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 http://www.TracyCrump.com/.
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 http://www.TracyCrump.com/ and click on Writing/Speaking. I'll present workshops next month at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference (http://www.kychristianwriters.com/) June 11-12.
Writers can also find information at http://www.TracyCrump.com/ 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.
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 http://www.tracycrump.com/.