Jennifer tells us about life as a debut author, and how she started writing. She lived in Ireland at the time, and felt she’d finally found her heart there. That made her want to write about Ireland in a real way, not how it’s portrayed in some movies and TV shows.
We talk about using all the senses when you write, and trying to capture what a place feels like when you write it. Jennifer also talks about starting a book, setting it aside when she had a child, picking it up and working on it again, having to set it aside again — and how some stories just won’t let you go.
You can buy Jennifer’s novel wherever you buy books, and find out more about her and her upcoming projects at her website https://www.jenniferdeibel.com/. You can follow her on major social media sites, especially Instagram and Facebook, and join her Facebook reader’s group.
[00:00:07.770] – Kitty
Welcome to Write Now Workshop Podcast, where you can write a book and change the world, I’m your host, Kitty Bucholtz. And this is Episode 234, The Magic of the Emerald Isle. An interview with Jennifer Deibel coming to you on Thursday, February 11th, 2021. So how is your writing going? You know, I have a little pop up message on my calendar and on the first of every month, it pops up and just says, how’s the writing going?
[00:00:36.630] – Kitty
And it gives me an opportunity every month to ask myself, have I taken a step back and looked at the big picture and asked myself, am I making progress in the direction that I was intending to go? This is always a good question to ask yourself whenever you’re doing anything that takes more than a day. Am I going in the direction that I’m trying to go? Am I not only am I going off in a wrong direction, but am I taking too much time to do something that maybe isn’t quite as necessary as it seems fun, i.e. research.
[00:01:09.510] – Kitty
It’s a good time for us to just ask ourselves, is this the right book? And do I need to do more on this particular kind of research or less on this? Am I making enough progress that I will have a book in a while? Could I be doing any more writing? Am I being too hard on myself? And I should just relax a little bit and when I relax, then I’ll do better writing sometimes. That’s one of the issues that I have to tell myself, you need to relax more because you’re freaking yourself out. And I think you’ll get more done if you just chill out. So what do you need to ask yourself about your writing also? Do you just need some more energy? Do you need some more people to be around even though you might not be able to physically be with people? You could join My Finish Your Book membership group. We get together twice a week and we do a 30 minute writing sprint. Everybody says this is what I’m working on. And then at the end, this is how many words I wrote. This is how much editing I got done. And we are getting a ton done. And it’s also super fun. We’ve got more people joining and everybody adds their own kind of energy to it. And it’s amazing how much faster you write and how much more excited you can be about your project, because in a few minutes you’re going to tell a whole bunch of people, yeah, I got this much done.
[00:02:28.920] – Kitty
And sometimes you’re saying, well, I only got two hundred words written, but I figured something out in the plot that I wasn’t sure about, or I had to go back over my table of contents for my nonfiction book and realized that something was in the wrong place. But I still got, you know, two hundred and fifty words written.
[00:02:43.920] – Kitty
So then there are other people that, I’m just like, how fast can you type, woman? Yeah, one of them, she gets like nine hundred words written in a half an hour many times. And I’m thinking that’s a lot of people’s daily writing calls, a thousand words. So if you’re interested you should come join us. So we not only have the two half-hour writing sprints, which actually takes us about forty five minutes for each call, but we also have a monthly guest. And in fact next week’s podcast guest, Jill Cruz, was our February guest for the membership group. And for an hour, all of us could just ask our individual personal questions about things having to do with nutrition, ergonomics and how can I get more writing done? How can I make my body and my mind clearer and sharper so I can get more and better writing done? So that’s always super fun having a whole hour with somebody where you can ask them more about either their writing process or some sort of health related thing or a business related thing to writing. Lots of fun things that we are doing in this group. And if you think that this sounds like something you want to check out, then you should go over to WriteNowWorkshop.Com/writing coach and you can see what it’s about. Consider joining up and you can also see what other kinds of writing and coaching that I do, because there might be something else where, you are like, all this sounds like exactly what I need. So WriteNowWorkshop.Com/writingcoach. Also remember while you’re there that you can download for free my Self-Publish Your Book Checklist, which is three pages of all the things that you need to know, find out, decide on in order to self publish your book if you decide to go that direction.
All right. Remember that we have transcripts now on the show notes pages, very excited. My friend Angeley is doing an awesome job and making them better each week. So hopefully they are of interest to you or if you know somebody else who would rather read than listen or maybe somebody who has any kind of hearing disability and having the transcript would make it easier for them to catch everything that’s happening. Definitely go to the show notes page.
[00:05:01.410] – Kitty
That would be podcast.WriteNowWorkshop.com/episodes and find the episode that you’re looking for. So, for instance, today’s is 234. Alright, I think those are all the announcements that I wanted to remember to make. In the meantime, I hope that you’re excited to listen to Jennifer talk about setting her very first book ever in Ireland when she lived there not too long ago. But a little while back, she’s got this wonderful story that is just kind of heartwarming and makes you think, oh, I need to go to Ireland or I’ve been there once and it’s like I need to go back to Ireland. She’s right. I felt this and that when I lived there. Maybe I should set some books…wait, wait. Remember that thing I said about the big picture? Sometimes I just need to stop and go, OK, maybe later. But right now, big picture. My progress needs to be on finishing this book and publishing this book. But in any case, I am very excited for Jennifer. Her very first book is coming out and she tells us all about the process and the things that she learned and also just the whole idea of writing a book set in another country. So I hope that you find lots of interesting tips. Here’s Jennifer.
