Monday, November 06, 2006

Interview with Martha Rogers

Writing is an amazing yet trying journey. And in the shadows along the way are rejections, disappointment and writers block. . .

Perseverence is a must. Since I’ve been an ACFW member, one particular member has stayed-the-course longer than anyone I know, Martha Rogers. I’d like to share her testimony with you.

RH: Hi, Martha, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Martha: Rex and I have been married for 47 years this month. (October 24) We were blessed with three sons who married great girls and have given us 9 grandchildren. I'm a graduate of Baylor University with a Bachelor of Science degree and University of Houston with a Masters in Education. I taught homemaking and English for 28 years and English at the college level. I've also supervised student teachers for University of Houston for 5 years. My hobbies include making my angel teddy bears and other crafty projects.

RH: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Martha: Almost as soon as I could talk. I begin writing stories for my paper dolls to act out when I was in kindergarten. I also wrote skits for my cousins to act out for our parents and grandparents.

RH: What was the first thing you wrote beyond those kindergarten stories?

Martha: I wrote a novel at seventeen: Broken Barriers about teenagers in the fifties. I have that manuscript and have worked on it, edited it, and fine tuned it, but it hasn't found a home. It was really bad when I started working on it again, but now I think it's a pretty good story.

RH: Did you submit it for publication?

Martha: I didn't submit it until a few years ago through my agent. At the time I wrote it, I did it just to escape into a fantasy world. I loved doing that. I knew nothing about publishing.

RH: We both know a lot of authors who are raising children, working full time jobs, active in ministry. Can you talk to these busy people about the seasons of life?

Martha: When my two oldest were babies, I jotted down ideas for devotionals, short stories and such. I have scores of journals where I wrote down my thoughts and ideas. Each week we had one day where the boys decided what we were to do. (Usually a museum, swimming, a picnic, or the zoo.) We had one library day and after we picked the books up, we came home and read. We had an "at home" day when I would write and they would play games in their rooms. I collected a lot of fodder for scenes doing things with them.

RH: How did you manage working, family and writing?

Martha: My writing seasons were leanest were when the boys were growing up and I taught full-time. Having to grade so many essays and research papers squelched my own interest in writing for a time. When the boys were older and the youngest was in middle school, I went back to school for my Master's degree. That's when my writing really took off again.

RH: You had some early success with non fiction articles, right?

Martha: The first articles I submitted were accepted and appeared in Home Life Magazine. Before that I had entered a number of contests for short stories and articles, but hadn't won any. Then I was contracted to write 8 Bible studies for First Place.

RH: What about fiction?

Martha: My rejections started when I began submitting fiction. The first ones really hurt. I cried and thought I'd never write anything else, but then the desire to write pulled me back. They still hurt, but I know each one means I have more work to do

RH: Talk about the highlights in those tough years. What was the silver lining?

Martha: During the sixteen years of sending submissions for novels and getting only rejections, I had the silver lining of articles, devotionals, and Bible studies being published.

RH: In those years of writing without being published, what is the most valuable lesson you learned?

Martha: To keep writing and making each rejected manuscript better for the next submission.

RH: What advice would you give to someone who's been waiting more than a year to be published?

Martha: Be patient. You're just getting started.

RH: More than 10 years?

Martha: Persevere. The Bible tells us to persevere and not give up for at the proper time we will reap a harvest. We have to work by God's timetable, not ours.

RH: What advice would you give to someone who is weary and contemplating writing suicide. "I quit."

Martha: Put it aside for awhile. If you're a serious writer, the Lord will fill you with a desire so strong that you simply must write. You won't be able to let it alone for very long.

RH: Was there a verse or scripture that motivated you?

Martha: I have so many that I call up from my memory for different situations, but one that stays with me is Jeremiah 29:11. Since God knows the plans He has for me, all I can is keep myself ready for whatever those plans may be.

RH: Describe your brightest moments in your writing journey.

Martha: The first was when I saw my first article in print with my name as the by-line. And then when I signed the contract with Barbour for the Sugar and Grits, I realized "Hey, maybe I can do this after all."

RH: We all have had mentors and friends who aid us along the way. Who are people who've helped you and how?

Martha: My friend Wanda Shadle got me involved with Inspirational Writers Alive! and encouraged me to attend conferences with her. Then DiAnn Mills took me under her wing and taught me so much. She formed a crit group with Kathleen Y'Barbo and Myra Johnson. When Myra had to drop out, Janice Thompson joined us and they have been the greatest teachers.

RH: What advice would you give to a new writer?

Martha: Attend as many conferences as you can. If you're limited to one, try to make it the ACFW one. You won't regret it. Get your baby polished and fine-tuned then send it out there.

RH: What advice would you give to an experienced writer, but unpublished.

Martha: Hang in there. Keep writing and submitting. Join a critique group and get feedback from others. Attend those conferences and network.

RH: Tell us about your first fiction book. Title, release date, how publication came about.

Martha: It's a novella, Not on the Menu in the anthology, Sugar and Grits. It will be released in May of 2007. DiAnn, Kathleen, Janice, and I submitted the proposal in 2001. We never received a rejection. It just kept floating around until Susan and Rebecca decided it was time for to be published.

RH: What's next for you?

Martha: I'm busy with a historical, but if I hear from either of the proposals out there, I'll get busy on completing those novels.

Thank you Martha for inspiring us in our writing and walk with God.


Kristy Dykes said...

Thanks, Martha, for a great interview. And thanks, Rachel, for bringing it to us. Martha, I admire what you've accomplished and can't wait to see how God uses you in the future. Can't wait to read your novella coming out!

Folks, Martha's One of the World's Greatest Cooks! I was delighted to be invited to her house for dinner, along with some other ACFWers, when our ACFW conf. was in Houston. Man, she put out a spread!

Thanks, again, Martha, for doing this interview. I learned some new things about you, and I'm inspired!

Pammer said...

What a great interview. Thank you both for that insight.

Kicked me in the pants too. :D