or Barnes & Nobles’ Nook for their reading selections. Does White Rose Publishing make your books available through Kindle and Nook? Also do they make hardcopies available?

My book is available through Kindle, but not through Nook just yet. All White Rose Publishing books are also available directly from their website ( Only books over 60,000 words are made available in print version. Yesterday’s Promise is just under 54,000, so is available in e-format only.

I found the interaction between Brock and his son to be beautifully crafted, particularly because Brock doesn’t know Davey is his son. I was also impressed that the emotional tension between Hannah and Brock remained consistent throughout. What inspired you to write this story?

Thank you, Bill—I’m glad you found something to appeal to your masculinity in my little homespun Christian romance! lol

I wish I could say where the inspiration came from, but the closest I can come is this: “Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above.”

This story came about in such a bizarre manner that I can only think God must have known someone needed to read it. I was working on Goldeneyes, and had come up against a massive wall of writer’s block. To be honest, I was at the point of despair. One day, I was surfing the web a bit, looking for inspiration that was nowhere to be found, when I came across an advertisement for National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). For those who might not know, it’s an annual writing marathon that lasts from November 1-30 every year. Writers are encouraged to churn out at least 50,000 words—either a small novel, or that many words toward a longer one. I saw the ad three, maybe four days prior to November 1, 2005 and made up my mind to do it. Having made that decision, I laid aside all my notes and worry and plans for Goldeneyes, and started getting my husband and my house ready for a month of “no mama.” J Three days later, I sat down in front of my monitor, pulled up a blank screen and started writing. I pulled an opening out of thin air and just plowed ahead. Literally. I had no idea where the story was going, how it would end, no outline, no definite ideas as to storyline. Out of that split-second decision, Yesterday’s Promise was born. Of course, it started out under the title Almost Like a Song, but that’s a whole other story.

At the DFW Writers’ Conference last week, the question came up about the future of books in print and the need for agents or publicists in an electronic world. Your book, Almost Like a Song, is coming back in electronic format - new cover, new title. Do you have an agent, or is your commitment exclusively to the publishing house with you doing your own publicity through social networking?

I don’t have an agent—but I’d love to! You don’t happen to have one waiting in the wings, do you? I guess the answer is yes, my commitment is exclusively to White Rose Publishing. They help with publicity, but I am heavily involved in marketing my book.

I understand your motto is: “Never, never, never, never, give up!” After looking over your online presence, I’m surprised your motto isn’t: “Never, never, never, never, slow down.” How do you manage your family time, personal pursuits, and career? And a follow up question, do you have the understanding and patience of your family behind you?

Ah, the profoundly simple quote from Winston Churchill, via Og Mandino. Og actually added a few “nevers” to his, which had seven of them. One for each day of the week. I love it, don’t you?

To be honest, there’s little time available for slowing down…not for an author doing the lion’s share of marketing on a book she doesn’t want to see go the way of the forgotten. I’m immensely blessed to have a husband who supports my passion for writing. My four children are all adults, and they understand—even if they don’t always appreciate—the fact that I spend countless hours staring at a computer screen. When they really need me, of course I’m available to them. Writing can be laid aside for a time…life cannot. But I appreciate my family’s respect for my writing career, especially now that I’ve taken on a full-time job outside my home. This means that I have to guard my Saturdays and most weekday evenings for writing. We make the most of those wonderful occasions when the family is all together; we stay in touch via Facebook, telephone, and e-mail in between. And we keep on loving each other.

What can we look forward to from Delia Latham in the near future?

A children’s book, Adam’s Wings, will be released December 2010. I’m looking forward to that. It’s about a somewhat careless little angel who can’t keep up with his wings.

I’m also working on the second of a three-book series based around a Christian dating agency. Hopefully, by the time it’s finished, the first book will be placed with a publisher, and I’ll have a solid storyline laid out for the third. My working title for that series is “Solomon’s Gate.” Watch for it!

Finally, many readers have not yet achieved recognition for their efforts? When you were in their position, what did you do that led to your success?

Oh, I’m still striving for success! Two published books does not spell literary stardom. What small measure of name recognition I have accomplished came about by a lot of hard work and commitment; countless hours of networking; helping other authors whenever possible, because I’ve been blessed by a number of caring, experienced people who took time to give a hand up to a beginner; prayer—because it’s where I find my strength; and simple trust that God has a plan for my life and my career, and that He has it all under control.

Thanks Delia. for sharing your time with us. I, too, believe in giving back to people who need something I know I can give, or need a hand as I once did. That’s what God asks us to do. I know your book, Yesterday’s Promise, will sell well.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Upcoming Interviews

This month is interview month. May 11th will feature Delia Latham's blog tour. Her book, Yesterday's Promise, has just come out in e-book form. May 17th will feature Karlene Petitt, pilot turned author. She flies the Airbus A330 for Delta and writes novels as well. Someone who loves dark chocolate and deep red wine as got to be interesting. May 24th, my friend and author Tracy Crump will be interviewed. Tracy has around 100 credits, including Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, devotionals, and major magazine articles.

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