Stacy Monson writes award-winning Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction. Her current story, Finding Grace, has already met with success on the contest circuit.
Plymouth, Minnesota, a northwestern suburb of the Twin Cites (Minneapolis and St. Paul) about twenty minutes from the Mall of America, is where Stacy lives with her husband of twenty-eight years, an elementary physical education teacher and Italian-speaking joggler. (Nope. That’s not a typo. He competes by running a seven-minute mile while juggling.) They have a chubby and beautiful golden retriever named Libby. Their daughter is a brand new elementary school teacher, and their 6’7” college junior son is studying to be an elementary teacher as well. Stacy says, “Somehow I missed the memo about having summers off.”
Stacy is the Community Relations Director for Touching Hearts at Home, an agency that offers non-medical companion care to seniors and people with disabilities. She loves her job helping seniors retain as much independence as they can, while giving peace of mind to their families. With a mother in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, Stacy is sensitive to the difficulties families face as they try to offer the best possible care for loved ones.
When Stacy’s family can pry her away from the computer and her stories, they love taking car trips across the country. They’ve visited both the east and west coasts several times and traveled through parts of Canada. Their very favorite place to visit is Lake Tahoe, the glittering gem of the Sierras nestled between California and Nevada. She’s recently discovered boxing and thinks it’s “way fun” as well being a great way to work through the frustrations of writer’s block.
Join me as we learn more about Stacy and her writing journey.
Stacy’s Journey Begins
•When did you first hear the call to write?
My younger brother thinks I was born with a pencil in my hand (apologies to my mother!). I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. When we were young, a friend and I would create elaborate families of 25+ kids, naming them all and drawing out house plans for our families. Then I would write stories about them. (Once I got married, we decided 2 kids was plenty!) In high school, I started a story and then let friends read it and suggest where the story should go next.
I wrote off and on over the years I was raising the kids and working, but it was always for my own enjoyment. I never allowed anyone else to read any of it!
•When did you decide to write with a goal of publication?
About two years ago, I brought my dad home from cataract surgery; he was watching Oprah while I was writing at the computer nearby. The show was about mid-life opportunities (versus mid-life crisis) and was filled with brief spotlights on women around the age of 50 who were making changes in their lives, doing things they’d always wanted to do, taking risks. By the time the show was over, I KNEW God was calling me to put my heart and energies into writing seriously.
I immediately signed up for a beginning writer’s class at The Loft, in Minneapolis. The first time I had to read a section of my story aloud, I was sure I’d have a heart attack. But I did it, and I’ve been writing with an eye on being published ever since.
•I was privileged to judge your story in a contest and not at all surprised when it went on to win. What did that first place mean to you, and how long did your celebration last?
It was such a surprise to win that contest – I had to wake my husband up to share the news! Winning a contest is such an affirmation of the growth in my writing. I received fabulous feedback from all four judges, which I was able to use to strengthen my entry before it went to the editor. In some ways I’m still celebrating – when I get frustrated or get that feeling of “I’ll never get published,” I pull out the comments from the judges to remind me that there are at least four people who think I’m pretty good! Feedback from contest judges is invaluable to me as I continue growing and learning.
•Congratulations, Stacy! The Gotcha! is a big contest and a hard one to win. That’s not the only time you placed in a highly respected contest though. Please tell us about the other and if you squealed just as loudly when you got the good news?
I placed second in the 2008 Linda Howard contest, which was such a thrill! It hadn’t occurred to me, up to that point, that I could actually final in a contest. I was in it for the feedback and to make myself continue stepping out of my comfort zone, to keep trying to improve. There was mega squealing that went on the morning I got that email. (My poor husband keeps getting woken up from a sound sleep to hear my happy news!)
Stacy Changes Directions
•A meeting with one of the best agents in the business (I’m biased, since she’s mine. :-)) sent you down a new path. How did this come about?
I had completed my first manuscript when I met with Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in September 2009. She took the time to show me the difference between writing the emotional journey of the characters and writing “the story.” It was absolutely the best “a-ha” moment of my writing career. And it sent me back to MN with the tools I needed to completely rewrite that first story. It changed the direction of my writing, inspired me and gave me a fresh perspective on the mechanics of writing This rewrite is what helped me win the Gotcha! Contest. Thanks, Rachelle!
Stacy’s Writing Process
•How do you approach your writing?
I sit down and just write, whether I’m in the mood or not. Sometimes I struggle with not knowing exactly where I’m going with the story (can you say “pantser?”), but I sit myself in the chair and just start typing. It may not always be fabulous, but it’s getting words onto paper and that forward progress is what counts and keeps me working. And I just simply love to write – I’m happiest when I’m at the computer.
Since I have a “day job,” I am very often impatient to get to my computer in the evening. I think having limited writing hours each day makes me more focused and eager to get back to the story.
Stacy’s Best Tips for Writers
•Every writer has received instruction from others. What are some things you’d suggest to those just getting started?
Write, write, write. Join a BIAW (book-in-a-week) or NaNoRiMo (November’s write a book in a month event) and write like crazy. You can edit later, but the best advice I’ve ever gotten has been to simply keep putting words on the page. That keeps my brain engaged and my heart focused on the story. Everything else will fall into place after that.
