Elizabeth Thompson – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Day by Day, The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter. By 50, I was deaf and a full-time reporter. I lost my hearing since early childhood and learned to adapt over the years. Many of my columns are in my book, a few poems and my life experience dealing with hearing loss , multiple sclerosis and life in general. It is upbeat, inspirational and for anyone who likes to read about people loving life no matter what is thrown at them.

I have stories in two anthologies coming out this year.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am 58, married, live in Grove City, Ohio, have 2 grown step-children and 1 daughter, 3 grandchildren, and a wire haired dachshund, Toby Bear. Since I was a girl, I was writing; poems and some prose. None of it was saved. It was an expression for me, like music. I was a vocalist and played guitar, sang in church choir and studied music for a year in college. In the late 1980s, I started writing seriously and it began with music which was definitely inspired. How do I know that? I didn’t plan it and for no reason, a song tune and lyrics just “came to me” in rushes and would not leave until I wrote it down and figured the chords out on my guitar. I did this for 6 years and as suddenly as it began, it stopped. I sang these songs in church and at nursing homes and retirement centers. God blessed them as listeners always were inspired and told me often, “How did you know I needed to hear that?” Of course, I didn’t, and I gave the glory to God.

I sent my first column into Suburban News Publications (SNP), our local paper, in January 1998 and have been writing a monthly column since then, named Day by Day. When we lived in Phoenix from 2003-2005, I wrote a column for The Arizona Republic newspaper. We returned to Ohio in 2005 and I started my column Day by Day again and continue to this day.

In 2003, I began writing for Hearing Health Magazine, and I have had stories in Hearing Loss Magazine. I also write for www.moveoverms.org.

What inspired you to write this book?

It’s funny, really. I had the original copies of my columns from 1998 on and I thought I should put them into word processing for safe keeping. “Maybe someday my grandchildren will want to read these,” I thought. Then as I was typing, I thought I should explain how the column came about; then I thought about the responses and letters I had received. One day I said, “This is a book.” So I went about it in a new way. That was in 2005 and the book was sent to the publisher in 2006 and published in 2008.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

A fellow reporter I knew from SNP had successfully published a book about the Cleveland Browns. I asked him how he found a publisher and he told me he looked for a publisher who had an interest in his topic. He found Kent State University Press, not far from Cleveland, and they publish stories about Ohio history. He has since published three more books with Kent State.

So I searched the Internet and when I ran across Gallaudet University, the only university for the Deaf in the U.S., I checked to see if they published. Sure enough, they did. I printed their guidelines and forms to submit and worked for about six months preparing my book to submit. The forms actually did the work for me because they asked all the questions that I needed to answer (and research first) that would sell them on my book. Marketing, what other books are similar on the market and how my book was different, etc. I talked with the editor on the phone and she was very interested in my book and guided me through the maze of publishing. I realize now, after-the-fact, how rare that is and how blessed I was to have her in my corner. We still talk from time to time.

They put out a quality book for me and I loved every minute of working with them.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

When I was a young girl, may 9 or 10, our girl scout troop visited with a local author in her home. I don’t recall her name or her book(s) but I remember sitting there listening to her and thinking, “I want to be a writer, like her.” A man lived on our street who had published a book of poems. These were early inspirations. In high school, my English teachers encouraged me with every paper I wrote. In college, I did best on essay tests. (smile) Writing, taking notes, doodling were natural for me.

When I learned to type, that eventually led to 28 years of secretarial experience. Here I learned a lot about proofreading, editing and organizing. During these years, raising a family and working, I seldom had time to read or write but the desire was always there. I wrote poetry for my daughter and husband and often about my faith.

I gathered all my bits of paper of poetry and self-published two poetry books, more for a keepsake than to sell. Primarily, I had them printed and copyrighted. I didn’t market them but gave them for gifts. After I began writing columns, it was like a dam had broken loose in me and I couldn’t stop. Then, as a reporter, I became acutely aware of life around me, like never before. My writing really changed and my learning curve was huge. I was a sponge wanting to soak it all in.

Now, every time I meet an interesting person or have a good experience, or maybe a social issue that needs a voice, I write. And write. I love it and it never tires me. I do writing and editing for our church, too. That’s a real joy for me.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

Getting started. Once I have a clear idea, I’m set. Maybe it’s not the hardest part, because nothing about writing seems hard to me, but it’s the longest part. I think for a long time before I put one word down. If I have an assignment, I do a little research and then I think about what the message is and eventually a lead will hit me and I start writing. That’s probably why I loved reporting so much. Writing about other people was wonderful because I was learning while I interviewed and wrote the story. The thinking process is very important to me. Others write outlines, I think. Then I outline.

How do you do research for your books?

For my book, most of the research was done when I wrote the columns. Then after I began working with the publisher’s editors, they asked me to “write more” or “clarify” or double check something. I had a lot of contacts in the hearing loss world and I utilized them as resources and used the Internet. Mostly I relied on reliable people giving me facts. People who knew and lived what I was asking about.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

Tons. I learned how to work effectively with editors. I had that at the newspaper and had a wonderful editor who taught me so much. But that was weekly deadlines, not monthly. It was all about communication, which is a strength of mine. But I still learn every day how to improve in this area. I also learned a lot about how to put chapters in good order; what is a good opening chapter and closing. Maybe I learned I had a lot to learn! And that’s wonderful. I want to always be learning something new.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading Family, the last in a series of Karen Kingsbury.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I love Christian fiction and good mysteries. Some of my favorite authors are Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Earlene Fowler, Margaret Coel, and J.A. Jance (Mysteries). Some of my favorite classics are To Kill a Mockingbird, The Pearl, and Rebecca. All of these authors know how to write in a pictorial way that sparks my imagination. Most of them teach me about relationships and different circumstances in other people’s lives.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes, my next book has a working title of Nudges, Fudges, and Butterfly Moments. It is about the way God gets our attention (nudges), how we respond, or not (fudges), and how we are freed like a butterfly when we accept God’s will for our lives and use our gifts. That’s it in a nutshell but it is still very much a work in progress. I have 8 contributors so far and hope for more.

I also hope to write another book and work with Gallaudet University Press again. My working title there is God Knows ASL. Right now I’m researching and looking for “experts” and people who will contribute their experiences of being Deaf and how they communicate with God.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Read constantly. Everything: fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers and the Bible. If it interests you, join a book club and listen to what people like/don’t like about books. Keep writing. Find your genre – what do you know best? What interests you the most? Take notes when an idea pops in your head and keep them. Don’t worry if they don’t make sense. They just might some day!

Finding a publisher might seem daunting, but see what I said before about seeking a publisher who has an interest in your topic. Do your homework on their guidelines, if they accept unsolicited manuscripts, if they want a query letter or 3 chapters, and so forth. Look at other books on your topic and see how yours is different than theirs. Love your library! A great place to research. Librarians are wonderful resources, too. I also ask my friends what they think of my ideas, titles, and so forth. Body language will tell you the answer. If they light up and react right away, they like it. If they hesitate, ask them what they like/don’t like – ask for suggestions. Brainstorm with your closest friends/relatives.

But most of all, write from the heart. Then it will be true and honest. I think readers want honesty – fiction or non-fiction.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

Nothing yet! It’s still in its baby stages. But when I find a publisher and it’s almost in print or in print, I will use the local paper, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn contacts, GoodRead, Shelfari, a Library Thing, all my contacts in the writing world and my Christian friends to spread the word. I will have local book signings, have postcards printed (I used www.vistaprint.com – good and reasonable), business cards, and keep the word out there so people know about the book.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My website is www.advocateliz.wordpress.com.