Editor's Selection: Judy Nickles for "I Was Hungry: A Very Kate Christmas"
Our Question: How did you feel entering the contest? Judy Nickles' Answer: I just did it — and hoped for the best! I knew that if I didn't place, I had gained experience in submitting.
Q: How did you react when you found out that you won?
A: I hate to admit, at my age, that I squealed and bounced up and down, and the dog came running into the study to see what was the matter with "mommy."
Q: What did you know about Words of Belief before you entered the contest?
A: I wasn't acquainted with Words of Belief before entering the contest.
Q: How did you learn about the contest?
A: A writing friend in another state sent me the link.
Q: Is this your first time entering a writing contest? How did the Words of Belief contest compare to others you've entered before?
A: I've entered one other contest, but I didn't place. The fact that the Words of Belief contest didn't require an entry fee impressed me. Also, the maximum length limit was larger and gave me more room to work.
Q: When did you start writing? What is your experience with writing in your genre?
A: I suppose I've been writing since I could hold a pencil. The original "Dragnet" was on television or radio, and I wrote two parodies: "Fishnet" and "Hairnet" in the early 1950s. I still have them somewhere! In junior high and high school, I was blessed with wonderful English teachers who assigned creative essay topics, which I loved writing. They also marked every error and didn't accept "fluff." My freshman teacher agreed to accept essays in poetry form since I also loved writing that.
I don't write one specific genre. I try to incorporate romance with mystery in many pieces, and I draw ideas from my other hobby, genealogy. I've turned over a lot of old bones in researching various family lines!
Q: What is your writing process? How does your work come to you?
A: Usually I just take an idea and write, but sometimes that itself is not the best idea. I have about 26 more "Kate" stories, and those were written as they came to me. Writing something longer, like a novel, takes some research and pre-planning. I've begun to experiment with scene outlines — nothing too detailed but a sort of general roadmap.
Q: What was the inspiration for your winning title?
A: It was the season for a Christmas "Kate" story. I usually give my stories a title after they're written, and I look for something unusual and "eye-catching," but which also speaks to the underlying theme of the story.
Q: Did you meet any difficulties while writing your winning entry?
A: It was necessary to revise the story quite extensively from the original, so I had to be sure that all the new character names and settings were correct throughout. I'm my own worst critic, so I kept going back and reading and making small changes right up until the night I finally hit the send button on the computer.
Q: Have you published any other work? And how do you feel about your work being published through Words of Belief now?
A: I've only begun to pursue publication since I retired in the spring of 2007. I've had one short-short story published in Long Story Short, an e-zine. Another story has been accepted for publication in an Arkansas quarterly, The Storyteller. I also have a contract with The Wild Rose Press for a novel, Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? which is in the editing process, and I'm working on a sequel to submit as well.
Obviously, I was delighted to learn that I'd placed in the Words of Belief Holiday Story Contest and look forward to seeing the complete anthology and reading the other authors' stories. The excerpt from the grand prize winner intrigues me, so I need to know where the story is going!
Q: Do you maintain a Web site or a blog?
A: My Web site is: www.judynickles.com, and my writing blog, The Word Place, is at: www.judythewordplace.blogspot.com. Come visit me!
Q: What are your five favorite books?
A: I've always loved all kinds of books — history, biography, mystery, romance. I grew up reading Grace Livingston Hill's books and have a 1934 copy of The Christmas Bride, which I read every December. Jane Eyre, The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy — yes, some are children's books, and that makes four! I'll list a huge volume called Children of Pride as the fifth. It's a collection of letters and journal entries of a southern family in a 20-30 year period that spans the Civil War and Reconstruction. I could name many, many more books that I love, but you said five! (Could I sneak in Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation books? How about Edward Everett Horton's The Man Without a Country? And can I add all of Elisabeth Elliot's book? Do I have to stop?)
Q: Do you have any advice or tips for other emerging writers?
A: Even though I've been writing all my life — and I'm not telling how long that is! — I feel as though I am also an emerging writer, so I'm not sure I'm qualified to give advice. I always wrote just for the love of writing, and I think that if a writer doesn't love it, she won't do it well. It's important to me to like my characters, to feel that they are real people — so real that I'm reluctant to let them go at the end of the story. I set many stories during the Depression and World War II, both of which have a great fascination for me, since I'm a product of a family that lived through both. You have to be "tuned in" to time and place and willing to do the research to make your writing believable.
For me, it has been very important to have friends who also write. They've been a tremendous source of encouragement and support as I've dipped my toe in the publishing ocean. You have to have that connection — or I do, anyway.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share? Thoughts? Interesting facts? A short bio? Or a favorite quote or saying?
A: I'm just a retired teacher, and while I miss the classroom, it's nice to have time to concentrate on writing and see where that path leads. I spent my first two teaching years in Africa. When my boys were young, we'd hitch up the camper every summer and take off ancestor-hunting. They grew up in cemeteries and courthouses, and they're still interested in family history even now that they're grown. I feel there are still "places to go, people to meet, things to do." My grandfather was still on the go at 95 year old, so I hope I am, too.
I've got quotes on stickies all over the place, but if I had to share one that has pointed the way for my life, it would be this:
Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be ...The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms ... -Deuteronomy 33: 25, 27