I write arts and crafts projects and Christian fiction. I double-majored in journalism and art because these are the two things I love to do most. I write Christian fiction, partly because I’m a preacher’s kid and talking about religion comes naturally to me, and because I want to stay away from the heavy sex and foul language that some books use. I think authors should help move our culture towards a better tomorrow, celebrate the best in people, and try to make the world a little better off.
Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
I tend to have a one-track mind and get caught up in the manuscript that I’m working on at the time. I think about it while I’m folding the laundry and puttering with my craft projects. But, I write two newspaper columns, one about children’s arts and crafts and one about book reviews, so I have to balance that in, and shift my focus from one to the other at the same time.
Do you work with a writing/critique group?
I used to lead a critique group for children’s writers at Barnes & Nobel, but the group slowly fizzled out. There were too many hobbyists and only two or three serious writers in the group. I consider myself a serious writer, but I don’t write for children except my arts and crafts. What we were working on was so varied that we couldn’t really get a good critique. One member was working on a memoir, another on young adult, another on a picture book, and several people were just thinking about writing something someday. To get or give a good critique you have to be familiar with the guidelines for that type of book. We didn’t have that, and that’s why the group fell apart. The group has now turned into an email discussion, where I forward interesting articles I get from writing newsletters. I’m also participating in groups on Linked In. It’s hard to find the right mix because there are so many genres to choose from.
Can you remember your first reading book?
There are two books from my childhood that I remember loving, but I can’t remember the titles. One was a craft book that used throw-away items. I made almost everything in that book; from a pickle jar terrarium to bottle cap earrings. The other was a book about a boy named Henry that had problems with a donut making machine. A rich lady lost an expensive piece of jewelry, it fell into the batter, and they had to eat a room full of donuts in order to find it. I loved that book because it was about solving a problem. That’s what I want to do with my writing; give people something enjoyable to do, and help them solve a problem of some kind.
Do you nibble on snacks while writing?
If so, what is your chosen treat? No, I hate sticky typewriter keys. My mother was a piano teacher, and she was very picky about washing our hands before we used the keyboard.
Tidy desk or a bombsite? Describe your writing area with us.
Let’s put it in the middle somewhere. I have a stack of spiral notebooks that contain information I want to remember sitting on top, and a file cabinet full of old manuscripts, author copies and supplies that are neatly sorted.
Are you published in the traditional manner or self published? Share your journey.
After graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in magazine journalism, I worked for Christian Board of Publication in St. Louis for five years. I was in product development, design and promotion, which was a catch-all department for everything from book manuscripts, advertising, magazines and catalogs. I did everything from concept to paste-up. While there, I met an editor from Concordia who published Created in Faith, a craft book based on Christian symbols. CBP published my other two trade books as a work for hire assignment; St. Louis Is for Families, a tourist guide with games and activities for kids, and Bible Verses for Young Children, a coloring book. After I left to become a stay-at-home mom, I was a freelance writer, and managed to get a few things published here and there. I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but my first attempt, Stars Shine After Dark, doesn’t quite fit the romance genre, so when print on demand publishing became an option, I chose IUniverse, and self-published it. I recently republished a rewritten version of that novel as a Kindle and Nook. Day Camp in Hawaii was self-published by Create Space because the market for the book is too small for a real publisher. I’m hoping that my current work in progress will be accepted by a traditional publisher, because I appreciate the support and relationships you form that way.
Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life?
As a child, my favourite author, and aspired role model was Hints from Heloise and Polly’s Pointers. That’s why I love writing my arts and crafts newspaper column so much. It’s my dream job.
In college, we read Pearl of Great Price by Earnest Hemmingway. That’s when I decided I wanted to write a story with a moral, or something good to take away from it, and not just entertainment. I read Earnest’s biography, and aside from our gender and his divorces and suicide, we have a lot in common. He was the only boy, I was the only girl. His mother made him wear his sister’s clothes, and mine made me wear my brother’s hand-me-downs. I hope I can write something with a purpose like he did, but something about the beautiful side of life, and not the dark, tormented war-torn souls that he captured.
And, as I mentioned before, there was the children’s series about Henry Huggins. I read them all.
What advice would you like to share with other writers/authors with regard to preparing a manuscript?
Learn the guidelines for your genre. Don’t be afraid to rewrite again and again. Don’t be afraid of a critique, because they are trying to hone your manuscript, not criticize your personality. Get a proof reader. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never catch all the mistakes yourself.
Oh, those extra eyes are so important, as are the rewrites! Great tips.
If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?
I can’t answer that. My understanding of libel law is that it is OK to base a work on a famous person provided that you change the names and details, choose an event that could happen to more than one person, and never, ever, tell anyone who it is that inspired the story. Stars Shine After Dark is inspired by a real person, but I made up everything that I don’t know about her. It’s not true, and if I infer that it is, I’m in trouble. So, yeah, it would be kinda cool to have her play the role, and see how she reacts to the script, but no, I might have interpreted the events and facts in an entirely different way than she did, and she might get upset about it. I’m afraid the information is classified.
I was on my way to the supermarket, when … Do you have a tale to tell relating to an everyday, boring event?
I wrote a daily devotion about how my mother used to mow her lawn. I republished it on my blog as a tribute to her when she recently passed away. You can see it on http://paulahrbacek.weebly.com in the blog called Paula’s Projects.
I read it, and it is lovely. Daisies are a big part of my best friend and mine life. Sadly, she died. I am thrilled your mother saved the daisies. I am sorry for your loss in April. I lost my dad in Oct. so understand your grief.
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Stars Shine After Dark, a sweet Christian romance, available in paperback, Kindle and Nook.
Day Camp in Hawaii, a complete program guide for summer camp or summer school, available in paperback, Nook and Kindle. For more information see http://paulahrbacek.weebly.com or my author page at https://www.amazon.com/author/paulahrbacek