WOMAN, MOTHER, AUTHOR
According to a recent survey, 81% of Americans think they should write a book. EIGHTY ONE PERCENT. That is roughly 200 million people. Now, I know a lot of people. Okay, not 200 million, but let’s talk percentages. Of the people I know personally, TWO have written books and ONE went through a publisher. Consequently, I’m proud to introduce you to the ONE, Jennifer Wright.
Jennifer and I grew up in the same community. You know, Small Town by John Mellencamp kind of place. However, life has taken her on a great adventure since departing her roots for an undergrad degree at Indiana State and then on to Indiana University for a master’s in journalism.
She met her husband, Jonathan, who is an Air Force pilot. Accordingly, this began her travels around the world and inspiration for storytelling around every bend.
From Germany to South Korea to New Mexico (more than once) to Vegas and everywhere in between, including visiting 13 countries in one year, Jennifer and Jonathan have been on a journey. Not only a journey as a military family, but also as a real time research expedition for Jennifer’s curious mind.
More on that to come.
They have two children, son Matthew (10) and daughter Meredith (7).
Her other baby, newly published book If It Rains, dropped to bookstores on July 6th, 2021. If you haven’t read it yet, do so now!! In fact, I read it in 3 days. Yep, it’s that good.
Enjoy getting to know our August feature in Woman, Mother, Author… Jennifer Wright.
From an incredibly young age, Jennifer has had her nose in a book. Eventually, this led to what she thought was her calling. Journalism. On the other hand, God was making alternate plans.
“I was a journalist with an NPR station and quickly realized I hated it. It took a certain level of callous to shove a microphone in someone’s face as they watched their house burn down to get a story. I couldn’t do it.”
Even so, the urge to write continued to tug. After spending a few years abroad for Jonathan’s Air Force assignment, the growing Wright family moved back to the states in 2011.
“I had a desire to write and had been writing short stories and other articles while we were abroad. Then when Matthew was a baby, I finally settled in and wrote my first manuscript while we were on assignment in Las Vegas.”
Pause with me for a moment… she WROTE A BOOK while TAKING CARE OF A NEWBORN.
Was this book, If It Rains, you might be asking? No. In fact, Jennifer has spent 10 years in total writing, editing, writing some more, and living through 100s of rejections on what she considered great work at the time. Her advice on following a dream.
“You know when you have an inkling inside your heart, where you know what brings you joy. That’s what you need to pursue. Absolutely do it. But I also think if that calling is on your heart, you have to have perseverance. Especially, for example, in the writing game. There were 10 years between when I started writing and when publication of If It Rains happened. I absolutely wanted to quit. There were times I was just crying out to God, why does no one recognize this? But I had this nudge… just keep going.”
When I asked if she would try to get the first two manuscripts published now that she has one published and another on the way next summer, she shook her head no.
“At this point I don’t think so. I mean maybe I will go back and edit them one day knowing what I know now, but there is something about those being mine. Being the start of my writing that honestly feels like I should keep them to myself.”
IF IT RAINS INSPIRATION
If It Rains became an idea for Jennifer as a story line in 2014. Rocking her then infant daughter Meredith as she watched a dust storm roll in across the New Mexico skyline.
“I’m naturally curious and was just in awe of this dust storm. I started researching why these exist, how they form, and it took me down the path of the 1930s and the Great Depression. One documentary I highly recommend is The Dust Bowl by Ken Burns. All of the historical information began to create a story in my head about two sisters living during this era.”
I really want for everyone reading this blog post to go out and read the book, in turn I’m not going to give away too many of the story details. Even so, one of the many cool things about this book is the advice Jennifer was given about writing in general.
“Write what you know. Kathryn and Melissa, the main characters, are loosely based on my own sister Erin’s and my relationship. She is also in a military family, so we don’t get to see each other much, but we text daily and talk all the time. You’ll recognize traces of the motherly instinct of Erin coming out in Melissa’s character. And Kathryn being strong willed and childish at times just like myself (said with a grin).”
Another influence on the characters and the storyline? Wizard of Oz, one of Jennifer’s favorites. Consequently, Kathryn’s adventure in If It Rains was inspired by Dorothy’s encounter with the tinman, lion, and scarecrow.
In hindsight, I absolutely see the connection.
