Just for fun, I thought I would post my interview with The Catholic Writers Guild. I've found the Guild to be very inviting and encouraging--something a writer needs in this world! I talked with Maria about this blog, my little gift book for dads, and the life of an editor.
MEMBER PROFILE – KATHLEEN BLEASE
Kathleen Blease is a wife and homeschooling mom of two young teenage boys, and author of I Can’t Wait to Meet My Daddy .
Maria: Hi Kathleen, you are one of our newest members; please tell us, how did you stumble into CWG?
Kathleen: Stumble is the right word, and I found you all to be very welcoming—so different from where I came from, publishing in New York City. I can really appreciate the kindness everyone has shown me already!
Catholic writer Susie Lloyd, author of Bless Me Father For I Have Kids, sent me a quick note on Facebook and asked me if I would be attending the Catholic Writers Conference (We belong to the same home school co-op.) Of course, I said, “What writers conference?” And she sent me a link. I really knew nothing about the Catholic Writers Guild, but I've been praying about how to enter the Catholic publishing industry for a few years now, so it seemed like a good idea to put on a nice dress, pull together a few writing samples, and just go to the conference. My friend, Celeste Behe, another Catholic writer, went with me and showed me the ropes. It's been years since I've attended something like this, so I really appreciated how she helped break the ice. I really appreciated Susie bringing the Guild to my attention, too.
Maria: We are all happy to have you, especially knowing you were a previous editor. I think you are going to make a lot of friends at CWG! Can you tell us a little bit of what the day of an editor is like?
Kathleen: Thanks! I'm glad to be here. Well, the day of an editor is very much like that of a writer's. It's all about finding quiet time, sitting down, focusing and getting the job done. I worked mostly as a developmental editor and rewriter, so I didn't have the benefits of long lunches with authors and agents, which I would imagine would be a lot of fun. But I found ways to get to know writers one way or another, and that was important, because when I edited manuscripts I tried very hard to honor the author's unique voice and view point. I think that was the best part of the job, and I always enjoyed the challenge.
Maria: As an editor, what kind of writer do you look for?
Kathleen: Since I was never an acquisitions editor, I didn't had the luxury of looking for writers myself, choosing them according to their skills and outlook. But as a developmental editor whose job had always been to bring out the best in the writer and his/her manuscript, I was always happy to work with writers who had flexibility and a willingness to listen to suggestions, even when those things might be hard to hear or swallow. I've worked on a wide range of topics—from Irish Americans to business to fitness to refinishing furniture—and I can tell you that writers who were willing to re-write and re-think their manuscripts, even just a little, were a great pleasure to work with, and their enthusiasm affected me, too. This made me want to work as hard as I could to make their work shine.
Maria: What kind of writer do you dread?
Kathleen: Well, it's easy to guess which ones I dreaded—those who wouldn't budge an inch and wouldn't change a single word they wrote...or those who don't take deadlines seriously. By the time a manuscript got to me, the book was officially in production, and I was usually working against a strict deadline in order to meet the book's pub date.
Some writers think their job is done after the first draft, and this is common among nonfiction authors, who are often experts in certain fields but not necessarily professional writers. They find the writing process to be very difficult and they get very little joy out of it. I'm more than happy, though, to help them out, but they have to be flexible and realize I'm trying to help them work through their limitations. Sometimes, they take it all so personally!
Maria: You are also a published writer. Your book I Can’t Wait to Meet My Daddy is a little jewel. Tell us what it’s about and what inspired you to write it?
Kathleen: Thanks for your nice words about I Can't Wait to Meet My Daddy. It's close to my heart. I wrote it for my husband when we were expecting our first son. It was our unborn son's Christmas present to his new daddy. Roger was so taken with it, that he daydreamed for years about publishing it himself. First, I sent it to major houses, but they all declined. When Peter Workman himself sent me a letter saying how much he liked it and regretted that he couldn't use it, well, that's when my husband made up his mind. So he published it himself. It's a glossy hardcover with dust jacket. It's doing well, and we're so happy to be a small part of people's lives at a special time.
Maria: I imagine you’ve received notes from your readers; can you share a ‘reader’ story with us?
Kathleen: Sure. One letter in particular, from an expectant grandmother, really touches me each time I think about it. The lady purchased our book for her son. He and his wife were expecting their first baby. He thanked his mom and put the book in his briefcase, then headed out the door to go home. Little did he know that he would find himself at the hospital with his wife, who went into pre-term labor. She gave birth two months early. The new parents were in shock, and when all the doctors finally cleared the room, and the two of them found themselves all alone, the husband remembered the little book he put in his briefcase. They read it together and, according to the grandmother, it gave them a great deal of comfort. I get choked up each time I think of it, and I usually can't get through telling the story!
It's such a humble feeling to know that something I wrote can enter into someone's life at such a special time. I never did find out if the baby survived, but a little prayer goes out the family, and I think of them often. I guess you could say that I Can't Wait to Meet My Daddy has become its own little ministry.
