A Sacred Space
This week I am thrilled to introduce you to my Virtual Assistant, Joanne Reese. I’ve known Joanne for several years through the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. We connected again at last year’s PENCON, and when I mentioned to her that I needed a new assistant, she offered her services. She’s been working with me for a few months now, and the connection has been a huge blessing for both of us.
Here’s my Q&A Interview with Joanne, to give you some insight into this amazing woman of God.
What do you like most about writing?
Putting words to thoughts or feelings. I find the whole process restorative. I enjoy creating characters that come to life on the page, and research provides me with an opportunity to be a perpetual student of life. My favorite part about writing is having a general direction as to where I think the story is going and then watching it take shape right before my eyes. This seems to happen on a level higher than cognizance, and it unfolds based on the ways my characters respond to the tension placed on the page. I consider it a sacred space in which I’ve been invited to be more of a spectator than a participant.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
The most challenging aspect for me is getting out of my own way. I am a master at procrastination and can easily get distracted. I learned so much while tackling my first novel to the ground last year. I had to let go of needing to find a perfect time and place to write. The process felt messy and uncomfortable, and I was convinced the entire universe was trying to pull me away from the project, which is why completing it felt so victorious. I found that it required laser focus and I had to finally make peace with the chaos. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield has made a profound impact on my productivity. I also found that inviting God into my creative space turned my mountains to dust.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to clean and organize (strange, I know), and I love to read. When I was growing up my mother used to take my sister and me to the library once a week, where she would load our small sedan with a ton of books. I never understood how anybody could read as fast as my mom could. She made it a point each day to sit in her sunny spot and get lost in a story. Now I understand why.
Share one of your most rewarding moments connected to writing.
At my first writers’ conference, at Mount Hermon, I connected with Doug Newton, who was the executive editor for Light & Life magazine at the time. He was the first industry professional to read anything I’d written. I’m sure the article I handed him needed some work, but he pointed to my strengths. He told me I was a teacher. I’ll never forget that moment. It resonated deeply, and I’ve carried it with me ever since.
Tell me something quirky about you.
I often get tickled about something that nobody else thinks is funny and I’ll laugh about it until I’m in tears. People who are in the same room look at me like I’ve lost my mind. My daughter has inherited this trait, so now I have somebody to laugh with. We’ve shared some good chuckles over pretty much nothing.
How has God used fiction to touch your heart or change your life?
As a reader, I love being transported to another world and given permission to be somebody else for a while. As a writer, I’m fascinated by the components of a story, and how delicately everything needs to be woven together in order to create a fully functional piece. In my opinion, fiction is art at its finest.
Where do you see your writing career going?
I’d like to continue contributing to the writing world through articles, short stories, and devotions. Contemporary women’s fiction will be my focus for novel writing because it allows me to tackle tough issues while still playing in make-believe. I will also be collaborating with other authors to produce marketable memoirs. Editing has been added to my repertoire, so that I can pinpoint strengths in other writers the same way Doug Newton did for me. I plan to incorporate teaching and speaking as I grow in the craft as well, pouring into others with the encouragement I’ve received along the way. I look forward to exploring the impact God and I will make together.
Joanne Reese started life in the beautiful Hudson Valley region of New York, where a frozen pond became a perfect landscape for her dreams to take root. Through the years, figure skating melted into the desire to become a prima ballerina. She has the broken pointe shoes and calluses to prove it.
Nowadays, Joanne finds expression through writing. She launched her writing career with magazine publications. Her devotions have been published in Light from the Word and on CBN.com. She’s had articles published in The Christian Communicator, Light & Life, P31 Woman, and Vista magazines. She’s also written regularly for the Living Series magazine in the Central Valley of California.
As the assistant for Kathy Ide Book Services, Joanne provides support for one of the most sought-after editors in the industry. She is also a member of The Christian PEN. She’s recently been invited to contribute to Castle Gate Press as an associate editor and to Splickety Publishing Group as a copy editor. When she’s not busy working part time at her local library, Joanne posts to her blog, spends time with family, and commiserates with the protagonist for her next novel.
Her editorial services and weekly book reviews can be found at www.JoanneReese.com.