Monday, April 28, 2008

Interview with Author Dianne Butts

One of the best things about traveling along The Writing Road is the people you'll meet along the way. I met Dianne Butts at a Colorado Christian Writers Conference a few years ago--and we've been friends ever since! We've kept up with one another's writing careers--sharing e-mails and crossing paths at conferences and a local writer's group. And one of these days, I'm going to get a ride on her bike!!

After 9/11, Dianne wrote Dear America: A Letter of Comfort and Hope to a Grieving Nation. She has an excellent Web site for writers where you can sign up to receive her newsletter "About Writing."

What got you started along the Writing Road?
I’m not one of those writers who knew she wanted to be a writer when she was three years old. I didn’t read a lot when I was younger. I wasn’t a library-aholic. I didn’t know any writers. There weren’t any poets in my family. And yet…there was God (even when I didn’t know it).

Do you think He knew I was going to be a writer when in high school He put me in Mrs. Hodges’ English class? I wrote some corny teenaged poem and did something I never thought I’d do. I showed it to her. Her response was to take me down to the school library and introduce me to the Writer’s Market. She told me how to format my manuscript, explained I’d need to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), and helped me find three markets to send it to. You mean we’re going to send it to a real magazine? To be published?! I thought, amazed. Does this mean she thinks it’s good?

We got two rejections. We never heard back from the third place. I remember one of the rejection letters said, “This sounds like a Hallmark card.” I took that as a compliment, though it wasn’t intended that way.

Fast forward a decade. Married. Moved to a new town. Gone from the old friends; making new friends. Came to know Christ. Didn’t know how to share my faith, and suddenly thought, “Hey, if I could write an article maybe I could get it published.” Because of Mrs. Hodges I knew what to do. I knew where to find Writer’s Market in the library and I was off and running.

About that same time (1989) I heard an interview on Christian radio about an upcoming Christian Writer’s Conference. My husband agreed I should go. I signed up, took the time off work, and drove the two hundred miles to attend. There, I sat in on a continuing session for beginners taught by Marlene Bagnull. The rest is history. Marlene made me believe I could actually get published. I wrote a few short articles and sent them off. All came back rejected. I wrote an opinion piece about the first Gulf War and sent it off to The Lookout, doubtful they would accept it. Their response came in the form of a check and my first published article appeared in December, 1991!

Since then I’ve placed more than 200 pieces for publication including contributions to fifteen books and produced my own book, Dear America: A Letter of Comfort and Hope to a Grieving Nation after 9/11 through Marlene’s Ampelos Press.

What are your greatest obstacles to progressing along The Writing Road?
I think there are two kinds of roadblocks I run into:

The first is…oh, I don’t know. Maybe it could be called a lack of confidence. I want to write about what I have learned about Jesus and the Bible. However, since I have no seminary degree I wonder if this will be a roadblock for me to publish the books I wish to write. With no formal education in my credentials, will publishers allow me to “teach” or write on how I understand the Bible? I have laid groundwork by publishing articles. Now I wish to move into books. If anyone thinks I don’t have the education to write in these areas I hope they will see me as the Sanhedrin saw these two uneducated, ordinary men who told them about the Lord: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John a nd realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13, NIV). I will write what is the burden of my heart to write. Beyond that, I will depend on the Lord to open the doors.

The other roadblock might be too many ideas! In articles you can quickly jump from idea to idea, but in books? Well, they just take longer. Too many ideas can be stifling. In the last couple years I have really had to decide which book projects are priority to me, zero in on them, and then work on one at a time. Get my thoughts on paper. Get it outlined. Gather what I need for the proposal. Write the proposal. Get it circulating. Start on the next project. All the while trying to keep articles circulating. I may work more slowly than other writers, but I’m like the tortoise in the story of “The Tortiose and the Hare.” I just keep plodding along, making progress at my pace.

What keeps you motivated to move along The Writing Road?
The more I learn about the Lord, the more I want to share what I’ve learned about Him and the more I have to write about. I’ve had my bouts with discouragement. I’ve had a big project that I put my heart and soul and tons of hours into fall through. Things like that cause me to wonder if I should hang it up and go get a job that actually pays me for my work. The Devil really uses those discouraging events in our lives to try to run us off the road. But when I consider the source, why would I let the decision someone else made stall me out? Besides, when I really think about it, I don’t know what else I would do. I have too much invested in this career to quit now. And I have too much to say. I will spend my life telling people about the Lord. If, for some reason, I couldn’t do it through writing, I’d find another way.

What's coming up for you next along The Writing Road?
I just signed with an agent who liked my nonfiction book proposal. While she takes care of business with that, I’m working on my next nonfiction proposal. And each morning I spend about an hour researching for the nonfiction book after that. This project has grown out of my Bible study and has morphed from one book to two (one out of the Old Testament, followed by one out of the New Testament.) I have more nonfiction ideas to follow after that, but I’ve always wanted to write fiction and I have several projects in mind. I want to teach what I know about the story of the Bible through fiction, with possibly some nonfiction projects to go along with those. (Did I mention something about too many ideas?)

These are the projects that I want to write the most, but I’m still developing my fiction-writing skills and paving a way for myself to write books. In the last year, I have sold two short fiction stories to Sunday school take-home papers, so those are my first fiction sales and I’m thrilled! I hope to do more of that as time allows. I also publish two free e-zines each month (one for concerned citizens and the other for aspiring writers) and I started blogging at http://www.buttsaboutit.blogspot.com/.

1 comment:

Sally Ferguson said...

Great interview. It helps to know that others have considered chucking the writing, but keep on plugging away because it is a calling. Thanks!

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