Today’s guest is Jennifer Deibel. Jennifer is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on (n)courage, The Better Mom, Missions, Mosaic magazine and others, with firsthand immersive experience abroad. Jennifer writes stories that helped redefine home through the lens of culture, history and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children.
[00:06:44.600] – Kitty
[00:06:46.280] – Jennifer
Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
[00:06:48.320] – Kitty
Yeah, and this is going to be like you’re at the beginning of a whole bunch of new things because this is your first published novel, right?
[00:06:56.390] – Jennifer
That’s right. Everyone asked me, how does it feel like, surreal is the only word I can use because it’s exciting and terrifying. But I can’t like even believe it’s actually happening. And so to be sitting here talking is just amazing.
[00:07:09.080] – Kitty
Yeah. And it’s got to be more surreal based on the fact that this interview, because your publicist is so on top of things, is actually being recorded months before your book comes out.
[00:07:23.480] – Kitty
But we thank you, Karen, because you rock and you’re really good at your job.
[00:07:26.540] – Jennifer
So she is the absolute best. She is. I would be lost without her.
[00:07:32.570] – Kitty
So here we are talking about your book. And at the time, people are listening. Your book is actually come out.Congratulations.
[00:07:40.580] – Jennifer
Yeah,Even more surreal.
[00:07:42.740] – Kitty
I bet you can like almost not even quite grasp like what that is even going to feel like.
[00:07:49.220] – Jennifer
No, I was talking with some other writer friends of mine the other day and I said, I’m almost convinced the world is going to end before February 2nd because I can’t fathom what it’s actually going to be like to have it. It’s been such a long time, such a long process just to even get the contract. So to have it actually happening is, yeah, just unreal. I’m so humbled and grateful, but also still somewhat in shock.
[00:08:15.950] – Kitty
Right. Right. Well, enjoy it because there is kind of a sense of excitement in the shock as well, right?
[00:08:22.250] – Jennifer
Oh, for sure. Absolutely.
[00:08:25.100] – Kitty
Well, listen, so tell us the story. Start wherever you want. We don’t want to take the stories are awesome. We do want to hear the story. We just want to also make sure we talk about writing and that sort of thing as well. But tell us the story like, have you been writing stories since you were two or did you start three years ago? And how did you get the call? How did it all happen for you?
[00:08:45.530] – Jennifer
So I have always kind of been a writer. I was forever writing in my journal when I was a kid. I got a diary for my birthday or Christmas one year. I think I was like fourth or fifth grade. So without fail every night I would write in there, you know, as little girls do, pouring out their hopes and dreams. And I would write little stories every now and then. And then I really fell in love with creative writing in high school. And so I wrote a story like a a novel in high school. It was so bad. I’m pretty sure my main character’s name change like four times because I can’t remember what I named her and things like that. But I enjoyed it. But I never really thought about pursuing writing anything formal. And then in college, in my first English class, we did a creative writing unit and my professor then said, you know, you really should pursue a career in writing like you, you can really write. And I was like, Oh, thank you. I want to make money, though, so sorry.And then I ended up majoring in education. So I laugh at myself for that a lot. But then it kind of laid dormant for a long time until we were back in Ireland and blogs had just become really popular. And so I was reading a bunch of blogs, and saw an announcement that they were starting a new sort of contributor blog about parenting and they were looking for auditions. So I sent in an audition piece and was accepted. And that website called The Better Mom. And I still write for them 10 or 11 years on.
[00:10:22.810] – Kitty
[00:10:23.770] – Jennifer
And Ruth, who’s the gal who started the whole thing, said, you know, you really should consider starting a blog. So I started a blog so that people would have a place to go to after they read my work on The Better Mom if they liked it, and that’s when I picked back up a story that I had first started. So I guess I have to back up just a wee bit. We spent two years in Ireland when we were first married before we had kids. We went over as students to study the language and culture and we lived in Donegal, which is where my story is set. And it was the most amazing and most difficult two years of our lives. It was really, really hard. We were completely isolated. And so when we came back, I needed a way to process everything that was happening. And I had this story idea of this young American girl who moves over to teach. And so I started writing it. I was expecting our first child. I got, I don’t know, a couple of chapters done and then she was born. So then it sat for years because then I had two more kids after her. So at this point when I started my blog, we’ve just had our third. So our oldest was like six and I started working on it again. Bit by bit. And just through the blogging world with the connections that the better mom, I can go back in and see how things had lined up from that opportunity that lined up for me, nine, 10 years later, to get the contract that I signed with Revell a couple of years, about a year ago.I guess it was now, so I can see how it was in the workings and sort of meant to be. But it’s still. Weird thing.
[00:12:12.260] – Kitty
so if you only signed your contract a year or so ago, then the book was pretty much done when you sold it.
[00:12:17.870] – Jennifer
The book was finished. I think with fiction, you typically need to have the manuscript pretty well finished before you pitch to agents and things like that.And because I mean, I used the hashtag for this book, NanowriDecade instead of NaNowrimo. Because it took me I think it was 12 years from the time I wrote the first word to when I actually finished it and was polished and it was ready to pitch.
