10 Questions for Dena Dyer
As a busy mom, wife, author, and speaker, Dena Dyer adores her life—but there are days when she wants her own mommy! Thankfully, she has God, her mom, and a Christian counselor on speed dial.
Dena is married to Carey and they have two boys, Jordan and Jackson. When she’s not desperately trying to find her cell phone, she enjoys writing articles, essays and books. Her credits include Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms (Barbour), The Groovy Chicks Road Trip to Peace (Cook, co-authored with Laurie Copeland and a lot of groovy girlfriends), and magazines such as Family Circle and Parenting. Her hobbies B.K.–before kids–included scrapbooking, watching old movies, and decorating. Now, her interests (obsessions?) are napping, eating, and helping with MOPS at her church.
1. Tricia: You’ve been doing this publishing thing for a little while now. If a new author approached you what would be your advice for working with editors?
Dena: I think the most important things I’ve noticed are being flexible, professional, and respectful. The business is very volatile and editors change jobs a lot. They are also under tremendous pressure to acquire books and shepherd those books through the publishing process. Then they’re supposed to go to writing conferences, where they look for new writers, teach classes, and nurture professional writers. I honestly don’t see how they do it all. I have always tried to respect the time constraints my editors have and thank them for their efforts. And I try to meet my deadlines and not be too protective of my writing (taking criticism like a big girl). At the same time, I am persistent if there’s a question I need answered or a concern I have. And it’s nice to have an agent at that point to be a mediator. The main piece of advice I have is: if you want to write for a living, don’t burn your bridges!
2. Tricia: If you were asked to write a travel article about your hometown, what would the opening paragraph be?
Dena: I grew up in Dumas, Texas . So I’ll do a couple of sentences about it, because those years were formative for me: Perched on the high plains of the Lone Star State, this windy city—where the women have to use industrial strength hairspray to keep their Texas-sized hairdos in place– is a friendly, old-fashioned gateway to just about anywhere.
And I’ve lived in my current town, Granbury , Texas , for about ten years. It’s home now…
Nestled around a lake, Granbury is full of quaint bed and breakfasts, friendly people and great shopping. Sure, it has growing pains—but it’s a wonderful place to raise your kids…or just visit.
3. Tricia: You have two kids at home. How do you balance writing and motherhood?
Dena: Not very well, sometimes. I usually try to limit my writing to two days a week, although I do a few small things daily (check emails and respond, blog, etc). My oldest is in school M-F, and our toddler goes to a little church preschool up the road on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9-2:30. So those are my sacred writing times. If I have a deadline or an assignment that leaks over into other times, my hubby will watch the kids (his schedule is somewhat flexible) or I’ll get a sitter to come to the house. And I’ve been known to stay up late and do writing while my hubby watches television. No getting up early for me, though—my brain doesn’t work until about 9:30 or 10 a.m. Mostly, I rein myself in because I love to write and I could fill up every waking minute with work. But that wouldn’t be good for my relationship to God or my marriage, friendships or kids! And I know that my youngest will only be little for so long—so I’ll wait until he starts school fulltime to devote hours every day to the craft.
4. Tricia: You have a drama background. How had this benefited your writing?
Dena: I’m sensitive to what makes people pay attention—and to details. I also have an ear for dialogue and I know that there’s no drama when there’s no conflict. Even in non-fiction, it’s important to tell stories and not just relate the principle you’re trying to get across.
5. Tricia: You offer a free e-book for journaling on your website. How do you think journaling benefits writers?
Dena: It’s a place to write freely and not worry about being criticized, rejected, or laughed at. My journals (and I have a lot—I’ve been journaling since I was eleven) are a picture of what my life is like, warts and all. And sometimes, when I need to recall what I felt or said at a particular moment, they’re invaluable.
Dena: Getting to read stories from all different kinds of women. The books are compilations, and my co-author (Laurie Barker Copeland) and I had the joy of discovering the talents of several amazing writers who had never been published before. And the stories were so varied—it was neat to see how God works in so many wonderful ways to navigate our individual journeys (when we let Him!).
7. Tricia: Everywhere I look on your website, blog, book titles, I find the word “Grace.” What’s up with that?
Dena: Well, I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior at a young age, but I grew up with a faulty view of God. For several reasons, I really thought He was hard and judgmental, and I never felt like I measured up. Then, in my twenties, I got sooo tired of trying to be perfect. My life fell apart, and God—with the help of a godly Christian counselor—built me back up. And He revealed His true nature—love. Of course, He is perfect and so He has to reject sin, but I finally understood that when Jesus died on the cross and when I accepted His sacrifice, He became my righteousness. I didn’t have to try and be enough or do enough for God. That was freeing….that was grace. And I can’t get enough of it. I think so many women, even (or especially) in the Church, have believed Satan’s lies and feel that they’ll never be enough. My message is that you don’t have to be enough. He is enough.
8. Tricia: Cookies or potato chips?
Dena: Cookies. Preferably chocolate chip.
9. Tricia: If I were to show up on your doorstep and whisk you off to dinner, where would you suggest we go? What would you order?
Dena: I think I’d say “On the Border,” if you were up for a drive (25 minutes). And I would order empanadas. They’re wonderful little meat pockets…mmmmmm…..I’m getting hungry!
10. Tricia: I know you’re mind (like mine) is always coming up with new ideas. How do you organize and focus your writing ideas?
Dena: For book ideas, I mull things over and talk them through with my agent or my husband, and see what rings their bell(s). I also write about things on my blog and the feedback I get tells me whether or not I’ve hit on something that resonates with my audience. With article ideas, I put them in a folder and start clipping things that relate, either from magazines or the Internet. Eventually, I’ll have enough material to either write a query or write the story. If I don’t have an assignment, I’ll create my own deadlines. I work better when I know when I have to finish.