This month Denise made a new friend in Liz Cowen-Furman. Liz has just published a cook book and has a lot of great information to share with us in her interview below. Check out her book and learn more here.
Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to tell us how you make it all happen. Let's get started.
Q. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
www.lizcowenfurman.com is the location of my website designed to market Welcome Home and a budding speaking career. The book is a “chick read” according to my husband (and his idea by the way) as it is written for moms, grand moms, aunts, home school teachers, public school teachers, basically anyone who is trying to leave a heritage with the little ones entrusted to their care.
I am an elementary school teacher who is currently substitute teaching because we have three very active boys who are monopolizing our attention these days. Before I went into teaching (and parenting) I was a graphic artist.
Q. How long have you been writing? What made you put that first story down on paper?
I have been writing since my days as a student teacher. Barbara Steiner, a wonderful children’s book author and retired teacher, came to my school. She energized the kids about the possibilities of print and left. She didn’t write report cards, attend staff meetings or chair any committees. Plus, she had total control of her schedule. It seemed to me that the actual teaching is the most fun. So, I have worked towards that goal ever since. That was 1989.
Q. Do you write in a particular genre? If so, what genre is it?
Most of the things I write are for children. Seems a bit ironic that the first book I landed a contract on was for women.
Q. Have you been published? What was the first story? Where was it published? How long did it take? What was the process?
Traditions and Recipes That Say Welcome Home All Year ‘Round hit the shelves last fall.
Hardback, 128 pages, Honor Books Publisher, August 2003, 8”x10”, full color.
Many folks ask me how I got a contract for a “cookbook”, family building book, of all things published.
I always send the curious to www.writehisanswer.com the website for the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. It is held in Estes Park, Colorado in mid-May every year. The conference offers many classes in writing. Everything from how to market your book to how to market yourself and your book idea is available. I attended a couple years before I landed a contract. I have to say that I learned and grew as a writer so much that I consider the times I went and didn’t get a successful contract as important as the year I did. Everyone who attends gets meetings with the editors from the publishing houses and that is an invaluable experience. (Though Scary!)
Q. Who’s your favorite author and why?
I have two favorite authors, Jan Karon, who wrote the Mitford Series (I have read them all innumerable times). She can paint a picture with words better than most artists can with paint. She is also a master at character development and making the everyday event seem fascinating.
Frank Peretti is the other writer I enjoy most. My two favorites of his are: This Present Darkness, and Piercing the Darkness. Wonderful reads both of them!
Q. How did you deal with rejection letters, if you received any?
I don’t know any seasoned author who hasn’t had to deal with rejection letters. I have a dear friend who has published many books, every time I received another rejection I would call and whine. She would just answer, “How great Liz! Only 27 to go.” She was rejected many, many times before she hit the right editor at the right time.
After attending the CCWC a few times and listening to the editor’s panels I realized that the whole process is very subjective and that a rejection of my work (if I have sufficiently polished it and done my homework) is not a personal affront. It simply doesn’t fit their current publishing needs. That realization made the inevitable a bit easier to handle.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
The most important thing to me as a reader is that the author can touch a cord in me and make a connection, so naturally that would be my number one goal as a writer.
Q. How do you develop your plots/characters, ideas/concepts ? Do you use any set formula?
For characters, it has been helpful for me to write descriptions of each character’s personality and looks etc down on paper before I write the story. I can then stay true to their character. I also add characteristics as the story unfolds.
For ideas, I am the queen of notes. I have little scraps of paper in files everywhere. Whenever an idea pops into my head, I write it down. I don’t know about you but as my Dad says, “I have a serious case of part timers.” I cannot seem to remember if I don’t put pen to paper immediately when the thought occurs. Ah well, whatever it takes.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
Most of my waking hours are spent in the rearing of our three boys, ages 8, 10, and 12. I do find a lot of peace in painting. I also love to listen to books on tape while folding Laundry Mountain. (Have you ever noticed how closely Laundry Mountain resembles a virus that takes over the entire house if left to its self for a trifle of a second?)
Q. What does your family feel about your writing? Are they supportive?
Having a family that is supportive is the biggest blessing I have experienced in my career to date. I can’t really imagine how a writer could write if the folks closest to him or her were destroying their self esteem. Writing really puts one out there already.
Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?
Brilliant folks to admire and inspire surround me! Not the least of which are my sisters. All three have outdone themselves in their careers. (One nurse, one children’s book author and illustrator, and one veterinarian)
Q. Are you working on any projects right now?
Seems we are always working on a new project. Currently, I am working diligently to get our book proposals ready for the Writing Conference two weeks hence.
Q. How do you handle Writer’s Block?
For me exercise is my most successful “block blocker”. If I can get away from the problem for a bit and clear my brain then when I come back I am usually ready to proceed.
Q. What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
The absolute most rewarding thing so far about writing is the letters I have received from readers who have been impacted by something I wrote. That is one of those things it is hard to put a price tag on.
Q. Do you have any kind of writing schedule?
Yes, anytime I have a deadline is when I work best.
In this season of my life, I am only able to carve out a few hours a week at most, unless I am under the gun. So for now that will have to do.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer? What’s the worst?
The best advice I ever received is to NEVER GIVE UP!
The worst is that “hardly anyone makes a living writing so don’t count on it for a career.” Bah Humbug!
Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
Write the first draft with no concern for grammar, spelling or conventions. Write first for meaning then tweak your craft.
Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Get yourself to a writer’s conference! If the Christian Writer’s Conference doesn’t appeal to you then find a secular one. Look up writer’s conference on the internet and I bet you will come up with many options!!
Q. What is your best advice for getting published?
Get thee to the conference.
Q. What has been the single most important part of your success?
No fear of hard work. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, in a professional, well considered manner.
Eak! I am beginning to sound like my Mom & Dad. They are wonderful and so encouraging, while at the same time providing much needed accountability!