[00:12:48.350] – Kitty
So. Well, that is pretty typical. So don’t feel bad about it at all. All right, let’s see, where should we start? Give us the overview for, how did you end up in Ireland for so long and did you set the book in Ireland just because you were there and you were like, well, here I am, I’ll just do it.And then also we should remind people that the name of the book is
[00:13:11.690] – Jennifer
So the book is called A Dance in Donegal. And Donegal is the farthest northern county in Ireland. So Ireland has counties in it, but they’re kind of like our states here in America. And so I did sort of set it there because we had been there and I was kind of processing through all the things that we had just experienced. And I already forgot the first question.
[00:13:40.340] – Kitty
So, yeah, I was still focused on making sure we said the name of the book and I wanted you to say it because I wasn’t sure I could say the name correctly. And it turns out, yeah, you do say it differently than what I was thinking, but did you decide because you were there or I’ll just set my first book that I’ve ever written here where I’m at, because there you were.
[00:14:03.000] – Jennifer
Yes, but I don’t know that it was that conscious of a decision. OK, another part of it was I had just read a book, it was one of those like compilation of novellas where four different authors wrote a strand of a story. So it was about this sewing circle groups. And so each novella was from one of these different, character’s point of view is that and in the back and I was already kind of rolling around the story idea for dance in my head and I saw in the back and I don’t remember the publisher now. I want to say it might have been Harvest House, it is a publisher that I don’t think does much fiction anymore. But they said we’re always looking for great stories, especially stories with a cultural celebration or something like that. And I went, St. Patrick’s Day, okay, now we’re cooking with peanut oil. So that was kind of the catalyst to get me to actually start putting it on paper. And then it became this sort of cathartic experience. So there’s a lot of what we experienced poured into what Moira my main character experiences, but also very different because she’s a different person and we were there in 2001. And she’s there in 1921. So there’s some differences in there, but a lot about the culture has stayed the same.
[00:15:20.810] – Kitty
[00:15:21.980] – Jennifer
I wanted, because I loved Ireland, I fell in love with Ireland. I’ve always said I think my heart was always born there and I never truly found my heart until we lived there and but at the same time it was very hard, a very hard place to live. The particular area we were in just because of how isolated we were. And so I wanted a way to bring authentic Irish culture to people, because I feel like the Irish sort of get, they call it oi-rish, that sort of stage , no patchy fingers, if you please, and top of the morning and all that kind of stuff. And I wanted people to see the beautiful and rich depth. Deep richness, we’ll say it this way, of the Irish culture and her people, and so that’s kind of why I ended up putting it there.
[00:16:17.040] – Kitty
Wow. And if you have this feeling like you found your heart finally when you got there, then I would imagine that would be a big part of like deciding, I need to start writing and get some things down on paper.
[00:16:30.180] – Jennifer
Absolutely. Because there are some things that you just can’t. I’m always better expressing myself through the written word than the spoken word, which might be obvious at this moment. But yeah, just that way of trying to find a way to put into words what I’m experiencing, what I’m feeling, because I want other people to be able to share in that as well. Because if they knew if they really knew the truth of what it’s truly like, they would love it just as much. Because I think there’s a reason, even if you go over and all you see is Blarney and the Ha’Penny Bridge and Dublin and the cliffs of Moore. Maybe even if that’s all you get, there’s a reason people come back and say, oh, it was the most magical thing and they haven’t even scratched the surface of what it’s really like.
[00:17:20.620] – Kitty
Yeah, yeah. OK, now one thing in your bio that I was just like, wow to me just seems like total night and day. So I used to live in Arizona for seven years and I’ve been to mostly Belfast, but also drove down to to Dublin for like a day. So I had 10 days of my life that has been in Ireland. And I’m thinking, how could you move? Like, how do you feel going from the greenest place on Earth to the brownest place on Earth?
[00:17:52.050] – Jennifer
Yes, it was quite of a shock. So I was born and raised in Arizona. Both my husband and I were. He was based, he grew up in Flagstaff, which is up in the northern mountains. Snow, they get seasons up there. I was born just outside of Flagstaff, but mostly lived in the southern part. So brown, brown, brown. When we moved over to Ireland the first time, like I could not warm up, it was so cold and the cold there is different. I don’t know if it’s the humidity or what, but it seeps into your bones. And it is called the 40 Shades of green for a reason. And after two years, we were so excited to come home and see our family that we hadn’t seen in two years and get Mexican food and things like that.And as we were landing, like our first glimpse of home and we looked over like, oh, it’s brown, though. We have our extremity of the Forty Shades of green and the Forty Shades of Brown.
[00:18:50.220] – Kitty
That is a good point. That is a good point. And it’s a great segue. As a writer, what are the things that you come up with as how you can feel like you’re accurately describing what you’re seeing with your eyes, but you’ve got to come up with more words for green or more words for brown. If you write something in Arizona, what are your thoughts on that?
