Monday, March 24, 2014

Interview with Author MaryAnn Diorio

I am thrilled to host Dr. MaryAnn Diorio for my Good Friends Old and New themed 5th Blogoversary celebration. MaryAnn is an award winning author, novelist, and poet. Her works include A Christmas Homecoming, Selling Yourself on You, and Enslow Publisher's The Student's Guide series that include Herman Melville,  Mark Twain, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

MaryAnn was the first writer I connected with in person through the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers. For this super newbie writer back in the 1990's, this was quite exciting. After all, MaryAnn was a real writer, and she was talking to me! She became a wonderful friend, mentor, and a huge influence on my writing. 

MaryAnn has graciously offered to give away three paperback copies of her novel A Christmas Homecoming. Be sure and check out the details after the interview.

Welcome MaryAnn! So glad you could join us. Tell us, when did you know you were a writer? 


Thank you for having me, Karen! I was 30 years old when I knew God had called me to write for Him. Prior to that time, I had been working as a professor of foreign languages, a career I loved. During high school, I had very briefly considered becoming a journalist, but that idea didn’t last long.

When I turned 30, however, I began to have a desire to write. I wasn’t sure if the desire was from God or from my flesh. So I asked God to increase the desire if it was, indeed, from Him or to remove it if it was not from Him. 


Well, the desire increased and became a burning desire to write. So, in faith, I signed up for a workshop at the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference. At the time, I had a six-year-old and a two-year-old. Because of a babysitting challenge, I could get away only for one morning of the conference. When I arrived as a “walk-in,” I discovered that there was only one workshop with an opening: the Writing Light Verse workshop taught by Sonia Fries. Since my husband is the funny one in the family, I was not too excited about attending this workshop. But since I had paid to come and since I had traveled two hours, I decided to sit in on the workshop and to make the best of it. While I did enjoy the workshop and learned a few things, I left thinking that I had probably wasted my time since I would never write light verse. I made a good “straight man” by laughing at all of my husband’s jokes, but as for writing something funny myself, it just wasn’t in me.

But God had other plans.

About a week after the workshop, my two little girls got into a big fight. They were in the playroom, and I was in the kitchen washing dishes and trying to decide how to handle the fight. I had just read a parenting book about allowing one’s children to resolve their own conflicts. So I waited a few moments to see how they fared. When the shouting escalated to the highest decibels, I decided to trash the parenting book and pick up my little wooden Italian spaghetti spoon. Armed with my “rod of correction,” I marched toward the playroom.

I carefully listened to each of my daughters’ side of the argument and determined that they both needed a little spanking. So I picked up my younger one first and placed her across my knee. As I raised my hand a few inches to give her a gentle paddling on the bottom, my older daughter began wailing. “Please don’t spank her, Mom. Please don’t spank her.” With hand raised in mid-air, I began to laugh. The child who, five minutes earlier, wanted to kill her baby sister now wanted to protect her from a spanking.

As I laughed I thought, there is a funny poem in all of this. So I dispensed with the spankings, got the situation resolved, and wrote a poem about it.

Novice that I was, I sent the poem to The Saturday Evening Post, the only magazine I knew of that published funny poems. I had no clue that it was nearly impossible for a newbie to get published in this magazine, considered one of the top slicks at the time. But, like the bumble bee who, aerodynamically, cannot fly but flies anyway, I sent the poem with full confidence that it could be published in The Saturday Evening Post. After all, no one ever told me it couldn’t be.

A short while later, I received a letter from The Saturday Evening Post stating that the editor wanted to publish my poem in the magazine’s “Lighter Side” section.

In that moment, I knew God had called me to write. 

Wow, that's exciting! You've written fiction and non fiction - do you prefer one over the other?

I definitely prefer writing fiction over writing non-fiction. I find it to be lots more fun yet more challenging. Also, whereas non-fiction appeals to the intellect, fiction touches the heart and transforms it. Jesus taught in parables for a reason.  

Good point. I hadn't thought about it much but this is true. What aspects of each do you enjoy most?

When writing fiction, I love creating a cast of characters living in a world of my own choosing and who struggle with a faith problem whose resolution will point readers to Christ.

When writing non-fiction, I enjoy conveying Biblical truths that will help set people free. 

How did the NJSCW come about?

