2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
you’ve been writing since 1978, you became committed to writing in 1994. What
keeps writing fresh and exciting for you?
Rev. Sue Lang: Every project is a fresh start! If you check my Web site, you see that I've done a wide variety of writing from freelancing for a newspaper to writing devotions and books. I've also learned that I can use my experiences in secular writing to feed my religious and church leadership writing. Once I wrote a feature article for a regional publication on organizing your home. Eventually, I used the images in a Lenten sermon on spiritual house-cleaning. I like to play with the metaphors and see where they take me.
I also like to take on challenging assignments where I have to stretch and grow a bit in order to do them. On the day the war in Iraq started, I was asked by my editor at Augsburg Fortress to write Who Is My Neighbor? The Stories of Ruth and Jonah. I had about 7 weeks to develop an outline and write the final manuscript. It was a tremendous learning experience as the format was very detailed and specific.
Q: Along with your successful writing career, you are also an ordained minister and have a husband and two daughters. How do you manage what is essentially three full-time jobs? Any favorite organizational tips?
Lang: Buy a crockpot! That's my number one tip. I've also learned in the crunch of a tight deadline that there is a reason that God created Dominos and the local Chinese restaurant! I also know which area restaurants let you do "take-out."
Seriously though, I am cautious about over-committing and try to keep a broad view of my schedule. Right now, I'm about to embark on a rather tight deadline for a book project and am "cleaning the desk" to make room for it. Once I start that project, other things will have to wait until I'm done.
And, I couldn't imagine living without my laptop! I've written in my van and in hallways while waiting for my teens at their cello, viola, and voice lessons. I also carry a pocket sized recorder so that if I have a writing or project related thought while driving, I can immediately record it. I always carry a small notebook, too.
I think that writers under deadline have to keep a firm eye on their deadlines and keep the focus. Although I prefer a more spontaneous life, when writing on deadline I have learned to keep a laser beam focus when I need to. You can make the writing life work if you feel the fire burning within. I do.
Q: You’ve written many articles and essays about parenting, including publication in the popular Chicken Soup series and Baby Talk. Congratulations! With all that you’ve accomplished, is there anything you aspire to? What are some of your future writing goals?
Lang: I've had a book proposal on the grief process before my publisher for a while now. I really feel called to write that book. They've just contacted me and want to see more, so I'm hoping 2005 is the year for it.
I also want to keep growing as a writer through both challenging and cutting-edge assignments—things that fall a bit outside the box.
I need to spend more time on my own queries. Recently, most of the writing assignments have come to me without me seeking them out. While that is a real joy when an editor calls, I don't want to fall into the trap of thinking I don't need to work at querying.
Q: What or who inspires you most as a writer?
Lang: Writers! I find interaction with other writers to be both refreshing and inspiring. I love hearing about projects that others are engaged in and seeing their energy and excitement. They feed mine. I've met writers through attending conferences and interacting on e-mail lists. Supporting and encouraging one another is what it's all about. That's actually the main reason that I started directing my annual RevWriter Writers Conference. I had so many people telling me in the early days why I would never be able to get published that I wanted to nurture those who have the seed in them, but need to tend it so it will grow.
Q: You’ve written three well-received books based on your ministry. What are your best marketing strategies for promoting your work?
Lang: Don't be afraid to ask people for endorsements of your work if they have paid you a compliment. Those endorsements can be used online and in print.
Don't be afraid to talk about your latest project or tell people that you are a writer! Life is pretty serendipitous. You never know what might happen as a result of one conversation.
Get a Web site! Everything is Internet oriented these days. If you are serious about writing, you need to get out there and claim your piece of cyberspace. As soon as I finished my first book, I went to work on the content for a Web site. It was as much work as the book, but it was worth it. I have a webmaster who oversees the technical aspects of it for me. She's definitely worth it!
I also started publishing The RevWriter Resource (ISSN 1545-939X) a free electronic newsletter for busy congregational leaders as both a resource and as an avenue to advertise what I have written with links to my Web site. I take every opportunity that I can to mention it...like now!
Network with others who are in your niche. For me, that's congregational leaders. I've led workshops on conflict, communications and leadership development. Once again that both gives people what they need and helps sell books.
Q: Speaking of your calling, you often combine your two careers. Is it ever hard to get enough time for Rev Writer’s Resource and the annual writer’s conference?
Lang: A long time ago, I learned the value of taking time to build a good team when embarking on a project like my writers conference. It would be insane to try to do it alone. Besides, my conference team has come up with some really creative ideas over the past two years. Thankfully, I also have the experience of having been a local co-director of a major Global Mission Event for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1992. I learned a lot that year. My writers' conference attendance is nowhere near the 1500 that attended that event. But, give me a few years and we'll see!
This year, I have also signed on a very talented Advisory Board to support my RevWriter Resource. They've given me some great ideas that I've been able to implement, like the addition of the section titled: Practical Wisdom: Sharing Ministry Ideas That Work. I'm always on the look-out for great ideas for that section. The bottom line is that when you embark on a project like the RevWriter Resource, it is okay to go it alone. But if you want to grow, the support and ideas need to grow, too.
Q: In your opinion, what was your greatest achievement so far? Did it give you satisfaction, monetary compensation or status?
Lang: Writing that first book was both frightening and invigorating. I never planned to write a book, but when I was invited to a writers consultation for the Augsburg Fortress Congregational LEADER Series, the fire started burning. It gave me a huge sense of accomplishment to finish the manuscript. When the book arrived at my doorstep on my youngest daughter's 12th birthday, I felt like I had birthed another baby that day.
I hope that because my first book is about keeping congregational conflict healthy, it will serve many congregations in the years to come. I like to think that I've been able to contribute to the health of congregational life on a wider scale. That's a pretty good feeling.
Q: It is often hard to admit our mistakes. What lessons have you learned from any mistakes or errors in judgment? Have they helped either your writing career or your ministry?
Lang: Oh, I groan when I think of some of the early stuff that I submitted when I was getting started writing. There were some pieces that just didn't flow. Other times, I aimed too high and missed the target by submitting to markets that I just wasn't ready for. But, it was all part of the learning experience and all part of my journey to where I am today. Thankfully, I've learned to be me and to trust my gift and my voice as I write. I didn't in the earlier days.
I advise writers to take the risk and just get their work out there. Listen to the feedback that you receive and use it to work to develop your talents. You'll get published if you have the gift and work to develop it. Writing is part inspiration, but it's mostly work!
SP: What are you working on now?
Lang: Each month I edit The RevWriter Resource. I just completed next month's issue. I've also recently submitted three articles that will be in a new confirmation resource by Augsburg Fortress. It is titled: The Lutheran Handbook and is written in the style of the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook. Now that was fun!
I've also been asked to co-author a world hunger resource book for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We worked on that in November and December.
I'm also working on an article on leadership development in churches that I need to work on. And I've been asked to write an endorsement for another author's book.
Q: Do you have any advice for writers or additional comments, Sue?
Lang: Even if you aren't published, but you write on a regular basis, you are a writer! Remember that. I faced so many nay-sayers in my early writing days, but I never gave up. You shouldn't either if you feel the spark inside. Keep writing and keep growing.
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