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 Carey Bailey is Marydon! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (ckrumm@litfusegroup.com)

This week Kathryn Bechen is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of her book, Small Space Organizing 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?

I live in San Diego, California and I’ve been married to my college sweetheart and best friend for 31+ years, Steve Bechen. We never had children. He’s a numbers guy who seldom reads books, but even so, he believed I would become a published author from the get-go of our courtship when he met me as a college English major, and he does everything he can to support me with my writing — from doing my bookkeeping and taxes to keeping my computer running efficiently, to taking me out for a cappuccino when I’m on deadline. When we saw the movie “Julie & Julia together, he kissed me and said, “That’s going to happen to you; I can feel it.” Not long after, I signed a book contract with Baker Publishing Group, one of the largest Christian book publishers in the world, to write Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space.

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

I’m a non-fiction lifestyle writer who specializes in home & garden, home organizing and decorating, home how-to, weddings, and a bit of travel writing. All with a little bit of Christian inspiration thrown in because that’s my style. I write magazine feature articles for national and regional newsstand magazines and I also write and publish my own e-books. In addition, I write and edit bios and marketing copy for creative entrepreneurs like interior designers/decorators, artists/organizers. I “get” them, so I love helping them market themselves artfully through words. I also manage and write my own lifestyle blog at www.KathrynBechenINK.com

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

I can honestly say that even if I had never become published I think I was born a writer –that it’s my God-given destiny. That might sound hokey, but just like some kids draw on the walls, I literally wrote on everything as a young child, even labeling the flap on my first wallet! I had the dream of becoming a published writer brewing inside me from a young age I think, before I really even could conceptualize it was possible, or how it would transpire. And then my minister read the paper I wrote in 8th grade “What Being a Christian Means to Me” to our congregation. In high school, my English teacher suggested I enter a college-sponsered poetry contest and I won an award for my poem. So by the time I was an English major in college who worked in a library, I read the author bios in the back of  books as I put them away on the shelves, and I’d make an author bio up about myself in my head, visualizing my own book on a shelf in a bookstore one day.

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

When I was about 26 years old, and living in a tiny town in Nebraska, my neighbor owned the newspaper. One day he saw me raking leaving in my front yard and came over to chat. Having heard that I was teaching English as a sub at the high school, he asked me if I’d like to write some feature articles, and he told me to come down to his office so he could give me a writing test. I went the next day, and quickly wrote my first “mock” feature article on the spot while sitting in his office. With his feet up on his desk, he smiled, looked over his glasses, raised his eyebrows, and as he read my story, he said: “You’re hired!” My first assignment? Interview the now world-famous financial investor Warren Buffett and his mother Leila Stahl Buffet, because she had grown up in that tiny little town and they were donating to the new library. I was paid the princely sum of $25 to write that feature story, and I still have it on my website as a writing sample. That article, and an entire newspaper insert of stories I wrote about the new library, were my first published work.

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? 

I write from my king-sized bed on my trusty little Sony laptop. I’m a tea gal so I almost always have a cup of tea next to me, rather than coffee. And when I need to fire up my creativity, or take a break, I walk down to the little tea cafe in my neighborhood and then go for a walk. I don’t count how many hours I work in a day and I don’t set aside set work hours either really as I work around my personal and married life routines so sometimes I work in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, and sometimes late at night. But whenever–I work a lot! If I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, I work. But it doesn’t feel like work really because writing is my passion; it’s who I am.

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

(Laughs!) The grace of God. Seriously. I’ve had so many serendipitous things happen writing-wise. There’s the (true, I swear!) story of how the editor of a national decorating magazine e-mailed me in 2006 after finding my website, asking to hire me to write. And then there’s the (true, I swear!) story of how I met one of my wedding magazine publishers as a total stranger while buying cat food with my hubby and when we struck up a conversation and she said she published a wedding magazine and I said I was a writer, she immediately assigned me a feature article to interview and write about a well-known celebrity wedding planner. Five years, and many articles later… And then there’s the (true, I swear!) story of how I had laying on of hands in prayer at my church and I asked God to help me use my writing to positively impact others in a bigger way, and about a week later my author friend Marcia Ramsland, www.OrganizingPro.com, called (not knowing about my prayer/church request) and invited me to her home for lunch and offered to coach me on how to write a book proposal and attend a writers conference. I did both, and I had an agent and two publishers at the conference interested in my work. Not long after, I signed a book contract with Baker/Revell to write the small space organizing book, and in hindsight, I am now absolutely convinced, without a doubt, that it’s the book God wanted me to write at this point in time.

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? (Explain your answer) 

My writer’s life is everything I thought it would be, and more. I love being able to work from home where it’s quiet. I love the people I interview by phone for magazine articles because they’re so interesting. I love my editors because they help me grow as a writer. I love my private clients because I enjoy showcasing them through words and being appreciated for doing so. I love my book publisher because they gave me a chance to become a book author and believed in me without a doubt from the very beginning. And yes, there are days that even with all this wonderful stuff, I still tear out my hair, ha!

What are your biggest distractions? 

Writing for publication entails a lot of administrative tasks and marketing that many people don’t realize. If you write for publication, you’re not just a writer; you’re also a business person, and a marketer. You have to stay very organized, and allow time to keep on top of admin and marketing tasks, in addition to writing. Those things might seem like “distractions” but in reality they are necessities. Also, creating and maintaining a website, blog, and social networking sites is very time consuming.

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

The best was being contracted by one of the largest Christian book publishers in the world to write my book, Small Space Organizing.

The worst was falling on a sidewalk and breaking my arm when I was half-way through writing the book. Fortunately the break was near my elbow so I was able to sit in bed with my laptop and still type with my hands, albeit slowly. I was fiercely determined to finished my book, and I turned it in a week before deadline.

What is the role and importance of an agent? 

I elected to not use an agent since I had a publisher offer me a contract directly as a result of meeting an acquiring editor at a writers’ conference. But I do think it’s a pretty standard M.O. these days for most writers to use an agent, and many major book publishers require it.

What advice would you give to new writers? 

Realize that writing is a craft, an art, and a business. Study the Chicago Manual of Style from front to back. Buy books on how to get published and study them diligently. Attend writers’ conferences. Hire a writing/publishing coach. Earn your college degree in English or journalism. In short, be prepared to invest lots of time, energy, and money if you are really serious about publication or having a career as a writer. I’m well aware, for instance, that I’ve had wonderful writing opportunities from unexpected sources, as I have already mentioned, but in addition, I also work very hard, and have invested greatly in many ways, for a very long time, in my writing career. And I worked many other jobs along the way to pay the bills at the same time. That’s what it usually takes. I also think having a supportive mate, rather than one who can’t tolerate the deadlines a writer must work by, is paramount. And last but not least, reality is that you must be able to tolerate rejection and criticism, and learn from it and press on, rather than let it derail you, because all writers face rejection at some time or other.

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. 

If you’re overwhelmed by all the clutter and “stuff” in your life, and want to live more peacefully, beautifully, and serenely at home, my book Small Space Organizing, will help you do that — whatever the size of your space.

What’s on the book horizon for you? 

Right now, that’s my secret. 🙂

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

Please go to the My Bookstore page at www.KathrynBechenINK.com and be sure to sign up for my free e-newsletter there so you get two free home organizing and decorating articles. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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

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