The New Jersey Society of Christian Writers (NJSCW) came about as the result of a directive our Lord gave me back in 1992 to start a writers’ organization to educate, equip, and encourage Christian writers living in New Jersey. I headed up NJSCW for 10 years then passed the baton to another director. After a couple of years, she had to step down, so I took over again. We are now in the process of rebuilding our base and expanding throughout the State. 

Once upon a time you shared a piece of advice with me. You said, "Call yourself a writer." Though it was hard, from that time on I did and it did wonders for my confidence and writing journey. What's the best writing advice you've been given?

The advice I gave you is the best advice I’ve been given. I got the advice from Romans 4:17: “God calls those things that are not as though they were.” When I discerned I was called to write, I began calling myself a writer even though, at first, I nearly choked on the words, LOL! But God’s Word is true, and as we decree it, we create the future He has destined for us. 

I am grateful that you encouraged me in that way. It was and still is a blessing. Is there any other advice you'd like to share with us?

Yes. There are many things we could write, but there are only certain things we MUST write. The “must” items are those works God has ordained for us to write. In order, therefore, to know what we must write, we must remain closely connected to Jesus Christ. Our writing will flow out of our abiding in Him. BEING precedes DOING. 

Wonderful and wise words, MaryAnn. Thank you for sharing with us today! :)

Thank you for having me over, Karen!


Find MaryAnn: 

Her website 
Her blog 
Facebook Author Page  
Twitter 

A Sampling of MaryAnn's books:

A Christmas Homecoming - Kindle 

A Christmas Homecoming - Audio version

You Were Made for Greatness

A Student's Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Student's Guide to Mark Twain

A Student's Guide to Herman Melville

Giveaway Info

What:  Three paperback copies of A Christmas Homecoming

How:
  • You must be a GFC (Google Friend Connect) follower and leave your email address with your comment.
  • Gain bonus entries (+1 each) by posting this on Facebook, your blog, and/or Twitter. Please total your entries and include links with your comment.
  • Open to residents of the United States.
  • Deadline to enter is midnight EST Thursday, March 27, 2014. Winner will be chosen by random.org, notified via email, and will have 36 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. 

Who had an influence on your writing? Do you have any questions for MaryAnn?

Happy writing,

Karen 

P.S. Congratulations to Susan J. Reinhardt, the winner of last week's giveaway!

51 comments :

  1. Thank you Mary Ann and Karen for a wonderful interview. He does light our path.

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    1. You are most welcome, Linda! Thank YOU for commenting. May our Lord bless the work of your heart and of your hands, for His glory and for the building of His Kingdom. ~ MaryAnn

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  2. Thank you so much Karen for introducing us to MaryAnn!

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting, "Optimistic Existentialist". Love your Blog Handle. :) I pray God's blessings on you. ~ MaryAnn

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  3. Linda,
    Glad you enjoyed the interview. MaryAnn makes it easy! :)

    Keith,
    Happy to introduce you to MaryAnn. She is a treasure! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  4. Hi Karen and MaryAnn,
    What an inspiring interview! Thanks for sharing about your writing journey. The fact about the bumblebee got my attention. Happy 5th anniversary!

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    1. Thank you very much for your post, Donna. I pray God's blessings on your and your writing.

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  5. Hey there MaryAnn. It's lovely to meet you. Another AWESOME interview, amigo! I love that verse in Romans and I've always had trouble with calling myself a writer. But I will from now on. Perfect advice. I prefer writing fiction too. I do have a few non-fiction stories up my sleeve though. Now I have a reason for that. Jesus taught in parables! Yeah. GREAT INTERVIEW! :-)

    robyn@robyncampbell.com (Amigo, I'll FB and tweet this after school.) Hugs!!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed the interview, Robyn. I used to think that calling myself something when I wasn't was lying. But God showed me through Romans 4:17 that it's really speaking the truth in advance. :) So, if God has called you to write, then call yourself a writer because He has already decreed it. :) You're just agreeing with Him. :) And we know that where two or more agree on anything, it's done (Matthew 18:19). Blessings on you, dear Robyn! :)

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  6. Funny story about your kids.
    God always has other ideas, doesn't he? I always played music and wanted to play guitar, so I was good with that calling. (I play in a Christian band now.) But the writing thing was not in my plans. Nor was blogging. I think God also has a sense of humor...