CHRISTIAN HISTORICAL FICTION
If It Rains is considered a Christian historical fiction. It was important to Jennifer the book have elements of faith being challenged and the ways in which the characters grew and responded. And although the book is fiction, it’s historical elements are researched and take the reader on a very realistic journey into what life was like on the plains of Oklahoma during the Great Depression.
“My goal in writing, specifically Christian historical fiction, is for the reader to be challenged, encouraged, and inspired to read other books. So much can be learned through history even if the characters and story themselves are fiction.”
WRITING WHILE A MOTHER
At this point, I was in awe of the fact Jennifer has not only written several manuscripts, but all while also being a mother. Specifically writing her newly published book while having a toddler and an infant. My next question was, HOW ON EARTH DID YOU DO THIS?
“Planning was key. When they were little, I would write during nap time and whenever I could sneak in writing time. It took me almost two years to write the first draft of If It Rains. I can very distinctly remember sitting in the parking lot picking up my son from kindergarten and having my laptop on the steering wheel.”
How do you focus and shift so quickly in those small snippets of time?
“Having a limited window, I had to be focused. I’m a hard-core planner. Therefore, I knew in each writing session what was going to happen in that chapter beginning to end. I had to have that planning so when I sat down, I could get creative then in those 30-minutes with the story. Unquestionably, being a mom and having little ones changed the way I write.”
THE MOM HUDDLE- WOMAN, MOTHER, AUTHOR STYLE
The Wright family has moved a lot over the years. Friendships have been key for Jennifer to maintain not only her sanity, but also her writing.
She has a lot of author friends and is an avid reader of all their books, both for pleasure as well as to learn.
Jennifer credits the publishing of If It Rains to one of her friends and mentors, Samantha.
“She encouraged me to keep going, even when all of the rejections were coming in and I was ready to give up. She told me; you have something here. Just keep going. This is good.”
We all need a friend like Samantha.
She also credits books as being some of her best friends. Books help her get through those lonely times, especially when moving to yet another unfamiliar place.
“They (books) can be a great escape and as silly as this may sound, like some of your best friends. Picking up one of your favorites and getting lost in the story is a lot like visiting an old friend.”
How does your own faith come through in the characters?
“I think it’s important to talk about faith in a way that isn’t all about happiness. Sometimes your faith is challenged and that’s where you grow. Additionally, I want to be authentic but also provide inspiration. You can go through horrible things and come out with your faith even stronger. It’s a message I wanted to portray throughout the entire book.”
When working with a publisher, how much of the book did you have to change to make it into what they wanted?
“Tyndale was wonderful. They made suggestions, but it always felt like suggestions and not forcing my hand. I was able to keep the integrity of the story as I wanted, including the ending which was really important to me to have it wrap up the way it did.”
And no, I’m not going to share the ending with you. Nice try.
SUMMARY- WOMAN, MOTHER, AUTHOR
Jennifer’s busy juggling writing, publishing, and promoting her book in addition to being a mother. When asked what advice she had for other mom’s feeling themselves torn and trying to balance:
“Be present. For Jonathan and I, we never want our kids to feel like mom or dad are putting their careers before them. In turn, I do my best to give them attention when they are with me.”
A good mother day to Jennifer is one where she has been engaging, had a good night’s sleep, and they’ve done what the kids want to do. Feeling as if “Mom’s ours today.”
Days often get filled with “have to do’s”. She ensures the kids have opportunity to engage in a way they want to engage. Whether that’s laying on the floor and coloring, reading, going to see a movie, whatever they decide.
“As moms, we build up in our head and think we have to do really elaborate things with our kids. In reality, they just want to be able to make decisions and feel engaged.”
How has this perspective influenced the book you wrote?
“Every mother has an aspirational mother figure they want to be. For me, Melissa was the character in the book who played a mother figure of who I aspire to be. She’s kind, generous, caring, and who I can be on my good days. But more realistically, I’m probably Kathryn who can be immature and snarky. Every mom has that dichotomy of who they are and who they want to be. Move forward with grace for yourself and do your best.”
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing pieces of your writing journey and motherhood experience with us. If It Rains is fantastic, and we can’t wait until next summer for Come Down Somewhere!
You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.
– Glinda, Wizard of Oz
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