Maria: You have other published books?
Kathleen: Even as a stay-at-home mom of two toddlers, I always found work. I co-authored The Fiske Guide to Colleges for several years with NYT Education Editor Ted Fiske, and I compiled a few gift books of classic poetry for Ballantine/Fawcett Del-Ray. Those gift books stayed on Ballantine's back list for a dozen years, which I never expected. I have to admit that I'm pretty proud of that. I also put together some books for painter Thomas Kinkade, and I recently found them at Barnes and Noble, repackaged and sold again. I really enjoyed those projects.
Maria: This may seem like a silly question, but do you think being an editor gives you an edge as a writer?
Kathleen: Oh, wow. That's not a silly question at all. The answer would have to be Yes in some ways, and also No in others.
After years of editing other writer's manuscripts, I've become very comfortable with working in all sorts of writing styles. Every writer creates a special texture to her writing, and a certain timbre and tempo. I'm very much accustomed to pulling my writing apart, and criticism really doesn't bother me. I also recognize that there are dozens of ways to communicate the same thought. It's a journey I happen to enjoy—taking my work apart and reshaping it. I tell writers to not be married to their writing, to try new avenues, which will make them stronger and better writers. So this is how editing helps me.
Now, to address how being an editor hinders me. Oh my, there is nasty little editor who sits on my shoulder and tells me, “Hey, kid. You ain't gonna write THAT, are ya? That sentence is horrible. Delete it and try again.” Then the next idea gets hit with the same admonishment, and then the next. Pretty soon, I've gotten so tangled up in editing while I'm writing that I actually forget what I am writing about. I've learned to send my little editor out for a very long hike while I write, then she's welcome back. Still, I really can't edit my own work entirely. It's impossible for me to have a fresh eye, which is so important to editing. I'm sure there are writers and editors out there who are looking at this right now and thinking, “Man, this editor needs an editor.” It really is impossible to wear both hats at the same time.
Maria: You are a wife, a homeschooling mom and an author. How do you do all of this?
Kathleen: That's really nice of you to compliment me in this way, but I really think I have quite a bit more to do! Still, there are times I look back and see how much has gotten done, and I'm pretty happy about that. My motto is: Keep things simple. I'm the exact opposite of my sister. Lisa can sew a quilt while making slipcovers and canning 90 quarts of tomato sauce—all while training for a mini-triathlon. She thrives on big challenges. As for me, I truly need to take things in small, simple steps every day. In the end, big projects seem to get done.
Maria: It seems I have little in common with you, yet I really like your blog. In one of your blog entries you consider changing the focus of your blog. Tell us a little bit about that, I think we have members who will be able to identify with you.
Kathleen: Hey! Thanks for visiting Kathleen's Catholic!! I have had a lot of fun putting it together. When I first started in January, I felt called to write about being Catholic in the modern world. Now, however, I can see that there's a special focus I'm called to address. You see, I am madly in love with my sweet husband who happens to be a non-Catholic. It's been a challenge for both of us to raise our children in the faith—and to nurture our marriage in the midst of our big differences--while addressing my sweetheart's questions and concerns, as well as the concerns of his family, who are mostly atheists. I posted a little column, called If Your Husband Isn't Catholic, on my blog as well as on CatholicMom.com, and I've gotten some very heartfelt responses to it. I'd like to spend more time addressing this. After sixteen years of marriage, I think I just might have a little something to offer, especially with the help of God's grace. I really do feel called to do this!
Maria: Ok, the only thing I see I have in common with you is bird watching! Love the bird pics in your blog. And the pic with your kitty next to the Christmas lights! Awh. What other hobbies do you have?
Kathleen: Oh, yeah, bird watching. They are amazing creatures! Well, my other hobbies are very domestic—knitting, crocheting, cooking and canning, home improvements, and gardening. I learned to knit and crochet at my grandmother's side. She owned a yarn shop and taught hundreds of women in her lifetime. It makes me feel very close to her just to sit and make something small. By the way, the photos on my blog—that is, the professional-looking ones—are my husband's handiwork. He is an excellent photographer.
Maria: What is your advice to other writers, especially homeschooling parents?
Kathleen: Oh, that's easy! Take it easy on yourself! We are not perfect. Take small steps each and every day, and you'll find that at the end of the year you will have accomplished quite a bit—both in your projects and the kids' school work. And don't forget to pray. Take everything to Our Lord. You don't have to say a thing. Just take your heart and place it in His hands. He will guide and inspire you with perfect timing, and He will provide you with everything you will ever need!
Maria, thanks so much for this opportunity to chat about the things I love. You know, coming from secular publishing, I've never had the chance to talk about editing, writing, and faith all in one conversation. It's a real pleasure! I'm truly looking forward to a terrific future with CWG. May God bless the work of each and every member. I'm so happy to meet you. Anyone can contact me—even just to say hello and touch base—at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would welcome that!
This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!