Friday, August 29, 2008

Author of the Week: Jenny B. Jones

Hi Jenny!

Welcome to Grit for the Oyster!

Congratulations! You’re the first author featured in our new blog!

Wow. What an honor. Do I have to like oysters to be here?

No,no, no. It's a metaphor. For writers. Get it? All of life is material...that sort of thing. Anyway...

Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

There’s this book genie that visits me every so often. But just when the leprechaun is busy.
Ugh, I am NOT a planner. No outlines. I am such a planner-wanna-be. I do sketch out the general idea in a few paragraphs. Then I write on note cards any possible idea, character trait, or random line that comes to me.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Any tips or suggestions for a writer?

Definitely NOT a morning writer. Though I wish. I’m not a morning anything. Unfortunatley I’m an evening writer, though I dislike that a lot. I think it’s the pressure of bedtime that makes me put it off ‘til evening and get stuff done. It’s the same with a deadline—I do most of my writing the last few months and waste the front end. It’s something to be oh so proud of. I’m thinking of copyrighting my method. ; )

Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?

No. I did for my first book In Between, but out of five books, that’s it. I’m totally seat of the pants, so I have no planning.

Do you have a process for developing your characters?

I’m a character-driven writer, so that part is really important to me. I don’t have a method, but I’ve always been drawn to real life characters—people in the airport, students I teach, the lady with the big hat who sits in front of me in church and blocks my view. Every person has a story. And my favorite characters are dynamic, crazy ones with a sense of humor and a sense of farce.

It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?

I think that’s pretty accurate. Katie Parker and Maxine in my first series are both snarky and sarcastic. They shake off grief quickly. They’re a wee bit clumsy. And they can’t be serious for too long. It’s just not a comfortable place.

What is your most favorite part about The Big Picture?

The hope that’s within. Bad things happen, just like in life. But it’s wrapped up in humor and love. I teach at a high school and see kids with no hope and no home support. My character Katie Parker comes from serious dysfunction, but she finds a way out—through God and through the people she allows in her life.

What has been the best part about being published?

Just realizing a dream and finding your place in God’s ministry. It’s finally finding your sweet spot. And the feedback ministry-wise has been humbling and heart-filling. It’s an honor to be able to make an impact on a teenager’s (or any other reader’s) life.

What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?

That God is real and relevant. That the Christian life isn’t perfect. It’s full of bumps, laughs, and mistakes. We don’t always say the perfect thing. We don’t always make the right choice. I just want to be genuine and honest and provide a laugh. And through that always pointing to Christ.

Do you have plans to write another book?

After The Big Picture, my new series, A Charmed Life, comes out in May 2009. So Not Happening will introduce Bella Kirkwood, a Gossip Girl-type whose life gets turned on its ear. Her Prada days are so over. And be watching for Katie Parker and Maxine to appear in Brio magazine in their own Christmas short story.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?

That things move very, very, very slowly. The only thing that moves quickly is your deadline, and it will snap you in the tail long before you’re ready. Everything else…slow. Unless you write the next Shack.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

It’s been a blessed experience so far. When I decided to try my hand at getting published, I was totally prayed up and in this place of completely relying on God to do something gigantic in my life (I heartily recommend the books Beyond Jabez and Prayer of Jabez). I went to my first writer’s conference with only 20 pages and no intention of speaking to any editors or agents. A meeting with a published author led to an invitation to send my 20 pages to a publisher, and six months later I had my first contract and In Between was on its way.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

My agent is Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and at this point in my career, an agent is vitally necessary. If for no other reason, it was great to finally have a champion and supporter. He doesn’t just negotiate deals and contracts, but he is a friend and advocate of his clients. And he’s funny. And wears kilts.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A personal secretary. And he would be hot. Also some space on the jumbo-tron at the Super Bowl. My book titles tattooed on body parts belonging to Hollywood’s A-list. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. And my hot secretary would know Oprah, of course. And he’d fix me tea on command.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I don’t know about self-promotion, but promoting your book and ministry is important. I promote in local schools a lot. I do book clubs. There is my blog at, which is my favorite outreach. There’s Facebook, which I love. And I’m writing some short stories this year for Brio magazine. There are some other things coming down the pipe that I’m VERY excited about.

