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 Cindy Woodsmall is Nancy! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This week Janet Holm McHenry is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Janet’s latest book, PrayerWalk, 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 high school sweetheart Craig and I have been married umpteen years and have four kids—the last one in college now. We don’t really think of ourselves as empty nesters yet, though, because our oldest, her husband, and their four kids, ages 5 and under live in our guest house, just 10 feet from our house. I work as a full-time high school English teacher and write and speak in the other snatches of life. I have a very FULL life!
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I’ve written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines, as well as 19 books—including children’s board books, juvenile fiction, and inspirational nonfiction for women. My writing passion is prayer, and my business name—which is Looking Up!—shows how I hope to get my reader turning more and more each day to the Lord.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
My first writings were part of a letter-writing contest to my paternal grandmother. I won the contest and now own her authentic Finnish contest. I was not “Finnished,” though, with writing. I was my high school’s newspaper editor and then majored in journalism in college. I worked as a technical writer, a proofreader for a publisher, and then a newspaper reporter and city editor for a daily newspaper. A few years after we moved to a tiny town in the Sierra, I began freelance writing—and here I am 25 years later.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
After I felt God’s call to write, I attended three major Christian writers’ conferences the first year. A couple months later I sold my first article. A couple years later I had my first children’s books published.
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?
Well, first, my “coffee” is a Diet Coke…smile…and I’m not one of those writers who can write a chapter in the local Starbuck’s. And actually, the closest one of those is about an hour away from my mountain valley. When I’m working on a contract, I clear my weekend or summer schedule and hole up either in my office upstairs or on a corner of the living room couch. I tell myself “No fun until the work is done!” Well, one exception might be the occasional bag of microwave popcorn; somehow the carbs seem to help the brain waves move in the right direction.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Writers’ conferences have been the greatest help. Every year for the first 15 years or so I learned invaluable skills in the workshops and made invaluable contacts with editors. Attending a writers’ conference is the best investment a newbie can make in his or her career.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
Writing is very fulfilling. It’s also a lot of hard work that requires thick skin and patience. Success does not come overnight. I tell budding writers, “Don’t quit your day job.” I haven’t quit mine yet.
What are your biggest distractions?
That’s easy: my four kids—Rebekah, Justin, Joshua, and Bethany—and now my six grandkids. But they also provide a lot of fodder for writing.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
I’ve received several awards, but the best moment was probably being named Writer of the Year at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 1993. The worst moment…wow, which should I choose? Every rejection seems like the worst moment, and to have success, you have to plow through a lot of rejection. I had to write my book Prayerstreaming three times. That was probably the toughest time…but that struggle resulted in what is probably my best book.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
I love pushing myself to write better with every single stroke on the keyboard; it’s really a kick when a phrase comes out well. The hard part is that I get really excited when I prepare a book proposal with a sample chapter or so and then have to wait sometimes months to see if a publisher likes it. It’s hard to regain the momentum sometimes.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
I value my agent’s guidance. She knows what I do best and where my passions lie. Mine also protects my interests and advocates for me. I don’t know what I’d do without her!
What advice would you give to new writers?
#1 Join a local writers’ critique group. Prepare something for each meeting, and accept and learn from others’ criticism. #2 Join Writers’ Digest Book Club; buy a zillion books and read them. #3 Invest in at least one professional writers’ conference yearly. Pay attention, be humble, and soak up every word. That’s a good start!
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.
“Thirteen years ago Janet Holm McHenry began a prayerwalk routine that transformed her life and profoundly impacted the lives of those around her. Learn how you, too, can set out on a journey to increased energy, better health, and greater joy.”
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I’m working on proposals that have that same Up2Me flavor. Interested readers can tune into some of my ideas on my blog, http://janetmchenry.wordpress.com.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
My website has some great info, www.janetmchenry.com, including a video about prayerwalking.
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)
It’s a pleasure and privilege! Thank YOU!