14 January, 2013

Interview with author, Shirley Corder Part 1

What follows is an email interview that I conducted with Shirley Corder, the author of the book I reviewed yesterday. She's also my friend, and a writing mentor. I hope you enjoy what she has to say.

Hi Shirley, 

I'm reading your book, Strength Renewed, as one who doesn't have breast cancer. Nor do I know anyone closely who has breast cancer. Yet I'm finding your book has many insights and stories that would be helpful to a wide variety of situations, not just someone with cancer. I know your book is only just out, but can you tell us about anyone who's been helped by your book in that situation?

Wendy, thank you for showing an interest in Strength Renewed. Yes, I have been amazed at the number of people who have contacted me via email, Facebook, and phone, to tell me how they have been encouraged by the book, even though they haven't themselves had cancer. A lady in the States who went through a period of unspeakable family trauma wrote to me recently.
She said, "The emotional roller coaster you described with the cancer is similar to the emotional roller coaster of the aftermath of this event. Some days you feel like you can get up and go. Others, it's too much effort to lift fork to mouth. It's virtually impossible to eat with a lump in your throat. And if you do, sometimes it doesn't want to stay put. The alternating waves of anger and grief are a totally different tsunami. 
"But I could see the similarities in what you wrote as well. Of course we didn't have the hair loss issue, nor the IV stands. But we did have the media blitz and the attorneys and the court dates. The important thing is that the answer is in the same scriptures for the most part."
As a former critic partner of yours, I know a lot of your story about the long journey to being the author of a published book. It is one of those pie in the sky dreams that many people have — to write a book. Can you tell us something of your journey and how God guided and equipped you to be a writer?

When I was in my early teens I wrote a skit for my Sunday School class to produce. That started an annual event. I didn't consider it "writing", but when I married and we became a full-time ministry couple, I continued to produce plays and articles for church magazines. When our eldest child was approaching her final year of school, I enrolled with a correspondence school to do a comprehensive course in creative writing. I have no idea why I did this, apart from the Lord's prompting, as I had no intent or desire to ever be published.

Then I got cancer. During my fight against this dreadful disease, I sensed God telling me to write down clearly what was happening (Habakkuk 2:2). I never expected to write it for publication but two years after I finished treatment, He guided me once again through Scripture to start writing the jottings from my journal for others to read. So I signed up for all the online writing courses I could find and found myself an accountability partner in the UK. We read everything the other wrote, critiqued, edited, and set exercises for one another. We worked very hard to become good writers.

Getting published when you are not an American can be a challenge. Please give us non- American writers some hints.

Wendy, you're so right. It is very difficult. The best advice I can give is to find your niche—the type of writing you enjoy—and then search the Web for markets that accept that sort of article. Don't start with writing a book. That's where most people want to begin, but you need to gain experience as a writer, and you need to build a platform. Often, editors and publishers look to see what your platform is like before they show an interest in your writing ability.

Strength Renewed is Shirley's first book, but she's
had contributions in a number of other books (pictured).
I strongly recommend international writers sign up with online writers' groups. You can find these by Googling the sort of writing you want to do. e.g. Christian, Writers, Fiction . . .  I belong to several groups. There you not only learn from one another, you interact with "real writers" who are always free with their advice and encouragement.

Also subscribe to a number of good writing blogs where you can read and comment and ask questions. Just reading is not enough. You want to get known by the host as well as by the other readers. For example, http://www.rachellegarnder.com has a lot of excellent material for all levels of writers. But there are many.

An excellent place is to start writing devotional material for markets such as The Upper Room and The Secret Place. The word count is small, yet their required quality is high. So this teaches you to "write tight".

Another good way of getting known while perfecting your writing skills is to start a blog and write on it regularly. Once you have written a number of good blog articles, you may want to look around for similar blogs and offer to write for them (for free). This gets you known and sometimes the host of the blog may be prepared to reciprocate and write for your blog. It's all about growing your platform.

If you do decide to go the way of book publishing, the very best way is to go to an American Writers Conference. However, that is not an easy option for us non-Americans and I would certainly never have got there if I hadn't won a scholarship to my first one. Then just over two years ago, an American author who knew me from online writers' groups, wrote and offered to sponsor me to another one, including my airfare. That was amazing, and that is where I met the acquisition editor of Revell, who immediately wanted Strength Renewed (or Rise and Soar as it was called back then).

The other option worth exploring is to look for an agent who is used to handling international writers. He or she will then be the personal contact between you and the publishers. 

Ed's note: you can also find links to writer's resources on Shirley's website: http://www/shirleycorder.com

I had so much fun interviewing Shirley that I've ended up with too much content for one post. So, I'll post the rest of her fascinating answers tomorrow.

Shirley Corder is a registered nurse, pastor’s wife and cancer survivor. She lives near the sea in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with her husband, Rob. She is author of “Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer”, contributing author to ten other books, and has published hundreds of other articles internationally.  You can read more about her journey to publication at her website, http://www/shirleycorder.com.


April said...

I read http://www.rachellegardner.com too. Good site.

Shirley said...

It was fun, Wendy. Thanks for your enthusiasm!