[00:19:12.760] – Jennifer
That’s a good question, I like to try to work in the the five senses, I have a good friend of mine, and she gave me the great advice years ago to try and include at least one of the senses in every scene. If you can include two, that’s probably better. So I’ve always had that in the back of my mind. But one of the things about Ireland in particular, because even living in Austria and visiting other places around Europe, they’re all amazing, they’re all beautiful. They have their own kind of magic, but there, Ireland was different, and so I tried to capture, particularly in A Dance in Donegal, what it felt like, like because the views would sort of conjure up this feeling and you would have this sort of almost visceral response to it. And so the setting is almost as much a character in the book as the characters are, because that’s how it is in real life. Like they talk about the weather constantly for a reason because it’s crazy. So I try to sort of combine the the visual descriptions with the sort of atmosphere and vibe with it to sort of try and get it as close to the real thing as I can.
[00:20:29.550] – Kitty
That’s a good way to look at it. Yeah.Instead of trying to come up with green and verdant and Emerald and it’s almost like, you know, there’s a few romance novels where I’m just like, dude, just say set we get it. You don’t have to say argued and sputtered and everything in every different paragraph. Yeah. Oh man. So you’ve been there twice. You started writing the book there and then you finished writing the book there?
[00:21:00.780] – Jennifer
I actually finished it when we came back. So we had two years in Donegal. We came back to the States, my husband went to graduate school, we had our girls and then we went back and we moved to Galway, which is about halfway down the West Coast. We were there for about four years. Our son was born there. And then we came back and then ended up unexpectedly being able to not go back. And so that’s why we went to Austria. So all during that time, I would work feverishly on it and then it would sit for a very, very long time.And then when we ended up moving back here to the States, we had a few months kind of in between jobs and my husband and I had this talk and we were both kind of going, OK, look, either need to, like, finish this thing and pursue it or I need to just let it go. So I got it as far as I could before I started my new job. And then I was working this amazing job for about nine months. And then I got laid off and I had two weeks between when I got laid off and when I started teaching again. And I was like, I have to get it done. So it was in those two weeks in January sitting on my couch that I finally finished the manuscript, something like 12 years after I started.
[00:22:19.030] – Kitty
Wow. Well, OK, so I’m going to stop you here with a question that that I didn’t say anything about this in our going back and forth. So hopefully I’m not blindsiding you here, but I would like to try to unpack that a little bit. There are so many people listening who totally get that whole process of it. It’s taking me forever. It’s been six months since I’ve even opened that file. I’m busy with things that I can’t get back to my book now. It’s eight years later. It’s nine years later. Like, should I just give up? Tell us some of your thoughts and feelings. What kept you going? What encouraged you? How did you keep yourself going down the road that you didn’t know would lead to today? But then here you are with a published book.
[00:23:06.700] – Jennifer
Yeah, all those things you said I experienced, I’m. I’ve got this is ridiculous. Why, what am I even thinking, why am I even doing this? Why did I even start? And what it came down to was the story wouldn’t let me go. And so I knew I had to get it out or I would explode. But I also knew that, you know, I did have a day job and I had kids and we my husband was working for a church for a lot of that time. And so we had ministry things that we were doing.And it just
[00:23:46.220] – Kitty
And international moves are no small feat. They are not for the faint of heart.
[00:23:50.780] – Jennifer
Yes. And by the time Austria happens, we basically had had three international moves in three years between going back to the states, Austria, back to the states. So there was a lot of transition. But really and then God brought to me some really great friends. And through a lot of them came through those connections with The Better Mom writing, Tricia Goyer, she’s a very prolific author and she’s a wonderful woman. And she was so encouraging to me early on when I knew nothing about writing etiquette and things like that. I was like, hey, I’ve started this story. Would you mind to look at it and just tell me if it’s even worth pursuing? And I just sent her the file without waiting for her permission. And it was so kind. She looked at it. She gave me some thought and then she just said, just keep writing. The more you write, the better it’ll be. And so along the way, I’ve had friends that have encouraged me. And then once it was finished and I was pitching agents and then pitching, publishing houses and things like that, I had met a local group of writers that were all multi-published authors and for some weird reason, they allowed me to join their little group and they welcomed, answered all my questions and let me sort of moan to them when I was frustrated or going through edits again and trying to make the story just right and all of that. So having some sort of community around me to hold me up, my family, my husband was very supportive and would take the kids so I could write and things like that. But really, it was the story I told the story of my heart. It gripped me and I knew if I just let it go, I would always regret it. And so I just tried to find the time in the pockets that I had.
[00:25:47.950] – Kitty
Yeah, yeah. That’s a good point, because there’s almost no life that I can imagine that in the course of a year doesn’t have pockets of 15 minutes here and an hour here, a day there once in a while. And I know that some people sometimes, you know, you’re listening to good advice in a bad period. And some people might be thinking, but I don’t have any of those friends. I know I need those friends. I don’t have any of those friends. My thought is. And so this is a question, what do you think? My thought is that maybe sometimes you have to start by being the friend in order to find more friends who are in that same kind of encouraging, supportive mindset?
[00:26:32.980] – Jennifer
Absolutely. I think and you have to do it without having that ulterior motive, what I’m going to do this so that they’ll, just love people, be the friend that you wish you had. But also, I think being willing to reach out.So many in the writing community, especially our introverts, I happen to not be ,but being willing to reach out,if there is an author that maybe you’ve followed on social media for a while or you’ve read their books or their blogs or whatever, and you’ve interacted or whatever, be willing to reach out and say, hey, do you have time that I could pick your brain about some writing questions, or can you point me in the direction of a writer’s group or things like that? Being the worst they can do is be like, oh, I’m sorry, I don’t have time. And I’ve never in my years of dipping my toe into the publishing world, I never have had an ugly response from another writer. And I don’t know if that’s because I’m typically in the Christian author circles or not, but it really is a community and we want each other to succeed. So just being willing to reach out and ask somebody or even another budding writer that you happen to cross paths with somewhere, hey I’m looking for a critique partner or whatever and be willing to kind of take some of those risks, too, because chances are they want it to and they’re also kind of a little scared to ask for it. Right.