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    1. Yes, Alex. You are right. God's ways are certainly higher than our ways. Glad you enjoyed my story about my girls. Who would have thought that an argument could launch a ministry? :) Your point is well taken: God has a sense of humor. :) Thanks so much for your post.

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  7. Mary Ann, I am glad to meet you. I love the story about your girls. Karen, Back when I started writing, someone online said we should all not be shy about calling ourselves writers. I see you are having fun celebrating your blogoversary.

    cll4him@sbcglobal.net I have posted this in Facebook and Twitter, I am a member of GFC. Does that give me four entries or three?

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    1. I'm delighted to meet you, too, "QuietSpirit". What a beautiful handle! I used to wonder about calling myself a writer, too. But then I realized that calling myself what God called me brought Him glory. May His call on your life fill you with joy as you glorify Him through your writing.

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  8. I find this interview very interesting. The advice to "call yourself a writer" is wonderful, and I appreciate the emphasis on writing that which God has ordained us to write. This resonates with me.

    Thank you for this encouragement.

    Rhonda Schrock
    One small, caffeinated, American mom
    http://rhondaschrock.com/

    rschrockmt@yahoo.com

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    1. So glad the interview blessed you, Rhonda. I love helping fellow writers fulfill the dream God has placed in their hearts. :) May He richly bless you as you write for Him.

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  9. Just connected with GFC...jennismith1983(at)gmail(dot)com

    Thanks for the opportunity to win. I love the cover of A Christmas Homecoming.

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    1. Thanks for entering, Jennifer. So glad you like the cover of A Christmas Homecoming. It is the masterful work of my publisher, Nicola Martinez, of Harbourlight Books (Pelican Book Group). :) She does fantastic covers! :)

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  10. Donna,
    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the interview. MaryAnn is an inspiration! :)

    Robyn,
    I knew you would like MaryAnn! :) And yes, you should be calling yourself a writer, that's for sure. For you are one!

    Alex,
    I agree, I think God does have a sense of humor! I am thankful that you heeded the call to write, for you are a great encouragement to other writers in doing so. :)

    Cecelia,
    I put you down for 4 entries. Thanks so much for coming by. I thought you'd enjoy meeting MaryAnn. She is a blessing! :)

    Rhonda,
    So glad this spoke to you. Somehow I knew you would like to meet MaryAnn! He ordains our steps, doesn't He? :)

    Jennifer,
    Nice of you to come by! You are welcome - MaryAnn graciously offered the books. Looking forward to reading it myself! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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    1. Karen, thank you so much, sweet friend, for the opportunity to appear on your outstanding blog. May our Lord enlarge your territory of influence, for His glory and for the building of His Kingdom. Love and Hugs, MaryAnn

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    2. You are more than welcome, MaryAnn! You are a great blessing to me and it's a privilege to share this interview with my blogging gang. :) Love and hugs to you too!

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  11. Hello Karen and Mary Ann. Thanks for the interview, Karen. That's exciting that you have your latest book ready for readers, Mary Ann. Great job! Susan

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    1. Thank you for posting, Susan. I appreciate your doing so very much. Blessings and Best Wishes!

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  12. What a beautiful cover and I enjoyed reading this.

    I remember during my early writing years I submitted to magazines that I thought I had a chance of being published in. Nothing panned out, unfortunately.

    Thanks for the giveaway. I thought I was already following you, but hit the button today. sharif(at)sharifwrites(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for your post, Medeia. Keep writing and keep submitting. Meanwhile, learn all you can about the writing craft. If you don't give up, you will be published one day. I pray God's blessings on you and your writing.

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  13. Susan,
    You are welcome! I am happy to introduce you to MaryAnn! She is a treasure. :)

    Medeia,
    Glad you enjoyed the interview! I agree, the cover of MaryAnn's book is lovely. Thanks for following, too. I thought I was following your blog too, so made sure I remedied that! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  14. Thanks, Karen, for introducing me to MarryAnn and her work! Great interview.

