Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Inquiry XIX: Anne Broyles

Today I am pleased to welcome MA author, Anne Broyles.

Originally from Arizona, Anne Broyles lives in Andover MA. She is the author of "Shy Mama's Halloween," and "Priscilla and the Hollyhocks." As a scholar of theology, Anne has written and co-authored nine other books in the religious field. Her current focus is primarily on middle grade and picture books. When Anne isn't writing she enjoys doing school visits, hiking, traveling and, of course, reading.

EEM: Did you always want to be a writer?

AB: I thought of myself as a writer from the time I was small, and still have one of my first “books”—two pages of colored paper stapled together of very short stories and illustrations. Yet it didn’t occur to me that writing was a career choice until I was in high school. Even then, I didn’t know anyone who made a living writing until I’d made my own decision of career. I became an ordained minister after college and seminary because it combined many of my gifts: helping people, writing, public speaking, drama, music, dance.

EEM: When you began writing, was it instant success and riches or did you find you had to work other jobs in order to continue your dream of being a writer?

AB: I write for the pleasure of writing, not for fame or money (though if either of those came, I’m up to the task!) My two children’s picture books have received what Cynthia Leitich Smith calls “non-revenue-producing awards” and I enjoy the rewards of satisfied readers, interacting with students and teachers at school visits, and connections with other writers. I’ve published 17 books for adults and youth in the Christian devotional field and that has given me lots of opportunities for travel, public speaking, and interaction with authors and editors.

EEM: What jobs have you held, current or in the past, to help sustain your writing career?

AB: I was a hotel chambermaid and cashier at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, housecleaner, nanny for 3 British kids, and worked at numerous churches during college. After I got my B.A. I went right to seminary, ordination and work as a solo pastor in a local church parish when I was 26.

EEM: Which job was the most challenging or strange to you?

AB: During seminary, I spent one summer as a bar and nightclub minister in the resort area of Lake Okoboji, Iowa. I worked 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. and was supposed to go from bar to bar looking for people to help. What made this job tricky? I was undercover; I could not tell anyone I was a minister, so only the bartenders knew why I was there. As a young, single woman, cruising from bar to bar drinking only OJ and chomping down beer nuts, there was a fine balance between looking approachable enough to be a listening ear, and appearing ready to be picked up for a one-night stand. I didn’t always strike that balance and had to fend off some persistent men!

EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?

AB: Working nights meant days off to enjoy the lake and recreational activities.

EEM: Least Favorite?

AB: I had to walk home at 2 a.m. in the midst of all the drunk and disorderly men who had stayed until the bars closed. I always carried my keys between my fingers to protect myself, and walked really fast, but I never felt safe until I was inside my cottage with the door locked behind me.

EEM: Did your day job(s) allow you to write regularly? Or did you have to get creative to get those word counts in?

AB: No matter what my job, I have always written, but it has sometimes been hard to find the energy to work all day and also create quality writing time (plus relate to family and friends, exercise, and have time for reflection/thinking/daydreaming).

From the first year of my professional life as a United Methodist minister, I wrote magazine articles and high school curricula in addition to my 60-hour a week ministry. I couldn’t NOT write. But I often felt pushed and pulled between the two careers, time-crunched and stressed at not being able to give enough time to writing.

What other effects did it have on your writing?

AB: In 1996, as I madly typed away on an impending deadline assignment, I received a call that a 21-year-old woman from our church had accidentally overdosed on alcohol and heroin. I left my computer, drove to the hospital, and spent the next twelve days going back and forth to Bridgette’s hospital bed until she was taken off life support. Those were stressful, emotional days as I tried to do my other church work, interact with my family and complete the writing assignment. I felt an anguished push and pull between responsibilities, and didn’t get much sleep.

The following year, an emergency surgery saved my life and kept me in the hospital for eight days. Having almost died brought clarity. I realized that while someone else could do my job as a church pastor, no one else could write the stories in my head. Five months later I took early retirement from ministry and began to write full-time. I’ve never regretted the decision.

EEM: Have you ever based a loved protagonist or an evil villain on one of your co-workers? Wished you had?

AB: No.

EEM: What are you working on now and is the process any easier than your first work?? If so, in what capacity (people noticing it, the writing itself, the confidence?)

AB: I am working on several picture books and an historical young adult novel. The process is easier than it was in the beginning because I know more about the craft of writing and have two great critique groups, but it is a hard time to sell some of what I write.

EEM: Would you change anything if you could begin your writing journey over again?

AB: Sometimes I wish I had started writing and working on craft sooner.

EEM: Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions!

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