Friday, September 6, 2013

Interview with Jen Armstrong, winner of All Things Writing Contest

As our faithful followers know, Jen Armstrong is the winner of our summer writing competition! Her story, Chaotic Thrills, was posted on Monday, and if you haven't had a chance to read it, click here! I'm so excited that Jen was able to be our guest again today and that I got a chance to interview her! ---Mary Ann

Welcome Jen! I really enjoyed your story, Chaotic Thrills. Is there a message in your story or other works that you want readers to grasp?

JA: At some point, yes.  My passion is to write for women, to be a voice to those who feel silent, to be a light in someone’s life, to let others know they are not alone in the struggles they face, to encourage them to share their own stories and to remind them that we all have a story and together, by sharing our stories, we can all learn and grow.  I hope to write sharing messages of hope, peace, understanding, redemption, forgiveness and overcoming at some point but for now, I am working on a couple fiction ideas.

What books have most influenced your life most?

As a teenage girl in high school, I vaguely remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird.  It became part of my world.  It was the first story I had ever read that touched on the issues of rape.  Having been sexually abused and facing the effects of life after that, filled with fear, depression and shame, silence had overtaken my world.  This book gave me a voice by speaking for me!

On a similar note, a few years ago, I read Hidden Joy by Wendy Blight as part of an online Bible study.  This book also followed the story of a young woman who was raped.  Immediately, I just knew I needed to teach a class on this book.  I had never even taken a Bible study class other than this one online and I was terrified at the thought of teaching.  I also carried doubt that anyone would deem me worthy to teach.  To my surprise, I was met with total encouragement at the idea. The following fall, I taught my very first Bible study class with this book.  It was an amazing experience and this year is the beginning of my third year teaching!

I have to also add the Bible.  I’ve never been big on reading the Bible, probably because I most of it didn't make sense to me, but in the past few years, I have learned that it really is a map for my life if I allow it to be. I have grown tremendously and learned so much just by soaking in verse after verse.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Wendy Blight’s book, Hidden Joy, was really the spark to my interest in reading.  Before that, I really wasn't much of a reader.  I would say her care and compassion for others, her willingness to share and help, as well as her love for God make her a great mentor.

What book are you reading now?

I am currently reading two books.  I am in an online Bible study going through the book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God? by Proverbs 31 Leader, Lysa Terkheurst.  Also, I just finished reading the book, The Unburdened Heart by Suzanne Eller, however, I am going to be leading a Bible study on this book in the upcoming weeks so I’m working my way through it for a second time!

Do you see writing as a career?

I would love to have a career in writing.  I am very new to this world so right now, I am still trying to learn all I can.  I do have a very strong desire to write and hope I never lose that desire. At this point, I am pretty clueless to much of the ins and outs but thankfully research is pretty easy these days and I'm building connections along the way!

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I have always loved writing but have never had much discipline as far as making time for writing.  I do remember writing a lot as a teen.  I mostly wrote poems to express my feelings.  I was a broken, scared, hurt girl and needed an outlet.  Writing poetry was a safe way I could share my thoughts and feelings.  I look back at those writings and while they seem so silly and immature now, I know they were poured out from that broken little girls heart.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I currently have four books in mind.  I have the story lines mapped out for two of them which will be part of a fiction series, The Blessing Series.  I’m a short way into the writing process with the first book.  Basically, the story follows a family faced with numerous struggles including infertility, tragedy and loss.  As they face trial after trial, questioning their faith, they find their hope and strength lies in that very faith they've questioned.  I never realized just how much time it took to write a book and with three small kids as my assistants, at this point, I’m just praying to have this first one finished before they go off to college!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I would say the most difficult thing has been setting aside the time to write.  Other than that, it would be the critical part of me.  I am very critical of my own work, in any area, so I find myself constantly comparing or doubting.  If I could put that aside, I think this process might go a bit smoother. 

Who will design your covers?

Me!  That’s the plan anyway.  I own a photography and design business and I already have the image idea I want to use for my first book cover.  I also do a great deal of graphic design work with web design, logo design and more. 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just write.  Some people make it and some people don’t but you’ll never know if you don’t keep trying.  Keep writing.  If nothing else, you’re growing in the process and hopefully it will pay off for you!  (Telling myself this too!)

Thanks again for joining us! Readers, click the links below to find out more about Jen Armstrong!

Jen Armstrong Blog -
Jen Armstrong Facebook page -
Jen Armstrong Facebook page -
Twitter - @JenHArmstrong

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