Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jocelyn Green, a former Coast Guard wife, is the author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (along with 14 contributing writers). She is also co-author of Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan and the contributing editor to the award-winning Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War 2. Jocelyn is also an award-winning freelance writer and editor, writing for nonprofits, universities, magazines, websites and corporations. She is an active member of the Evangelical Press Association, the Christian Authors Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Jocelyn and her husband Rob have two children, a dog, and a cat.

When did you decide to be a writer?
I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I could hold a pencil. My first writing project was to narrate the pages of my Bugs Bunny coloring book.

I majored in English at Taylor University in Indiana and wrote for the college newspaper. My first job after graduation was as the editor and project manager at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities in Washington, D.C. But when I married a Coast Guard officer and moved to Alaska, that job ended and I decided to give freelance writing a try.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

I think most writers still second-guess themselves—at least we should, or else it’s very easy to get lazy. Even though I’ve published dozens of articles and two books, and even though I do trust that I can write well, I am not na├»ve enough to believe that I write well on the first draft, or the second. I edit myself quite a bit.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

Disciplined—I have to be. I hired a babysitter to watch my one- and three-year-old for about ten hours a week so I can write without interruption. When I pay someone else to watch my kids, writers block disappears- I literally cannot afford to wait for the inspiration to hit me, I have to just sit down and write. I have certain work hours, and I simply have to be productive during that period of time.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I love to read, bake and scrapbook, but when there isn’t time for that, a quick walk in the neighborhood or downtown to the local coffee shop does the trick. I also love playing with my kids. They are so wonderful for helping me to keep all things in perspective. They couldn’t care less if I miss a deadline or if I get rave reviews. They just want to be with me, and they are at such fun ages right now.

What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?

What a hard question! I have many favorites from a wide variety of authors from William Faulkner and Harper Lee to Philippa Gregory, but I’ll just name two: Anne of Green Gables is a classic favorite. It was special to me because I read it when I was about “Anne’s” age and I loved her imagination and spirit. My family also took a trip to Prince Edward Island, where the Anne books are set, when I was 16, and of course visiting the sites made the book and characters come alive even more.

I also have to mention the Zion Covenant series by Brock and Bodie Thoene, which I read in junior high. This was my first introduction into historical fiction (my favorite genre) and I was hooked by the World War 2 intrigue. I could probably read those books today and enjoy them just as much.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
In nonfiction, I love to see how other writers let their “voices” shine through. Sometimes it means being vulnerable and exposing a painful side, sometimes it means being unafraid to either stand up and say what you really mean, or to poke a little fun at yourself and be willing to be laughed at.

There is much to be learned from reading fiction, too: pacing, dialogue, creating emotion, character development, plot structure—I tried to keep all these things in mind while I was sharing stories from our current war in my latest Battlefields & Blessings book: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

This book, mentioned above, is a 365-day collection of inspiring stories from people connected to the war. You’ll hear from soldiers, military wives and widows, Blue Star and Gold Star moms, contract workers, humanitarian aid workers, chaplains, medics, victims of the 9-11-01 attacks, and more. My two co-authors and I interviewed close to 70 people to get these stories- they are all firsthand accounts, many of them never-before-told stories. Someone once said that journalism is the first draft of history. I have to say that I was so excited to work on this project because we really did record history in the making. The stories you’ll find in this book reveal God’s faithfulness and presence in times of uncertainty and danger—I cried many tears as I wrote this book because the stories are so powerful, and I have cried again just reading it!

You co-authored this book. Was that process difficult? What tips would you give people considering co-authoring?

I could not have done this book without my co-authors, Jane Hampton Cook and John Croushorn, and they would say the same thing. It would have been too difficult to write this entirely on my own, especially since my daughter was two years old at the time, I was pregnant with my son and working on two other book manuscripts simultaneously. Not only did the work get done faster with three of us, but each of us had different networks of contacts from which to find our sources. So it was a very positive experience.

