UPDATE: This giveaway is now over. Random.org was used to select the winners. Congratulations to Nora Boy, Rachel Waldridge, and Pat Shrader.
Today, I’d like to share a portion of an interview and a book giveaway! The winner will have the chance to choose one of any of my books, including my most recent release: the New York Times best-selling The Winnowing Season.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I struggled with the idea of writing professionally, even after I attended my first writers’ conference. Still, the hunger to understand story development and create stories was strong in my heart. Actually, that desire began for me at a very young age.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother reading to me before bedtime. After she left the room, I reworked every story she’d read to me. If Cinderella had been the ugly one, how would that change the outcome? If the stepsisters had been the nice ones, how would that have affected the story? I hated when I became too sleepy to continue working on those ideas and imagining the new story lines. That was the beginning of my love of thinking about plotlines and characterization.
But in high school, I had an experience that turned me off to writing. My English teacher gave the class a creative writing assignment, and my mother helped me brainstorm it. Working on it with her was a lot of fun. I wanted a good grade on the assignment, and I received it. But the teacher never returned my story. Months later all the students were called to the gymnasium for assembly, and awards were given out for various things. When my name was called, my heart about stopped. Up on stage, I was given a three-foot-tall trophy. I then learned that my English teacher had sent the writing assignments in to a countywide writing contest, without my knowledge, and I’d won. I was mortified! I hated the spotlight and didn’t feel I’d done anything that special. After the assembly, I stuffed the trophy into my locker, turned to a friend, and said, “I’ll never write again!” And I meant it. When it was time to go home that day, I hid the trophy under a sweater and put writing behind me.
After many years of refusing to write, I slowly worked through most of my reservations. Once that was accomplished, I attended a writing conference and went through the process of finding a publisher. It wasn’t easy, but I had peace the whole way, possibly because I would’ve been fine if I never became published. When I received my first contract, I prayed that enough books would sell that my publisher wouldn’t be disappointed. That was my only goal.
There are a lot of roads in life, and we often take the wrong one, thinking it’s the right one. I’m grateful that God kept directing me toward the “write” road.
Q: Every author seems to have taken a slightly different path to becoming published. What is your story?
I began writing the Amish story of my heart in 1999. I went to my first writers’ conference in 2002 (American Christian Fiction Writers conference). I came away so excited at the idea of getting the story inside my heart onto the written page in a way that captured readers’ minds and hearts. My world became immersed in everything to do with writing. Whenever I wondered how best to convey on paper what was happening in a scene, I’d study book after book, talk to a writing mentor, and even dream about writing methods and solutions. Two years later I felt I was ready to turn in the first chapter to a few editors.
I received wonderful feedback on my writing. I even had an offer for a book contract if I’d write anything except Amish fiction. At the time only Beverly Lewis was writing Amish stories in trade fiction, and editors weren’t sure the market would hold strong for a second Amish author. Besides, they didn’t like the idea of a new writer following in the footsteps of such an established author.
I spent a few restless weeks deciding whether to follow the editor’s advice or stick to my Amish stories. It was a rough choice. It didn’t make sense for an unpublished writer to turn down the opportunity for a contract with a big publishing house. But after weeks of sleeplessness, I knew I had to continue with the story I’d written.
With that decision made, I made another—to pitch my story to every editor at every conference possible. Unfortunately, with one exception, the editors I spoke with were not interested in testing the market to see if it could support a second author writing Amish fiction.
In the spring of 2005, I submitted the first chapter of When the Heart Cries to an editor with WaterBrook Press (a division of Random House). By that time Wanda Brunstetter had moved into writing Amish stories for trade fiction. If there wasn’t room for me with only one Amish author, what would it do to my chances if there were two? But the editor for WaterBrook believed my story was strong enough to draw in readers regardless of whether or not my setting and characters were based in Amish, so she asked me to turn in a full manuscript. I did, it passed the committee, and I had my first contract! That book was released in the fall of 2006.
Q: How did you feel when you opened your box of the first published copies of your very first book?
I would love to be able to tell you that I soared with elation. Many of my author friends danced around their homes and embraced the moment fully. But I didn’t even open the box. Hours later, when my husband came home, he opened it. He was excited and coaxed me into leaving my office to take a look at the book. I ran my hands over the cool, smooth cover, and then returned to my office to work on book two. The deadline for the sequel was pressing in, and my energy and attention were funneled into that project. Looking back, I think I was scared that When the Heart Cries wouldn’t be enough of a success for the publisher to be pleased they’d put me under contract, so I brushed my feelings about it under the rug—as if the only thing that really mattered was the next project.
Q: What do you want readers to take away from your books?
I want my readers to feel three main things as they read my books: Beautiful. Treasured by God. And energized strength. The kind of energized strength that comes through stirring faith, hope, and love in themselves and others. Those three things can reach beyond all reasonable boundaries and roadblocks, bringing into existence all we need. But each of us must be renewed regularly or we will grow weary, get out of sorts with God, and lose sight of the finish line.
Join me next week when I’ll share every Amish author who’s now writing Amish fiction and a fun giveaway!
This giveaway will have THREE winners! Each winner will be able to choose any one of my books.
If you would like to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of your choice of one of my books, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post on my website. Do you remember the first book of mine you picked up? Or how you heard of my books? Or what year you read the first one?
If you are reading this anywhere other than my website, such as on Facebook, in an email, or on Goodreads, please hop on over to my website and leave a comment at the bottom of my post to enter the giveaway (https://www.cindywoodsmall.com/2013/04/23/interview-giveaway/).
Only comments left on my website will be entered into the giveaway.
The deadline for this contest is Monday, April 29, 2013, at noon. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and will be contacted privately, as well as announced on next week’s post.