I first met Cheryl several years ago when we found ourselves in a critique group together, and sometime later another critique group was formed-Inspirational Critters. Cheryl’s enthusiasm and sense of humor abound; even the flat world of cyberspace can’t contain her abundance of contagious energy, faith in others, and spiritual constancy. After Hurricane Katrina, I lost touch with Cheryl and the group. After my family relocated, I found Cheryl online, and she was on her way to publication! She always makes time to offer support and encouragement, to cheer others on. It’s been exciting for me to watch Cheryl’s success, but it comes as no surprise. She’s been persistent and consistent, in her writing and in her faith.
You can find her at: www.CherylWyatt.com
A SOLDIER’S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER’S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 200
1. How did a nice former nurse like you become tangled up with USAF pararescuers?
LOL! Well, actually I love anything high-action. I have a fascination with the military that began when I was young, mostly due to my father being a VietNam vet. He wouldn’t talk about his time there until recently so as a child I would sneak into his military stuff and soak it in. PJ’s (Pararescue Jumpers) are actually Special Forces skydiving paramedics who also do combat when necessary. So it was only natural to mix my medical knowledge in with my love for the military. Military and medicine and high-action and viola! Pararescue Jumpers!
2. When did you decide that writing was what you were called to do?
I’ll answer this question in two parts because I didn’t honestly know for certain until recently that I was called to it, but I dearly hoped I was. It was the moment God asked me if I would write as worship, even if it meant I’d never be published. That was about three or four years ago. I had left one career to stay home with my children, and what a blessing to be able to do that! I’m beyond thankful for that. So I couldn’t peacefully pursue writing fiction unless I knew it was a calling and not a career.
Translation=At what point in your life did you say, “Self, we’re going to sit down and write a book!”
I was placed on bedrest with a high-risk pregnancy for preterm labor. I’d been on bedrest with my first pregnancy too, so it was during this time when I began writing down snippets of stories that I could no longer seem to fend off. At that time I believed God was giving me this gift of story to both combat fear of losing the baby, and also to prevent my death by boredom. LOL! I’ve averaged writing five books a year since that time. So that’s how it started and the stories just never went away. Thankfully God has given me the ability to write extremely fast, because it’s challenging to find time to write with chaos in every corner of my home. Joyful chaos though. LOL!
3. Okay, I have to ask. . . where and when did the name “squirrel” fall upon you?
Oh! I’m SO glad you asked this. Get your tissues ready. A friend of mine had a little paraplegic boy in a wheelchair who, for some reason, became enamored with me from the time he was a toddler. At that time in my life I collected replica baby seals. He knew my obsession with seals and would give me posters and notebooks, anything with seals on them. In addition to spina bifida he had a speech impediment and so when he said my name, it came out, “Squirl”. People started calling me that so he wouldn’t feel bad being unable to say it and it just stuck. Pretty soon everyone at church called me Squirrel, then my family started calling me that. One day I was standing in the yard visiting his mother. He saw a group of kids playing nearby and decided he wanted to go play with them. So he climbed our of that wheelchair and dragged himself to those other kids, his feet dragging behind him in the dirt. Using his arms, he pulled and dragged himself all the way to the sandbox where the other children waited for him. His mom kept trying to help him but that embarrassed him. He wanted to do it himself. Wanted to be able to go to the sandbox by himself. So when he gets there, he tells all the other kids, “This is my mom. And (points to me) this is my best friend, Squirl. I love Squirrels because they laugh just like her and she loves seals because they walk just like me.”
That little boy is 18 years old now.
4. What do you know now that you wish you would have known then (see #2 for “then”)?
I wish I would have known to study the craft of fiction before submitting the story to an editor. BLUSH! LOL! I also wish I would have known how to organize and save my files better. I also wish I would have known God was truly calling me because I struggled with guilt over it, so that I could have experienced the fullness of joy that God had for me in this from the beginning of when He released me into it. I believe He put writing into me as a child, but as far as fiction, when He commissioned me, like, “The time is now. Go for it.” LOL!
5. I’m loving your “Plotstorm” on your blog because, as a new writer, it helps me to read how the process unfolds. What led you to share this?
I’m so glad you found it helpful! What led me to share it is twofold. First I have selfish reasons in that I’m trying to up my blog readership. LOL! And Randy Ingermanson says in order to do that, your blog needs to be focused on others. It needs to have helpful content, and not just be inwardly focused on the blog owner. The second, and main reason, is because I know I learned so much from people ahead of me on this road, taking my hand through mentorship and leading/teaching me. Every step I took was because someone helped me. So I understand the need for mentorship and have a huge heart to help others. I don’t feel experienced but I figure if I can help someone else right behind me or a ways behind me, that brings me great joy. I love to give back, and to help new writers.
Have you thought of teaching a class?