If you are considering co-authoring, I would say just keep communicating with each other to make sure you are on the same page with tone, format, subject, etc. If you are working with contributing writers, give very clear direction. My co-author Jane is a master at this. She created a guidelines document for everyone who was interested in contributing. In it, she provided background information on the project, the publisher, and bios of all three of us authors. She outlined who we wanted to contribute to the book, what types of stories we were interested in, topic ideas, deadlines, word counts and format. She even included sample devotions.

Where did you get your inspiration for Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan?

This project landed in my lap—the publisher was looking for another co-author and came to my agent, who recommended me because he knew of my heart for and connection to military families, since I had been a military wife myself. Also, as a freelance writer for magazines, I already had lots of experience interviewing people and helping them share their stories, so this was a natural fit for me.

You’ve written another book called Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. Obviously, you feel called to minister to our men and women in the military. Can you share what led you to do that?

My own experiences as a military wife led me to spearhead this book project. Two days after I married a Coast Guard officer in Washington, D.C., we moved to his next duty station, which was Homer, Alaska. As I dug into God’s Word, I began to see the Bible with new eyes- the eyes of a military wife. Romans 8, which speaks of nothing being able to separate us from God’s love, reminded me that while my earthly groom was often absent, my heavenly bridegroom was always with me. Revelations 19 talks about the second coming of Christ—as a military wife I knew what it meant to get ready for my husband’s homecoming, so I saw with new meaning this passage about being ready to meet Christ face-to-face.

The more I learned simply because of my paradigm shift, the more I wanted to learn and grow. When I didn’t find a book full of these types of insights relevant for military wives, I decided to write it, but with the help of fourteen other Christian military wives from every branch of service. Because of their contributions, the book is far richer than I could ever have written alone.

We live in a world that pushes a “me-first” philosophy. The men and women in the military lay that aside in order to serve their country. How do you think ordinary Christians go about defending themselves against this kind of self-idolatry?

All of us can do this if we consider it a daily calling of making small sacrifices. We guard against self-idolatry by being intentional and by accepting interruptions to our own schedules. For instance, we can be deliberate about investing in other people’s lives through mentoring, volunteering, and certainly raising children is a virtually fool-proof way to not serve our own interests first. Interruptions come in many forms: bringing over a meal to a neighbor in need, doing an errand for a housebound mom with a sick child or even lending a listening ear are all activities that take the focus off of ourselves, which is a good thing. Sometimes an interruption like that is just what God has on the agenda for our day.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

The main thing I hope readers will gain from both of my books is a renewed confidence that God is faithful. That doesn’t mean we’ll never experience blinding pain in this life. But God will not forsake us even in those times, and He’ll be the One walking us through those valleys, holding our hands. He weeps with us when we weep. But here’s the good news: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

Moody Publishers was wonderful to set up a number of radio interviews for me when Faith Deployed released. I’ve also created a Web site/blog and Facebook fan page, through which I share more encouragement and insights. Several military wife bloggers have reviewed Faith Deployed and given a copy away (which I provide) which helps generate Internet buzz. I do my best to get articles and book excerpts published in magazines, too, but I think the best tool has been Facebook. I have also found a few hundred churches that are particularly supportive of military families and suggested ways they can use Faith Deployed as a resource. That has been effective in many cases.

Really, word of mouth has been the greatest thing when it comes from people who have been really encouraged by the book. And of course, the 14 other women who contributed to the book helped with that-another plus to having multiple writers on a project.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

In addition to pursuing ways to expand my Faith Deployed ministry to military wives, I recently signed a contract with AMG Publishers to be a contributing editor for the upcoming book by Larkin Spivey, Battlefields &Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from Viet Nam. I’m also working on a book proposal right now for a devotional book for parents of special needs children.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

My advice to new writers would be to not get discouraged if you haven’t found a publisher yet. I set a record with my literary agent for being the client to rack up the most rejections before finally finding a publisher three years after we started looking for one. And while I thought those three years were a time of just waiting, God used those three years as a time of preparation. During that period, I got better at writing, I made contacts that became valuable endorsers and I met all the women God wanted to contribute to the book. If I had gotten my contract right away, the book would not be as good, I’m sure of it.
Jocelyn is giving away a copy of BOTH of her books! Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

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