First of all, have you seen the interview with our Best of the Best winner, Graham Insley? Check it out at the Challenge page – and learn about his winning entry A Horse’s Rear End, the benefits of a challenge buddy, and his love for FaithWriters (and his Aussie home). Don’t miss it.
And now, let’s move on to the interview at hand.
Gerald Shuler has been a member of FaithWriters since 2007. And this year, his entry for the Expire challenge, Use Before…, was the second-highest rated entry the entire challenge year. Wow! Read on to learn about his reaction to being second place in Best of the Best, his love of FaithWriters, and how his little sister inspired him to create his first ebook – and more!
JOANNE SHER: First of all, Gerald, congratulations! Can you tell me what your reaction was when you learned that you got second place in Best of the Best this year?
GERALD SHULER: I knew my simple entry didn’t stand a chance of winning because there were so many super choices this year. I was just curious which one of those marvelous choices won. When I saw my name I thought “No, this can’t be… it should have been…” Then it dawn on me that I was the choice. But I actually decided NOT to tell my wife just in case it really was a mistake. (I finally told her I placed two days later.)
JOANNE: You are lucky you weren’t MY husband, Jerry – you’d be on the couch if you waited that long! Your winning entry, Use Before.. resonated with quite a few people. I think many of us – especially those on the older part of the spectrum – have felt ignored or rejected because of our age. And you approached the issue masterfully. What was your inspiration for this piece? Do you remember how it came together?
GERALD: I remember exactly how it came together. I saw the topic and immediately thought of my wife. When we shop, she is constantly asking if I checked the date on whatever just went in the basket. She actually makes me take the item out of the basket until I have made sure there were no earlier dates available. So it was natural for me to form the habit of watching for dates before putting the item in the basket. That is where the shopping part of the story came from. The other part was just my desperate need to put some kind of twist in anything I write. In the beginning I was going to have him just so deep in thought that he accidentally puts an outdated item in the basket and doesn’t realize it until he gets home. But the thoughts he was dealing with took me by surprise and it took over the story.
JOANNE: And his thoughts, and where they went, were truly what made this piece so wonderful. You’ve been at FaithWriters for several years off and on. What is it about FW, and the Challenge, that keeps you coming back? How has it helped you improve your craft and grow as a writer?
GERALD: I want to be clear on this question. The only time that has been “off and on” has been my submitting of entries. I almost always write an entry based on the current topic but I usually don’t submit it. Sometimes, though, I just submit to see if it gets any feedback. I LOVE feedback, because it says to me, “Keep writing… people are reading.” That is something every writer needs to have confirmed at some point. FaithWriters does a wonderful job of keeping that spark lit.
As to the second part of your question, the challenge gave me room to grow but other parts of the FW site actually teaches me how to grow. Things like the writer’s forums (Jan’s writing class, for example) has really taught me to stretch and try new things in my writing. If anyone hasn’t been to the forums, my advice is, “Don’t delay… find something in the forums that teaches you to write better and get involved.”
JOANNE: The forums ARE a treasure trove. Is there one particular challenge entry that you’d call your favorite? One that perhaps flowed effortlessly or means a lot to you personally?
GERALD: All my stories are like my children… how can you have a favorite? There are two entries, though, that I am pleased with how they came out. I wanted to write one just to see if I could get people commenting on how they were kept guessing all the way to the end and then were surprised and pleased with the ending. I wrote one called “Lonely.” Then another one was written with the exact opposite goal. I wanted to tell everyone at the very beginning how the story would end and still have them make comments about how good the ending actually was. I wrote “It Would Have Been Enough.”
JOANNE: Those are some amazing entries, Gerald! Thanks for sharing them. Have you always loved writing, or is it something that came to you later? What is your favorite genre to write in?
GERALD: I have always loved telling stories, even before I was old enough to know my ABC’s. I regret to admit it, but everything I wrote got thrown away until I was in my fifties. At that time my sister shocked me by asking about the stories I had told her when she was a child. She wanted to buy the book but didn’t know who wrote it. When she found out I had made up all the stories she begged me to write it and publish it so she could read it to her grandkids. Because of her constant nagging, I finally did publish the story. It is called “Lemondrop: the Beginning.” It is a print on demand book but I also have it in the Faithwriter’s eBook section. Thanks to my sister, I have been writing and KEEPING my writing since publishing that book. Now my sister wants me to write sequels to the first book. Readers never seem to get enough!
As to my favorite genre, mood dictates genre for me. If a poem will do better than a story then that is how it will be. If I were told I could only write in ONE genre for the rest of my life, though, I think I would choose short stories.
JOANNE: Good for your sister – and glad you are saving your writings now. Speaking of your sister, tell us a bit about your family. Are they supportive of your writing?
GERALD: My sister certainly is. And my mother. But sisters and mothers always are supportive, aren’t they? What means the most to me is that my wife supports my writing. I’ve written stories about how hard it is to be married to a writer and she gets all my heart for making it easy to write. So to my wife… thank you, Colene. I couldn’t do it without you.
JOANNE: Supportive spouses are such a blessing. What are your hopes and dreams for the future, both personally and professionally?
GERALD: Personally, I want to preach and write. Professionally, I want to preach and write. I have been publishing a local christian newspaper for the last several years that is doing well. My dreams are to see that effort go nation wide (or even world wide). It needs financial support but as far as readers, it is very well accepted. By the way, many of the articles I use in the monthly newspaper comes from FaithWriters free reprints section. Thank you, writers, for your input in Times of Praise Christian Newspaper.
JOANNE: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
GERALD: I just want to encourage the people who enter the FaithWriter’s Challenge. It is too easy to not recognize what talent you have buried inside of you. I spent the first half of my long life wanting to write but not writing because, in my thoughts, there was a whole world out there that could write better than me, so why waste the time and effort. Why? Because the time and effort you put into your writing is exactly what will make you better and better at writing skills until you finally become what I thought the whole world was… a better writer than me. You have it in you. You just have to do it. I look forward to congratulating YOU next year for your Best of the Best award.
JOANNE: Such excellent advice, Gerald. Thanks so much for the interview. It has truly been a pleasure. I’m sure you will succeed in all you put your mind to – and congratulations once again!
Watch for an interview with Kenn Allan, the third place winner of Best of the Best, here soon!