The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Denise Hunter is Mandy Bentley! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This week Lisa Bogart is in the spotlight! To win a copy of her Knit with Love, leave a comment on this post!
I married my college sweet heart, Rod Bogart, in 1987. I’ll do the math for you, this August we celebrated our 25th anniversary. We moved often in the beginning, but finally bought a home in San Rafael, CA, close to Rod’s work at Pixar. (Yes, it’s as cool as you might expect to work at Pixar. I love going to the openings of each new movie.)
We have one son, Zachary. He’s a sophomore at Boston University. Once again I’ll do the math, he’s three time zones and 3,000 miles away from home. It’s much harder than I thought to have Zach so far away. I miss being a day-to-day mom.
I work three days a week at Piedmont Yarn in Oakland, CA. Fiber people are such fun and I knit when it’s slow. I usually put writing fingers to keypad first thing in the morning, though as an empty nester that does not have to be at the crack of dawn anymore. Often I’ll interrupt my afternoon to write a quick thought or two then as well.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I write non-fiction. I work on devotionals and true short stories. I’m really good at short and pithy. Give me a five hundred words and I can make them sing with a little message at the end. Most of my writing is about life observations. So I write about things like hiking, being a mom and wife, and knitting. Remember that knit shop job? Lots of good ideas there.
How did you get started writing?
I kept a journal as a new mommy when everything seemed to be either funny or amazing. I was living far from family and so I sent all the relatives weekly letters of my life as Zach’s mom. I spent a ton on postage. When we moved to Northern California I was alone all day with a toddler. It was a little crazy making. So I took a creative writing class to get out of the house once a week. Every Thursday was my night off. When the class ended I signed up for another session and another. Eventually I started a Thursday night writing circle with many of the ladies from class. We wrote together every week for ten years.
Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I did dream of being published but I never admitted it. I’d read different devotional publications and think, I could write these. I started writing the thoughts I had after hiking the hills near my home each morning. I gathered quite a collection, 60 or so. I printed them out and turned them into hand-made books. I gave them away to friends and family as Christmas gifts.
I heard about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference held over Palm Sunday weekend every year. I was nervous but signed up. Of course I wanted to be discovered as the next best thing to happen to writing. But realistically I wanted someone—who was not my mom—to tell me if I could write well or not. At the conference I got that confirmation and a whole lot more. From the classes and keynote speakers I discovered a whole world I needed to learn about: the publishing industry. I’ve been attending the conference every year since 2001.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
I came home from my first writers’ conference with the tools to get published. Since I’d been writing devotions I submitted my work to The Upper Room. Every other month I sent them three pieces. My work was accepted five times in the year following the conference but not published for another year. The Upper Room is published internationally in many languages so they work two years out.
Of course then I was hungry for bigger stuff. I wanted to tackle a book. But remember I write short. So my tact was to write a collection of things. At my third writing conference I proposed a cookbook with stories about each recipe. It didn’t fly. But an editor at Beacon Hill Press liked the way I wrote. She and I brainstormed a book idea together. I went home from the conference to write sample chapters. I submitted them in July. By November the book was written and in March I was the published book author of Come On In, Taking the Hassle Out of Hospitality.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
My jumpstart of choice is either a good walk or a few rows of knitting. A walk clears my head and I can let my mind wander and see what comes. Knitting does the same thing for me. I often grab my needles first thing. Knitting is part of my quiet time in the morning. I use those stitches to wake up and pray. It’s a gentle way to ease into my day. I usually abandon my knitting to begin writing. I spend about an hour writing. As I said I’m good at the short and pithy. I get the gist of what I want down and then leave it for later. I like to edit. I go over and over a piece to get it just right.
Attending the Mount Hermon Conference has been the biggest help toward publication. It took time but I learned a lot about the industry there. I met my agent there. I had face-to-face meetings with publishers and editors. And probably most importantly I met good people willing to help me learn the industry. Writing is a business not just the joy of craft.
