Friday, July 27, 2012

Answering those curly questions

Over the past five years or so, I have had some interesting experiences, speaking and promoting my books. I love being invited to share in Christian settings, but I also enjoy talking about my writing journey at secular groups. In fact, part of me dislikes this division between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’, to be honest. Whenever I speak at a ‘secular’ venue, I believe God is there and has even gone before me, preparing the way. I am always conscious of the setting and respectful of those who have invited me, but I also try to be myself, speaking honestly and listening for what God would want me to say. On most occasions, I get to mention God directly quite a few times. But even if that doesn’t happen as much as I might have wanted, I still try to be a faithful representative of God in that place and alert to the Spirit’s promptings.

And it’s at these secular venues that I am often asked the most interesting and intelligent questions. So many people want to write something, whether it be their own life story or poems that have touched family and friends or children’s stories they would like their grandchildren to enjoy. But even those who never plan to write anything are often curious about how an author goes about it all. They might love reading, but have never thought about what that author’s name on the cover represents and the potential ups and downs involved in it all. Many seem interested too in the nitty-gritty of preparing a book for publication and the actual process of finding a publisher. So when it comes to question time, I have to be prepared for anything!
The most common questions I am asked go something like this: When did you start writing? How long does it take you to write a novel? Where do you get your ideas from? Do you write something every day? Do you sometimes get ‘writers’ block’? Do you plan your book out before you start? What about self-publishing? How has the advent of the e-book affected the publishing industry? Are your books available in all the main bookstores? But perhaps the ones I find the trickiest to answer are to do with selling and money – questions like: How many books have you sold? What sort of print runs would your books have? Can you make a living out of it?

Hmmm!! When it comes to these questions, I try to be gracious – but then again, in our Western culture at least, does one usually ask a stranger how much money he or she makes in their business? The best response I have come up with so far is to tell them I am very thankful I am in the ‘black’ with my books and not in the ‘red’ – that I’m thankful I have so far avoided lots of boxes of unsold books under the bed or wherever they are stashed! But I also tell them it’s a good idea not to give up your day job! And even in the most secular setting, I usually say that, for me, it’s not all about the money. It’s about blessing others and making a difference in this world and about enjoying using the gifts God has given me to share with others.
How about you? Have you been asked curly questions like this? Have you found some good responses to use?

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna and Heléna’s Legacy. Her first non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey will be released in October and a sixth novel, The Inheritance, in 2013. Jo-Anne loves music, reading, mentoring younger women, and sharing with community groups about writing. She is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit her website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.

10 comments:

  1. I think it's great you get to these secular venues, Jo. It's another way for a Christian to be a light in this world. A few years back my husband and I were invited as speakers to a Rotary night in WA. They understood we were evangelists and probably wanted to "suss' us out. We gave our usual presentation with George speaking and my artwork. The leader who the local Christians were a bit nervous about warmly responded by giving me a peck on the cheek, and he auctioned the drawing off for a decent sum. Thankfully I've never been asked about the money side of writing, because a money-maker it isn't!!!

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  2. Thanks for your comments, Rita. I wonder where that lovely drawing of yours is now? Maybe it has touched many people along the way in the years since you drew it. Whenever I sell a book, I try to remember to ask if I can write 'God bless' in it, as well as signing my name. To me, this is like a little prayer that God will bless and encourage whoever gets to read it. I particularly love doing this at secular venues and have been knocked back only once.

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  3. I get curly questions too, but thankfully not about selling books. As with you, I've found diplomacy the best way to go - truthfulness without specificity, sometimes deflection, but always with an extra measure of warmth and interest toward the person asking the question. Thanks for the post, Jo-Anne.

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    1. Love your description of the way you handle those curly questions, Margaret! That's exactly what I try to do. I never want to make someone feel stupid for asking what they really want to know, that's for sure.

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  4. Thanks for your post Jo-Anne and well done on all the books you've published to date. I agree with you that there isn't a division between the sacred and the secular. God has it all together under His control and care doesn't He? It's a pity we've divided the world when ALL of it is His and all of it should give glory to Him! I was most intrigued at your new book - it sounds like something I'd love to read.
    Blessings,
    Anusha

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Anusha. I think wherever we speak, it's good to remember God is there and to listen for what the Spirit wants us to say. And I hope you do get to read my book one day - it will be released at the Writers' Getaway in Qld in October. God bless.

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  5. Hi Jo-Anne,
    I agree, secular or Christian, it's always an honour to share. I am asked similar questions to those you listed. About the money one, I always think it fair to tell people that, except for the notable few, writing full time is probably impossible if you're the family's chief bread winner. Got to be honest, in case they quit everything based on some idea they have from us.
    Thanks,
    Paula

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    1. Yes, Paula, I totally agree with you that we don't want to mislead anyone. I usually joke about not giving up your day job, but then add that even wellknown authors often need to lecture in some aspect of writing somewhere or offer short courses at writing centres or edit other people's work as well, in order to earn enough.

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  6. Yes, I've had these experiences too, Jo-Anne, and always with a sense of privilege and gratitude. It's a great experience to be able to share about my writing and hopefully about my reliance on God. I love this part of the journey of writing.

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  7. Yes, I think that's the secret, Carol, to have that sense of privilege and gratitude about our whole writing journey, including being able to answer those curly questions! It's so easy to lose perspective at times. God bless.

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