Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Stories, Jolene Perry

For my first guest on Saturday Stories I've chosen to highlight a friend of mine. We met through the Mormon Mommy Writer's blog and I must say I feel blessed to have her "in" my life.

Jolene is a talented writer with the much sought after attribute of an open mind. Not only can she take a critique and use it to improve her writing, but she can return the favor and offer wonderful insight to help a writer's story improve.

Jolene's writerly ramblings can be found over at Been Writing.  Her blog is a mix of humor, thoughts on writing, life experiences, and a constantly changing blog design. (Check out the header of her blog to get my joke.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce Jolene....

A little background on our guest...

I got married at nineteen to a guy I knew in high school after promising myself I wouldn’t marry until 25 which often prompts the question of why on earth would I promise myself something so silly?

Growing up in Alaska gave me lots of opportunities to be outside.  I can set up a fishing pole or a tent with the best of them but don’t ask me to light a fire without a can of gas (I fault my father for that one).

I taught myself to play the guitar about ten years ago when my husband was deployed to Egypt and I still play – I’m actually the music for our ward’s Christmas program which will start keeping me awake at night in about a week.

I was baptized at nineteen, shortly before getting married.  Coming from a family who is completely non-religious, it was life changing but that’s a whole different story.

I taught Math, History and French to Middle and High School students before kids came along. When my husband and I were told we weren’t able to have kids, we sent him to law school.  I was pregnant two months later.

I have two kids, a daughter, Emma, who is seven and a son, Jack, who is four.  My daughter has Moebius Syndrome which is incredibly rare.  It affects mainly the muscles in her face.  My husband was an only child, adopted through the church, and he claims that two is all he’s qualified for.  He works as a prosecutor so while you’re writing, if you need to know anything about being a good criminal, bad criminal… he’s your guy.

Q--When did you begin writing?

A--I wanted to be a writer when I was in elementary school and it somehow phased out.  Mostly I chickened out.  I wrote a few songs for Young Women’s activities about six or seven years ago but didn’t sit down to really write until early fall of 2009.  We were in the car and I was spacing out while we drove down the road and after a short conversation about where my brain had wandered to, my husband said the simplest thing, “You have a great imagination, why don’t you start writing some of it down?”  I have 7 full-length novels that are “complete” I use quotations because Lisa can tell you how messy my complete novels are. 
     Lisa's comment...I don't think so.

Q--At what point did you start considering yourself a bona-fide writer? Was there a moment or an event that helped you come to this realization?

A--I don’t consider myself a bona-fide writer.  I have submitted nothing to be published aside from poems (from my phase of songwriting – they were published in a small anthology) I want to consider myself a bona-fide writer so that counts for something.  In my mind, I need to be published which is silly since I hold NO ONE else to that standard, but we all do that to ourselves, don’t we…?
     Yes, Jolene, we all do.

Q--Describe your writing process. Do you have a routine or are you at the whim of inspiration?

A--I am at the whim of inspiration.  I have only started ONE project at the beginning.  I write in scenes.  I title them and put them either before or after other scenes I’ve written.  

When I write it’s character based.  I have a general idea of what should happen or a basic premise but I don’t know details until I know my characters better.  I could never outline before I write.  I outline at about 30,000 words.  That’s the point where I feel confident in knowing my characters well enough to make decisions when I’m not writing a scene.

Q--Computer or Notebook (what is your preferred method of writing)?

A--COMPUTER.  No one can read my scratch if I’m trying to keep up with my brain.  Not even me.  Even my fingers on the keyboard can’t keep up much of the time.  

Q--What is the strangest thing, person, place, or event that has inspired your writing?

A--An old pregnancy test that I took when I learned I was pregnant with my son.  I wasn’t at home when I took it and I remember putting it in a bag so I could slide it in my coat pocket.  I drove to my husband's work to tell him and the test was forgotten.  I put on the coat about six months ago and BAM.  Story.

Q--What do you love about writing?

A--I will get to have lifetimes of experiences through the people I create.  It’s humbling.  I get to explore faith through the eyes of someone I am not.  Even if I’m able to eventually be published, I don’t expect that I’ll make much off my LDS fiction but I’ve learned so much, I’ve done some introspection on things that I haven’t personally been through.  It has deepened my faith and given me an even greater appreciation for my brain that seems to have an endless supply of stories to tell.

Q--How do you find a balance between family, obligations, and writing?

A--I have no idea.

I’m a jump in with both feet kind of person.  When I look around and realize my house is literally falling apart around me, I close my laptop and give myself a time limit or a room completion before I’m allowed to open it again.  It works for planning Sunday School lessons, getting laundry done (not folded and put away) or making sure there’s something for dinner. 

I will write frantically and do only the minimum in everything else for a week or two and then it’ll switch.  It allows me to keep my feeling of immersing myself in what I’m doing.  I enjoy cleaning my house if I’m immersed in it OR if I’m in a writing fit, it’s not terrible if I set the timer and know it’s only 20 minutes.

When my fingers pause over the keyboard because I’m not exactly sure what’s next, I close it and do something else.

My kids are sometimes good about me behind my computer, and sometimes not.  If they’re not it means the computer needs to sit for a while.  I don’t hide in a corner on my computer, I never lock a room, if I can’t write with my family crawling on me and asking for help with homework then I need to wait until they’re asleep.  It seems to be working, though my husband’s phone pic is me behind my computer so it would seem that I’m still in the struggle for balance. 

Thanks, Jolene!

If anyone out there is interested in being highlighted on Saturday Stories, please make sure to drop a comment here or over on my blog.


  1. What a great interview. Loved getting to know Jolene. She sounds like an amazing person.

  2. What a great interview!! So nice to meet you Jolene! I like the idea of getting to know our readers! This is so awesome! Oh, and you are a writer Jolene. When you've written seven completed stories, you are not a hobbyist. You are a writer! Believe it!

  3. Okay, so seeing my published interview is kinda cool.
    You ROCK Lisa! I can't wait to come back and meet the rest of the people you have lined up for this!
    Thanks again for the opportunity!!

  4. Fantastic interview! I liked getting to know you better Jolene! :D

  5. Lovely interview. I myself never really know what to say when it comes to balancing my obligations... I just do it and hope it works out.

  6. Awesome interview!:) It's so nice to know we aren't alone in the writing world. There are so many of us trying to write with little ones at home, but we still do it! Nice to meet you! :)

  7. Oh, cool. I wish I was as cool as you. (And not because you live in Alaska.)

    Can't wait to pull that first story of the store shelf!

  8. Great interview. we have a similar writing style. I write in scenes as well. I'm getting good at cutting and pasting! :-). As for fitting it in, we do the best we can.

  9. Megan - I'm a complete dork and a math nerd. As I write this I"m waiting for my kid's babysitter to come over so I can help her with factoring polynomials... and I"m looking forward to it.

    Cynthia - HIGH FIVE for scene writers! There aren't as many of us out there as I would have thought.



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