The other thing that has been a huge help for me was joining a local Romance Writers of America® chapter. I firmly believe every writer should make the time and effort to connect with other writers – local groups, online loops, whatever helps you stay connected with your “peeps” (those people who speak your writing language!). I’m thankful to Helen Brenna for picking me up and driving me to the first MFW chapter meeting.)
Partners on Stacy’s Journey
•Who are some of the charter members of the Stacy Monson Fan Club, and in what ways have they contributed to your progress?
This is a huge list! There are so many people who have offered wonderful encouragement along this journey.
~ My husband and kids have been huge encouragers, along with my siblings (Sue, Steve and Scott) and their wonderful spouses and my siblings-in-law (especially Mary and PJ). Any my crazy niece, Karlyn. Every single one has helped me as I”ve grown in my writing.
~ Helen Brenna encouraged me to come out of my writing closet and get serious about writing.
~ I started out my first manuscript with The Purple Pen Critique Group, who met with me after reading that very first draft and gave me their impressions, questions and suggestions. It was a HUGE boost for me. Thanks, gals!
~ My critique partner, Alison, has been the voice of reason and encouragement (not to mention the comma patrol). My critique group that brought me into their fold – Ann, Barb, Sharon and Zenith. You rock, ladies.
~ My dearest group of friends who love me unconditionally and encourage me endlessly (Sue, Theresa, Wendy, Nancy, Ruth, Gail, Lynne and Mary), my “oldest” friend, Holly, and my soul sister, Gail S. My Mt. O pals – Marie, Reb and Kirsten. All of these ladies have given me a push, a hug, a laugh, a tissue and a kick in the pants as needed.
~ I love The Midwest Fiction Writers (the Metro area chapter of RWA in MN). This group has been a huge inspiration to me. And I’m thrilled to be part of starting up a new MN chapter for the American Christian Fiction Writers. (Thanks for joining me on the journey Michelle, Amy, Bev and Brenda!) There’s nothing like getting together with people who speak your language. I’ve learned tons from these people.
~ Every judge in the contests I’ve entered. They give of their time and heart to encourage us, and I have SO appreciated it. Thank you!
Wow – everyone should write out the answer to “who are your partners on this writing journey?” It’s humbling and inspiring to actually list all the people who are walking this journey with me. “Thanks” is such a small word for what they’ve put up with! (And to those I missed adding to the list, my apologies!)
Stacy’s Journey Continues
•What are you working on now?
As I shop Finding Grace around, I’m putting my writing energies into book 2 of the River of Life series – Living Peace. I already love these characters and can’t wait to see where their lives take me! There are two other books planned for the series – I’ve “met” the characters and am excited to tell their stories as well.
Five Things That Help Stacy Get Her Creative Energy Flowing
~ Boxing. I love playing Chris Tomlin on my iPod and boxing my heart out. I wonder if Inspirational Boxing could become a fad…
~ Brainstorming with my critique partners.
~ Exercise – where I can start the music and work out story lines while on the treadmill.
Five Things Stacy Has Around Her When She Writes
~ Libby, the ever-present Golden Retriever.
~ Lots of paper and pens (even though I write on the computer. I just love paper and new pens!)
~ A warm blanket. (Remember, I live in Minnesota!)
~ A cup of hot chocolate.
~ Silence. When I write the first draft, I need my room to be very quiet. When I read my work aloud, however, I love having contemporary inspirational music playing (Casting Crowns, Matthew West, Kutless, Michael W. Smith) – kind of like movie music so I can visualize the story!
Stacy has generously offered to give away a special basket of goodies to one person who leaves a comment for her. Here’s how she describes her special prize:
Life is busy – sometimes too busy. We rush from place to place, doing things for others, caring for our kids, working hard at our jobs. Sometimes we forget to take a few minutes to just rest in God’s presence, to enjoy the day and the people around us. This adorable basket is full of goodies (CHOCOLATE goodies) for just those moments of peace. It’s a shame to rush through a luscious piece of Dove chocolate, and perhaps even illegal not to savor a Ghirardelli square. With this basket, you won’t have to because there’s more than enough! You can share (or not) but you MUST treat yourself to a few minutes of downtime. We all need to find those moments where we don’t rush through life, or the chocolate in our path. ~ Relax and enjoy!!
To enter the drawing, leave a comment for Stacy by midnight March 19 (Pacific time). Be sure to provide your email address when prompted. (This way you don’t have to include it in the comment where the spammers can find it.)
On Saturday, March 20, I will choose the winner and include the name in a comment and here in the post. I will contact the winner to get the needed information so Stacy can get the basket to her. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)
Congratulations to Anne, winner of Stacy’s basket of goodies!
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Limited to US mailing addresses only.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Stacy’s Question for You
I’d love to know why people write. Many writers will say, “Because I have to” (it’s how we’re wired). But why else do you write? To make a difference in someone’s life? To make them laugh or cry? To express your faith? To share a truth?
Learn More About Stacy
Friend Her on Facebook ~ Stacy Monson