Author Spotlight: Mary Ann Kirby

Suzanne Author Spotlight

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.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Cindi Ferrini is Connie! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (amy@litfusegroup.com)
This week Mary-Ann Kirby is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of her book, I Am Hutterite, leave a comment on this post!

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Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I live in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan but I often dream of living in Italy.  I’m blessed with a wonderful son who is 14 years old.  I am the owner of Polka Dot Press and between shipping books, writing and traveling for speaking engagements this is my full time job.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

My genre is non-fiction but I do admit on occasion to adding “jam” to a story to make it juicy.  This is quite admissible in Hutterite culture.  If you’re going to tell a story, tell a good one and if you have to add harmless embellishments by all means do.   

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?

I began to write because I had an important story to tell.  Remarkably in our 125 year history in North America, nobody had told our story.  The Hutterites are one of the most misunderstood cultures on the continent. I wanted to change that. Did I dream of being a published author?  Never.  I wanted to be a singer, not a writer but I have been very blessed in my writing career so far.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published? 

7 long years.  I received so many rejection letters I could dance to them.  It was only after I self published in Canada to great acclaim that I  was picked up by an American Publisher, Thomas Nelson.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?

A great cup of coffee and a piece of pie, preferably Hutterite Sucre pie.  

Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write?

Yes, I tie myself to my chair in front of my computer in my Polka Dot Press office and force myself to write.  Somehow “settling in” is the hardest part for me.  Once I get going I start to enjoy it almost right away. 

How many hours a day do you spend writing?

The amount of time I spend is erratic.  Time just flies so sometimes its one, or two or five hours.  And I don’t write everyday….just when the deadline is chasing me.  I am best under pressure.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences?Your mom as your first draft reader?

By far my biggest help was my editor and best girlfriend Arvel Gray.  She helped me envision and develop my story and I helped her paint her house and supplied her with Hutterite eggs and chickens.  It was the best possible situation. No, my mom did not read any drafts because she would have crossed out everything hurtful or controversial. She was an entirely unreliable critic! I love her dearly and she me, nonetheless. 

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? 

It’s better.  Because of the success of my book I travel quite alot as a Keynote speaker for conferences, communities, and corporate functions.  This I love.  I have just returned from an engagement in Fairfield, Montana.  I was invited by the “Friends of the Fairfield Library”  What a great afternoon that was.  So many people came we had to get a bigger venue.  It was just wonderful!

What are your biggest distractions?

A messy house.  I absolutely can’t write until my house is clean.

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

The best moments were when big chain stores like Walmart and Costco started ordering my little self published book by the boxfuls and it became an overnight sensation here in Canada winning a major award and embarrassing all the publishers who turned me down. The worst moment was having to borrow a significant amount of money from the bank to self publish and wondering if I will ever be able to pay it back.

What do you least like about being a writer?

The deadline thing.

Most like? 

It’s a pleasure to work from home.  I can wear pajamas or a ball gown, comb my hair or not. How cool is that!

What is the role and importance of an agent? 

I have never had an agent but not from lack of trying.  In my experience an agent is as hard to get as a publisher. In the end I chose to go it alone and I have so far no regrets about that.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Just because someone rejects your manuscript doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  I am proof of that.

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.

Nearly 80 percent of people in North America have never heard of Hutterites.  If you are one of them you absolutely have to read I Am Hutterite. It will take you on a fascinating journey inside the Hutterite culture, known as the forgotten people. It will make you laugh and cry and, I promise, teach you the power and value of your own cultural heritage.

What’s on the book horizon for you? 

My next book, out in Spring of 2012, is called Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen.  More than a cook book it will include the camaraderie, the gossip and food that an average Hutterite Kitchen puts out (3 times a day for 125 people) in the community kitchen. The photograghs are priceless!  Watch for it.

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

I Am Hutterite is available at fine books stores, at Amazon.com and signed copies are available at www.polkadotpress.ca.

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)