Monday, January 30, 2012

What I'm Reading

I'm a bit behind on my blog. After fighting the flu virus for 2 weeks, I'm finally feeling better, so I thought I'd talk about one of my favorite groups. I belong to the Mystery Readers at the library. Unlike most book groups, we pick a theme, not a specific book or author. This month the book was supposed to have cold weather setting. I have a closet full of books, so I had no trouble finding one to fit the bill. I settled on A Shadow on the Snow by Dorothy Bodoin. Perhaps I'll make some comments about it in a later blog.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Suzanne Clevenger, an inspirational writer

I'm pleased to introduce Suzanne. She is another of the contributors to Leave from the Valley Oak. Her true stories are only part of a larger work that she hopes will be published this year.

Welcome Suzanne. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m amazed to find that I’m actually using some of the skills I learned in high school. While attending Redwood High School in Visalia in the fifties, I worked on the school newspaper as a reporter and editor. Today, I’m using some of those skills in my writing. I also participated in and won a number of speech contests with the Lions Club. Today, I’m a Christian speaker and have had numerous opportunities to speak at women’s retreats and other events. In high school, I also served on the student council and had the position of publicity chairman for school events. Several years ago, I organized an interchurch women’s conference which required some of those previously learned organizational skills.

Visalia, California has been my home most of my life. My husband Ron and I will celebrate our twenty-fifth  anniversary this year. We have a blended family comprised of four children and seven grandchildren and live on the outskirts of town. He and I have both experienced previous marriages and divorces, and today we have a rewarding ministry reaching out to couples facing difficulty in their respective marriages.

Besides writing, I enjoy working in our gardens, quilting and knitting.

How long have you been writing? 

I’ve had an interest in writing since high school, but didn’t get serious about it until just the past few years. I think college, marriage, having children, and work overshadowed any writing aspirations I might have had. I laugh about it now, but when I was a young mother, I contacted one of those writing schools advertised in the back of a magazine. Someone actually came to my home to talk with me about it. Gosh, I was inexperienced then. He must have shaken his head when he got back into his car and drove away.

Where do you get your ideas?  

Life. I consider myself an inspirational writer and have learned that God never wastes a moment of our life experiences. He wants us to grow from them, whether they are good or bad, and hopefully, we can share those experiences with others to help them grow as well.

How have you done your research? 

Once again, from life. As I’ve ministered to women over the past twenty years or so, I’ve found they all have one thing in common. They are all looking for hope to get them through a difficult ordeal. Many of them have given me permission to tell their stories to others in order to let them know they are not alone.

I also find great inspiration from the Bible. I am impacted by the relevancy of the Scriptures in today’s world. It doesn’t matter what we’re dealing with: finances, child rearing, marriage, pain, joy, loss, success, conflict, betrayal or renewal—it’s all covered between the pages of the Bible.

How has your life colored your writing? 

My life has been pretty ordinary for someone who grew up in the 40’s and 50’s. Life was much simpler then. Families spent more time together and seemed closer in so many ways. There weren’t the many distractions we have today. I hope to recapture some that way of life in future writing projects I’m thinking about.

I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was twelve. In my thirties, during the women’s liberation movement, I went a little crazy as did so many women during that time. I made a conscious choice to do what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted. I moved far away from the life I know God had planned for me. It was only by His grace and forgiveness that I was finally able to get back on track and follow Him as closely as I am able. I still stumble from time to time, but my hope in Christ has not waivered since my return to Him. And it is that message of hope I want to pass on to others. He’s only a prayer away.

What other books and authors have influenced you?

Oh, that is a hard one. I must admit I’ve never been an avid reader, but I’m working on that now. I really enjoy books that inspire me and help me grow in my walk with the Lord. I’m still trying to figure so many things out. Many authors are good at that, but Anne Graham Lotz is one who never ceases to amaze me in her writings. She seems to always hit the target dead center. Jill Briscoe is another one. I own many of their books and have had several opportunities to sit under their teachings in person. The devotional that really helped turn my life around is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

What’s been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

Probably the process itself. It takes a lot of discipline to make the effort and time to write, and I’m not very good at that. I have so many interests, and it’s easy to become way too distracted during the day. I will say that I had a couple of devotionals accepted and printed by another author. When Tyndale House Publisher sent me a complimentary copy of the book , The One Year Life Verse Devotional by Jay K. Payleitner, I was thrilled. I was an honest to goodness published author. Wow! That was exciting.

I’ve never been paid for any of my writing. I think that will be my next biggest thrill. To get paid for something you enjoy doing must be the ultimate.

What’s your latest project?  

I’ve been working on a book which is a compilation of several women who have gone through tough things: abortion, infidelity, loss of a child, husband’s addiction to pornography, mental illness, tough love toward a child, homelessness. All of these women clung to the hope they had in Jesus to get them through. It is my hope a publisher will accept my manuscript before the end of the year.

I’m also in the beginning stages of memories from my childhood. That will, of course, reflect life in the forties and fifties. My main purpose is to pass these stories on to my children and grandchildren, but if it happens to get printed …. Well that would be great too.