Linda Germain has been a FaithWriters member for almost a decade, and has been entering the challenge since it first started. And now, her incredible piece, Who Was That Scary Man?, was chosen as third place in the Writing Challenge Best of the Best contest. Read on to learn more about this devoted FW regular.
JOANNE: First of all, congratulations! Tell us a bit about how you found out you were third place in Best of the Best. How did you react?
LINDA: I read it in the July FW Newsletter. Needless to say, I was stunned! There were so many well-deserving entries I couldn’t believe that one garnered any noteworthy interest. I was blessed to have two others in the running that I had supposed would outrank this poem. Sometimes life just surprises us, doesn’t it?
JOANNE: Sure is! You have been at FaithWriters for NINE years, and have been entering the Writing Challenge regularly since its infancy (close to 300 challenge entries, folks!). How has the Challenge helped your writing?
I made a commitment a long time ago to consider Challenge-entering as a job, and to make myself go to work whether or not I felt like it. I firmly believe that writing to topic, word-count, and deadline does wonders to refine our skills.
The contest part is fun, of course, but depositing our creations to the archives week after week is like having a savings account. Old stories and poems sit there, drawing interest or not, and wait for us to revisit them…and perhaps take them out for a make-over and another send off for possible publication.
I believe the FaithWriters Challenge has done more for new Christian writers than could ever be measured. To have watched it grow and change, and grow even more, has been absolutely amazing to me.
How has it helped my writing? Many times, I have been so into the “zone” that I’d look up and see 1000 words or more crashing into each other. That’s when it’s time to do some serious cutting and reconstructing. To me, that’s also when the fun begins. It’s like sculpting must be to an artist—creatively satisfying.
We need to view re-writing and polishing as being akin to pruning a rosebush or tree. We might say, “Ouch,” during the process, but the results will be a stronger, better smelling product. :0)
JOANNE: Oh, Linda, you have some amazing and beautiful insights up there. Thank you so VERY much for sharing them. Do you have a process for creating challenge entries?
LINDA: I’m fairly simple in my approach. I may think of something right away, or it could take days for an idea to form. Also, I pull from true, first-person accounts of things that have happened in my life or someone I know. Many times, like most Christian writers, at the 11th hour I have stared at that cold, unsympathetic computer screen and prayed, “Lord, if there is something by which just one person will be blessed, please send it to my brain and right out through these fingers.”
JOANNE: Oh BOY have I been there! Your winning entry, Who Was That Scary Man, was so creative and “out of the box.” Where did the idea come from? Is it based on an actual speech? How did the piece come together?
LINDA: On May 8th of this year, my darling son Michael graduated from Northeast State. This idea for the poem took shape while I was online confirming all the graduation information. Bunny trails are too easy for an imaginative mind to hop down, so I started to think about how almost all grad-speeches are similar (and have been for a hundred years) and that most people aren’t even listening.
That Wednesday night, even with my resolve to do the Challenge every week, for some reason, I decided I was too tired and went to bed. After tossing and turning for an hour, I felt compelled to get up and write. In fact, I was half asleep and dashed it off, feeling that there were parts I should change or polish.
Now here’s the cool part (at least to me). That very articulate and humorous teacher up in Massachusetts, who recently gave the keynote address at his high school’s graduation, had said some of the same things I did. He was on several morning TV shows and was interviewed left and right about his decidedly different approach to that traditional go-forth-and-conquer speech.
I didn’t want anyone to think he gave me the idea, so I sent an e-mail to his school address with a copy of my poem that was clearly written before his YouTube appearance went viral. I told him if he was ever bored, with nothing to read but the cereal box, I was enclosing something I wrote that somewhat paralleled a few of his thoughts.
In about a week, to my great astonishment, he responded! He was gracious in thanking me for my applause to what he had said, and was kind enough to say he liked my poem. Then, I realized he was an English teacher of some distinction…which made it all the more special.
That’s why my favorite word is still serendipitous!
JOANNE: That is SO cool, Linda! Gave me goosebumps. I’m fond of serendipitous too . Have you always enjoyed writing, or is it something that developed later? What is your favorite genre to write in?
LINDA: Always have, even before I could hold a pencil–which makes no sense, does it?
My mother still loves to reminisce about our walks to the library before I could read, and how I would sit on the floor in a quiet corner at home and look at the pictures and make up my own stories.
I am open to try most genres, although sci-fi or junk romance wouldn’t hold much interest for me. I don’t mind research for historical authenticity or for accurate information, but am not inclined to have any great affection for tutorials or technical writing.
I suppose I’m most drawn to humor, stream of consciousness, poetry, essays, and fiction wrapped in a little fluff but with a sharp point. My favorite kind of writing is what I call between-the-lines. Maybe I should try mysteries? That might be fun.
JOANNE: I think you’d do great with mysteries. How about reading? What’s your favorite type of book to read? Who are your favorite authors?
LINDA: I like current political culture books by sensible writers (who are usually Christians), a really good mystery or historical fiction once in a while (clean), humorous commentaries (love Mark Twain/ Will Rogers types) and of course various Bible based books that are pertinent to how we should conduct ourselves and how Scriptural prophecy is so interwoven in the emerging end-times (especially in reference to Israel).
I also like Peanuts in the funny papers…mostly, good ol’ Snoopy when he’s laboring to write the next great American novel. I like to believe if I had a beagle he would be attempting the same thing.
JOANNE: I’m sure your beagle would LOL. Tell us a bit about you.
LINDA: Not too much to tell. Former RN; live with my step-mother and three rather cute cat characters in the mountains of East Tennessee; have a handsome son in his mid-twenties; do some freelance editing and writing and book reviewing; busy with all the daily knick-knack and paddy whacky things that keep a home running and bills paid and food cooked and my two dear LOLs (little old ladies—mother and step-mother) on track and all of us going in a semblance of the right direction.
I guess I’m part of that sandwich stage of life (wandering around from one extreme to the other somewhere between young adult children and elderly parents). That keeps life very interesting, and makes for tons of some of that first-person humor stuff.
JOANNE: What are your hopes and dreams for the future, both personally and professionally?
LINDA: Personally: Just to keep on doing whatever I’m supposed to be doing until the Lord returns, or else calls out from His big waiting room, “Next!”
Either way, that final phase will be of eternal significance and needs dedicated Christian writers to get the WORD out.
Professionally: When we pray to be used in whatever way would edify God’s Kingdom or assist His people, we have to be ready to have the faith to step out and do or go or be.
For whatever gifts or skills He has given me, I humbly hand them back to Him as an offering of willingness to obey. In other words, as long as my tools aren’t rusty or obsolete, I’m ready to work.
JOANNE: A fabulous attitude. Anything else you’d like to share?
LINDA: Just to reiterate to all the Challengeers (as Deb calls us) that the most important thing you can do for your talent, whether barely budding and wobbly or full grown and amazing, is to keep writing and re-writing.
In the scheme of things, winning the weekly awards is far less important than generating the discipline to write (and do it, and do it, and do it).
Practice may not always make perfect, but it certainly forces us to consider how important it is to adjust and learn and polish the wonderful craft of painting those word pictures.
That’s all I know.
JOANNE: Thank you, Linda, for your thoughtful answers, your wonderful piece, and your faithful devotion and dedication to the Challenge and FaithWriters in general. And congratulations once again!