I have thought of it, but I’m not sure my conversational style would be benificial in a class setting. But I’m willing to do whatever to help someone. So if I could put the plotstorm in a cohesive sequence, then I may try to do a class in the future, once I’m more experienced in the craft myself. I think the learning never stops and I still feel very green most of the time. I may not know a lot, but I’m willing to share everything I have learned if it will help someone else.
6. When do you think new writers should seek out critique groups and/or partners?
I think they should try and find good critique partners immediately. I believe in it wholeheartedly. I think it’s most helpful when you find someone who will sandwich positive comments in with the hard stuff. It’s hard to hear critical things about our writing, but it’s a necessary thing in this industry. It’s also helpful to group people together in like genres. For instance, I wouldn’t have a clue how to critique horror because I do not read it.
What is the best way for a new writer to find a “fit”?
If you mean finding a critique group “fit.” Prayer. Ask God to send loving people who will be completely honest but who will also encourage you. It needs to be someone who “gets” your writing and doesn’t try to change your voice. Each person can bring unique strengths to a group and you grow together even when you’re at different levels with different things.
Finding a “fit” as far as a pub house: Prayer, too. Try to know your target audience. Prayer. Who do you want to read your books? Then write to that genre. Read. Did I mention Prayer? LOL. God knows us and it’s so much easier when we let Him blow the doors open. Know the market so you know which pubs to target. Know their visions for their house. If you can spring for a conference, the agent and editor panels are MUST. Get the tapes of the conference if you can’t go. Those panels alone are worth the fee IMHO.
7. What about contests?
Contests can be a bitter friend. This industry is HIGHLY subjective. When you get to a certain level in your writing, contest feedback can be hard to decipher because the scores can be widely disparate. Just know that going into it. Basically you have to find the diamonds in the rough, meaning look for things repeatedly pointed out. Contests are better if you can enter more than one or two, because you have several judges comments to compare. Ignore scores completely. LOL! Seriously it doesn’t matter. The first five times I entered contests I came in dead last. And I mean the kind of dead last where if the person who won got a 300, and the next loser above me scored a 174 and I didn’t clear 40 points. But after just one year of taking those comments (okay crying over them first. LOL!) and applying the changes I felt were right on, the very next year I began consistently finaling. I had something like 6 or 7 different stories place in around 12 contests. So I’m a huge proponent of contests. I think they grown your craft and your character because they get you used to hearing hard things about your writing. Some of the judging can be a minor form of rejection. LOL! So character comes in not writing the coordinator to complain about that rude judge who gave you a 1 when everyone else gave you a 5. LOL! Some people just will NOT like or get your writing. Contests are great prep for reality. Once your book hits the shelves…not all readers ( or eeek! reviewers) are gonna love your story. But you have to know going into this that you won’t please everyone. It’s impossible so don’t even try. All you have to do is impress the editor who is willing to stick their neck out there and hand you a contract.
I think contests are more helpful if you’re just starting out. Because after that, finals often depend on the judge lottery. LOL! meaning which judges end up with your story. So not finaling in the Maggie was a huge disappointment because I have personal reasons for wanting to win that. Maybe in a couple years I’ll enter the pubbed version. LOL!
8.. What is the greatest disappointment you’ve experienced as a writer? the greatest joy?
Greatest disappointment, I think is getting a 3 in the Golden Heart. That was really humbling and heartbreaking. BUT, weeks later THAT story sold. So that goes to show you it’s highly subjective. Another disappointment was having to cut many of my action scenes, but in the end it made the stories much stronger. It also stretched me as a writer because writing action-driven stories comes easy to me. Writing emotion does not. So when my editors wanted me to down the action and up the emotion, I had to really WORK at it. I had to dig deep because I’m not easily moved. I wanted to take the easy road and they wouldn’t let me. Now the books have a much stronger emotional core and I’m SO thankful that a book is a team effort. It is awesome to get editorial input in the form of revisions, etc. I love it and feel much more confident with books hitting the shelves since I’ve had that collaboration and input from editors. Everything about writing is pure joy. The fact that God is pleased with it, that He’s actually handing me a dream on a silver platter and wanting me to take great pleasure in the gift. The fact that God receives my writing as worship brings the most joy. I love to entertain, and provide the escape of a happily ever after because life has so many sad endings. I hope my stories will touch someone’s life in an eternal way too though. It’s going to be a joyful moment when, come Jan 2008, my daughters get to point to a shelf at Wal-mart and say to passersby, “My mommy wrote that.”
9. Fill-in-the-blank: If I couldn’t write, I would………..
I’m serious. I would drive everyone around me bad. I’d be the most miserable human on the face of the planet. It would nearly kill me not to be able to write. If I couldn’t write, I would combust.
Christa, these questions were so fun and thought-provoking. Thank you so much for allowing me to do this!!!!!
Gal. 2:20 Pouring my vial of words over Him.