[00:28:04.060] – Kitty
Right, exactly. There’s so many things that you can look inside yourself and say, well, what’s the one thing I’m good at? Well, at least I can make myself work for a half an hour every week. I could encourage somebody else to do that, or at least I haven’t given up. You know, I can encourage you just don’t give up. Yes, I have a new child and I’m managing to write like two hours a month. I bet I can at least find somebody else with a new child and we can encourage each other.
[00:28:33.520] – Jennifer
Yes, totally. And I actually, it was almost easier for me to write when my kids were really little because they would take naps once they got to that, like kindergarten, first grade age, then there was no napping then. It was really hard because either I had to do it at night when they were in bed, when I wanted to be hanging out with my husband or whatever. So yeah. Yeah. But having those friends that are in that same life cycle helps as well. Even if they’re not writers, just people who are going to encourage you and support you is definitely worth it.
[00:29:13.510] – Kitty
Yeah. Nice. Oh very good. OK, so let’s move into a little bit more of the writing things. You and I talked about a couple of different topics that we might be able to touch on. And one of the things that I really wanted you to say, like normally I just ask people questions, but now here I am going, this is what I want you to say, haha, writing a novel is not like what your middle school or high school teacher taught you to write. Please speak to us about this, not even a little bit.
[00:29:41.470] – Jennifer
So I tell my students that in school writing especially, you got to play the game. There’s a lot of skills in writing that I think are extremely valuable. And I’m not one of those people who just teaches to the test. But in life, even outside of school, sometimes you just got to play the game to get where you want to go. And so, you know, it’s very formulaic what we do. And you do it this and then this and then this and then this. Even when we do narrative writing, I show them a little plot diagram, and it’s very formulaic, whereas I was sitting there trying to think, well, could I use my story as an example of, like, how to fill out a plot diagram? And I was like, I don’t think so, because it’s so complicated and like there’s so many other storylines going through there. And it’s a much more organic process, I think writing a novel than writing for school. And it isn’t always just your inciting incident. And then this. And then this and then final problem, and then all that kind of stuff. It’s much more organic and at least in my personal experience, I got the story down and then I went back and I kept adding layers and layers and changing things and moving things around. And even now, what was chapter one I think is now Chapter seven or something because things change. And
[00:31:11.410] – Kitty
[00:31:12.310] – Jennifer
So it is an art. It is something you have to practice. And there’s a lot of different methods. And that’s the other thing I’ve learned is there’s not one right way to write a novel, whereas in school there is this one right way and you have to do it in these steps. And I should be able to almost predict what you’re going to say next and this many sentences and before you have your evidence and whatever, so much different process.
[00:31:39.220] – Kitty
And with novel writing, I never had anybody teach me this in any kind of school writing so even up through college. But in order to write a novel that is going to be read and loved, it really needs to elicit emotion and needs to make me feel scared or excited or sad or happy. And I don’t know that I’ve ever had any teacher, I mean, I would go so far as to say I’m sure no teacher has ever said anything about, well, OK, you told me, you know, all the things I asked for in this essay, but I didn’t feel anything about it. I mean, I don’t remember ever hearing that.
[00:32:19.900] – Jennifer
And that is something I actually do do with my students when we do creative writing. I talk about, you know, they’re in seventh grade now. We want more sophistication in our writing. And so don’t tell me the forest was dark and creepy, show me. And so I give them sentences and they have to, like, recreate it and use those five senses. And so at first they’re like, I don’t get it. The forest was scary. I’m like, OK, you’re still telling me? And I actually have them do an assignment that I got from a teacher friend of mine where they have to, I give them the skeleton of a story and they have to rewrite it and they cannot use any form of to be at all. Wow. It was where they can’t use any of it because ,exactly what you’re saying, even if you’re not novel writing, being able to add that depth to any writing that you do I think is valuable and will kind of put you a notch up on everybody else. So I do try to pass that along to them. They do great in the practice and then when they write their stories, they kind of fall back into their normal habits like we all did. Yeah, that is something because I didn’t get that either. It was like, oh yeah. Nice story.
[00:33:36.100] – Kitty
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And yet if you’ve been blogging for over ten years, I mean that’s about eliciting emotion to write.
[00:33:43.750] – Jennifer
Absolutely. And just connecting with people. It took me a while to figure out,what people wanted to read ,what I had to say, I guess, is the biggest thing because I wasn’t like a niche blogger. Some of the bloggers that I really admire, like the Money Saving Mom or the Humbled Homemaker, they’re very specific about what they write. So they would write these very specific things, whereas mine my tagline was marriage, motherhood and faith. And so kind of it was just sort of whatever I felt inspired to write about at the moment. And so it took me a while to figure out what resonated with my readers and what was just me talking and then what elicited that conversation. And just being able to connect with their heart is really difficult. But when it happens, it’s super sweet. It’s like, you know, when you’ve hit that that sweet spot because it’s just it all becomes very natural at that point.
