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Monday, August 1, 2011

A Chat with Marsha Maurer, a Georgia Author of the Year Award for Inspirational Nonfiction

Marsha has taught English with an emphasis on writing at colleges in the United States and Europe.  She currently teaches in the Department of English and Humanities at Georgia Military College in Augusta, Georgia.

Marsha Maurer is the author of With Healing Wings: Prayers for Those Who Hurt and Those Who Care (Chalice Press, 2006), A Fragrant Fullness: The Spiritual Essence of Everyday Life (Emerald House, 2003), and In the Garden: A Collection of Prayers for Everyday (Barbour, 2000), which won the Georgia Author of the Year Award for Inspirational Nonfiction.  All books are available at http://www.amazon.com/.
 
In what genre do you write?

The genre of my writing is classified as inspirational. Genre classifications are helpful in marketing writing to publishers looking for a fit for their particular offerings, valuable to publishers in marketing, and useful to book sellers in shelving works for readers.  However, as a reader, I always hope a writer will surprise me by pushing the confines of a genre to new and creative dimensions.  Finding a distinctive approach to a genre, in my view, is what keeps writing fresh, although I may add that publishers with an eye to the bottom line of sales tend to look for the tried and true.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

My past three books have taken the traditional publishing route.  For each, I served as my own agency in the long process of constructing the crucial proposal, locating a publisher, negotiating contracts, manuscript revision and editing, and a good deal of my own promotion.  I knew nothing about any of these aspects of publishing before navigating my first book through publishing’s unfamiliar seas.  I relied on volumes of advice for each stage of the process and learned more with each of my books. 

The advantage of traditional publishing is that the publisher is responsible for all publishing costs.  Among the disadvantages are limited marketing budgets and insignificant monetary returns for very large investments of an author’s time, which are quickly surpassed by an author’s own marketing costs.
 
In recent years, serving as one’s own agency is almost impossible.  The largest and most notable publishers no longer accept manuscripts that are not submitted by a professional agent, and those that do frequently have their own agendas regarding the specific kind and content of works they are looking for.  Books which twist the genre seldom fit the acquisition mold.

For these reasons, among others, writers are tending to look to self publishing as a means to get their own works into print, without the grueling preliminaries. Traditional publishing still, in my view and that of many readers, holds an edge when it comes to the cachet a respected publisher can lend to a work.  However, this, too, is beginning to change.  Best-sellers are emerging from less traditional publishing routes.

Considering traditional publishers’ decreasing inclination to acquire a less-than-sure bet in today’s economy, my own publishing strategies are changing.  Still seeking the traditional publishing route, I located a responsive agent, who, despite her tenacity, was unable to find a publisher for my current manuscript after a year.  I am now turning to other avenues to pursue self-publishing, an entirely new endeavor for me.  I am learning that there is a wide range of self-publishing options available, from those for the tech savvy author with hands-on willingness to those for authors who prefer to pay often costly fees. This may range for full publishing to marketing packages, which may not be as complete as intimating.  Writers must be aware that not all self-publishing avenues are reputable, and a good deal of cost per value comparison is necessary to find the right fit for an author’s capabilities and desires.                                                

Describe your books, and what inspired you to write them.

My first book In the Garden: A Collection of Prayers for Everyday was a response to my fruitless effort to find an informal, attractive prayer book that would speak to a variety of everyday needs for an intimate conversation with God.  I distinguished the collection by incorporating a garden theme, including my research on the Victorian language of flowers and appropriate Biblical passages.         

My second book, A Fragrant Fullness: The Spiritual Essence of Everyday Life, was motivated by my love of fragrance and mingles scent in unexpected ways with spiritual meditation.  It conjures the memory of summer strawberry patches, musty root cellars, and effervescent thunderstorms of the Midwest; Southern sassafras, moon vines, and tea olives; Biblical balms, perfumes, oils, and incense; such recognizable places as the shoe store, dentist office, beauty parlor, and library; aromas of home—supper wafting from kitchen windows, pets snuggled in an herb patch, the flying freshness of laundry; and the exotic ingredients and pleasures of perfume.  Familiar fragrances prompt readers to contemplate the natural World which sustains us; the Human bonds of patience, encouragement, and kindness; God’s power and peace; and our spiritual Self as we choose priorities, cultivate contentment, and discover joy.      

My third book, With Healing Wings: Prayers for Those Who Hurt and Those Who Care was written when my father suffered a debilitating stroke and I was unable to find a prayer collection to speak to my family’s needs during this challenging time.  For those suffering and for caregivers, this prayer collection gives voice to the anguish of illness, affliction, and heartache—and offers God’s own words of comfort, hope, and healing.

What is your current writing project?

My current project, Whatever is Lovely: Design for an Elegant Spirit, emerges from my sense that in today’s crass and frenzied world, women yearn for elegance and loveliness.  Whatever is Lovely inspires women to cultivate refinement, beauty, and harmony as they fashion their lives and spiritual values.  Building on today’s popular makeover trend, the principles of design applied to improving homes, gardens, and wardrobes are translated into virtues that change women’s lives and relationships.  My personal reflections, anecdotes and musings, Bible passages, and quotations from ancient to contemporary prompt readers to make discerning choices in designing the women they desire to become. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

·         Write about what you know and love.  Passion motivates. 
·         Read, read, read.  Writers who are read, READ.
  • Know your craft.  Writing requires not just creative ideas, but a solid grounding in such fundamental conventions as grammar, mechanics, usage, diction, spelling, punctuation, organization, and coherence.  These are learned through dedication and attention. 
  • Not everything one writes is publication quality.  Like any art, writing requires plenty of exploring and experimenting before a piece worth publishing may emerge.
  • Recognize that patience is required.  The journey itself can be an enriching and satisfying experience. 
You can locate all three of Marsha's books on Amazon by following this link:

1 comment:

Velda Brotherton said...

Marsha, your books sound...well...inspirational, for lack of a better word. Thanks for the great interview and I'll be passing this along to some friends who would also like to know more about you and your books.