In the big scheme of things, getting one book accepted by a publisher does not mean that I’ve arrived as an author. I’m fully aware of that. But it is a milestone worth celebrating and as part of that, I’d love to acknowledge some of the people who have helped me along the way. One of those key people, is a lovely writer that I met online. She beta-read the first chapter of Finding Mia way back when I was still floundering through the early stages and hauled out two big no-no’s that I wasn’t even aware of in my writing – adverbs and passive voice. (How did I not see them before?) I am super grateful to her for the time she took and am delighted that she agreed to be with us on Doodles today. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen… Meet my friend, Jennifer Owenby!
When you write fiction, is there a strong message in your gut that you want your reader to come away with? Or does this vary with each story?
Each story is different, but I tend to bring attention to difficult real life issues, the one’s that stay behind closed doors and no one talks about. “Tears in the Sun” is about mental illness, I have one traditionally published story concerning a woman running and hiding from an abusive husband and my story in progress deals with physical abuse in high school.
I love hearing about life defining moments, especially to do with understanding that you are a writer. Did you always know, or did it dawn on you? Tell us about one of your life defining moments.
I’ve “written” since I was able to hold a pencil in my hand. When I was 6 my family moved from St. Louis Missouri to the country in Arkansas. We had no neighbour’s only cows in the back yard. I was lonely. The days that we would have thunderstorms I’d pull my little rocking chair up to the window, listen to the rain and make up stories. To this day, I write when it rains. That’s why I love living in Oregon. So, I don’t think there was a defining moment, I think moments defined me and nurtured what was already there.
Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
My inspiration comes from life and people that have crossed my path.
Are you comfortable weaving portions of your own life & experience into your work, or are there some things that you keep to yourself?
Yes, I am. I read somewhere that in every piece of fiction there are nuggets of truth. I’ve had many questions concerning “Tears in the Sun”, and regardless of where that nugget is, people suffer from mental illness everyday and loved ones have to make horribly difficult and painful decisions.
If you look back over your writing career, is there anything that you would change or do differently if you could go back?
Yes, I would have worked with an editor/teacher sooner. I wrote my first full length novel and gave it to and editor. I thought it was great, my writing group had helped me and I just knew it would have record sales. She gave it back to me and said “You’re not ready. I can tell you didn’t outline…” that feedback hurt, but what she did was offer me another route where she could teach me in intense bursts before I tackled a novel again. I took her short story class and wrote “Tears In the Sun”. By the time I completed the class the story was written and fully edited by an editor at Writer’s Digest. “Tears in the Sun” was also the last story I worked on with my editor. She passed away a little over year ago. So the story is special to me on several levels.
Give us the one piece of advice that you would want every newbie writer to know…
Ah shucks, I can’t give just one.
As a writer I see each scene in my head. I’m there, living and breathing every moment of it. In fact, I’m so deep in it I can’t see what needs to be fixed. So, here are a few things I highly recommend whether you are self publishing or traditional publishing:
- Writing can be learned so study the craft. It’s not all about talent. Get your hands on books, articles and attend any conference you can.
- Don’t publish any work unless you’ve worked with an editor. Don’t short sell yourself by not putting your best work out there. There’s many forms of editing not just grammer, it’s also voice, character arc, plot points, turning points and more.
- And, here’s the hardest part, when an editor gives you changes and feedback, LISTEN. So many people disregard an editor’s advice even when the editor has been in the industry for years. Even Stephen King has an editor. The beautiful thing about writing, you never stop learning. Be true to yourself and even though the feedback might hurt, embrace it and grow!
There are two distinctly different sides to you as a writer. Tell us more about your resume service?
Dianne, you’re the best. Thanks for allowing me to share about this as well.
I, as most writers do, need income. Our dream is to write stories full time and strike it big like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer. We all see our stories showing on the movie screen. But, then hard reality sits in.
I have a background in writing, I’ve been traditionally published and “Tears in the Sun” was my first go around at self publishing, but I needed income. I also have a background in staffing and recruiting. My second love is helping people find jobs. So, I combined the two. Resumes are a form of writing and creativity. I talk and work with people for a few hours, and then I create and form them on paper. It’s not easy. In fact the ongoing education and certifications are extensive. I have found that it’s truly helping me write tighter with fewer words in my fiction as well. It’s a great character development tool as well. As a professional resume writer, I combine both passions.
Thank you Jen, for letting us into your head and heart, and for the nuggets of valuable info.
Jennifer Owenby can also be found on Twitter and WordPress.