[00:34:42.160] – Kitty
Yeah. And this might be a good segue into voice. You said that you’ve also been teaching your students a little bit about how to find their own voice. And you must have been doing that over those 10 years of blogging and working on the book at the same time.
[00:34:57.280] – Jennifer
Absolutely. Because back in the day, there were some really big name writers that were very prolific. And I would read their work and I would just go, oh, wow, that’s so poetic and so beautiful. And so I would, you know, and they’re so popular. And so I would try to write like them. And it didn’t work. It would fall flat every time because I’m not them. And so I had to be OK with my voice. And I try to teach my students that, too, that you don’t, just because we’re using the same structure doesn’t mean your essay has to sound like everybody else’s essay. If you’re a sarcastic person, put a little sarcasm in there. If it’s a formal tone, you have to be careful with that. But I used to teach a creative publications class, it was like an elective. And so there I got to really play around with letting them explore their voice. And I would do a poetry unit where I would take them back to first grade and we make a little flipbook and we would have all the little different kinds of poems you do and just play with words. And there were so many that at the end of the year that I was so upset, they put me in this class because I thought I hated to write but it turns out I just didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say. Because everybody has a story, whether you’re writing it or you’re just living it with the people around you. The world needs your story because you’re the only person who sees the world the way that you do. And so just, being OK, if your voice sounds different from everybody else’s, because that works really great for a lot of people. I mean, you look at like Lauren Daigle, she doesn’t sound like anybody else except for maybe Adele, but they’re like, you know. So just being OK with that and being OK with the time that it takes to discover what your voice actually is, is worth it in the end because. I think in the end, when you do that, you end up kind of understanding and finding who you are as a person even better than if you didn’t take that time.
[00:37:00.350] – Kitty
Yeah, I think that’s really great, a great way to look at it. And I have to say that part of me finding my voice was finding out about different kinds of writing that I didn’t know existed. Yeah. Yeah. So do you have your students like do you have any exercises just in case somebody listening is like, I’m so tired of people telling me to find my voice and that I haven’t found it yet. Like, what does this mean? I’m trying to think of anything that you might be able to to offer them, to help them, to just relax a little bit, maybe. Or what do you suggest?
[00:37:34.210] – Jennifer
The thing that I find that works best with my students, and you know middle schoolers, they talk a big game, but deep down they’re pretty insecure because they’re just trying to figure out how to human at that point, free-writes are huge for them. I’ll just give them either a sentence starter or a question and I’ll sometimes I’ll set the timer. Sometimes I’ll just let them go and just write. I said, it doesn’t matter if you start on topic and then by the end of the ten minutes you’re off on some other completely, Just write whatever comes into your head and doing that regularly for them, it was every day really helped them start to narrow down what they sound like when they write. And this sounds weird, but one of the other things that really, sort of resonated with them, and that’s one of my favorites, is blackout poetry, where you get it’s the most amazing thing- you take a printed page, it could be any printed page, could be newspaper, could be a book, could be a magazine or whatever. And you look at the words that are on there and you choose which ones you want to keep and then you block out with a Sharpie or something, everything else that doesn’t belong. And those kids came up with the most profound poems and they would make art out of it, and I wish I had a photo to show you, but if you Google blackout poetry, people make these incredible works of art. And then in there are just these specific words left on the page. And a lot of kids, especially like the boys who don’t want to feel things, they were like, this is cool because I could figure out what I want to say without the pressure of coming up with the words on my own. So that might be something to it’s really it’s a fun, especially if you’re artistic, which I’m not super artistic, which
[00:39:34.450] – Kitty
I can use a black Sharpie, though.
[00:39:36.430] – Jennifer
[00:39:39.250] – Kitty
Wow. OK, I totally have to Google that because I haven’t heard of it, but it sounds like it’d be really fun, almost like rap music poetry or something.
[00:39:46.120] – Jennifer
Exactly. Yeah. And it can kind of have like a slam poetry feel depending on. But some of them were like came out really sad and then some of them were like really inspiring and some were kind of angry sounding. But they all were working from the same like sheet because I would just, I picked three books, picked a random page, made a bunch of photocopies. So they were all using the same two or three page, but they all came up with random, well, not random, but such a variety of messages from the same words on that page, which I think was a great example of how, you know, we’re all human, and we can all live the same experience. But it’s going to be a different experience for each one of us because of what we bring with us to it.
[00:40:33.900] – Kitty
Yeah, OK, here’s me writing notes. I’m like blackout poetry must do more. Must learn more, you and I are going to talk more after about that. Oh wow. OK, so that would also help would be a really like I don’t know how to say it like this. Totally random, often on a tangent sort of way to find your voice. You might find out things about yourself that you were like, OK, I should explore that more and then realize this is the thing I wanted to say. I didn’t even know that that’s what I wanted to say.
[00:41:09.200] – Jennifer
Yeah, exactly. Because it’s almost like a verbal war shark test. I feel like finding something from this page that has nothing to do with what’s actually on the page. And then again, like just relieving that pressure of having to come up with the words yourself. Sometimes that can be a catalyst for, oh, I’m going to take this and now I’m going to springboard off this idea. Like, this is a great idea I had and now I can explore it.
