Police officer grills author on how to ‘break in’

March 25th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized


Early tomorrow morning, I’m flying off to one of my favorite conferences, snuggled in the redwoods of northern California: Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. (Thanks for your prayers. Just weeks ago, it took me 18 hours of flying to get to a conference in Florida and 17 hours of driving a rental car to get back home.)

Saturday I’ll speak on Writing Online: How to Hook Today’s Internet Users. While there, I’ll be meeting with potential book authors for ACW Press and Wesleyan Publishing House as well as reconnecting with friends in the publishing biz.

While at Mount Hermon in 2009, I met Joanne Kraft who at the time worked as a police dispatcher and asked to interview me. I wasn’t quick enough to exercise my Miranda Rights, so here’s what I confessed about becoming a writer:

How did your writing journey begin?

I knew I wanted to be a writer when, as a second-grader, I rewrote the ending of Pinocchio. I could “suspend disbelief” so that a wooden marionette could come to life—no strings attached. But to believe that the “live” puppet could become a real boy. That was too much for me. So, I rewrote the ending and had the wooden Pinocchio die a painful, prolonged death of Dutch elm disease.

Fortunately, I had teachers who encouraged my so-called writing talent. By the time I had written plays for the elementary school to perform, journaled my deep, dark, depressed life as a junior-higher, and become the editor of the high school paper, I was hooked on writing!

I dabbled in writing for several years with a real job, then became an editor in our denomination’s publishing house, and eventually became more and more of a full-time writer.

With numerous books, hundreds of humorous blog posts and thousands of articles published, which is your favorite to write?

Yikes, that’s like asking who’s your favorite child or grandchild! They’re all very different, but all very wonderful in their own ways.

Blogs obviously, are short, timely, and a guaranteed publication. As a former journalism major, I like to comment on current events. It’s almost “real time” on the Web. And I love the feedback.

Articles have a larger audience and are a bit more permanent. It’s amazing the number of people who write and say they were helped by an article, and I think Wow! In what waiting room with twenty-year-old magazines did they find that relic?!

As far as books, I love this Huckleberry Finn quotation: “There ain’t nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it, and I ain’t agoing to no more.” Yes, books provide more prestige (and radio and TV interviews), but they are a huge challenge. I have sixteen under my belt, but I tell authors, if you want respect, write books; if you want readers, write for periodicals. Actually, I love writing for all three venues.

When you’re working on a project, do you listen to music or have a specific routine? (Do you write in the morning, evening, can you stay on task?)

I’m totally Attention Deficit Disorder, so . . . what was I saying? Oh, yes. I can’t write with music, don’t have a specific routine and can’t stay on task, although I tend to write in the morning, rewrite in the afternoon. I try to have several projects going at one time, so when I get bored with one, I can move on to the next project. So, with a good “to do” list, I do get a lot done.

Name three character traits of a good writer.

How ’bout seven, which just coincidentally are in one of my chapters in Writers
on Writing
(Wesleyan Publishing House), an anthology I edited with writing advice from Jerry B. Jenkins, Liz Curtis Higgs, James Scott Bell and others.

1. Self-discipline

2. Self-motivation

3. Self-organization

4. Self-worth (You can’t define yourself as a writer or rejections will destroy you. I’m simply a beloved child of God who just happens to write. All the rejection slips in Colorado Springs can’t harm that sense of worth!)

5. Self-promotion (You can’t write MESSAGE without ME, so if God has given me a message, it’s up to me to get it out there!)

6. Self-improvement

7. Other orientation (Writing is too hard to not have a support group of family and friends.)

What was your favorite book to write? Why?

That’s another one of those “Who’s your favorite child and grandchild?” questions. My most transparent and honest book is Squeezing Good Out of Bad (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). And it was my most fun since it’s written as a top ten list with lots of humor. Usually, though, my favorite book is the next one.

Share with our readers one example of how God orchestrated your steps to coincide with His plan.

My very first writing/editing job, as an editor of a teen magazine at Wesleyan Publishing House, came about when my pastor “just happened” to meet the executive editor at a ministerial meeting and they just happened to talk about what was happening at the church and just happened to talk about my editing an evangelistic newspaper for teens in the local community and the editor just happened to ask if I’d be interested in coming on board.

That was the first of many just-happened events that led to published books, appearing on “The 700 Club,” and teaching writing with Cec Murphey for three weeks in India. (Of course, as believers, we know just-happened situations are divine providence!)

Every good writer needs support from his spouse/family to succeed. What has your wife/family done or not done to help support you in your career?

My wife has been so supportive with my so-called writing/speaking career. She’s never once asked, “When are you going to find a real job?!” even when I was thinking I need to find a real job!

If you were to start your writing career all over again, what would you do differently?

I’m such a firm believer in the premise that God works all out for our good (Romans 8:28), that I probably wouldn’t change a thing, although I do regret not finishing my graduate work in communications. I think a “Christian writer” must first be a Christian who is trusting God each step of the way, listening to His instructions, and acknowledging Him in every aspect of his/her writing and speaking (Proverbs 3:5-6).

What’s the one marketing tool that’s helped you?

The Christian Writers’ Market Guide is, of course, the most important book—other the the Bible—in your writing library, but going to writers’ conferences and networking with editors and other writers is essential as well.

Are you a spontaneous Kindle/Nook man or a traditional hardback book kind of guy?

I’m a go-to-the-library-and-get-books-free kind of guy.

What’s the last book you’ve read?

Currently reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young—for the third time.

Jack Bauer or The Lone Ranger?

Definitely the masked man! The Lone Ranger taught, “Shoot to disarm, never to harm.” So, I love the quote by Mary Hirsch: “Humor is a rubber sword that allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”

Joanne Kraft writes to encourage women to fulfill their God-given roles as wife and mom and to walk boldly into their promised land. Her writing is transparent and humorous. Joanne has been published by In Touch, Today’s Christian Woman, ParentLife, Kyria and P31 Woman magazines. She’s the author of Just Too Busy: Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical and The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids just released this month!

© Copyright 2011 Joanne Kraft, James Watkins

For a ream of resources, please click Hope & Humor for writers


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