“Wednesday Writer” – Fay Klingler

While I normally interview fiction writers, today’s guest, Fay Klingler, writes primarily non-fiction. In fact, I like to think of her work as women’s non-fiction because almost all of it applies to the challenges of women, mothers, and grandmothers.


ME:  I know you were reared in Mesa, Arizona, but where in the mountains did your father build that summer home for your family? And what kind of an effect did that kind of childhood have on you in terms of your writing later on? (I’d love a picture of you as a child up in the mountains.)

FAY:  Our home in the mountains was the highlight of my entire childhood. It was built in Strawberry, Arizona. My brother and I roamed those mountains and explored all summer, every summer. Back then, there were few fences and a small population. We rode roundup for a neighboring cattle rancher. We discovered an amazing chalk mine. In the night, we heard the loud screams of a nearby mountain lion. We slept out under the stars with apples situated on top of us to feed the skunks who frequented at night. (Okay, I’m visualizing young Fay with an apple on her forehead…or would she have put it on her tummy?) On the pond, we rode the wooden raft my brother made, and we collected snakes, frogs, and Indian corn grinders.

At one point, I started to draft a manuscript that included some of the colorful events I happily experienced there. But then my use of time migrated to caring for family and the necessary chores of life. (Well, I hope you can get back to that unfinished manuscript, and I’m sure your children do, too.)

You asked for a picture. I came across this one. My greatest love was riding horses in the mountains. This was taken in Pine, Arizona, on the 24th of July 1960—me and my Great Uncle Jody. He was a true cowboy. I was a would-be true cowgirl :)


(She looks pretty authentic to me)

ME:  I loved the lesson you described that your creative writing teacher in junior high provided when she came to class, all plain, and then proceeded to put on all her makeup in front of the whole lot of you, asking you to describe the process afterward. If you had to give a similar lesson, what would you demonstrate and why?

FAY:  I would show how to make bread or cinnamon rolls. Then I would share the results with my students! (Sign me up for your class!) My mother was a marvelous baker. When I was in college at Brigham Young University, I tried to make bread like hers. I thought it should just come naturally. You read a recipe. You follow what it tells you to do, and walla you have a delicious-smelling, perfect textured loaf of bread, right? Not mine! It was as hard as a brick. No kidding! (On second thought…)

My mother came to my rescue by giving me lessons on bread-making. I have loved making bread ever sense and do so often for my family. (Okay, I’m all signed up again. :D)

ME:  Where did you pursue your degree in Advertising and Commercial Art, and did you end up working in either of those fields?

FAY:  As a young mother, I took classes through a correspondence school. It was a well-known school with a good reputation—Art Instruction Schools. It took me several years to complete the course.

I worked as a professional illustrator for a number of years. My work was featured by greeting card companies, “Highlights for Children” magazine, “Cricket” magazine (That’s two weeks in a row that Cricket has been mentioned), and others. For a period of time when I had to provide for my family alone, I used my skills to teach commercial art in the public school system. With the curriculum I wrote, my students won state art awards for the first time in that school’s history. (Brava!)

ME:  If you had to choose between your two loves–art and writing–which would it be and why?

FAY:  I did have to choose. As a single mom, I could not earn as much money with my art as I could with my writing. But that writing was not creative work. It was technical writing. I wrote safety manuals for oil refineries, railroad procedures, bank operation manuals, and communication style guides. (I’ll bet none of your current readers would have guessed that.)

ME:  Which illustrated book are you most proud of and why? (And please provide a cover photo.)

FAY:  I think I’m most proud of my illustrating for Highlights for Children magazine (I won their Science Corner of the Year award twice) and my greeting card work (I illustrated for the third largest greeting card company in the world, Recycled Paper Products). This is an illustration I did for one of their greeting cards.

Recycled-Paper-Products-art-1(Beautiful, isn’t it? You can tell she’s gearing up for her future books.)