[00:41:36.440] – Kitty
How fun.All right.
[00:41:38.200] – Jennifer
It’s fun. It’s my favorite thing.
[00:41:39.620] – Kitty
That’s great, yeah. That does sound like a super fun thing. OK, so we’re going to leave voice for a second and go back to one of the other things that we thought would be an interesting topic for people, even though right this second, there isn’t much traveling going on. There are people listening who have been to other states, other countries, other areas and lived there for a week on vacation or a few years like you and I. What are some of the things that you learned about being someplace else that you think maybe made you a better writer rather than, you know, it’s a beautiful thing to be born and raised in an area and to have your roots go deep. But what did you learn differently that do you think affected your writing by living away for a while?
[00:42:26.930] – Jennifer
I think the biggest thing was I learned to listen more and to observe more because, you know, Ireland, they speak English, they speak Irish Gaelic as well, which we lived in the Gaelic speaking areas, but there wasn’t anyone that didn’t speak English. So you go over there and you feel like, oh, this is you know, there’s no culture shock. And then you realize, oh, gosh, there’s a lot of really subtle things going on here. And I’m kind of tired of being you know, Americans. We have that loud American reputation and it’s kind of for a reason. And I’m not a soft-spoken person. So I was constantly like, the flashing light wherever I went, and so just learning to sort of quiet myself and observe and look at the world around me and hear their world view. Was huge, it was even like, taken up a notch when we went to Austria, where people did, we lived in Vienna, so it was a big city is very international. So there was English available, but the daily language was German, the groceries were in German and everything was in German. And so you couldn’t help but quiet down and just watch when you couldn’t understand what was being said. And it opened my eyes to a lot that I just never realized about the world, about the way people live, about the way people see the world. And so getting that gift of sort of an expanded world view and that new perspective, I think, allows me to go a little bit deeper in my writing because I can kind of put myself in another character who is completely unlike myself. I can put myself in their shoes and imagine how they would think about or how they would react to this situation, because I’ve kind of been there. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing. Just being able to understand a different world view, even if I don’t agree with it, they’re coming from rather than just my one tunnel vision view, which I had a pretty strong tunnel vision view before we because of my own life experience so.
[00:44:48.300] – Kitty
Right.Yeah, yeah, yeah. John and I were born and raised, I was actually not born in Michigan, but we’re pretty much born and raised in Michigan and then lived in Arizona and then California and then all this traveling. So, I mean, I thought that was a lot of moving. But then we moved to Australia and then like what you did and then back and then back to Australia and back to California again and then. Yeah.So Australia and New Zealand, I thought, well, especially the first time. The first time I thought, well, this can’t be too bad. I mean they speak the same language, but holy smokes, no, it’s a totally different culture. Sometimes you’re like, are you making up these words? Because that can’t be a real word that you really used. And then you’re like, OK, I didn’t mean to be offensive. I was just like, really? You learn all these really weird things. And then because the first two times we were in English speaking countries, I could watch TV and understand it. And then it was like, oh, this is not at all what the news looks like, you know, about my country in my country, like these people like these things about my country and those people don’t like these things about my country. And then this is a totally another view. And I did feel like even though I wasn’t thinking about novel writing when I was watching the news, I think by the time every time I would sit down to write again the next day, though, like, I just felt like there was a nuanced way of thinking that I didn’t have before when I had only lived in one country.
[00:46:15.630] – Jennifer
Absolutely.But I mean, that’s the perfect way to put it. And it was interesting, we were out of the country for, at least one election, possibly two. We were out of the country for the first anniversary of 9/11, that was really weird. Interesting to see how the world was viewing those things. And nuanced is a great way to put it, because it didn’t change who I am fundamentally, but it tweaked the way that I looked at things and the lenses that I was viewing the world through, you know, got shaded a little bit differently and just very little. Yeah. Like you said, little subtle things of the way that you see the world in the way that the world sees me as an American or whatever it was .It was eye opening for sure.
[00:47:08.390] – Kitty
Yeah. And then it seems to me that it’s helped me to so you and I, we both happen to be Christians. But I think that that it might actually be a problem with women in general, that it’s so hard to do bad things to your characters because you love these people. And it’s like, I’ll just do a little bit of a bad thing to you and then people and then you get, you know, reactions from you go to a writer’s conference and they’re like, there’s really not much conflict in your story. And you’re like, but it’s terrible. Her best friend is so mad at her. But I feel like being able to find different ways to see the world differently, which could just be watching Netflix shows, shows that aren’t made in America. I don’t know exactly what’s on Netflix in the US, but Netflix in Sweden we’ve got tons of stuff from different Scandinavian countries and European countries. And when we lived in New Zealand, there was a ton of stuff from Korea, like so much stuff from Korea. I didn’t realize how much movie making they did there.
[00:48:12.290] – Jennifer
[00:48:14.680] – Kitty
But all of these different things made me feel like I was learning different ways that I could nuance my good guys to make them mostly good, but have these traits that you can totally get why some one would be like, I just don’t like you because I don’t like the way that you speak to waiters or whatever, you know.
