Can you believe we are in a new month already? Today I'd like to welcome Gail Kittleson to our 'love of story' feature.
Welcome Gail! Let's start with our favorite question. How did you develop a love of story?
Through a childhood of reading. It was the fifties, and we lived on a farm. None of this of driving to town to be on a sports team, etc. (That was my dad’s view, no questions asked.) It was all about work. But in between, in the evenings and every other chance I got, I read. I think Mom was my model, although she was so busy, she had little chance to devote time to reading.
But she made sure we went to Sunday school, where stories abounded. Amazing miracle stories of an oil jar being magically filled, a little girl being raised from the dead, a man walking on water ... oh, the stories! I brought my Sunday school papers home proudly and shared with whomever would listen.
Visits to the local library became necessities, and characters were in some ways more real to me than the people around me. School offered more stories—I was one of those kids that cried on the last day in spring and couldn’t wait for the first day in fall. From Emily Dickinson to Mark Twain, I loved books.
I still remember a bookmark from back then. The verse ended with, “From books we learn most everything.”
LOL. I can't imagine an author who doesn't love to read but I know there are some out there. :) How long have you been writing?
Since junior high, which tells you I grew up before “middle school” came about. But sporadically. Some of my poems and articles were published years ago, and I started a sympathy card company with verses penned in the middle of the night when our family went through some devastating events.
My memoir, Catching Up With Daylight, came out in 2013, and I started it about nine years earlier. While in that process, these characters started showing up in my mind, and gradually, my courage grew. I began to write their stories.
Chuckle. I can relate. I went to junior high too. :) Tell us about your new novel.
The heroine, Dottie Kyle, is the kind who’d never want to stand out in a crowd. But in her little Iowa town in the aftermath of World War II, the loss of her son Bill to the war puts her in a special class of women, Gold Star mothers. Of course, nobody wanted to be one, but here Dottie is, making the best of each day after her husband dies at the end of the war.
At Helene’s boarding house, Dottie takes pride in offering home-cooked meals to the male boarders now, although her husband would never approve of her working. Cleaning and cooking for these quiet, isolated men gives her a reason to wake up each morning. Grateful for her job, she tackles her workload without complaining ... and then Helene brings in a new employee, younger and worldly-wise.
Two other things happen as late summer turns into a chilly autumn. Cora, Dottie’s daughter in California, develops complications with her third pregnancy, increasing Dottie’s desire to see those grandbabies she’s never met. And Al, the widower next door, shows a sudden, unexpected interest in Dottie—what’s this all about?
Ooh, that sounds like a fun read. What spiritual truths do you desire to convey to your readers?
I’d like my readers to recognize the tenacity of the human spirit. That’s not a “spiritual truth” we often discuss, but consider the Romans chapter eleven list of VIPS of our faith. Tenacity strides through their lives—without it (and there’s a fine line between faith and tenacity, imho), they’d have caved.
Women of every era “make do” as they face challenges. We see this quality in Esther, who rises from a common girl to queen, “for such a time as this.” But she doesn’t rise without hesitating, nor triumph without agonizing. I have a special appreciation for World War II women, because that struggle forced them to show their colors.
Quiet, unassuming women like Dottie Kyle held the world together while their husbands and sons fought. They may not have had time to lead Bible studies, but they were there when a fallen soldier came home, scrubbing the basement church kitchen and spit-shining the sanctuary for the funeral. They put their faith into action.
The home front provides endless fodder for novels in nearly every locale. For example, a lady in the town next to ours pulled some certificates for growing hemp, used to make ropes for the Navy, from her memorabilia. I recall slashing sturdy hemp plants out of our soybean fields when we walked the fields to cut out unwanted corn. I had no idea it probably represented remnants from some farmer’s contribution to the war.
But back to spiritual truths—we can fall into thinking things are worse now than they ever were. I think stories from the past remind us that’s not true, and women persevered through it all. It’s the same today—giving up is not an option.
Well said, Gail. What advice can you give to writers trying to break into the publishing world?
Keep reading. Study all the technique books you can, take all the online classes possible, work hard at understanding how fiction works, and as your genre comes to you, give it all you’ve got. Read Julia Cameron’s , do the exercises she suggests (they’re fun!!), and don’t look back. Read and discuss it with someone farther along the road. Then read it again.
Keep writing. Keep writing. And keep editing, once you’ve completed the story. I can’t even count how many times I’ve re-edited my manuscripts. Now, I edit for other authors, too, and it’s SO much easier to see their errors than my own. So the rule is, you MUST find a crit partner or editor to shadow you. MUST!!!
With writing, there’s always something to make better. It’s as if striving for perfection won’t work in this arena—keep aiming for clarity and strengthening the moral premise upholding your story. If you’re looking for a job that has an END to it, writing is not for you.
Great words of wisdom. What’s something quirky about you that most people don’t know?
I’m not sure this is quirky, but I’ve often felt like an outsider. We’ve moved a lot during our marriage, and even though I’ve enjoyed every place we’ve lived ...well, maybe not Senegal, West Africa ... Anyway, for me, it’s always about the people, but sometimes I’ve sensed a distance from what was going on around me. Hard to define—maybe some readers will know instantly what I mean.
Kathleen Norris clarified this “outsider” sensation for me in The Cloister Walk as she described being a writer. I don’t have the exact quote, but it was about our vocation being to report what’s going on, and to do that, we have to look in on scenes. Ah ... I finally understood that woebegone feeling. The feeling wasn’t about me, per se, it was about my vocation. Isn’t it fun when comfort comes unexpectedly?
LOL. I think I can relate. :) If you have a day all to yourself how would you choose to spend it?
I’d have an early, quiet morning, with my usual reading. Al-anon literature continually builds me up, as do the Scriptures. Then I’d free-write for a while, just for the pure joy of it. And do some garage sale-ing—a great way to meet people. I’d take a long walk and maybe a bike ride on my trusty old Schwinn, followed by an undisturbed nap. Then I’d read an old favorite, and meet my favorite cousin for dinner. (I probably wrote that because I get to see her this week, and am so looking forward to the kind of talk you can have only with those who know your roots.)
Sounds like a full day. Thanks again for stopping by to see us, Gail. Be sure to leave a comment today to be entered into the November drawing for The Mistletoe Kiss by Janet Lee Barton.
Be sure to tune in next week to learn more about Nike Chillemi. Have a great week.