Welcome to the five hundred and sixtieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with Christian non-fiction author and poet Estelle P Shrum. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Estelle. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Estelle: I recently moved to Sharpsburg, GA from Jacksonville, FL. In fact, this is the second week of moving in. We moved to be closer to our kids and only grandchild. I was raised in an alcoholic family that left me with a lot of distrust, insecurities, bitterness, and loneliness. When I was seventeen I cut my arms, from the wrists to my elbows and suffered a nervous breakdown. I was hospitalized in 1964 for three months, and that was the first time I wrote poetry. It was a way of expressing my emotions. Later in life I came to write by a divine encounter with the Lord.
Morgen: I had a really ordinary upbringing (so much so that I don’t remember much about it) but things do happen in life that writing inevitably helps. The fifth novel I wrote (still in a file at this stage) was very therapeutic (a fictionalised account of a true event and I loved getting even with the antagonist!). You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Estelle: My poems and prose come from inspiration. I get a line or two in my head and then the rest of the poem just comes. I was also inspired to add scripture and verse so anyone who reads my poems will know these are not my words, but the teachings of God’s Word.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date?
Estelle: My book, He Is The Word, was published by Publish America in 2006. Publish America is a co-publishing company which means the author has to be co-active in getting their book out to the public.
Morgen: We do have to these days, almost regardless of whom we’re with – the budgets just aren’t there for 99.9% of writers, but then we get to contact our readers, which is great. Is your book available as an eBook? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Estelle: My book is available through Kindle, Amazon, B&N, Chapters, and it can be found through Google most anywhere. Kindle seems to be the way to read these days, but I still prefer holding a book and smelling the paper.
Morgen: Most people I speak to do, although for me I love having the choice. Did you have any say in the title / cover of your book? How important do you think they are?
Estelle: I had the say in the title of my book, but Publish America did the cover. I sent them a logo of my website, Heistheword.com and they did a good job of getting close to what I wanted. For the most part I was pleased with the cover.
Morgen: It certainly helps if the author likes the cover then they’re proud of it and feel more inspired by it. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Estelle: I continue to write poetry and prose when inspired and put them on my website. I have a blog on my website and try to keep that up with politic information and what is happening in today’s world.
Morgen: I keep an eye on the news (usually the BBC home page) so I think you’re kept very busy. Do you manage to write every day?
Estelle: I only write when I am moved to or inspired by an event.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Estelle: I have only written in first person. That’s the only way I know how to write.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Estelle: My editing consists mostly of typos.
Morgen: There are always some in any author’s writing, however hard we try to avoid them. Do you have to do much research?
Estelle: The only research I do is when it comes to my blog when I write about today’s events.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Estelle: I have written two other books. One was when my father died of pancreatic cancer in 1976 title “Eight Weeks” another one was titled “Eight Months”, when my daughter eloped with a fellow she only knew for three weeks, and within three months he had an accident at the gym where they worked and broke his neck leaving him a quadriplegic.
Morgen: Wow. You have had some trials. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Estelle: Yes, I had many rejections. I sent my book to every one I could find online and the last company I sent it rejected as well, but a month later, sent me a letter saying they changed their mind and decided to give it a chance they thought it deserved. I considered that a God thing.
Morgen: What great news. Do you enter any non-fiction competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Estelle: I’ve never entered a competition, but I have published several poems and prose through “Driftwood” Scribblers of Brevard a literary anthology. The poems and prose were judged and selected by a contributing editor for the Space Coast Press, correspondent for Florida Today news, and several academic members.
Morgen: Congratulations. Placing poetry is notoriously difficult. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Estelle: I do not have an agent, as I am not in this for the profit. I consider this my ministry to spread God’s Word and encourage people to find out what God has to say about their life. However, I do believe it is vital to have an agent for success.
Morgen: I think they do help, although many authors do well enough on their own if they’re determined, and you certainly are. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Estelle: I enjoy giving testimonies at women’s socials, clubs, or church groups. I bring my book with me in case someone would like to buy one. However, I do not sell the book for a profit. Whatever royalties I make from Publish America I give to the American Bible Society.
Morgen: That’s very generous of you, Estelle. Has anything surprised you about your writing life?
Estelle: No, no surprises here. I know how very hard it is to get a book published in today’s market, especially if you are an unknown name without an agent.
Morgen: It is, but then there’s self-publishing, an aspect of writing that’s becoming more and more popular and no longer (in most quarters) has a bad name. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Estelle: Be patient, write about what moves you, write with an open heart to change people’s lives.
Morgen: Wouldn’t that be great, if we knew our writing did that (for the better). If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Estelle: My first guest would be Jesus. It wouldn’t be important what I served. The most important thing would be sit at his feet and listen to his wisdom.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Estelle: I collect quotes and have hundreds of them. I also write my own quotes. You can find my quotes on my website, http://Heistheword.com.
Morgen: Oh great, I love quotes and have a page of them too. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Estelle: I spent many years volunteering for the Red Cross disaster assessment team, and nurse’s fairs. I taught ESL (English second language), volunteered at medical clinics, and rode on ambulances as a tech. For the last three years I had to retired from my job as a hospice nurse, and all my volunteering because I had major brain surgery, and I no longer have the energy or the focus. I miss it a lot.
Morgen: What a shame, although it sounds like you’re so busy already. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Morgen: Ah yes, the wonderful LinkedIn. I was running low (a week’s worth) on interviews back in February so put a shout-out and am now booking nine months in advance so have deleted the shout-out. I hate making people wait so long but can’t do any more than I’m doing (unless anyone would like to be my unpaid assistant :)). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Estelle: I am sad to say that I think publishing a book will soon be impossible if you are not a well-known name.
Morgen: Doing these interviews has made me realise how many authors there are out there. I’ve over 700 booked in with another 900+ questionnaires still out in the ether and think I’ve only scratched the surface. Whilst people are definitely reading more, it’s harder to have your voice heard, which is why guesting on blogs seems to be the way to go (or so I’m told). Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Estelle: My website, www.heistheword.com has everything you’ll ever want to know about me. Maybe too much information! Ha! It has my testimony of what God has done in my life, my trials and tribulations. My blog, and I am linked to Worthy Ministries, and the eight free charity sites that give donations just for your click. It also has a Q & A link that I did a lot of research to find the best and simplistic answers to the most asked biblical questions.
Morgen: That sounds great. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Estelle: I consider my book, and my website, my ministry. I want to spread God’s Word and inspire people to read the Bible. It is an amazing book about life and has all the answers for those who will just seek.
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Estelle: I would like to know how you came about to start the type of blog that you have.
Morgen: Simply that I’d heard it was a good idea. I had no clue that it would take over my life (literally) but I enjoy it and all the authors involved have been so grateful that it’s been, and is, worth it. And if it helps brand ‘Morgen Bailey’ then that’s a bonus. 🙂 Thank you, Estelle.
Update February 2013: “I am in the process of revising my book, He Is The Word, with Publish America. I have made a lot of changes, and added many more poems to my book in a different format which makes reading them much easier.”
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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