Where can readers find a copy of your book?Anywhere! Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christian book sellers. The trunk of my grandma’s Buick…

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers here (advice, website, etc)? Do you have a website for readers to go to?

Please visit my online home at Definitely check out my blog and see my latest giveaway and rambling. We have a lot of fun there.

Thank you very much, Jenny, for coming by this blog. We wish you great success!

As one animal lover to another, thanks for letting me stop by!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reader's know best. Or do they?

I tell my students that learning from others' response to our writing is essential, but following my own advice isn't always easy.

Once I showed a book proposal on family life that I had written to my husband. I had poured energy and creativity into the proposal and had high hopes that I would land a contract with it.

My husband wasn't so sure. "I think it's entertaining and easy to follow," he said. "But--like home videos--I think it would only be interesting to us."

I grabbed the pages from him and sputtered inside, "What does he know? Pennsylvania Township News and Gravel Today are his main reading material. He never even reads for pleasure."

Imagine my consternation three months later when the manuscript was returned. The editor's comment: This well-written manuscript is entertaing and easy to follow but probably not relevant enough to anyone outside your family..."

My husband could have saved the editor the time, and saved me the rejection--if I'd listened.

To be honest, I think it's difficult to find the right balance. If I don't think about my reader, I won't write material worth reading. If I think too much about what my reader needs or want, I get writing paralysis.

How do you deal with this quandary?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Standing in a bookstore yesterday, clutching an armful of Grit for the Oyster books, I waited on the manager to finish checking out a line of customers. My goal was to convince her to stock Grit for the Oyster on her shelves, that it was a unique, incredibly encouraging book that would inspire aspiring and not-so-new writers to follow their calling with renewed vigor. I was prepared to unload both cannons on that hapless manager, to bombard her with my spiel until she held up her hands in surrender and ordered a stockpile.

But I never had to fire a shot.

As is my habit (and if it's not yours, it should become one), I began chatting with a bored customer standing in line at the cash register and it turned out that she was an aspiring writer. As was the man behind her who eagerly joined in the conversation. The dazed manager watched, mesmerized, as I informed those very interested customers (who wanted to purchase Grit right then and there) that I would be happy to sign copies for them because I was sure the store would be carrying my books, why, perhaps this very day.


The point is that golden promotional opportunities are often right beneath our noses. If we're paying attention and capitalize on them before the moment passes. And best of all, we can save the big ammo for another day!

Debora M. Coty
Author or co-author of 9 books and over 80 articles

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In the Beginning...

"In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth..." Genesis 1:1

God creates. Our thoughts and acts, our breathing and hoping takes place in a world creatively set in motion by God. We never start anything. We find the meaning of our lives not by striking out on our own but by reponding to what God has already begun in us, creating and redeeming us.

What does this mean for you as a writer?

(adapted from Praying with Moses by Eugene H. Peterson)

Monday, August 25, 2008


What are you listening to right this moment?

Me? Silence. Well, the dog is snoring, but otherwise it is blissfully quiet because my kids are back in school. Once again I have the house to myself for 6.5 hours every day. Don't get me wrong. I love my kids, but I appreciate them a little more after they've been at school all day.

One thing the school year brings me (besides silence) is time to write. This is good because I have a long list of projects and some are due very quickly. I start to panic on perfectly-quiet writing days like today. Too much pressure to be brilliant or something, but sometimes I can't come up with even one decent word to write.

One of the things I've learned to do when I'm paralyzed is step away from the keyboard and read someone else's brilliant stuff. I'm currently reading Operating Instructions by the irreverent and brilliant Anne Lamott. I may not always agree with her, but Anne's spare prose and colorful metaphors inspire me.

After I spend an hour or so with her, I'm just itching to get back to the keyboard and write something (semi) brilliant of my own.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Getting Started

In conjunction with the release of Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers, we are hosting this blog to encourage writers to persevere in their writing journeys.