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!
Facebook Author Page
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
What: Three paperback copies of A Christmas Homecoming
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- 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?
P.S. Congratulations to Susan J. Reinhardt, the winner of last week's giveaway!