Saturday, February 10, 2007
In 2005 I had the pleasure of meeting Cindy Woodsmall at the ACFW conference right after she received her first contract. Since then I've loved to keep up on Cindy's progress. I think by the time the interview is over you'll see Cindy is intelligent, kind, and very insightful. Welcome, Cindy. Please tell us about yourself. Anything you're comfortable sharing.
Hey, Sabrina, I'm so glad to get to do this interview. Thank you for asking. A little about me, hmmm, well, there are over six billion people on planet Earth and I'm one of them :-)
With that in mind, I'm not very unique or interesting. Are you pulling the plug on the interview yet?
As a young, married gal, I was walking through my living room when I had to stop mid step because I'd heard . . .
Choose you this day . . .
I looked around. Had that been audible? Was someone in the house with me? Is this what happens to people after they attend one of those in-home Bible studies like I'd gone to last week?
I decided it wasn't audible, no one was in the house but me, it was only a thought, and it was time to stop attending that Bible study thing. I shook the eeriness off and headed for the laundry room, but the words came again, only more of them.
Choose you this day whom you will serve.
This time I wasn't able to shake it off as easily. My feet seemed glued to the ground, but man alive, was my mind processing thoughts at the speed of a super computer and I realized a decision was being placed before me.
But I knew the plans my husband and I had for the weekend-plans that would have to be changed if I actually yielded to something higher than my own desires-and that change would be just the beginning.
Still, I realized I had to give an answer-one way or the other.
A snapshot of how temporary and fleeting my own ways were and how valuable and eternal God's ways were became very clear. I ran down a mental list of things, clearly deciding if I were truly willing to take on the changes. Then I walked into the bedroom and knelt beside the bed.
Here I am some *%*#*^* years later and I don't regret one day of saying no to me and yes to morals, ethics, and higher living.
My husband and I have been married close to thirty years; we have three sons, one daughter-in-law, and a mutt-just to keep things lively.
I read that you're a homeschool mom. Two of your sons away at college and one still at home. How has that affected your writing?
Our oldest son has now graduated and he's working full time in the Nuclear Med department of a hospital. Our second son was married last summer and he and his wife are both students at University Georgia. And the youngest son is settled into a routine at a public middle school.
What kind of writing schedule are you on?
I'm at my computer from eight until four during the work week, with very few breaks. Then if there's nothing family oriented happening after the homework and dinner hour, I return to the computer.
How long did it take you to write When the Heart Cries?
I had studied the craft of writing for several years and had years of Amish research under my belt when the idea for When the Heart Cries came to me during a sit down interview with an acquisitions editor. From that point it took right at a year to complete.
Are you one of those people who have always known you wanted to be a writer and if not, when did you start noticing an interest in writing?
Most days, I'm still not sure I want to write. It annoys me and yet I can't imagine wanting to do anything else.
But my first memories of life are me, lying in bed at night reworking stories my mother had read to me. What would the story be like if Cinderella hadn't been beautiful? What if she was mean and her step sisters were nice?
As an adult, the stories wouldn't stop. I blame Mom. She's the one who got all this started. She made my preschool time of her reading to me something that still stands out to me. When it was my turn to take over reading, she put a lot of effort into teaching me to love books.
Oddly enough, after decades of putting effort into ignoring the stories and going on with my daily routine, my mother died and my resolve to stand against the thief of time took a horrid blow.
Within a year I was writing, mostly to make the stories shut up!! It didn't quite work that way. After three months of writing eight of the worst novels you can imagine, one story held my interest-the Sister's of the Quilt story. Although the story as it's written today has very little in common with the original writing, the characters, relationships, foundations, and settings are the same.
So, I now want to write . . . I think.
What is one of the hardest parts of being a writer for you?
Time management, research, plotting, publicity, etc...Yes, next question? LOL
The hardest part is finding enough time to get everything done, but I'm not sure we can classify that as time management. There are only so many hours in a day, regardless of how well we manage what we have. Writers work for years and years before royalties come in. So there's all this work to be done and no money to hire help. To me, every other struggle, including research, falls under the one fight of finding enough time.
Take us back to the day you sold your series? What were you doing and how did you react?
Ewwww, after years of hard work, it was a bit of fun.
For several months the full manuscript of When the Heart Cries had been on the desk of three publishing houses and one agent.
It was the night before the 2005 ACFW Conference. I was packing my bags and looking forward to the meetings I had a fifteen minute time slot with one of the publishing houses that had the full on their desk and the prospective agent.
A phone call came in. When the caller ID screen had Colorado Springs written on it and I knew one of the publishing houses that had the manuscript was based there, my hopes immediately blasted to the ceiling. I drew a breath and tried to sound friendly and casual. It was from Shannon Hill of WaterBrook Press and she offered me a three-book contract.
I was sooooooo excited that I felt like I was soaring. I was soooooo terrified that I felt like I was suffocating.
