Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Welcome Julia Reffner To The Writer's Alley!

I am thrilled to be able to introduce Julia Reffner as a new Writer’s Alley contributor. Julia is a wife and mother of two small children whom she homeschools. She is a member of ACFW and reviews books on her blog, Dark Glass Pondering, as well as Title Trakk and Suspense Zone. She is currently busy writing on her women’s fiction manuscript.

Obviously, being a contributor here at the Alley, you are a writer. When did you first know you were a writer and how did it change your life?

Thanks, Sherrinda.  I’m thrilled to be a part of the Alley. As soon as I began reading at 3, I began zipping through every book I could find.  In elementary school, I began writing stories.  One memorable occasion was “enjoying” the chicken pox (granted, I had quite a light case) because I was “forced” to stay home for the week, which I spent perched in a tree penning over 40 memorable stories, such as “Santa’s Salty Soup”.  Am I too sarcastic for The Alley? 
In fifth grade I had a wonderful teacher named Miss Hurley whom I credit for bringing in writing contests and encouraging me to enter them.  She was the first teacher that took a special interest in me in such a way and it changed my life.

I would say a huge no—you are not too sarcastic for us here! We drip with sarcasm at times! What genre do you write in and who are the authors that have influenced your writing in that genre?

My manuscript is women’s fiction, although someday I would like to try my hand at historical fiction.  I’m a research buff and have enjoyed writing historical short stories.  Wow, there are so many great authors in Christian women’s fiction.  My top two would probably be Francine Rivers and Mary DeMuth.  Francine because she tackles issues women face with such grace.  And Mary DeMuth writes lyrical fiction, filled with heart-wrenching brokenness transformed by beautiful grace.  I admire her bravery in tackling things from her own heart, something I would really like to see in myself.  Patricia Hickman’s Milkwood Hollow series is another favorite.  Hickman shines in portraying in-depth characters that the reader grows to love.  Lisa Samson’s Resurrection in May was a recent read that God brought into my life right before I was on a murder trial, so its themes had a strong impact.  (Just as an aside, I wouldn’t recommend this particular book for everyone…it deals with the Rwandan genocide so there is one chapter that is fairly violent).
 I’m not sure I can even remotely say “influenced” but these are some authors I have definitely enjoyed.  I like the genre of women’s fiction because it deals with relationships and contemporary issues.  I feel there is an opportunity to be a witness as we focus on issues we all struggle with: relationships, balance, where do we find our worth, overcoming insecurity, etc.  Though my main character’s situation may be different from the typical woman, the issues she faces are those faced by all of us as women.

How many manuscripts do you have under your belt?

OK, Sherrinda, on the count of three, everyone shout “NOOB.”  I am a big-time newbie.  This is my first manuscript, although I have written many short stories.  I have to be honest I was intimidated by writing a novel, because of length.  But I’m really enjoying the process and learning a lot along the way. 

We love newbies here at The Alley! We are all about learning and growing as we travel this road to publication. Now, are you a plotter with a detailed outline, or do you sit down and write by the seat of your pants?

OK, I’m a former assistant librarian, so I’m a big-time plotter.  Not comfortable with the idea of being a pantser at all, but interestingly although I did a lot of plotting; as I began writing, my characters took over taking the manuscript in completely different places than what I had planned.  I used storyboarding software to help me with outlining.

I’d be interested in that storyboarding software! You should definitely do a post about that one! What is your favorite part of writing? Least favorite?

My favorite part is when the characters take over and I merely dictate for them.  You know that’s a good writing day.  My other favorite part is when something I’ve written (and so far this has been on my blog or through email) has encouraged someone.  Because ultimately that’s why I write and I pray the Lord would keep that central in my mind always.  Least favorite part is worrying about grammar and mechanics.
I noticed that you review books at Titletrakk and Suspense Zone. What genres do you review and how often do you do them?

I review once a month for The Suspense Zone.  For Title Trakk it is open to the writers how much they will review in a given month, one a month is what I’ve been posting thus far.  So far I have reviewed suspense, romantic suspense, and historical fiction.  I really enjoy the opportunity to review.  Like most writers I adore reading and feel I learn so much about the craft by reading the best Christian books available.

I love the title of your blog: Dark Glass Ponderings. How did you come up with the title and what does it mean to you?

Thanks, Sherrinda.  My blog title is based on 1 Corinthians 13:12,” For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
We were studying 1 Corinthians at our church at the time.  Another verse that comes to mind is 1 Corinthians 1:27-28, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
Someday we will have full understanding of God’s glory, to know Christ even as we are known by Him.  How amazing is that?  The closer I draw to Christ, the more I realize I don’t know about Him, the more I see my own brokenness. Yet at the same time, as I empty this vessel that knows nothing, He fills me up and can use me as a vessel.  I want it to be a reminder to myself.  Am I willing to make myself look foolish in the world’s eyes? 

