Award-winning writer Roxanne Sherwood has collected some serious contest wins, including overall winner in the 2008 Touched by Love contest sponsored by the Faith, Hope and Love chapter of Romance Writer’s of America®. She writes contemporary romances that touch the heart of her readers with their moving story lines.
Roxanne lives in Texas where things are reputed to be bigger than life. That’s certainly true of her. She has an enormous heart and a bigger than normal family. She’s the mother of seven children, ranging in age from 2 to 22: four in college, two she’s homeschooling and one in diapers. All but one still live at home. Her oldest, Daniel, has just been accepted to the doctoral program at Rice University. Her youngest has recently given up his pacifier.
Life is busy for this single mom, who lost her beloved husband and partner in 2007 when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Roxanne squeezes her writing in between mothering, homeschooling and doing 22 loads of laundry a week.
I first heard Roxanne’s name when the winners of the Touched by Love contest were announced at the Faith, Hope and Love mini conference held just prior to RWA® Nationals in San Francisco last summer. She took first in her category and the top spot as well. I continued to see her name on contest winners lists. I visited The Writing Road, where she’s a regular contributor, and was quite impressed with the site. When she visited my blog, I jumped at the chance to have her as my guest.
Join me as we learn more about Roxanne and her writing journey.
The Journey Begins
I am thrilled to be here, Keli. Romance Writers on the Journey is a wonderful blog. Thank you for having me.
•In doing the research for your interview, Roxanne, I saw that it took you five years to write your first novel? What led you to undertake a big project like that in the midst of such a busy season in your life? And why did you choose to write romance?
I’d read my fill of parenting books, studied curriculums until I’d become a consultant for my favorite one, and given 100 percent of my time to my family. I wanted something for myself. When I had a baby in my forties, I knew I couldn’t wait until he grew up to pursue my dream of writing, or that dream would never be fulfilled.
Still, I hesitated to begin writing because of the time it took from my family. What if I never got published? Wouldn’t my writing be wasting time that could have been better spent?
Then, one day I had an epiphany, and I gave myself the freedom to fail. I couldn’t work every minute. Instead of spending time reading novels written by other authors, I wanted to write my own. Even if I’m never published—but I hope I am!—I won’t ever regret the years I’ve spent honing my craft.
I write romance because it’s what I like to read. Life doesn’t always work out the way we’d like. I love a happy ending.
I’d like to point out that if it takes someone five years to write a novel, she’s mostly not writing. However, while learning to write good fiction during those five years, I moved across country, homeschooled six children, lost an unborn baby at five months, added another baby to our family, graduated four students from high school, helped them apply to colleges, and survived the death of my husband, Jack.
•I’m amazed you could write more than a grocery list with everything going on, but your early efforts fared very well. A Perfect Love placed in the American Christian Fiction Writers Nobel Theme contest (now known as the Genesis). What is that story about? How did you come up with the idea for it? What aspect(s) of it did you most enjoy writing? Dialogue? Action? Emotionally charged scenes?
Years ago, I’d prayed for a friend of a friend. She was pregnant with her second child when her husband was killed. God brought a wonderful man into her life, and she married him two years after her husband’s death. Her former in-laws didn’t understand. Their son had only been gone for two years. But those were the two longest years of her life. I never met this woman, but her tragic story and God’s provision became the catalyst for my novel.
In A Perfect Love, my heroine, Stephanie, has a son named Peter. When I became pregnant, my husband and I struggled over what to name our sixth son. (My unborn baby was a boy.) I guess a little boy named Peter had been living in my head so long that I chose that name for our baby. But I was happily married, so the resemblance between my life and Stephanie’s stopped–until twelve days after Peter’s first birthday when Jack died. Then, all the thoughts I’d placed into Stephanie’s head ran through my own. I was living out my fiction. “How am I going to manage? Peter is too young to remember his father.” It was surreal.
•Your recent contest success isn’t a new thing. Your contest wins date back to 2004. Which win was your first? How did you feel when you got the call saying you’d finaled?
It must have been a fluke, but I won the Dixie First chapter contest, which was first contest I entered. I was shocked and excited—similar to what I felt when I discovered I was pregnant with twins. Then, I learned the reality that no one would be buying my manuscript any time soon. I needed to write more than one good chapter.
•So, you won your very first contest. I’m impressed! How many finals and wins have you garnered? Which stands out as being the most special to you and why? What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from entering contests?
I’ve finaled or won seven contests. My biggest win is being the Overall Winner of the 2008 Touched by Love Contest. I’ve learned how to take criticism and how to rewrite the same chapter more times than I’d ever thought possible.
•Mothering seven children is a feat that boggles my mind, since I can make raising my only child look difficult. And yet, due to the loss of your best friend and husband, you’re now doing so on your own. How have the numerous challenges you’ve faced in recent years affected your writing? Who or what do you turn to when things seem overwhelming and you struggle to put words on the page?
My faith in Jesus Christ gets me through life. My husband would be proud of our children, and I am too. We’re all supportive of one another, and we’ve had tons of support from extended family such as my sister, Alicia, my mother, and from our church family.
