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Writer Wednesday with Award-Winning Author, Bob Hostetler

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I met Bob Hostetler at a recent ACFW-Indiana meeting. I had no idea how much I admired his work until I saw his book table. And there it was. A book that had a huge influence on my life as a youth minister and teen Sunday School teacher:

I raised my kids and a whole passel of other kids on this book. It’s an excellent apologetic in layman’s terms. I think I’ve quoted most of it for the past 20 years over and over again. The title itself is one of my favorite phrases.

I was fortunate enough to visit with Bob during our luncheon that day and he was nice enough to agree to an interview!

Grab your cuppa (I’ve got my iced tea ready!) and get ready to glean wisdom from an award-winning, best-selling author. 

Thanks for agreeing to the interview Bob! I’m really looking forward to your next book! And I don’t care if I am gushing like a giddy schoolgirl. Its delicious purple cover (purple is my FAVE) and delectable content has me salivating already!

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Click to tweet please!

Bob says, “Don’t check your brains at the door!”

What’s on your writing desk, Elaine Stock?

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Today I’m excited to feature one of my dear writing pals, Elaine Stock. She is represented by the same literary agent I am, the lovely Linda Glaz. I’m so happy that my readers get to know Elaine. She has a very engaging blog. You’ll want to check it out.

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Karla:  I love this picture of you and your cat! I write surrounded by my pets, too.

Elaine:  Although this photograph of myself is a tribute to my not long ago writing muse of the past nineteen and a half years, Wild Cat, who left me for a much better forever writing spot this past October, what you see is pretty much my writing place. Oh, I do have this great big antique oak desk that is presently in the corner of the kitchen. I think. Is that what’s under the printer, mounds of paper that can never, ever be thrown away, and writing how-to books?

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered

Karla: Oh yes. I have one of those mysterious wooden things you call desks, too. I’m sure it’s under there somewhere. Along with a pony, maybe? I’m very sorry about the loss of your cat. As an animal lover with five fur babies myself, and having had many over the years, I know how very precious they are to us.

Where do you like to write the most?

Where in the world do you write-

Elaine: With limited space, I’ve come to appreciate this corner of the sofa. It’s the closest to the wood stove in the winter, plus I look out four big windows and a backdoor for views of the countryside. Since the photo was taken I now have an additional pink marble side table. On good days I use the coffee table and side table as desk extensions—of course! To add a little more zest in my drive I’ll keep a mug of coffee—if early in the morning—or hot tea or plain old tap water. I’m not into snacking—really!—but may indulge in fruit or a granola bar if the blood sugar sags.

Karla: I don’t think I know the meaning of “not into snacking.” I wish I did! I envy that! Thanks for sharing your lovely writing space with us, Elaine. It sounds absolutely cozy and inspiring.

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Karla writing from her snack fort.

Here’s a bit more about Elaine. I hope you’ll make every effort to connect with her, Dear Reader!

Elaine Stock never expected that a college major in psychology and sociology would walk her through the see-saw industries of food service and the weight-loss business; co-ownership with her husband in piano restoration and 10 years in community service. All great fodder for writing fiction.

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(c) Elaine Stock

In the spring of 2011 she placed in the Semi-finals category in the ACFW Genesis Contest for her novel WALK WITH ME. In 2013 she received the honor of My Book Therapy’s Frasier Bronze Medalist award for her novel NO GOING BACK. And in 2014 she was blessed with the news that her short story IN HIS OWN TIME won the People’s Choice Award in the FamilyFiction Contest, which was published in the printed anthology, THE STORY: 2014 Anthology. November 2014 saw her short story, THE FOREVER CHRISTMAS GIFT, released in CHRISTMAS TREASURES: A COLLECTION OF CHRISTMAS SHORT STORIES. In January 2015 she became a regular contributing author to Happy Sis Magazine (http://happysis.com) aimed at an international readership to “inspire women to know Christ and to grow in faith, integrity, confidence, success and happiness.”

Her own blog, Everyone’s Story (http://elainestock.com) has grown in its over 4-year existence, receiving an average of 8,000 viewer monthly visits. She weekly hosts authors, writers, and readers, which helps to further her reach and connection to many on an international level. Everyone’s Story’s theme is to uplift and encourage all through the power of story and hope.

Connect with Elaine here:

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ElaineStock

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorElaineStock

Goodreads  http://goodreads.com/ElaineStock

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You know you’re a writer when you know where all the outlets are at the hospital cafeteria…

And at the mall, and the bookstore, and the library, and anywhere else your path may lead.

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Where I’m writing today

Because I work several jobs, I take my laptop with me everywhere I go. Sometimes, it’s a waste of energy because I may never find a bit of time to write. But most times, if I’m diligent, I can locate an outlet (because my battery needs replacing and it’s expensive) and pound out a few hundred words. I have to do this because I don’t have the luxury of hours of writing time.

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There are only two outlets in this huge cafeteria, and I’m using one of them.

You’ll know you’re a writer when you’re obsessed with telling your story and you have an irritable itch to get it down on paper regardless of your schedule.

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Brain food

Today I’m writing from the hospital cafeteria after a pastoral visit. The hospital is an hour away and I am taking advantage of some time away from home distractions to pen a few hundred words.

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My hospital office in the cafeteria

I know where outlets are on almost every floor of this mammoth building. If they kick me out of the cafeteria, I know where I can go (should I stay that long) to find another writing nook.

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Lots and lots of nooks, but not a lot of outlets!

I’m not alone in writing this way. Agatha Christie started out writing on her breaks when she worked as a nurse — on a typewriter of all things. If she can do it, so can I.

