Friday, February 6, 2015

Author Interview with Linda Bonney Olin

As my regular readers know, from time to time I interview Christian authors on my blog who I believe have something unique to say to our culture. I met Linda Bonney Olin through an online writer's group I am part of. She has a unique approach to helping people understand what God is trying to say to them. I recently interviewed her and you will find that interview below.

Terry: Linda, in between raising two kids, working outside the home, and helping your husband run a farm, somehow you have found time to serve as a lay speaker in the United Methodist Church and write in a wide variety of genres. What drives you to write and speak?

Linda: I began simply to fill a need. I became certified as a lay speaker in 1997 in order to conduct
worship services when the pastor of my small rural church was away and also to present innovative programs for a bit of variety. I occasionally wrote skits and scripted conversations for my son and his puppet pal. While leading adult Sunday school classes and special programs for my congregation and other local churches, I developed Bible studies, longer dramas, and a little music.

A turning point came in 2007. I prayed my heart’s desire to write something that would have eternal impact, like the wonderful hymns of Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby. I didn’t ask for fame or fortune, or even publication, but only for the Lord to speak through my writing to someone who needed to hear his message. He agreed, providing I would write according to the Holy Spirit’s daily leading and put his direction ahead of human counsel and my own bright ideas. Who wouldn’t jump at a partnership like that? I retired from my management job and trusted God to meet our financial needs, which was no small leap of faith with the uncertainties of farm income.

Admittedly, I haven’t always been 100% faithful to my end of the bargain, but the Lord graciously prods me back on track when I forget that bit about human counsel and bright ideas. Meanwhile, he has fulfilled his promises many times over, helping me produce hymns, devotions, inspirational poems, Bible studies, blog posts, and a little fiction for publication. A nonfiction how-to book about personal puppet ministry is completed too, waiting for the Holy Spirit to point me to the right publisher. He always guides me to the information I need to carry out his assignments. And I’ve had the pleasure of using that knowledge to help other authors with their book projects too.

Terry: One of the books you wrote is entitled Giving It Up for Lent. It comes as both a workbook and a leader’s guide. I was moved when I read it. Tell us about this particular book.

Linda: That project originated with a weekly supper and study series put on during Lent by several local churches. The idea was to refresh the old tradition of giving something up for Lent, by challenging participants to make significant sacrifices of time, talent, or treasure that would bring glory to God and benefit to others, instead of token “selfish sacrifices” like giving up candy to lose weight. As my church’s representative on the program committee, I wrote and presented the introductory discussion of sacrifices described in the Bible and added the dramatic comedy The Sacrifice Support Group to lighten up the topic a bit.

The play depicts a mixed bag of church characters. In Act One (which ended the first weekly session of the series), they are challenged by their pastor to make those God-serving Lenten sacrifices. Knowing how tough it will be to stick to their sacrificial plans, they form a mutual support group. In Act Two (presented in the final session) they meet to discuss their sacrifice experiences; they all resolve to make their sacrifices an ongoing part of their lives. The play is very simple to put on. In fact, at the original Lenten program I drafted "actors" and handed out scripts during supper; we performed it as Readers Theatre with no rehearsal at all.

The series went over so well that it begged to be shared. I published the drama script of The Sacrifice Support Group as a standalone book and later published Giving It Up for Lent as the full study package.

Terry: Who do you hope will benefit the most from this book and why?

Linda: The obvious answer is church groups who want a fun, potentially life-changing study. More than that, though, the study encourages Christians to adopt spiritual disciplines that glorify God, which is the biggest thing, and do good for our families and communities. The lasting benefit can be enormous, depending on the choices readers make.

Terry: Can you share with us 2-3 key things you hope people will gain from the materials you write?
 
Linda: First, I hope and believe that God will use my work to touch people in ways that have eternal significance. In accordance with my covenant, I leave it up to God what form that significance will take and who will be the target. He might bring a reader to salvation through his revelation of Jesus Christ in my work. He might simply deliver much-needed comfort or a kick in the pants, or anything in between. Some people use my writing in ways I never expected. Non-singers, for instance, meditate on the lyrics and Bible verses in my first book, Songs for the Lord, in their personal devotions, even without the music. Isn’t that cool?

