Friday, October 16, 2015

Debra L. Butterfield interviewed me

Debra L. Butterfield is an editor, author, and writing coach. Here’s her smiling face. She just posted the following interview with me . Thanks, Debra.
Today’s interview is with Elma Schemenauer, author of Consider the Sunflowers published by Borealis Press. She has written 75-plus books and is the editor of hundreds more. Elma was born in a Saskatchewan community like the fictional Coyote of Consider the Sunflowers. “As I grew up,” she says, “I sank deep roots into prairie life and the traditions of my extended Mennonite family.”
After teaching for a few years, Elma moved into a publishing career in Toronto. She’s the author of many books including Yesterstories, Russia, Jacob Siemens Family Since 1685, Ottawa, and Hello Winnipeg. She writes and blogs. Learn more about Elma and Consider the Sunflowers at:
Why do you write?
It’s my lifeblood, along with my Christian faith. I believe God made me to work with words. If I don’t have a writing or editing project, I feel almost as if I’m shirking my duty. Writing has also opened doors to many interesting and fulfilling relationships, both online and face-to-face.
How do “pay it forward”?
I interact face-to-face and online with several writers and aspiring writers who may find my experience, advice, and feedback helpful. Sometimes I speak at writing conferences. I monitor the critique group ReVision under the auspices of The Word Guild. I also search out writing opportunities of various kinds: contests, calls for submissions, invitations to contribute to anthologies, and the like. I share these on my blog and with the writing groups I belong to.
You have quite a range of publication, fiction and non-fiction, books and articles for children to adult. Why is that?
I guess I have a free-wheeling personality in my own quiet way. My husband’s example encourages me in this direction. He has a specialty, physics, but he’s also interested in history, geography, biblical archaeology, etc., etc. Then there are practical considerations. Over the years I’ve made a fairly good income from writing and editing. To do that, I’ve needed to be willing to take on many different challenges.
What are the positives and negatives of this?
On the plus side, it’s exciting and keeps a person growing. On waking in the morning, I sometimes pray, “Lord, please prepare me for the surprises.” I’ve enjoyed many in my life. On the minus side, concentrating in one area might bring a writer more renown and might be more satisfying depending on one’s personality.
You have a tremendous amount of nonfiction. Was it difficult to shift to writing fiction?
That’s a good question. Actually I wrote both non-fiction & fiction from the early days of my writing career. My first published book was a picture book for children, Newton McTootin and the Bang Bang Tree. A few years later, my Yesterstories series was published—stories of mystery and adventure from Canada’s past, i.e. historical fiction. The reason I wrote so many non-fiction books was because that was where the opportunities presented themselves to me more readily. Generally speaking, there’s more of a market for non-fiction and it pays better.
What would you say to writers who are struggling to find their voice and where they fit?
Follow your enthusiasms and your interests. Write in the genre(s) you enjoy reading. Try different kinds of writing, too. One way is by entering writing contests. You’ll stretch yourself, maybe discover a writing voice you didn’t know you had, and perhaps even win something.
What advice would you give to writers about approaching agents and publishers?
  • Get over the fear of them stealing your ideas. Bona fide agents & publishers generally don’t. Ideas easy to come by, but not the execution of them.
  • Get over defeatist theories such as it’s all in who you know; people bribe to get published; it’s just luck
  • Get over fear of rejection
  • Send exactly what they want; submission guidelines differ from agent to agent and publisher to publisher
  • Write the best query you can.
  • Run your query past other people to see how it comes across to them. There are sites where you can do that, e.g. agent query connect, query tracker.
  • Keep a record of your querying activities, e.g. queried with date, rejections with date, possibilities for future queries.
Thank you for being here with us today, Elma. I have no doubt you’ll have many more publications in the years to come. Leave any questions you have for Elma in the comments below.
About Consider the Sunflowers
Consider the Sunflowers paints a colourful picture of life on the Canadian home front during World War II and beyond. As the story opens, it’s 1940 and Tina Janz doesn’t want to marry the man her pious Mennonite parents have chosen for her. He’s as boring as turnips compared with her half-Gypsy boyfriend Frank Warkentin. Obsessed with the dashing Frank, Tina leaves her job in Vancouver to marry him. However, her joy is soon overshadowed by loneliness on Frank’s farm in the prairie community of Coyote, Saskatchewan.
When Frank shuns local Mennonites because some of them scorn his mixed parentage, Tina is torn between her Mennonite heritage and her husband. Their son’s death drives the couple farther apart. Then Tina’s former Vancouver boyfriend shows up, setting off a series of events that send her and Frank stumbling toward a new understanding of love, loyalty, faith, and freedom.
Chapters Indigo
OR Borealis Press

Elma Schemenauer CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS: 1940s-era novel about love, Mennonites, faith, & family. Set in Vancouver & rural Saskatchewan. Order from Chapters online or Borealis Press  . More info at  .

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