I’m so excited to introduce my dear, dear friend, Dee Yoder, the winner of the 2011 Page Turner Contest. Read on to find out about her excitement about this win, what an amazing year 2011 was for her in the writing front, and her wonderful family.
JOANNE: When do you first remember developing a passion/love for writing?
DEE: As most writers will say, I was a child when I wrote my first “book.” I also drew many pictures to go along with my books. People seemed to be full of stories, simply by living their lives. The emotions from scenes and settings easily stuck in my mind. I had a habit, too, of putting animal characteristics to people. It was simple for me to see a duck, for instance, in someone’s unusual waddle. I had names for people: The Storks, The Turtles and so on. Yes. I was a weird kid.
JOANNE: Congratulations on your Page Turner win. Tell us about your reaction when you found out you’d taken first place.
DEE: I’d been awake all night; not able to sleep. Just before I turned my laptop off at 6 AM, I checked my emails and saw something from a friend. A congratulations for winning the Page Turner contest! I was dumb-founded! I actually thought it was a mistake and went to the Page Turner web page several times to read it carefully. As it finally sank in, I could hardly believe it. The bad thing was, I was SO groggy from lack of sleep, it became progressively painful to stay awake long enough to acknowledge my sweet friends’ good wishes. Oh my! I learned my lesson. No more all nighters when something important is scheduled the next day. But I was so sure I would not even come close to winning, I wasn’t even thinking about it. The competition was filled with fabulous writers…it was simply not on my radar to believe my manuscript could be chosen.
JOANNE: Share a bit about The Powerful Odor Of Mendacity. Where did you get the idea for it? What’s it about? How far along in it are you?
DEE: I love this manuscript! It is the closest writing to my heart of anything else I’ve written. It was based on a story I wrote for the Writing Challenge (same name) and I loved the characters, the voice, the setting…well, everything about it. But I wondered if my love of the story was just me, so I took it to a FW conference for Jan Ackerson to read. She loved it, too, and encouraged me to think of expanding the story into a manuscript. I was already finished with my first Amish novel, so I waited until NaNoWriMo to begin working on a book-length version of The Powerful Odor of Mendacity (I call it POM for short.) I wrote half the ms that year and finished POM the next year during NaNo. I began editing it with Verna Mitchell’s help (she’s my number one mentor!) and decided to enter it in the Page Turner contest in July. I am now going to work on edits for the rest of the ms (we’re up to chapter 6) as much as I can this year.
JOANNE: This has been a huge year for you writing career-wise. Not only did you get an agent at the beginning of 2011, but you received a three-book contract just days before your Page Turner win. Tell us about it all.
DEE: I know! It’s been an awesome year! But the interesting thing is, it’s also been my most unhappy year, in some ways, as a writer. Maybe unhappy is the wrong word: perhaps tumultuous is better. There has been more responsibility, more upheaval about my Amish writings, and more questions in my mind concerning whether I’m doing the right thing. In all of that, I have had my precious and dear writing friends right by my side and the Lord reassuring me that trusting in HIM will be my best guide. In fact, I know I’m clutching the robes of my Lord as He takes me sailing into these writing adventures! I sure would never have the gumption to do it on my own. I received word about the contract from Kregel publishing the Monday before the Page Turner contest, but I wasn’t able to release that news until later. So two Mondays in a row, I received absolutely gob-smacking news!
DEE: When I turned 50, I decided to make that year my Jubilee year: I would try all things I had dreamed of doing but had not pursued. Writing was one of them. In February, I woke up one Thursday morning and decided this was the day. I googled “Christian Writing contests” and up popped FaithWriters! I wrote my entry and entered it at around 9:30 AM—just before the contest deadline. The story was not that great and had loads of format issues, but the gold boxes I received mesmerized me. I was glued to the laptop and never looked back. Verna Mitchell sent me a private message encouraging me and she became my friend and mentor. She tamed my comma Queen behavior (somewhat) and has been a major support for me since. I love her dearly. In fact, all my wonderful FaithWriter pals are the best things that ever happened to me. Right up there with hubby and son. I could never repay them for all their support and love. I have learned SO much from them and even been pushed to do more from their examples and writing skills. I will never cease to thank the Lord for guiding me to FW. Scott, you’re my hero! Deb, you’re my role model!
JOANNE: What kinds of books or genres to you prefer to read and/or write?
DEE: I’ll read just about anything I can get my hands on. I love most genres and can always find gems in any genre. Reading is a must for me, even if I only have five minutes at bedtime to read, I’ll try to do it before my eyes shut!
I’ve been called to write honest-driven Amish fiction. My life has been changed by getting to know Joe Keim of Mission to Amish People. The Amish heritage is strong in my husband’s family so I was drawn toward that genre, but I was often troubled by the seeming idealization of the Amish lifestyle and religion. Once I came in contact with those who were former-Amish, I could not consciously keep reading or writing books that weren’t telling the good, and yes, the ugly, in the Amish world. I love my Amish relatives! They’re so sweet, but my eyes have been opened to the often hard life and works-driven religion they follow. I have so much grace in my own life by accepting the gift of salvation from Christ; it’s a deep desire for me to share that same powerfully freeing grace message to my Amish friends and relatives. By listening to my former-Amish friends’ life stories, I am able to tell their experiences and share the depth of complication that exists within the Amish communities. There is often a lot of contradiction and confusion beneath the surface in their world. I want to be God’s vessel to bring their stories to life as much as I am able.
JOANNE: Tell us about your family.
DEE: I’ve been married to Arlen Yoder for 15 years! He’s a supportive and loving husband who was a bachelor, aged 42, when he married me. My nineteen year-old son, Joseph, is from my marriage to Jim Brown, who died in 1995 from cancer. His death brought me to the realization that life is simply too short and too precious to be wasted. He was only 36 and his son was only 3 when God took him to heaven. It was a very tough time in my life. Jim was my Knight-in-Shining Armor—I loved him dearly. When I met Arlen a year later, I could hardly believe there was more life for me yet to live! God knew Joseph and both needed our sweet Arlen. Together, we re-formed our family. Arlen tells me he wants to be a good husband and father so he can shake Jim’s hand in heaven someday, and hear Jim say, “Thank you for taking good care of my family.” Yes. That’s the kind of fine men God brought into my life. I am blessed.
Two years ago, God also brought my former-Amish daughter, Rachel into my life! Her father had died in a buggy accident a few years before we met, and when she left her Amish world, her mom chose to informally shun her. We became her “adopted” family and what a wonderful blessing she, and her hubby, Eli, have been to us! We have a daughter and sweet son-in-law that grow more precious to us as the days pass. What a life God is giving me—it has been unpredictable and love-filled. How could I ask for more from His Hand?
JOANNE: Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If so, what do you hope to accomplish in 2012?
DEE: I do not make resolutions, but I sometimes will set a goal for myself. Often I miss the mark, but sometimes, the Lord helps me follow through. This year I plan to pray for wisdom and the strength to hold on to God’s coat tails through whatever adventure He sets for me in 2012!
I’m sure you WILL follow through, and that He’ll give you a fascinating ride!
CONGRATS, DEE – AND BLESSINGS ON THE EXCITING WRITING LIFE AHEAD OF YOU!
Places to connect with Dee:
Watch for future interviews of the runners up Sydney Avey and Ann Grover.