Second, sometimes my dramas touch upon matters that are disputed between Christians of different faith traditions. I hope readers will approach those—and all my work, really—with an attitude of goodwill so they can receive the deeper faith and understanding the Lord has in store for them. For example, not every church observes the season of Lent the way I'm accustomed to. But every Christian can benefit from considering the discipline of sacrifice, whether during the weeks leading up to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross or any other time. So Giving It Up for Lent has value for everyone, and I hope the folks who don’t recognize Lent won’t bypass the book for that reason.

Third, I pray that those who sing my hymns and perform my dramas will be blessed as richly as I have been by the intimate presence of my Holy GhostWriter through "my" words.

Terry: If you could offer one piece of advice to other aspiring Christian writers, what would it be?

Linda: Only one? Ha! I have a whole list!
  1. Follow the Lord’s plan for your writing, just as you do for any other aspect of your life. He knows your unique voice and the audience who needs to hear it.
  2. As the Bible often says, “Fear not!” Do not be intimidated by what other people say “real” writers do, like writing a minimum number of hours every day. And don’t worry that your crummy first efforts will displease God. Do you think he’d prefer you to waste his gifts and ignore his invitation to bless readers on his behalf? Of course not. So pray, sit your behind in the chair, and let the words flow onto paper or keyboard.
  3. Then study the craft of writing, so you can give the Lord and the world a quality product. Unless God’s plan for you included a quill pen that miraculously moves across the paper by itself, be willing to revise and refine your writing and have it edited and proofread.
  4. Join a local writers group where you can read your work to knowledgeable readers. Resolve to cheerfully endure the pain of unfavorable comments (we all get them and they can hurt). Listen to the reader’s point of view, instead of trying to talk her around to your way of thinking. Later, after the adrenaline drains off, consider how her input might make your work stronger. Besides giving me honest critiques and valuable suggestions, my local writers group is a posse of kindred spirits who encourage me when things aren’t going well and rejoice with me in times of victory.
  5. Attend a Christian writers conference. I’ve attended Montrose Christian Writers Conference almost every year since 2007, the last time as a faculty member. The knowledge, the peer support group, and the industry contacts I’ve acquired there are priceless.
  6. If you are itching to write a 300-page tome, fine; but consider cutting your teeth on smaller bites. There are lots of opportunities for short pieces in the Christian market, especially if you are willing to contribute your work for ministry instead of money. Writing short devotions, poems, and hymn texts in between spells of work on a book has helped me develop writing skill, given me the satisfaction of some completed projects, and built my publishing credits in magazines, devotionals, and anthologies.
  7. When rejection letters roll in (I could start an impressive origami collection with mine), do not fall prey to discouragement. Revise the piece, have it edited and proofread if you previously neglected that step, find another publisher whose profile your work fits, make sure you are following the publisher’s writers guidelines, and resubmit. Pray and persevere.
Books and blogs offer a ton more of useful advice for Christian writers.

Terry: Where can people find your books and learn more about you and your work?

Linda: Everyone is invited to my Faith Songs web site at LindaBonneyOlin.com. Besides the book pages, check out all my resources for ministry, music, writing, and more. In the Audio section, you can hear the melodies of the songs in Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas and Songs for the Lord.
Or you can go directly to my Author Page onAmazon

And I’m active on Facebook—the only Linda Bonney Olin there. Stop in and say hi.

Terry, thanks very much for inviting me to your blog. I’ve enjoyed your books, and I’m impressed with the frank but respectful conversations you have here.


Terry: Linda, it was great to have you with us on the blog today. I also want my regular readers to know that Linda loves to interact with others about her ideas and writings. So if something she said in this interview sparks an idea, feel free to post it in a comment below and she will do her best to interact with you.