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There’s a waterfall in the corner that has great seating–but no outlets

Are you a writer? Are you as obsessed as I am with getting the words down? Weigh in!

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Would C. S. Lewis be too distracted to write today?

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C.S. Lewis hard at work

I love reading about the writing habits of great writers. Maybe it’s because I’m looking for that one secret element that made them great.

I guess there is one secret that’s consistent with all of them: they worked hard. So much harder than we do today. I’ll explain in a bit.

But first, let’s look at what C.S. Lewis had to say about an ideal writing day in his book, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life.

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“[I] settled into a routine which has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a “normal” day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of the Bookham pattern. For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better. A step or so out of doors for a pint of beer would not do quite so well; for a man does not want to drink alone and if you meet a friend in the taproom the break is likely to be extended beyond its ten minutes. At one precisely lunch should be on the table…”

This “Bookham pattern” he speaks of developed after his father withdrew him from public school and brought him home to be tutored. It was then that a daily routine he grew to love developed.

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And what writer wouldn’t love to have someone bring them coffee or tea, and have a lunch ready for us at 1:00 PM? It sounds heavenly to me, if not to you.

But I suppose that there are things about my writing life that would appeal to Lewis as well–a microwave or Keurig for making tea for example. We may not have housekeepers but we have gadgets that serve us well. Or we serve them. Either way, I think Lewis would have enjoyed them. (PS I don’t have a Keurig but I’m accepting donations…)

Keurig Special Edition (B60)After his lunch, Lewis enjoyed a walk. This is something that I have yet to work into my day consistently. But I know I do feel better and have much more energy when I  exercise. And scientists claim that it makes us smarter:

“Walking 40 minutes four times a week changed the size and organization of participants’ brains in one year, resulting in the formation of new neurons and larger memory centers, according to a study from the University of Illinois.”  (Source: Want to boost your brain power?)

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People knew that walking was good for them long before studies proved it. C. S. Lewis enjoyed walking every afternoon. And unbeknownst to him, it’s probably what got him through the afternoon blahs some full-time writers experience:

“By two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one … who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.”

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Oh how I love this quote! I tire too easily at ceaseless chatter. There are times when a soul needs time to contemplate, and writers and artists tend to crave silence more than most. I’ve been accused of being anti-social because of my lack of need to share every one of my thoughts. Perhaps it’s because I write them that I feel no need to express them verbally. But I also find it a wearying task to explain them to others. I simply don’t desire to.

Besides walking alone, Lewis also preferred to take his tea alone soon after his walk:

“The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude…”

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The man loved his solitude! Proof positive that there are those of us who simply must have it.

It’s tempting to accuse Lewis of being persnickety, but before we make that mistake, we must remember that he is describing an ideal day. And how often does one have those?

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Like us, Lewis had distractions, one of them being mail. He had a love-hate relationship with mail because he was compelled to answer every letter he received. I can imagine he’d have the same attitude towards email that we do today!

“But when is a man to write his letters? You forget that I am describing the happy life I led with Kirk or the ideal life I would live now if I could. And it is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock.”

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Writers today complain about time being eaten up with social networking, but I would guess that Lewis spent just as much time writing letters. He was a prolific letter writer and was extremely generous with advice. Also keep in mind, he wrote his letters and manuscripts by hand. How much easier we have it today than writers did even twenty years ago. I’m old enough to have written many a story on a typewriter with gallons of white-out at my side.

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One of the letters he wrote to a young fan, Joan Lancaster, is good advice for writers still today. Notice how he doesn’t patronize or talk down to her:

“1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

 

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

 

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

 

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

 

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

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One of C.S. Lewis’s Desks

After his tea on a “normal” day, Lewis went back to work:

“At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies (and at Bookham I had none) there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven.”

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C.S. Lewis hard at work

It sounds like a lovely ideal day. But Lewis didn’t have children to care for, chores to do (I’ve read he was an abysmal housekeeper as was his wife whom he married late in life but she was also ill), and focused mostly on the work at hand. Still, he probably had interruptions as we do.

My ideal day would include hours alone, too. But alas, I work mostly in my home office where my family ignores the “Writer at Work Do Not Disturb” signs. To them it’s not a writer at work, but a Mom at home, ready to answer questions, rescue the cat from the dog, and break up an argument between twins.

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However, I have technology the likes of which Lewis couldn’t have imagined. I have word processors that correct my spelling, and search engines for my research. I have over a thousand books in my ereaders and can type 95 or more WPM. I don’t have to invest in paper to send a letter or even a stamp. Perhaps this makes up for the solitude Lewis had.

Just imagine what things he could have created had he lived in our time. Or would he have been too distracted?

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What do you think? Let me know what your ideal day would look like. I’d love to discuss this with you!

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I’m baaaaaaack

It’s been too long since I got to blog and I miss it! Juggling life and a book deadline are a huge challenge. But with God’s grace, I’ve emerged from the cave with my mind still intact.

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(Okay, fine, so that’s a subjective opinion. But just because some people think sitting on the roof singing “Yellow Submarine” is crazy doesn’t mean it is.)

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This deadline was extremely difficult for Mr. Himself. I’m hoping next time I get a contract my deadline won’t be so pressing. But hey, when you get the rare-these-days publishing contract you can’t exactly make demands. If they need a book by a certain date, you’ve got to make it happen.  Still, Mr. Himself felt very neglected. Poor fellow. I felt bad.

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How my husband sees himself when I’m on a deadline

I have a lot to consider as I go forward. I need to somehow keep my family happy while I pursue the dream. And I think it’s harder for women than for men.

What say you?

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