ME:  You seem to specialize now in women’s non-fiction. Could you please tell us about your latest publication and what prompted you to write it? And are there any subjects concerning women and families that you are thinking about addressing in the future?

FAY:  I have two books coming out in 2014. They are actually tied together. I wrote a children’s fiction piece I AM STRONG! I AM SMART! (for ages 8 to 12). I’m not prone to writing fiction, but I love this story. Its heartfelt message unites and bonds generations. Grandma May and young Lu offer each other and women of all ages the tremendous gift of “girl power”! (Good for you! You’re branching out.)

Initially, it was suggested by my publisher that I use that title to also write a non-fiction book. It evolved into WE ARE STRONG! MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS STAND TOGETHER.

This book provides the why and how of teaching strong Christian values, with true stories communicating the purpose of those values. This inspiring work helps women strengthen their relationship with their daughters as they learn how powerful a faithful mother’s example can be. (Sounds terrific for me and my daughter.)

ME:  How have your own experiences impacted your ability to write about women, marriage, and raising children and grandchildren? Does your family ever feel like they’re being exposed, or do you avoid using personal examples in your writing? (And I’d really appreciate a picture of your large, blended family, if you don’t mind.)

FAY:  My experiences have greatly impacted my writing. Like far too many women, I lived in an abusive marriage for many years. After my divorce, as a single mother I struggled to protect and provide for my family alone. When I remarried (a saint of a man), I found blending a large family to be one of the most challenging experiences of my life. (I’ll bet! But that’s also what gave you such expertise.)

Over the past 30 years, I’ve shared the wisdom I gained from my life’s experiences, and I am grateful my Heavenly Father has helped me in that writing so the words impact others in positive, life-changing ways.


This is a picture of a portion of our family. (Hint: Click on it for a larger view.) We have members living around the world. Several of our children and grandchildren could not attend this gathering. We have twelve children in our blended family, and thirty-five grandchildren. (That’s a lot of bread baking!)

ME:  As a non-fiction writer, could you describe your writing process and how you approach publishing?

FAY:  I try to follow the promptings I receive from the Spirit. I feel driven to write or I really wouldn’t do it. Creative writing is a very difficult career. (Yes, but it’s too fun to give up…)

With an outline of my work in place, I make digital file folders and paper file folders. As the weeks of research and gathering pass, I collect materials that fit the various chapter subjects. It’s amazing to me how I meet just the right person or am exposed to the perfect story that fits the chapter I am working on. (Yep, something tells me that, fiction or non-fiction, the real Author’s putting his hand in.) I am consistently thrilled by our Heavenly Father’s choreography. (Great way to put it!)

ME:  Finally, where do you do your best writing? (And please provide a picture.)

FAY:  My husband and I share an office. My corner looks out on our front yard flower garden, making my spot a peaceful, quiet location to write.

My husband even made a label for under my computer screen. The label reads, “Fay’s Work Spot”! (Now that’s supportive!)

My-office-corner(See the label? Either she’s very organized, or she cleaned up for the photo. I have a feeling it’s the former since this is a lady who successfully raised 12 children.)

You can always find out more about Fay and her creative work on her website. She blogs right on her home page like I do.

Be sure and come back next week when I talk to YA Romance author, Rebecca Belliston, about her well-known parents and much more!


Originally posted 2013-07-03 06:00:05.

“Wednesday Writer” – Dene Low

In terms of a career, there are two sides to Laura Dene Low Card–the professorial side, Dr. Laura Card, who teaches English at BYU . . . and the authorial side, Dene Low, who has won multiple awards for her fiction:

  • Edgar Award finalist (Mystery Writers of America) 2010
  • Editor’s Choice of the Historical Novel Society, fall 2009
  • Best of 2009, the Children’s Hour
  • And a few more best of 2009 lists.