It was important that l grieve well for all my children’s sake, but especially for the baby, Peter. The present Sherwood family, without my husband, Jack, is the only one Peter will know. He deserves to live to the fullest, and I need to be living to the fullest alongside him.
I’ve found it impossible to write in the midst of deep mourning. Days after attending my first writing conference and getting a request for a proposal, my unborn baby died. I didn’t write anything for six months. I haven’t started a new project since my husband died. But I’ve healed to the point that I’d like to begin a new manuscript. I’m emotionally healthier when I write.
I think it’s important to stay connected to the writing world. Even though I wasn’t writing, I continued to critique, to meet with writers monthly, and to read about the craft of writing. Eventually, I began editing my wip, and now I’m creating characters for a new story.
Steps Along the Way
•As writers, we long for those days when the story flows like warm syrup over a steaming stack of pancakes. You, however, have to work around innumerable interruptions. I saw a post you wrote for The Writing Road blog in which you said you’re not only a pantser, but you’re an out-of-order writer. How do you make this work for you, given your busy lifestyle? Or is your approach precisely what enables you to craft a story amidst the seeming chaos of a house filled with children?
I envy people who write in order. It sounds so much easier than writing puzzle fashion the way I do—a scene here, another one there. I’ve painted myself into more corners than you can imagine.
This isn’t an efficient way to write, but it’s the way my mind works. When I begin a story, I know my character’s GMC. Pretty early on, I know the way the story will end, so that I have my target. I know a few of the obvious conflicts. I start writing whatever scene begins playing in my head like a movie.
It was tricky writing a story that takes place over a year, beginning with the birth of a baby. I was writing out of order. The baby’s birth, the breakup scene, the first kiss, the end. I never knew what the baby was doing—Could he sit up? Was he taking his first steps?—because I kept moving the scenes around or adding more scenes in between the ones I’d already written. I never knew what season it was. It’s taken several rewrites to get that straight. I need a continuity girl like they have in movie production. 🙂
•On another of your posts, you talked about the value of taking small steps on our path to publication. What are some you’ve taken recently? What are some you recommend?
I began contributing to The Writing Road blog last fall. I taught two workshops to local writers. I also spoke to a couple of homeschooling groups, was a guest on a radio interview on overcoming adversity, and even judged a writing contest.
Keep stretching yourself. No one feels adequate to critique at first. But the more you do it, the better you’ll become. Enter contests. Offer to teach point of view or setting at a local writers meeting. Of course, it’s intimidating. But if Susan May Warren or Allison Pittman happen to be in your group, I promise, they’ll be gracious.
The Journey Continues
•How many manuscripts have you completed? Are any of your stories out on submission? What are you working on now? And what stories are percolating in the back of your mind just waiting to be written?
I’ve only completed one manuscript. I have another half dozen in various stages. I’m finishing one last polish on A Perfect Love and plan to submit the manuscript to the editors and agents I met at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference last September.
I want to write about a homeschooling mom whose life drastically changes one day when she’s widowed. Gee, she sounds a lot like me. (I’ve only given her five children to make her seem a bit more realistic.) I’d like to use a lot of the adversity I’ve experienced during the past two years. I’ve got more than enough conflict to fill a book. 🙂
Just for Fun
•Let’s suppose a generous benefactor read your interview and wants to finance a personal weekend getaway for you. She’ll arrange quality childcare, make all the travel arrangements and provide you with spending money. In order to know exactly how to provide you with an ideal getaway, she has some questions.
Where would you like to go? Destin, Florida.
Will you be writing, relaxing, shopping or some of each? Enjoying the beach during the day, writing at night.
Music or quiet? Reveling at the sound of waves crashing against the shore. I love to hear the ocean, but I write in silence.
Internet access or a Cyber holiday? Internet access. Once a day to check in.
Dark, milk or white chocolate? Milk chocolate. Specifically, Hershey’s kisses.
Other snacks you’d like? Popcorn and M&M’s. (My characters like this too.)
Beverage of choice? Coke.
Chinese, Italian or Mexican food for dinner? Italian.
I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Roxanne. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors? What would you like to know?
Keli, thank you again for the opportunity to be here. I’d love to hear tips from your blog visitors. How do you write more efficiently? Any help for an out-of-order pantster, like me?
Learn More About Roxanne
Visit her at The Writing Road blog
Friend her on Facebook: Roxanne Sherwood
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win
I’ll choose a winner from those who leave a comment for Roxanne on 3/26 or 27 (and include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share), and will post the winner’s name 3/28.
The winner will have her choice of one of four inspirational magnets. Each heavy card stock magnet from Imagine Design, Inc. measures 2-1/2 x 5 inches and includes an optional fold out display stand.
Congrats to Lisa Jordan, winner of the drawing.
Small print: He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit . . . John 15:5
Small print: May God bless you far more abundantly than all you can ever ask or think. Eph. 3:20
Small print: He Who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
Small print: Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Cor. 16:14
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and March 31. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On April 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)