24 comments:

  1. Way to go Linda! I particularly liked number 3 in your listing of helpful advice for writers.

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    1. Thanks! I keep asking for one of those quill pens for Christmas, but no luck yet. :D Seriously, I've heard editors complain about Christian writers who refuse to change one word of their writing because they consider it divinely inspired. Well, my writing is divinely inspired, but not divinely dictated. I have to mull it over and write lousy first drafts and revise, and sometimes totally re-vision my work before my Holy GhostWriter gives me the green flag to submit it for publication.

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  2. well i guess i am anonymous! ha! the only way i could publish the comment i wanted to reach you---you know me, it's Rebecca C. from Cinci! Love the positive energy you put out there! Please keep writing!

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. You too! I'm praying for your words to get out there and bless the world--I know they will!

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  3. Thanks again for inviting me to your corner of the cyber-universe, Terry. And as my thank-you to anyone who persevered through that whole interview and made it all the way to these comments, I'd like to offer a free PDF copy of your choice of my books. Look 'em over, send me a request via the contact form on my website, and I'll email it to you. (I'd appreciate your leaving a review on Amazon if you like the book, but no obligation.)

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    1. I better put an end date on that freebie. Let's say the offer stands until Monday (February 9, 2015).

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    2. haha, end dates are always good

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  4. Lots of good stuff here, Linda! Great advice, encouragement, wisdom, and, as always, your sense of humor. Thanks for sharing, Linda and Terry.

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    1. Thanks, Path4ward. What would we do without humor? As I was doing a market survey for my book on personal puppet ministry, I came across authors who warned puppeteers against using humor in discussions of faith matters. Eh?? If Jesus' beam in the hypocrite's eye isn't a snarky bit of humor used to teach a faith lesson, I don't know what is. :)

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    2. God created us in His image so I know He likes to laugh. Yes, when I read the red letters in my Bible, I imagine sometimes imagine Jesus with a twinkle in His eyes and a chuckle in His voice. And still, a lesson happens. Your words and humor do the same.

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  5. Good interview! Thanks, Terry & Linda. I'll highlight this on the Christian Poets & Writers blog - www.christianpoetsandwriters.com. God bless you and your writing!

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    1. Hi, Mary! Terry and I got to know each other's work by way of the Christian Poets & Writers group you administer on Facebook. It's very cool that Christian writers can support one another along the writing road, and online groups make that possible even though we're all over the place (geographically, culturally, and theologically).

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    2. Mary,
      thanks for highlighting the interview. God bless.

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  6. Terry, I just posted a viewpoint on Faith Songs: Is Lent "Biblical"? If anyone would like to check that out, here's the URL:
    http://www.lindabonneyolin.com/2015/02/is-lent-biblical/#.VNUl5Gco6os

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  7. You did a wonderful job at interviewing son as you do being interviewing

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    1. Hi, are you Terry's proud mama? If so, God blessed you with a wonderful son, and I'm sure you had something to do with the way he turned out, too! Isn't it exciting to see God's message reaching people through his books and preaching?

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    2. Hey mom, your church should use Linda's book during Easter

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  8. Love the creativity of Linda. The Spirit shines through.

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    1. Aww, thanks, Kristy!
      Terry, Kristy is a member of the local posse of writers I mentioned. A great encourager and a valuable critiquer. <3 Also a writer with a big heart for youth.
      No, I have not turned into a robot since my last ten posts ... :P

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    2. Good to meet you on the blog Kristy. And Linda, glad you did not become a robot. Lol

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  9. Remember how I became a lay speaker so I could fill in for my pastor?
    Just found out the pastor has laryngitis (possibly a delayed reaction from all that Super Bowl hollering?) so I'm doing the services at two churches tomorrow. Prayers, please, for all concerned.

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  10. Excellent, filled with strong suggestions for both "wannabes" and "published." As one of those erratic writers who inconsistently write, I am also an avid advocate of "the key to good writing is revise, revise, revise," which Terry has heard from me many times. Thanks, Linda, for encouraging words; thanks, Terry, for sharing this interview.

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  11. Well, I'm a little (two years!!) tardy seeing and responding to "Unknown" but thank you for your generous feedback. :D

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