Karlene Jacobsen has been married for 20 years and is the mother of four. She loves to write, read, camp, and spend time with family and friends. She is now an English Lit student at Grand Canyon University with a minor in Christian Studies, and a freelance writer/editor/proofreader. Those of you who attended either of the past two FaithWriters conferences will remember Karlene as the Shuttle Driver to and from the airport. She has a heart of gold and I am thrilled to introduce her as the featured Monday Member.
LYNDA: Tell us a little about yourself and your Christian testimony.
KARLENE: I grew up in the church. Actually, I remember at age 5, I was afraid of going to hell, so I prayed for Jesus to save me. Later that night, I told my parents I needed to be baptized. The pastor never baptized little children, but because of my insistence, he relented and took me into the baptismal. While he was saying, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the…” I began to sink. He quickly repositioned himself so he could keep me from going under before he was ready to dunk me. LOL.
I took pride in being able to spell words like super-cali-fragile-expi-ali-docious by third grade (extra credit) and the only one who could spell phlegm in my 10th grade Wars in American History class. Of course, first grade was my heartbreak year when I spent many weeks battling flu/pneumonia and had trouble reading beast for the first grade graduation pageant. I was knocked from first chair reader to second. But I decided I would never play second reader to anyone again.
By college, I tested in advanced reading classes. Yayy me, right? HA. Such pride in so young a mind. You know what Proverbs says…
Also, by college, I was in the reconciliation stages of my relationship with God after spending several years not speaking to Him. I had made the decision by personal experience that He wasn’t interested in my life or the things of my family. My parents divorced by the time I was 14. It was an ugly drawn-out process that didn’t end until I was 18 because of their constant dragging each other to court for one reason or another to complain to a judge. I knew God was represented by the church and that it was His house, so I stayed away. Far far away. In fact, we moved into a rental up the street from a church and I walked to school. I would take the long way around the block to avoid looking at that building. It was offensive. The church turned their backs on us just as God had done. We were through.
At 17, I moved in with my grandmother in Grand Rapids (Alaska specifically). I finished my senior year of high school at Caledonia High where my new best friend told the other kids to mind their manners around me because I came from Detroit.
Before this school year began, I spent a week doing what I swore I’d never do again. While on vacation with my cousin in Canada, her friend was driving her little car around the countryside, taking us from Port Huron to Niagara Falls and back in a most frightening fashion. For the first time in years, and only because I feared for my life, I prayed. Not once, but three times.
Each prayer was answered. First prayer: GOD Jean is driving crazy, I’m scared. Please make her take me home. Answer: Rain moved into the London, Ontario area like a curtain being dropped over a play ending its performance. I watched it move in on us from far off in the west until it was on top of us… Jean and Cousin decided it best to return to Michigan.
Second prayer: We were supposed to spend the night in Southfield and attend Brightmore Tabernacle, where my cousin’s pastor grew up. I was NOT going to that place; so I prayed. Answer: Within minutes, they (my cousin and her friend) chatted and decided we would head back to Jenison where I would spend the night at my cousin’s and attend church with her in the morning. My aunt and grandma would pick me up after church. Again, I was NOT going into church with my cousin.
Third prayer: I cannot go with her! (I prayed in the back seat, silently. Didn’t want my cousin to know how reprobate I was. Didn’t want them preaching at me.) Answer: We stopped at a rest area where my cousin made a phone call and returned to the car (dating my self – we needed a pay phone). Upon her return, she informed us that we would meet my aunt at he Pizza Hut near our home on 28th street and Thornapple River Road. “YES!” I squeeled in my heart.
We arrived at my grandma’s house where I would safely rest in my upstairs room until I decided I could get up. Grandma’s health wasn’t the best so we never went to church on Sundays. She could listen to it on the radio. (At the time that church broadcast the entire service, including worship).
Someone else was praying I’m sure of it. Probably Grandma. And because God is no respecter of persons and will answer everyone, He said yes to her as well. That Sunday morning, July 8, 1984, my aunt yelled from the front yard beneath my window, “Karlene, are you going to church with Grandma and me?”
Now, who can say “No” to Grandma? That was the day that I ran from God so fast that I ran smack into His arms and have not looked back with regret. Since then, life has been good and hard. Painful and joyful. But He has been steadfast and faithful.
I laugh about that time now, because every now and again, I run from something. He lets me run, too, because He knows I’ll run into the very thing I’m running from . . . eventually . . . and find that I love it.
LYNDA: Your entire answer to my first question had me captivated! And I have to say, my dad lives near Alaska in Alto, and I live in Jenison, so it was cool seeing you reference the cities I know so well.
On to the next question… How did you discover your love for writing?
KARLENE: I can remember laying on my bedroom floor with paper in front of me. I was drawing lines because it was all I knew how to do. If I saw it today, it would look much like waves. My mom stopped in and asked, “What are you doing?”
“Writing my book,” I responded.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time reading and didn’t really pursue that writing until after I reconciled with God in high school. My first piece was titled “My New Best Friend” in which I described the faithfulness of Jesus during those years when I shunned Him. I had never doubted his existence. I just wanted Him to leave me alone.
After writing this piece, I handed it to a girl at school and asked her if she knew who the author was. (I purposely left off the bi-line.) She couldn’t tell me, but was certain it must have been published in some periodical somewhere. When I told her it was me, she dropped her jaw and said I needed to get it published. But we were seniors in high school. What did we know? I submitted it to a newsletter and never saw it again. My heart broke that it wasn’t duplicated so I could have a copy of it for my portfolio.
Then in college, I was able to pass my boring English class (boring because I didn’t like the instructor) by putting a boy in a time machine to see Ben Franklin and learn of his time.
