Donna Earnhardt is not only a picture book writer, she’s also a great photographer. You’ll find her links at the bottom of this interview. She’s also very active onGoogle+. You can connect with Donna in lots of different ways. One of the coolest things about Donna is her first picture book sale to Flashlight Press. This happened in May and I can’t wait for the book to come out. Well, enough about Donna from me, now go ahead and read about Donna from her. Here’s the interview:
You’re a prolific writer. Before I get into specific questions about writing, I have to first ask, why write?
Thankfully, I like what I do. But the fact is, there is something more that compels me to write. I believe that writing is something I’m called to do. I know it’s not the only thing, but I do feel a tug in my heart that tells me God has led me in this direction and called me to it. And I am glad!
How old were you when you wrote your first story and can you remember the name?
I don’t remember the first story, but my mom still has a poem I wrote for her in kindergarten. I’m almost 39, btw! But I wrote all through school and was one of the co-editors of our high school literary magazine. I loved that!
When did you first begin taking writing seriously?
When I had my first daughter, I started telling her stories. I had always written poetry, but writing stories for children was a little different for me. After a while, I started thinking, “HEY! I can do this and make money!”
Little did I know the whole “making money” part wasn’t nearly as easy as I originally thought.
How did “taking writing seriously” manifest itself?
I started submitting to various publishers….and received various rejections. It was then that I joined SCBWI Carolinas. One of the best decisions I’ve made for my writing career.
I first met you on Verla Kay’s Blueboard. Can you explain the Blueboard, how it helps writers, and name some of the writers you’ve met there?
Oooooh! VERLA’s BOARD! That place is thick with talent. I am not always able to hang out over there because I just want to spend all my time perusing and chatting with other like-minded writers. Verla Kay has set up a fantastic community for kid-lit writers to interact, share information and give encouragement. And it’s all free! She is a terrific writer and a generous person. If anyone reading this interview needs a boost of confidence or is looking for a good place to jump in feet first, Verla’s is the place to do that. Some folks who are new to Verla’s have told me they felt a little overwhelmed at first, but they kept digging in. After a while, they found their favorite places on the chat board and learned how to navigate. One of the best ways to find your way around is to introduce yourself and ask questions. That’s how I met several great folks!
Just a few of the names that come to mind: Stephanie Theban ( http://storiesreademwritem.blogspot.com/), Stephanie Reed (http://stephaniereed.turboflanges.com/), Stephanie Ruble (http://www.sruble.com/) and of course, Brian Humek!
(I do know lots more folks from Verla’s board who are NOT named Stephanie. You’ll just have to trust me on this.)
For writers who suffer rejection after rejection and feel like giving up, can you tell them a bit about your journey to publication has been like?
My, my, my! I started out subbing my stuff… without being part of a critique group or having anyone read it through. It wasn’t too long before rejections poured in. I even called a big time editor and asked if I could send it to him. I had not yet been to a conference, so I didn’t know how bad of an idea that was!
What kept you going after you received your first few rejections? Did you have encouragement from family, friends, fellow writers or did you have an overabundance of determination?
My mama, daddy and sister gave me a briefcase full of writing stuff, told me how much they believed in me… then sweetly told me to get to work! And my hubster has been extremely supportive throughout this journey. I also have the blessing of having a mother-in-love who encourages me to keep on keeping on!
You have a new picture book contact with Flashlight Press for your manuscript BEING FRANK. For those who may not have heard the good news yet, can you share a bit about the book and where your inspiration came from?
This story grew from a conversation I was having with God while in the shower. (Is that too much information?) I was praying about what to write for NaNoWriMo because I had decided to be a NaNoRebel that year. As I prayed, the first line of the book popped in my head. I knew I had to write it down! It took me a couple of days to write it. I sent it to Shari Greenspan (editor at Flashlight) and then sent it to my crit group. That’s kind of backwards from the way I usually do it! Thankfully, she liked it and sent it to her colleagues. Then she asked for several rounds of revisions… and I said yes!
After sending it to her and the waiting began, I eventually realized that the book was really about my family. The MC is aptly named Frank because he holds nothing back when expressing his thoughts. That gets him in some hot water with friends, family and even at school. My kids, hubby and I have all struggled at some point with knowing when to speak… and knowing when to keep our mouths closed!
Another neat thing thing: My dad’s first name was Frank. He was killed in an accident almost 9 years ago, so this is neat way for his name to carry on. I didn’t plan it that way, I just accept it as cool gift from the Lord!
Where do most of your book ideas originate?
Welllll…. in the shower. Seriously. A lot of them do! The first line is usually the thing that starts it all. However, some pop into my head while I’m driving down the road. Because of that, my oldest daughter is becoming increasingly proficient in writing down whatever ideas I dictate to her.
Do you have a special place to write, a place of solitude?
The closest thing I come to having solitude is Starbucks. I’ve started heading out once a month or so to write for an hour or two after the kids are in bed and my hubby is settled in for the night. (He is fully supportive of my jaunts to Starbucks as long as I bring him back a Raspberry Mocha!)
Do you have an agent or do you submit your work yourself?
I sub the work myself.
If no agent, have you actively looked for an agent? Why or why not?
Yes, I would love to have one! Administration is not one of my strong suits, so having an agent would lighten my load and make writing a lot more fun. Subbing is the one part of writing that can stress me out. I don’t mind revisions. I don’t mind rewrites. But subbing and re-subbing? Yuck.
You are very active online. I follow many picture book writers on Google+ and you are one of the very few who ever post anything, in fact, I find you to be a prolific Google+ user. Why do you love Google+
Google is so much fun AND informative! I have learned so much from the other writers and photographers there. I find that Google+ has tons of creative type-folks who spur on the rest of us creative critters to dig deeper and grow.
You are so creative. Not only do you write, you are an amazing photographer. Where do you get your creative genes?
Oh wow. Thank you! That is quite a compliment coming from you. I’ve read your work AND seen your fabulous photos!
As for creative genes, my mom and dad were very active in crafts, painting and making stuffed animals when I was younger. She would come up with an animal she wanted to make, they’d draw the pattern… and it was on! They had folks from all over who wanted to buy her animals. My mom is a baker and a writer, too. She can play a song – with both hands – by ear. She doesn’t read music, just hears something and BAM! She’s got it. (I’m jealous of that, btw!) My sister is also very talented. She is an artist and musician. She could play a trash can and make it sound good. Wait… she has done that, sort of. She was in a steel pan band in college!
Other than creating beauty, what goals would you like to accomplish with your camera?
I’d love to eventually understand exactly what I’m doing when I start messing with those settings! I’d also love to have some photos published. I think I’d like to have a job as a portrait photographer. I love capturing expressions!
And of course, if I could help change the world with my photography, like Colby Brown is doing with his non-profit organization, then that would be incredible, too!
Finally, if could wave a magic wand and change three things in this world instantly, what would they be?
1. I would love for everyone to know the Way, the Truth and the Life in an very real, intimate way.
2. I would love for true peace to infiltrate the heart of every man, woman and child.
3. I would love for children to know a world where hunger doesn’t exist, joy is overwhelming and love saves the day.
Wait… that’s still just three. Right? See, I put it in list form so I could get away with it.
Thank you so much for this interview Donna.