As for writing groups, I think they are important, but can be hard to find. As I said I started one from the women in my creative writing class. It was a great group but we were not geared toward publication. I connected with a new group through my contacts at Mount Hermon. Six of us meet for four hours every third Tuesday afternoon. We are hard on each other so we get the best work out. And there is always an eye toward publication. We are working on articles and book projects. It helps so much to get out of my own writing head and let others critique what I’ve written. I am not always as brilliant as I imagine. The group tells me where I went wrong and helps me fix it. It’s not always a fun process but it is done with trust.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? (Explain your answer)
The biggest surprise of the writer’s life for me was how much non-writing time is involved! Authors are expected to do many other things besides get a manuscript out there for publication. Marketing takes time from writing and yet you have to write to have something to market.
When Knit With Love came out I put together a book tour for myself. The publisher helped with support materials and a small budget for travel but I planned the national tour. It was daunting but I figured a knit book needs to be in knit shops and one of the best ways to get it there was to bring it myself. (Okay so visiting lots of yarn shops was a big plus for me too.) I stayed with family and friends and hit as many knit shops as possible. It took hours of writing time to plan.
I like marketing and trying to think of ideas I can bring to the publisher. I’ve been to trade shows and yarn festivals. I’ve found new distributors and places to advertise. But all this takes time. I may only write an hour or two a day but there are hours of time spent getting the word out about my writing.
What are your biggest distractions?
Knitting. Of course I write a lot about knitting so this is research, but let’s be honest no one can research that much! There is a site called Ravelry.com where knitters gather online. It is full of patterns, yarn, chat boards, all kinds of goodies related to fiber fun. When I don’t have needles in hand I am usually checking things out on Ravelry. I do my best to limit my time online and with needles in hand. Seriously, balance is my constant struggle. Sometimes I close every thing on my computer except the document I am writing so I work instead of play.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
The first time an acceptance letter came from The Upper Room, or when I signed the contract for my first book, or when I got my agent. But one of the moments that stands out is when I got a phone call from Guideposts telling me I’d won the Writers Workshop contest for 2010. I was flown to Rye, NY with 14 other winners and we had a week of instruction for how to write for Guideposts. The ladies in our class were lovely and we are still in touch.
With the good comes the bad. One of the bad times in my writing career was not making my numbers. Remember writing is a business. If your book doesn’t sell well it’s hard to get traction for the next project. My first book did not make a big splash. Getting up again and finding a new idea and “going for it” one more time was hard.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
Hmmm. Least? I’d say is the discipline it takes. To have a writing career instead of a hobby takes hard work. Writing when I am stuck or have run out of ideas is tough. Sometimes I just fill the page with drivel and move on to another day. I did say I like to edit, sometimes the edit is I delete a whole day of work.The other part of writing I find hard is interviewing. I write true stories and so I interview people and get the best angle from them for their story. It is an art I am still learning. Practice helps.
And what do I like most about writing? I love it when the words are flowing and I’m communicating well. When I feel as though I have something to say and it is coming across with as much clarity as I can muster. The other piece of being a writer that is fun for me is meeting readers. Most often my readers are knitters too—fun times.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
An agent knows the industry in ways an author does not. It’s essential to have a person on your team to help you shoulder some of the details and free you up to write. It takes a team to get your work out for publication: author, agent, editor, publisher, marketer.
A good agent is a partner in an author’s career. I was fortunate to find a good agent, a partner. There are so many things she does for me. She is the person who represents me to publishers having connections I could never find. She is the person who helps get my book proposal ready to use as a selling tool. She negotiates my contracts looking out for items I didn’t realize were important. Those are things most agents will do. Happily I found someone who goes further and is my cheerleader and sounding board too. When I have a quick question or an issue that needs her expertise I send a brief email. She’s often points out something I would have not thought about. I also keep her in the loop about all my contact with the publisher. This way if I miss step she can help smooth things out before there is trouble.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Oh I want to be profound here, give the nugget that will inspire some one. Yet I’m not sure I have the magic formula to trigger success. I’m sure your readers know about working hard and learning the craft. They’ve heard about developing a thick skin and listening to experts.
My advice then would be if you want to stay in it for the long haul be persistent. Know that it will take time and all the prep and learning at the beginning is not wasted. Write often, keep at it and explore different paths. I think eventually a writer finds the core message they are willing to deliver over and over in as many different stories (forms) as they can.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
Thank you for featuring me on your Friday Author Spotlight. It was fun to share some of my writing life. You can find me online at LisaBogart.com. And any knitters can find me on Ravelry.com where I am LisaWriter. My books are in book stores and on my website which has buttons to: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lifeway, Christian Books, and IndieBound