Share with us your most favorite "author" moment. For example, the day you saw your book on the shelves, a book signing, someone emailed you a special note-anything that was special to you.
I've been a little weird about paying attention to the book, as if looking at it might be overwhelming. When the boxed books arrived here, I didn't open them. When it hit the shelves a few weeks later, I didn't go into a store for over a month. When someone e-mailed me, I felt unworthy and like I was waiting for them to change their minds. But before all that happened, I flew out to meet everyone at WaterBrook Press. I was standing somewhere for a few minutes by myself and I picked up a sales magazine that was lying on a table. It was filled with author names I knew and then I saw something totally unexpected-my book's cover (the ARC version), my photo, and blurbs about the book and me were in that magazine. That's a moment I never expected, one I'll never, ever forget.
Explain to us where your love for the Amish and Mennonite people come from?
As the new girl at school, I became friends with a Plain Mennonite girl. She wore the prayer Kapp and caped dresses. It was my first encounter with someone so separate from the mainstream. She was so kind and gentle, yet she was unyielding in her beliefs. I have fond memories of those days. She had a relative that lived near me, so when she went over there for family gatherings, I'd meet her there-sometimes without my family knowing or having been invited:- ) The women were amazing! Kindhearted, laughed easily. I loved them.
But neither set of parents really approved of our relationship. It made perfect sense to me that her parents weren't thrilled with some television watching, baton twirling, pants-wearing girl, yet they never made me feel the least bit unwelcome. My parents were harsher about it and when I talked to them about it they said they wanted me to desire the life I had been born into and not long for something that wasn't obtainable. But I also think they felt we didn't measure up and it was easier to try to wall me off from them rather than feel so "worldly."
When my friend came over, her rules came with her and we were careful to obey them-afraid that if we didn't, the adults would end the friendship. Although the regulations were much easier to keep when we spent the night at her house because her family didn't own any of the forbidden items, even a conversation about a television show or commercial could be enough cause for the parents to end the relationship. When my family moved some 700 miles away, the friendship eventually dissolved.
Years later, after working on my Amish books for a very long time, I prayed for an Amish contact. I had no idea how that would come about since I lived in Georgia, but within a month I had a contact who knew an Amish woman. From there I met the Amish woman, spent time in her home, and she reads my manuscripts for me. I cherish our friendship and truly wish we didn't live so far apart.
I ask every published author this question. What do you think is the most common misconception among unpublished writers?
That being published will validate their years of hard work.
I knew a man once who never enjoyed his children for where they were or who they were. When they were learning to talk, he held no joy, waiting on them to talk really well. When they could talk well, he held no value in them, waiting on them to read. When they could read, he held no value in them, waiting on them to prove themselves valuable to family members and friends. When they proved themselves to that group, he held no value in them, waiting on them to prove who they were in the workforce.
This isn't a made up story. The man is old now, fighting cancer, and still waiting.
But God's love validates us right where we are. If we can accept that, then wherever we are we are able to enjoy life as it comes at us and pass love on to others. And love is the only thing that validates us.
And on that same note, what has been the most surprising thing you've learned during your journey to publication?
That it's doable-from getting published to receiving in-house edits, to marketing, to all the stuff that sounds terrifying, it's doable.
What advice would you give to all of us unpublished writers?
Read Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein. (After a few months of that, definitely study Brandilyn Collins' Getting Into Character and James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure.)
Find a critique partner. A good critique partner needs to be a reader who is open minded. They need to be encouraging, yet painfully honest. And they need to like your subject matter and genre. And write some each day-even if it's just for twenty minutes.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming books and what's next after the series?
My debut novel, When the Heart Cries, hit the shelves in September of '06. It made the CBA best-seller list and is a Books-a-Million FaithPoint Book Club choice for January.
The sequel, When the Morning Comes will be out September of '07.
My web site is www.cindywoodsmall.com and I'd love for anyone reading this to drop by.
I'm really excited about a year-long contest I have going on. It gives people multiple chances to win an Amish-made quilt. The money being made by the Amish women who are sewing the quilt will go to the yearly benefit for their community's school. So, feel free to swing by and enter it.
I also have a monthly drawing where the winner receives an autographed copy of both When the Heart Cries and, when available, When the Morning Comes.
Thank you, Cindy. I appreciate you stopping by and feel free to leave us with a thought.
I shared this on a friend's blog and it really spoke to her, so I'm going to share it again: We all have lives and responsibilities that do NOT have to fit anyone else's idea of what should be happening with our writing. It took me a decade to conceive my youngest son; he's no less important because he didn't arrive on mine and my husband's timetable. Think about it, if he was born ten years earlier, he might not be able to be in the right place at the right time to accomplish a set purpose. That may well be the case for some aspiring authors' work.
Now for the fun part. Go to Cindy's website and find out the name of her plain mennonite friend who inspired her love of the Mennonite & Amish people. Email me the name and I'll pull a name for the free book. Good luck and happy sleuthing.