Not to discount her teaching, but we will be talking to Dene today.

picture_15ME:  You say that where you were born is irrelevant, but I find that most authors’ backgrounds have an effect on their writing in one way or another . . . so please tell us where you were born and raised–all the countries and states–and what your early childhood was like. (And I’d love a picture of you when you were young.)

DENE:  You are so right. Where I’ve lived plays a huge part in my writing. I’ve lived in 6 states and 2 other countries: Utah, Minnesota, California, Kentucky, Texas, and Colorado plus Germany and Austria. I use scenes and memories from those places—so far, mostly Colorado and California, but the others are definitely there to supply material for my writing.

(I knew it. And had I known in advance, I might have asked to see your kids in lederhosen.)

Low Family 035(Dene in the striped dress…I think…with her sister and parents)

ME:  Generally, all of that travel, both within and without the country, indicates a military background, but was it your father or your husband that took you to all those places, or both? (And a picture of you and your family abroad would be nice.)

DENE:  My husband was an Army officer, so many of those places were lived in because of his career. However, my father was getting his education and Ph.D. and then got a job in California and then Utah, so he’s responsible for several moves.

Low Family 033(Dene with her father and sister by the Mississippi River)


(Her three oldest children at home in Germany in 1978)

ME:  I want to hear more about that mermaid book you tried to write in fourth grade. What was the basic plot and what stalled you in the first chapter?

DENE:  That’s a funny one. There wasn’t much of a plot, which is why when I got to the end of the first chapter, I kind of gave up and decided to move on to loftier things, like taking swimming lessons (no doubt pretending to be a mermaid) and roaming the hills of California with the poison oak and blue belly lizards and my dog.

(Now I’m feeling a bit itchy.)

ME:  Other than your sixth grade class newspaper, what do you consider your first success in publishing?

DENE:  I remember the day I got the check from Cricket magazine for a short story I had revised and revised and then been told I had revised the good part out of and I probably couldn’t fix it. I had let it sit for months before deciding that they couldn’t tell me I couldn’t fix it, so I did. The note with the check just said, “Persistence pays.” I was ecstatic.

(Let that be a lesson to us all!)

ME:  Where did you get your B.A., your M.A., and your Ph.D., and what is the greatest value of a master’s degree in creative writing, in your opinion? Also, how has being published affected your role as Dr. Card, the English professor?

DENE:  BA—Brigham Young University. MA—Brigham Young University, PhD—University of Utah.

The value of a master’s degree in creative writing is that it makes you write to a deadline and then you get feedback. I remember taking the first 50 pages of my thesis in to a class and getting the response, “That’s very good.” I was shocked. I thought they ought to be jumping for joy and they didn’t. So, I threw away all 50 pages and started over. (I sense a perfectionist here.) The next time I brought it in, they were wowed and I was happy. I don’t think a creative writing master’s is necessary to be a good writer, but it is worthwhile if you want to develop discipline and to push yourself and to get feedback with your tuition.

ME:  Please describe one of the most “unbelievable” experiences you’ve had in life.

DENE:  OK, it’s a cliché, but having my babies was the most unbelievable—all six of them.

After that, I’d have to say the awards ceremony for the Edgar Award that I was a finalist for with PETRONELLA SAVES NEARLY EVERYONE. It was like the Academy Awards, just like you see on TV. Lots of fun and my agent treated me like I was gold that he didn’t want to let out of his sight. (I can imagine…he’d probably lost a client or two before by not keeping close enough tabs at such events.)

042910_edgars-106MattPeytonPhotography(Dene on the far right at the Edgar Awards…if you look really closely, you can see her agent peeking through the bars behind her)

ME:  Which book did you read as a child that cemented your goal of becoming an author one day, and why do you think it had that effect on you?

DENE:  Probably King of the Wind, Little Women, Little Men, or Black Beauty or any of the many Nancy Drew mysteries…or any of the hundreds of other books that I read. (Okay, that’s really narrowing it down.)