When I realized that my pen (now computer) could communicate better than my lips, I picked it up more often. Speech is tough. I trip over my tongue. I’m a slow thinker and an even slower responder. A quick wit is not close to my porch, let alone my mind. But give me a moment with the pen(cil) and I’ll get my message across, sometimes with a little humor too. J
LYNDA: How has FaithWriters helped you in your writing career?
KARLENE: The first time I entered the Faith Writers challenge, my stomach moved into my throat and stayed there until after the week was over. I was terrified, and I’m sure many others are as well, of the critiques that say, “Oh my goodness, what on earth do you think you’re doing?” or “Do you honestly think this is prose? Pulease!” (Think Simon Cowell.)
Instead I consistently received the most amazing, uplifting, encouraging comments. After a while, many of the commenters who had followed me from my first entry would say things like, “Wow, I can see you’ve really grown here.” What a boost! Some of my entries also received messages like, “You might be able to get this one published.” Others were more like, “I hope you expand this.” Or “I’d really like to read more…; I’d like to know her backstory…; thank you for the laugh…; etc.” There were some also, that gave constructive pointers, “trust your words…; you’re too creative to borrow someone else’s cliché…; if you do ______, then you’ll really make this one shine…”
And as I put the advice into practice, I could see the stories transform. I became a student of the ones who placed, the masters, and the advanced levels. I read each one, checked to see what worked, read the comments, and tried to model what worked and see why certain things didn’t work.
Through all of this, the friendships, and edification, I have gained confidence enough in my writing that I am not afraid of constructive criticism, in fact, I welcome it as long as it is not in a derogatory, demeaning manner (again NO Simon Cowell). But I’m sure I could handle it if I had to.
LYNDA: Have you had anything published?
KARLENE: It’s a secret…
Seriously, yes, but only as a ghostwriter. I need to find out which publications would be interested in the kinds of things I write.
LYNDA: You are currently do freelance work as a writer, editor/proofreader. What aspect of freelancing do you enjoy most?
KARLENE: I love the editing/proofreading aspect most. Writing is great because I’m doing what I love, but it becomes stressful when I go to write for my own projects and find I used up all my great ideas for someone else.
It was such fun to take my daughter’s girlfriend’s college entrance essays and edit them for her, tightening up sentences, re-ordering words and making her essays come alive, and then hear her tell my daughter, “They are awesome!”
Editing and proofing work is a great service to provide for those who really don’t have the confidence in their writing, or know they are deficient in grammar and punctuation, and yet want their work to shine.
LYNDA: Take a moment to brag about your family.
KARLENE: My daughter, Kelly, came to conference this year and met her virtual twin – Sara – which was so great. This fall she started studying at the community college near our home. One of her favorite instructors is the Dean of the English Dept. who is her English professor. She says that he reminds her of me somehow. Perhaps it’s his insistence that words must be spelled correctly or that the semicolon and other misunderstood punctuations should be treated with respect and the dignity they deserve.
She is the oldest of four children. Stephen, my second, is considering entrance into the community college for his senior year of high school. He wants to get a jump on his college education. If he’s going to be president of GM one day, he better get moving. J
Jason, my third, just turned 10 and is in fifth grade. He and his brothers are home schooled. Jason’s working on the computer with his studies and loves it. He loves the challenge of the test and has been known to wake me at 6:30am to help him find an answer he’s been sweating over. “I need to learn something new, Mom.” He says. His favorite thing to study, he says, is spelling. J
Andrew, my youngest, is 8 and loves personal time with either of his parents. He seems to know exactly when I need a hug.
LYNDA: What do you like to do for fun?
KARLENE: My favorite thing to do is sit in my chair, close my eyes, and watch my characters act out the story they’ve been telling me. This is fun for me as I can vacation in some of the most exotic places, ski slopes and never get injured, conduct neuro surgery and not pay malpractice insurance, practice law and be a better Matlock than he was, walk next to Columbo and learn his techniques, or be Monk and pretend he is cured of his OCD.
When I’m not doing that, I buy games. *Giggle* I have so many games that I think will be a blast to play, but can’t find anyone to play with me. One such game is “Bananagrams”. Someone needs to take me out more.
Other things I like to do. Visit with close friends, laugh – a lot; horse back ride; read books, write about what I read, then read more; go camping, especially where there are few campers and a great view (Lake Superior, for instance) where I can escape into my brain and imagine my characters in that place; daydream; visit over coffee; talk about writing, books, writers, etc.
LYNDA: Do you have any short or long term goals, either personally or professionally?
KARLENE: Short term goals: Immediate -> Finish my psychology class this Sunday.
Immediate-future -> NaNo = finish with at least 50,000 on my story by the end of November.
Future -> Finish school (Dec.2012) with English Lit/Communications degree. I’m considering a double major because the difference between a major and a minor is three classes, so why not.
Long term goals: Finish and publish novels. It’s not about the money, but the ministry. I see so many people who question God, asking why, where, and when, while becoming angry at the same time. And after seeing how I quit speaking to Him as a young girl through my own lack of understanding, my heart aches for those who write Him off because they perceive that He is distant, uninvolved, malicious, or abusive. My stories are intense. I call them a new kind of romance because these are the wooing of the Lord to His people. Some involve a man and a woman finding each other, but all of them involve resolving deep issues of the heart and soul with their God.
People read books for so many different reasons. Some for escape, others so they can connect with some hero who overcame impossible odds, and others for healing, etc. Ultimately, I hope to see lives challenged and changed through the stories I write. Whether it be one or one million.
LYNDA: Thanks for taking the time to let us get to know you, Karlene! Somehow I know you’ll accomplish your goals. With your drive, determination, writing skill and heart, how could you not?
Check out Karlene’s blog, Homespun Expressions
Read more of Karlene’s work by visiting her FaithWriters Profile page