Who is Carol Stratton?
I am a wife and mother of four children and two grandchildren who remind me how much fun it is to play again! I spend free moments learn mandolin and fiddling around with guitar. For ultimate writing inspiration I enjoy hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. Of course my favorite activity is having the whole family over for a cookout. I love seeing our table grow larger every year as our family expands.
I especially like humor and making people laugh. We don’t get enough these days so when I sell a humorous piece it makes my day. I write to help people out of life’s cracks and I coined a name for it: Crackpatcher is a name I coined. I hope my writing, either inspirational or humorous can do that.
Carol, tell our readers about your journey to writing.
I got published my hometown newspaper, the Palo Alto Times. My sixth grade teacher submitted an essay to the Youth Said It column and I was hooked.
What was your path towards publication like?
Slow. For years and focused on writing songs. After 9/11, I felt compelled to write an essay. Two days later I sat in front of the editor while he read it on the spot and agreed to publish it. (Not the way to query a busy editor!). I spent about five years sending out article with only one or two a year that got published. Meanwhile I wrote a Middle Grade novel about a boy whose brother had died, a picture book, a moving tips book, and a women’s inspirational novel. Out of pure stubbornness I kept trudging back and forth to writing conferences, pitching books until I pitched my devotional book to Eddie Jones, my editor.
What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to pitching yourself as an author and what steps have you taken to overcome that obstacle?
Finding the balance between self-promotion and confidence. If I am in this business just to make a name, it’s an awful long journey. But if I focus on my message and know it will help people, it’s easier to pitch my ideas. Probably having several published pieces under my belt has strengthened my confidence but ultimately my passion and take-way for the reader propels me through times of doubt.
How do you balance your life as an author with your duties as a business person, employee, parent and/or spouse?
I didn’t start writing until three of my kids were teenagers so finding time was easier but you do need to be sneaky and squeeze in time when you can. I’ve been known to shoot out of bed at midnight to write down a rough draft of an essay that will otherwise escape me in the morning. I also write in my mind while driving or walking. It’s a good way to hash out a passage or figure out a description. Writers are always writing, either mentally or on paper.
What is your best advice for getting past writer's block?
My problem has not been writer’s block but writer’s diahhrea! I started talking very early and haven’t stopped expressing myself yet. But when I get stuck on a plot point, for example, I will give myself a break and switch over to another task, such as describing a character or putting together some witty dialogue. Also, I bounce ideas off of my husband who has a zillion ideas and always helps me get “unstuck”. He’s my muse!
What was the best writing-related advice you ever received? (Please tell us why you feel this way? How has it helped you, etc?)
I have a card in my office with Churchill’s shortest speech on the front. It says, “Never, never, never give up.” If I believe (which I do) that God gives us certain gifts and motivations, it behooves me to keep going, because, “… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” Phillipians 1:6. This verse reminds me it’s not all on my shoulders to produce. If I can encourage even a handful of people with my writing it will be worth it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
Yes. Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You’re Transplanted is a forty-day devotional for anyone moving or looking for community. The book came out of my many relocations with my husband and children. Moving is difficult but it can be a great adventure and bring your family closer. I share real life stories pared with Bible verses to encourage the reader through all aspects of a move.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I had another moving book with tips and stories that I kept pitching to editors and they always turned it down because it was a “niche” market. Evidently editors never move. Last summer I went to Write To Publish, a wonderful conference in Wheaton, Illinois, and heard Eddie asking for devotionals for niche markets. That magic word, “niche” caught my attention and I threw out an idea for a devotional for those who relocate. He took it.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book? (Please share why it was difficult as well as insight into how you overcame this difficulty.)
Because I used personal stories, I had to be transparent to my readers. I had to wrestle with myself when I wrote about certain subjects like feeling alone and friendless in the middle of a Bible study, difficult neighbors, and the move I didn’t want to make. But knowing my struggles have been common to many women has made it easier to share.
I also know when I share my stories I know I might be criticized with some readers thinking how multiple moves must have disrupted our family life. I’ve found the opposite to be true. The truth is a lot of our moves were either when our children were young, or they were moves in the same city from one house to another. Now our children are grown and we are a close family. In fact we all ended up in North Carolina. In a funny sort of a way, they’ve had to learn important life skills such as how to meet people and cope with change- abilities we need our whole life.
Did you have to do any special research for your book? No.
If you could choose just one thing for your book to accomplish, what would it be? If I can encourage some young mother who can’t remember how to get to the grocery store, hates the weather in her new state and think she’ll never have a community of friends, I will feel successful.
What’s ahead for your writing?
I hope to publish my Middle Grade novel, Wolverine Hill, and my inspirational romance, Lake Surrender as well as articles. I also see a Changing Zip Codes for children who have moved.
What opportunities have opened up because of your writing?
I have recently had opportunities to speak at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meetings. I know how hard it is to be a mother to small children. At one point I had three children five and under and was climbing the walls. On the way to one of my speaking engagements, I thought, why wasn’t there a MOPS group around when I had young children? The answer came flying back to my mind…if you had had a different experience you wouldn’t have anything to share with these young moms. It kind of spooked me but also comforted me that God uses everything in our lives. So now I’m excited about expanding my speaking pursuits.
I hope your readers will think of Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You’re Transplanted if they are moving or know anyone about to relocate.