That is wonderful, Julia! I love knowing about a writer’s rituals and how they do the business of writing. What writing rituals do you have, if any?

Honestly with kids I don’t really have time for rituals.  My kids are 2 and 5, so I need to take advantage of the moment.  Most of my writing is done either while my son naps and my daughter has her quiet time or post 9 PM.  I guess my rituals would be prayer..and if the kids are asleep I like sipping a cup of herbal or iced tea.

What book are you reading right now? Is it for pleasure or for review? What book is at the top of your TBR list?

I’m currently reading Hatteras Girl by Alice Wisler for review.  I’ve recently discovered Mary Lu Tyndall and T.L. Higley and am anxious to read more of their works.  The neat thing about Title Trakk is I am able to review many of the books which I had already hoped to read anyway.

Okay, now for some fun….give us three things about you that nobody knows. Funny, personal, silly, scary…we want the details!

Hmmm…this is tough.  Hubby knows everything, maybe I should ask him the weirdest things about me.
1)      I used to play an elf in World of Warcraft named Hippolyta (from Shakespeare) and my husband played a gnome named Lumpkin (after the horse in Lord of the Rings).
2)      I had to have my knee operated on due to a bulbous bump caused by falling through a trestle at Letchworth Park (FYI, this is also where my husband proposed to me…but not the same occasion, LOL).  The doctor who performed my operation later was sued for removing the wrong limb on someone else.
3)      I have been known to arrange vacation itineraries based on restaurants available in the area.
Julia, thanks for doing such an interesting interview! We are thrilled to have you here and we welcome you with open arms! You are now officially an Alley Contributor! Woohoo!

Readers, do you have any questions for Julia? Comments? Encouragement?


Renee said...

I loved my time spent in Milkwood Hollow. I hardly hear anyone mention it anymore! And Fatty Lumpkin and Tom Bombadil are two of my favorites from LOTR! . . . Funny to see a reminder here! . . . I enjoy Julia's blog. Thanks for a fun interview!

Joy Tamsin David said...

Wait! Julia, I've been on top of a train trestle at Letchworth State Park. I was so high up, my knees were shaking. Is that the same one you fell through? You must have been horrified!

Great interview!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

So many things I could comment on. Julia, I write women's fiction too. I love how you came up with your title, titles pulled from Scripture. My next one is like that.

And I'm reading one of Samson's right now I'm really enjoying. Keen grasp of language.

Glad to be writing here with you.
~ Wendy

Pepper said...

Ah Julia,
A woman of priorities. How else can you plan a vacation? Restaurants are of extrememe importance.
And Sherrinda, I'm shocked!! We are NEVER sarcastic around here. Ever.
A child-writer...I've been running into a lot of those. Girls in pigtails with pen in hand. So with you on that Julia. I still have two of my first lengthy stories :-)
What's your favorite part of being a mom? Do you put kids in your stories?

Angie Dicken said...

I am so impressed with your ability to read so much with small children! That is one of my personal goals...to read more Christian fiction. I have been reading non-fiction for so long, I need to start reading what I want to write!!
That is hilarious that you base your vacations on restaurants! What else is there? I am such a foodie and always remember a place by its food!!
So glad to get to know you on here!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Julia, It sounds like your writing time is about like mine...whenever the kiddos are sleeping. :) So glad to learn more about you!

Julie Lessman said...

Julia and Sherrinda -- WONDERFUL interview!! Can I tell you how much fun it is getting to know some of my favorite reviewer/bloggers better???

Santa's Salty Soup??? Alliteration early in grade school??? Honey, you're a born writer!! Make hay while those kiddies nap, girl, because before you know it, they are going to be all grown up and off into their lives ... while you are off into yours! :)


Julia M. Reffner said...

@Renee, I'm so glad we found each other's blogs as you are most definitely a kindred spirit and I smile every time I see your comments. Glad to hear we have another favorite book in common :).

@Joy, Yeah, I fell between the train trestle. My right knee got stuck. LOL, I'm a big-time clutz and my now husband pulled me out. I guess we should have brought the peanut butter, took a while to get my leg out. :)

@Wendy, God has (and does) use my blog to work on humility in my life. Yes, Samson does have a beautiful grasp of language, I've learned so much reading her books. Looking forward to getting to know you and your writing here :)

Casey said...

Julia, those fun facts about you are too funny! Well maybe not funny, but definately chuckle worthy! I digress....