[00:48:34.900] – Jennifer
[00:48:35.350] – Kitty
Or the bad guy. Like, he’s not totally bad. He’s pursuing what he’s interested in, just the same way that your good guy is pursuing what he’s interested in. And then you’re like, OK, I kind of see maybe where you guys are coming from and I totally get why you would have a conflict. And I don’t know, it just seems like I don’t know if you can tell that in your writing. It’s taken me some time to start noticing it in my book.
[00:49:00.310] – Jennifer
Yes, for sure. My very first drafts of this book were very vanilla.
[00:49:07.270] – Kitty
[00:49:08.530] – Jennifer
You know, a writing partner might read it like she’s walked around and she’s eaten two meals, like there’s nothing happening here. And I’m like, but she’s experiencing it for the first time. And they’re like, yeah, but it’s so. But yes, I’m thinking of one of the main sort of villains in Dance and he himself has morphed from the beginning because at first I just needed a way to kind of throw some conflict in there. But then I started to really understand who he was as a person and why he is that way and why what’s motivating him to treat Moira this way and to be so such a toxic person. And later you sort of learn why. And he has his own whole backstory that we don’t give very much of. But I know and it’s an ugly, sad, tragic sort of life. But you know that other people have lived that exact life because you’ve seen it. And so whereas growing up as a pastor’s kid in Arizona, I didn’t see a lot of tragic back story, I think my parents worked very hard to sort of shield us from that because I know my dad did as a pastor. He was the first one on the scene of anything horrible. But yeah, just that gift of being able to because I don’t think I would have been able to imagine that as much if I hadn’t sort of had those other experiences.
[00:50:44.900] – Kitty
Yeah, yeah. And do you see anything new now that you, it took you,did you say 12 years from the first word to final word? So 12 years to do your first book? The good news is the second book won’t take 12 years.
[00:51:00.260] – Jennifer
[00:51:02.150] – Kitty
Have you made any mental or physical notes to yourself about, OK, so now I’m going to do these things now that I’ve learned the process of how I come up with a story and then I became a better writer and but now the next time I’m going to do this, any thoughts?
[00:51:19.070] – Jennifer
I think the biggest thing is I’m going to write even if I don’t feel inspired, because that was the luxury with the first book. There was no deadline. I was my own timeline and I could just wait until the muse struck. And for me, it was always when things were absolutely quiet, I was alone. I had a good big chunk of time. And I think that’s why it took 12 years, because I just waited until the mood struck. And it’s kind of like love, like I love my husband all the time, but I don’t always feel like, you know, doing big romantic gestures or whatever. If we waited to show love to people until we felt like it, we wouldn’t show it very often. And so with I do have a second book coming. I’m contracted for a second book with Revell. And so it was a very different experience because I had basically a year to write this book and I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to do it. And I ended up writing almost the entire thing in the month of July, sitting at my dining room table with my kids running around and doing their normal summer break things just because, I did’t really have a choice, but also I knew that it was OK if it wasn’t perfect, because I tend to edit as I write and I still do that. But I knew that I would have that process of being able to fix it and make it even nicer. I stopped wanting to be perfect the first go round ,those are my two things, write when I don’t feel inspired and be OK with going back to clean it up later, because even now that one is due. Well, it was due a couple of days ago by the time people listen to this, and so I had gotten the bulk of the story down, but I was still short on my count and I wasn’t happy total. It needed more of a conflict that needed more depth. And I finally just figured out what it needed. But it’s going to require moving chapters around and adding a whole other storyline and a new POV and things like that. And before that would have just completely deflated me.But now I’m OK with it because I know in the end it’s going to be worth it. And it’s kind of exciting to think about how to fit all this in. And I am going to do some more dirty things to my characters. And now it’s exciting. It’s not overwhelming. And I don’t feel quite as bad doing that to them because they deserve it.
[00:53:43.360] – Kitty
That’s awesome. And the good guys will have a good ending in the end, right?
[00:53:47.100] – Jennifer
Absolutely.Of course. Always
[00:53:48.740] – Kitty
Oh, Jennifer, this is so much fun. Congratulations again. How exciting for you.
[00:53:56.470] – Jennifer
[00:53:57.280] – Kitty
I don’t want to interrupt if there’s any last things that you like, just might my last one or two pieces of advice. But if you have anything otherwise, we need to know where can we find you in your new book.
[00:54:08.290] – Jennifer
So you can find my book, A Dance in Donegal, anywhere where books are sold. Readers can connect with me or listeners can connect with me through my website, jenniferdeibel.com and as well as all the major social media. I’m most active on Instagram. I’m just Jennifer Deibel_author on Facebook, and I do have a Facebook readers group for the hardcore folks that want more sort of concentrated, bookish things, that’s called Books and Tae, the Gaelic word for tea. So those are the places where I’m most active. I absolutely love connecting with other people, other bookish nerds like me and people who love reading and writing and all that kind of good stuff. So that’s one of my most favorite things.
[00:55:03.020] – Kitty
Oh, brilliant. I totally get you on that. Well, listen, thank you so much for taking time out of your day when you probably have editing and marketing and writing and childrearing. And thank you for being with us. We really appreciate listening to your story.
[00:55:21.220] – Jennifer
Oh, thank you so much for having me. It was really enjoyable talking with you. And I’m just excited that I get to share this with you and your listeners. And I just hope that, you know, hopefully other people have been inspired to not give up on their dream, that it’s never too late to pursue your dream and that there’s people out there who want to help you along the way.