Friday, August 15, 2008
FEATURED AUTHOR: Jennifer Schuchmann
Jennifer Schuchmann is the co-author of Six Prayers God Always Answers* Results May Vary (Tyndale) and Nine Ways God Always Speaks—Offer Not Available in All States (Tyndale, Spring 2009).
Her first book was Your Unforgettable Life (Beacon Hill). She’s also ghostwritten for an international leadership consultant and contributed to The Couples’ Devotional Bible (Zondervan), The Church Leader’s Answer Book (Tyndale), Whispering in God’s Ear (WaterBrook) and Loved (Hachette, 2009).
Jennifer has an extensive public speaking background. She holds an M.B.A. from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Memphis. Learn more at www.jenniferschuchmann.com
A short blurb of the book 100 words or less.
In Six Prayers that God Always Answers, Herringshaw & Schuchmann write that the most authentic prayers may not look, feel, or smell like the things we were taught in Sunday School. Using illustrations from the Bible, history, and pop culture they demonstrate prayer isn’t a specific posture or a recitation of words, but rather the foundation of a relationship—a relationship where some unexpected results can occur.
If you’re frustrated because it seems your prayers often go unanswered, Six Prayers won’t show you how to pray better, but how to talk with God and discover the answers you’ve overlooked.
What would you like your readers to take away from your book?
First, I’d like them to know that prayer can be awkward. We’re given lots of models of prayers that include things like getting up at four o’clock in the morning, standing before a crowd and quoting verses, or closing our eyes and saying funny words we don’t normally use. That’s not how we talk to our friends. So why do we talk to God that way?
Prayer should be a natural and on-going conversation. Yes, he is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, but he invites us to come and have and have a conversation with him. My hope is that readers will learn that talking to God can be as enjoyable and comfortable as having a conversation with a girlfriend.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I’ll have to answer that with two things. From a prayer standpoint, I learned a lot about having an ongoing conversation with God in addition (or in some cases instead of) whatever formal prayer time I have. That verse in Thessalonians about praying unceasingly (1 Thess 5:17) got much easier when I learned that short quick thank-you’s and acknowledgements of his presence count as prayers.
From a writing standpoint, I learned that I reach readers when I am most authentic—when I am willing to say things that aren’t pretty, but are true.
As I write this, I realize that in many ways, these two ideas are really the same thing. When I’m honest in my prayer and honest in my writing, something good happens, but it takes getting past myself to find it.
What is the hardest part about the writing business?
Why? I’d written three other answers to this question and realized I didn’t like them all for one reason or another. I was judging myself, the content of what I was saying, and trying to second-guess what would be most helpful to your reader. That’s when I realized it wasn’t that any of my answers were the problem, it was the fact that I doubted myself each time I wrote one. So I guess more than anything else, that’s the hardest part—getting over my own doubts.
The question you didn’t ask though, is how do I deal with it? I deal with it by having confidence that this is something God has called me to. I turn it back on him and realize that often it isn’t about my strength, but his strength in my weakness. He is most glorified in my weakness.
Guess I glorify him a lot more than I ever thought...
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
That it is like parenting—easy to do badly, almost impossible to do well, consistently.
What marketing have you found that particularly works well for you?
I am not sure I know…and the other folks in the industry don’t seem to know either.
I can tell you that with my first book, radio didn’t seem to do anything. But now that I’m with a larger publisher with better distribution, radio interviews seem to bring a quick spike. When I speak, I connect well with audiences and that seems to translate into some immediate and some slower sales. I am doing more online marketing and my publisher has done some web-based advertising, but until they can get better data from the bookstores, I can’t really measure the effectiveness of those activities.
I can tell you that online social networking sites don’t sell books. They can help you make friends who may later be helpful with word of mouth, but if you’re a writer who wants to get on Facebook or Shoutlife just to sell books, it’s not the best use of your time.
But people in my real life networks—friends, neighbors, people at my kid’s school etc., sell a lot of books for me. I think that’s why it’s important to invest your time in the community you’re trying to minister to, because it’s easiest to market and sell to communities where you’re an active member.
What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?
1) That at writer’s conferences making relationships with established authors is just as important as relationships with editors and publishers.
2) That paying attention to grammar and punctuation in high school would cut down on the number of times I have to rewrite a piece.
3) To enjoy the process wherever you’re at as a writer and not constantly dream about the next level. The next level always looks better but in getting there, you lose some of the joys found in this one.
This month our theme is Getting Out Of The Slush Pile. Do you have any advice for getting an editor/agent to request your manuscript?
1) Attend a writer’s conference. Make a five minute pitch (I taught this class at
Write to Publish www.writetopublish.com) that gets them asking questions and eventually causes them to ask you to send it.
2) Relationships always trump slush pile. When your manuscript is ready (and I mean really ready) ask someone you know well, who knows someone at the publishing company (that you’ve researched and are confident is the perfect fit) and ask if they will help you get it into the hands of the right person.
3) But whether you’re a beginner or an old pro, there will still be times when you have no choice but to go through the slush pile and the best way to get out of that pile is to write so well that they can’t help but notice you. And that means everything from the presentation of your proposal, to a captivating title, to stellar writing.
What was the last conference you attended and what did you like about it?
Not counting ICRS (International Christian Retailing Show) which wasn’t a conference, was the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, IL in June. I was on staff and my favorite part about it was the people I met and worked with while I was there. I saw some incredibly talented young writers, with great timely book ideas, the background and platform to write them, and the willingness to work hard to do what it takes to make their stuff the best it can be. I referred one attendee to my agent who wasn’t even there and yet she picked the attendee up as a client.
What do you do to make time for yourself?
I am not very good at this. The things that I love to do are the things that many people describe as work, so it’s hard to separate it all. I try to take a Sabbath—one day a week where I don’t write anything. I try to regularly write for my blog, (blog.jenniferschuchmann.com) because it is not assigned, and I can write about anything I want. I meet regularly with other writers for social activities and occasionally manuscript critiquing. I meet regularly with other Christian artists and arts professionals, in dance, film, and theater because we’re all in the communications business. I attend conferences that don’t have anything to do with writing but where I get t hear interesting speakers, hang out with the younger generation, and get excited about the projects others are doing. Two of my favorite conferences are Catalyst held in October in Atlanta, and Q which is put on by Fermi (www.fermiproject.com). I am a connector by nature and so I love hearing people’s stories whether online through Facebook or in person.
What was the last book to keep you up at night reading it?
He’s going to hate me for saying this, but my friend Patrick Borders (http://www.patrickborders.com/ ) has this great new fiction book he’s working on called Zach’s Colors. He let me read the first 200 pages of it and I couldn’t put it down.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
On each of my websites there is a Contact Me page, they can fill out the information and I keep that forwarded to whatever email is most active at the moment so that’s often the fastest. The websites are http://www.jenniferschuchmann.com/ and http://www.sixprayers.com/. Or they can leave a comment on my blog at http://blog.jenniferschuchmann.com/ . I am on Facebook almost everyday (and I have a MySpace page which I rarely check). They can also have their people call my people, but since I don’t yet have any people, it might take awhile before we get back with you.
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