I read nearly every book in our city library. They only let me take 5 at a time, which was discouraging, because I would finish them in a couple of days and not be able to get any more for another week. (Oh, so you’re the one that always had the book I wanted checked out…just kidding, I doubt we ever went to the same library.)

ME:  Please tell us in detail about how your book, THE ENTOMOLOGICAL TALES OF AUGUSTUS T. PERCIVAL: PETRONELLA SAVES NEARLY EVERYONE, came to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2009.

UnknownDENE:  The first time I sold the book was to an editor at a conference for one of the big New York publishers. (You see? Conferences work!)

We did two or three revisions and then she quit and disappeared and my book was an orphan. (But sometimes editors don’t.) 

I was devastated and told Rick Walton about it and he told me to resubmit and gave me the names of 15 publishers and editors. (Okay, I want Rick Walton for my friend.)

I only had one respond. (But one is all you need if it’s the right one.)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editor Kate O’Sullivan had an assistant ask me for the full manuscript. (Yay!) I did another couple of revisions and then the assistant told me I could talk to Kate in person over the phone. (Even bigger “Yay!”) We worked on more revisions until the final copy. (Yes!) 

Unfortunately, another book came out from HMH just a couple of months before mine with a protagonist with the same last name and time frame and setting and subplot (Okay, a minor setback), so I had to do some major rewriting and change all those things. It worked, but it was a lot of work.

(You see? Just like the guys at Cricket magazine said all those years ago, “Persistence pays.”)

ME:  Why do you write in so many different genres (YA, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Non-fiction), and do you plan on using pen names to avoid confusing your readers? What other books have you published and what stories do you have in the works? And how would you describe your writing process?

DENE:  My brain clickety-clicks along with the speed of a bullet and I come up with all kinds of stories. I try to write a chapter for each idea so I have the idea cemented and then I put it away in a file on my computer to work on later. (Hmm…that’s an interesting approach. Might have to try that one.)

I’ve actually finished a few of those and they are now books. (By my count, which could be off, she has had about 15 books published now for both young and older readers. You can see the whole list on her website. I’ll post a few covers.)


On a daily basis, I get up very early, write for a few hours, take a nap, and then go to work as a writing professor. I try to gather material and do research later in the day when my brain isn’t as active so I have something to work on the next morning. To start writing in the morning, I read what I wrote or researched the previous day and that starts the juices flowing. I use a pen name now to separate my publishing career from my professorial career. I write my scholarly material using my first name and married name. The pen name is really my middle name and maiden name, which is fine, because my oldest friends don’t think of me as anything but Dene, pronounced deenee. So, my pen name is really my real name. Are you confused yet? (No, because I’ve had a week or so to wrap my head around it, but my readers might be. Just remember–Laura Card, professor…Dene Low, author.)

ME:  Finally, while I know you love flying planes and riding your motorcycle (and I’d love a picture of that, please), I want to know where you really do most of your writing. Please describe your writing space in the voice of Petronella. (And I must have a picture.)

denelowbyKevinWinzeler(First, Dene on her bike)

DENE:  It is well known that some people are nest builders, while others are compulsively organized. I fall into the category of nest builder; in which category it is important to gather as much extraneous and useless stuff about one as possible in order to be comfortable. Also of importance is having said stuff within arm’s reach in case one should find a possible use for anything that might come to mind, be it a bit that has recently been added to the pile or something more anciently placed there. Extraneous and useless stuff in the form of a nest is necessary for creativity to take place as well as to keep unwanted visitors from finding their way into the place of writing and to discourage them from settling in and staying an unwelcome amount of time. In other words, mess is safety and privacy as well as comfort.

(And that is no doubt why she didn’t send me a picture of her nest…I mean, writing space. I think she gave us all a pretty clear visual, however.)

If you want to know more about Dene and her writing, check out her website and her blog.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be talking with Fay Klingler, author of several works of what I like to call “Women’s Non-fiction.”


Originally posted 2013-06-26 15:10:51.