Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
This week Cindy Woodsmall is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Cindy’s latest book, The Harvest of Grace, leave a comment on this post!
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
My husband and I will soon celebrate thirty-four years of marriage. We have three sons, two daughters-in-law, and our first grandchild is on the way!
I began writing as a hobby about twelve years ago. At the time I was still a homeschooling mom, but the only student I had left was our youngest child. Today, he no longer home schools, and I write full time.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I write books with an Amish setting. I was drawn to writing about the Plain life because while growing up in Maryland, I had a best friend who was Beachy Amish. The moment I stepped inside her house at nine years old, I could sense that there were a lot of differences between her home and mine. Neither of our parents liked the relationship, and we spent years navigating around their disapproval until my family moved to a different region of the country when I was fifteen. Years later I connected with an Old Order Amish woman through a mutual acquaintance. We became friends, and for years I’ve stayed in her home as often as time allows us that gift. Our relationship has been a precious one; after years of discussing my fiction works while we sat outside sipping coffee near her lilac bushes, we embarked on becoming coauthors of a nonfiction book—Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into An Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women—and working on that project drew us even closer.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I spent most of my life being highly annoyed by the continual stories taking place inside my head. My earliest memories of them was when I was four or five, and I reworked (in my mind) all of the classic fairy tales.
Once an adult, I did everything I could to make the stories shut up. To me, the stories wanted to pull me away from my family and into a dream world. But they grew so loud that I could no longer ignore them. I prayed they’d go away. When they didn’t, I began to realize that maybe I wasn’t meant to simply read fiction. Maybe instead of keeping a lid on the stories, I needed to remove the lid and stir the pot, so to speak.
I started writing, and soon one story stood out—an Amish one based on the journey between my childhood Amish friend and me. I went to my first writers’ conference in 2002, where I learned a ton and then returned home to apply all I’d learned. By my next conference the following year, I was ready to show some of my work to a few editors. I received wonderful feedback, even a potential offer from one publisher to put me under 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.
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.
But after a lot of disappointing feedback, I met with one editor who felt that my writing and story were strong enough to sell regardless of its Amish setting. She agreed to take it to committee, hoping her publishing house would feel as strongly about the story as she did. To my amazed delight, they offered me a contract for a three-book series—Sisters of the Quilt. The publisher was WaterBrook Press, an imprint of Random House. I’ve been with the same publisher and editor ever since.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
If memory serves, I started writing seriously about a year before my first writers’ conference, which took place in 2002. I received my first contract in 2005.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
My husband has been my staunchest supporter from the start. One time, early on, we’d both heard about an excellent conference—the Mount Hermon Writers Conference—and he felt strongly I should go. I bemoaned that I was making no money as I learned how to get the story of my heart onto the page, and I couldn’t see paying for another conference. He looked thoughtful and said, “Well, it’s a long way from Georgia to California, but I suppose we could do it one of two ways: I purchase a plane ticket and you go or I purchase two tickets, and I’ll drag you.” I went…alone, and that one conference opened many doors for me. Here I am seven years later, and he is still supporting me every way possible—from helping me get books in the mail to winners of various contests to brainstorming with me to reading the manuscript as I work.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
It takes as much time and energy as I’d always feared it would, but it has become a part of me and I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life.
What are your biggest distractions?
Loved ones! Today is a good example. I’ve had four loved ones come into my office and want to chat for a minute, which took anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour each. One loved one needed a favor, so I had to leave my workspace for a couple of hours. As soon as I was back in my office, I received phone calls from my sons, whom I love very much, and one from a sibling. About that time I’m thinking I need to rent an office space at an unknown-to-others destination. But without loved ones to talk to and help, what’s the point of anything we do?
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
My husband and I became a single-income family many years ago, so the best part of my career was that day when I told him that I had a contract and that he was no longer the only breadwinner. He was jubilant! Then came the worst day, which was moments later, when I confessed that the amount of my pay didn’t quite cover the costs he’d spent on all those conferences he sent me to. 😉
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
I’m not sure I’d have known how to answer the question about my least favorite part before this past year. But my husband and I each lost our fathers this year, and my special-needs brother moved in with us. So I can safely say that the toughest part of being a writer is when life demands more of you than you can give, and there is no substitute teacher or temporary worker who can take your place. The deadline still looms, and if you want to be paid, you have to make that deadline. But during those times, it’s difficult to be creative.
My favorite time is when I hear from readers who are excited about one of my books! When I read how the story uplifted them and that they’ve passed the book on to a family member, friend, or coworker, I’m ready to dig in and write another novel.
What advice would you give to new writers?
If you want to succeed in this crazy world of book publishing, learn the craft of writing well. Work with people who can help you improve your skills. Network with folks in the publishing industry. Keep pursuing the passion God has placed in you, even in the face of rejection and discouragement.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
Cindy Woodsmall’s newest book, The Harvest of Grace, hits bookstore shelves August 9!
Reeling from an unexpected betrayal, Sylvia makes a painful mistake that forces her to seek work far from her family. Can she find relief from the echoes of her past…or will they shape her future forever?
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I’m excited about the upcoming release of The Harvest of Grace. It is the conclusion of the Ada’s House series and was so much fun to write! Following that, The Christmas Singing comes out in October!
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
I love hearing from readers! They can connect with me by going to my website, www.cindywoodsmall.com. And I enjoy hopping over to Facebook during my writing day: https://www.facebook.com/authorcindywoodsmall
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)
Thank you so much for inviting me! This has been wonderful.