Anyway, seriously REMOVED THE WRONG LIMB?? Did you know this BEFORE or AFTER the surgery? (I must be taking lessons from Julie, lotsa caps!!!!! :)

Great to know you better, you are going to be a great addition to the Alley and I didn't realize how many WF writer's we have! Talk about God putting us all together. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

@Pepper, I have not put my children in my stories YET. I suppose I should take advantage of it while they don't mind :). My favorite parts of being a mom are watching my children play and truly become friends and of course the fact that they're still young enough to want to give me lots of snuggles :)

@Ang, I need to balance. Either I end up reading OR writing during my "quiet" time. Then again since I'm usually reading for a website review, my reading is my writing oftentimes. I'm still figuring out how to find a balance...so I end up having a week where I have to read each evening to catch up on the reviewing...and then I wind up having to catch up on my fiction. Ah, to be organized. Looking forward to getting to know you and your writing here :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Sarah, Yes, these days go too quickly. I just don't want to miss too much. And I've never excelled at working in "chaos." Looking forward to getting to know you better here :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

@Julie, Thanks!! You are always so encouraging. I always smile when I see you anywhere around the web. Still praying for you and Aunt Julie :).

@Casey, I didn't know this until after the surgery. A few years later, he was in the paper with a malpractice suit against him. I agree, its definitely a God thing. BTW, I have some editing to do when I finish homeschooling. I enjoyed my first read-through :) I'll try to get it to you ASAP.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

That storyboarding software sounds interesting--but I'm a big plotter too so all that kind of stuff makes me happy :) Great to learn more about you, Julia--I look forward to your posts!

Julia M. Reffner said...

@Cindy, Yes, my library personality definitely comes through with my writing. I look forward to your posts, too, Cindy!

Casey said...

Thanks Julia, I look forward to your comments. :)

And thank goodness you didn't know about it until AFTER the surgery, that is enough me not to ever break a bone!

Laura Frantz said...

Julia, You belong here:) Now I can find all my favorites on one site! I love learning more about you, the littles, your writing, etc. You have a real heart of worship and that shines through all you do. Bless you bunches.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Laura, Thanks so much for your kind words. Believe me, I feel the same about you. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh my goodness! I had a hair appointment right after work, then ran home to cook supper and now I find all these wonderful comments for Julia! I'm so glad!

Julia, you will be such a wonderful addition to The Alley and I can't wait to get to know you better! (((hugs)))

Mary Vee Writer said...

You bring a fun, comfy warmth to the Writer's Alley. I enjoyed getting to know you through this post.
Fab job of interviewing Sherrinda.
(sure was hard to post so late...all the great stuff had been said already..but I agree with it all!

Julia M. Reffner said...

@Sherrinda, Thanks for a fun interview. I look forward to sharing a writing day with you :)

@Mary, What a kind thing to say. Thank you. And I agree, Sherrinda asked some great questions. I already can tell that you have a beautiful heart for ministering to children and I can't wait to read your books to my kids someday :)

Amanda Stanley said...

That was a great interview, ladies! I believe this is my first time at The Writers Alley, and I can’t think of a better day to have dropped by than when Julia is being spotlighted!

Julia, you are so very sweet and talented and your love of Jesus shines in everything you write. Your wonderful comments around the blogging world, and your fabulous book reviews have always blessed me :) It was so nice getting to know you better here! And, I have always loved the name of your blog, and knowing the meaning behind it now makes it all the more beautiful :)

Praying the Lord will continue to bless, guide and inspire you on your writing journey :)

Amanda Stanley

PS- I have to admit, I never pegged you as a WOW fan, LOL! My brother used to play it and became rather obsessed- guess that’s why it also called World of Warcrack ;) But, he’s since given up the game- much to our mother’s delight! I think the names you and your husband picked were really cool :D

Keli Gwyn said...

Julia, it's great to see you as one of the new members of TWA team. I look forward to reading your posts.

I love that Miss Hurley encouraged you in your writing. Teachers can make such a difference in our lives. My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Moore, believed in me at a time in my life when I really needed some encouragement, and I still remember him fondly.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Amanda, Oh, I'm so glad you stopped by. You are so sweet. And BTW, I think your poetry (what I've seen of it, I think it was on Julie Lessman's jots) was absolutely beautiful!

LOL, actually not a WOW fan at all. But my husband got really in to it before the kids were born so I took it up (for my husband sharing his hobbies is a big need). I have to be honest, I never really got too much into it :) Since having the kids WOW is too time consuming for him, he quit a few years back.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Keli, Thank you so much! Teachers are so wonderful, I sometimes think I should find out how to get ahold of her and write her a note.

Mary DeMuth said...

Oh my goodness! Just saw this. Thanks for putting me up there with Francine Rivers. So humbling!!!!