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    1. Thank you, Ruth. It's so nice to meet you via Karen's great blog! :)

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  15. I read a Christmas Homecoming and I love it!
    Blessings
    Diana
    joeym11@frontier.com

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    1. How good to see you here, Diana, my friend! Thank you for your kind words about A Christmas Homecoming. I am so glad you were blessed by reading it. :)

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  16. Ruth,
    You are so welcome! MaryAnn is a blessing! More than happy to share this wonderful interview. :)

    Diana,
    That's good to hear! I haven't had the privilege of reading it yet, but I know it will be a good read!:)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  17. Always fun to meet a new writer! How wonderful that you connected with a kindred spirit so many years ago! A Christmas Homecoming looks like a great book. Thanks for a chance to win a copy. :)

    It was great to learn about how MaryAnn and how her writing career started. Wishing her the best of luck.
    ~Jess

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    1. Thank you, Jess. Many blessings to you, too, as you write for King Jesus. :)

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  18. Love meeting some of your friends. Please let someone else win this My TBR list is too big.

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    1. Hello, Natalie. Thank you for posting. It is a pleasure to meet you via this blog. Blessings to you!

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  19. Jess,
    It is fun to meet other writers, isn't it? :) So happy you got to meet MaryAnn! :)

    Natalie,
    Glad you met MaryAnn! Yes, the writing community is a great one, isn't it? :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  20. I think it's going to take me six months to read all these books I'm learning about. This one sounds great!

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Stephanie, and your kind words. I, too, have so many books I want to read that it would take me a lifetime to read them all. I finally realized that I needed to ask Holy Spirit to direct me to the books He thought I needed most. This has greatly simplified my reading life. Blessings to you as you read and as you write. :)

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  21. What a journey! I love her courage to strike out and enter the big, bad world of writing. There's nothing so inspiring or amazing as someone who follows divine guidance, regardless of the difficulties along the way.

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting, Crystal. You are right that when we follow Holy Spirit's guidance, He always makes a way no matter what the challenges. Blessings to you as you write!

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  22. Great interview. It is amazing what calls a person to writing.

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    1. Indeed, it is amazing, Lady Lilith. Thank you for taking the time to comment. :)

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  23. Stephanie,
    I know, me too! Mt TBR pile and wish list are growing by leaps and bounds. :)

    Crystal,
    I agree, MaryAnn is an inspiration. So glad you got to meet her! :)

    Lilith,
    Thank you! We all have a story to share, don't we? :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  24. Oh, my stars. The Saturday Evening Post bought your poem the first time out! What a sign from Heaven that was, huh? Good for you, MaryAnn. What an inspiring interview, Karen. Thanks so much!

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    1. A sign from Heaven, indeed, dear Susan! I was a clueless neophyte for whom God had great compassion--as He does for all of us. Blessings to you as you write!

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  25. What an amazing and inspiring journey! Congratulations on all your achievements!

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    1. Thank you for your comment and your kind congratulations. I give God all the glory for His grace and mercy in using me to write for Him. May He use you in ways beyond your wildest dreams to proclaim His truth and to build His Kingdom.

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  26. Terrific interview. Thank you MaryAnn for being so candid, and thank you Karen for asking great questions. :)

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    1. You are most welcome, Lisa. It was my pleasure to share my experience in order to help other writers. Blessings to you! :)

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  27. Wonderful interview, Karen. A lot of food for thought here.

    MaryAnn, I appreciated reading the way you asked God to show you whether your desire to write was from Him or from the flesh. That is a sage and humble way to discern the source of that call on your heart.

    I'd like to enter the drawing. My email address is JDscribbles(at)outlook(dot)com.

    Thanks, Karen, for interviewing MaryAnn. I just subscribed to receive email alerts of MaryAnn's new blog posts. I look forward to getting to know MaryAnn better.

    Blessings to you and yours, ladies.

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    1. I'm so glad you were blessed by the interview, Janette. By the way, I have a sister named Dolores. Beautiful name! :) Thank you also for subscribing to my blog. I look forward to getting to know you better as well. Blessings!

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  28. Susan,
    I know - amazing, right? I'd say it was a sign from heaven, that's for sure. :) Glad you got to meet MaryAnn.

    Nas,
    Thanks for coming by to see the interview! :)

    Lisa,
    Thank you! MaryAnn makes it easy. :)

    Janette,
    MaryAnn is a treasure, isn't she? I thought you would like to meet her. :) She has such wonderful insight!

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!