Blog Archive

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interview with author, Donna Goodrich -- From cookbooks to Critique Groups

Donna wrote her first poem as a Mother’s Day gift to her mother and has been writing ever since. At the age of 20, Donna started work at a publishing house in Kansas City. Her on-the-job training there taught her the nuts and bolts about publishing. She learned why books are rejected or accepted and what happens once a manuscript is accepted. On the editing side she learned how to verify quotations for accuracy and how to obtain permissions and copyrights for their use. This was great training for her own career in writing.

You’ve written books on a variety of subjects to include a puzzle book, devotionals, textbooks and how to guides for businesses and writers. Do you have a favorite style?
I enjoy devotional books the most. My first book was a puzzle book, then the next four were devotional books for Sunday School teachers, children, teens, and women. I've since finished (but not sold) devotional books for writers, office workers, hymn lovers, and on Isaiah 40:31.

When was the first time you got paid for your writing?
I sold my first poem at the age of 14 to our denominational teen magazine for $1.40. The second one was a short story to a Sunday school paper at the age of 18 for $12. (Sold it as a reprint years later for $60!).

You’ve done numerous works for Standard Publishing. How did you first get your foot in the door?
In the early 1970s I sent 30 puzzles I had written for children's church to one of their Sunday school take-home paper editors, and she wrote back that they wanted to put it in a book. It was a small book, sold for 29 cents, and before it went out of print, it sold over 140,000 copies. (I sold it to them outright for $125.)

Then I sent them some newspaper devotional columns I had written and suggested a devotional book for women. They were just starting a new series called The Fountain Series which they said that book would fit into, and asked if I would also do one for children and teens.

What is the best writing guidance an editor has given you?
You don't have to write what you know about; write what you'd LIKE to know about, what you're interested in.

You have two books entitled Step in the Write Direction with one being called the Complete How-to Guide and the other as a Student Edition. Why did you feel the need to write two different editions instead of just one?
When the first one came out, people started asking me if it would be appropriate for younger people, especially teens. So I developed this student one, specifically with home schoolers and Christian schools in mind as there are writing assignments all the way through. One California classroom "test drove" it for me. I sent them each chapter as I finished it and they gave me hints. (For example, they didn't know what a water bed or a CB radio was.)

With so many how to books on writing out there what makes yours different?
As the title says, I think it is COMPLETE. It includes hints on every genre of writing, other ways for a writer to make money (proofreading, editing, teaching, etc.), collaborating with another writer, preparing a manuscript for publication, editing hints, where to get ideas, plus how to handle writer's block, rejection, and time management.

The income tax section alone is worth the price of the book (I did taxes for 18 years). The section giving 15 hints on using Scripture in your writing is also useful, as well as 20 pages of guidelines from several devotional booklets. Oh yes, there's also a section on starting and running a writers' group.

What does it really take to make a career in writing that pays well?
I think to support yourself by writing, you'd have to have royalties coming in from several books. I haven't made as much by actual writing as I have by proofreading, editing, and teaching at conferences--other people's, as well as my one- and two-day ones I hold across the U.S.

You’re currently putting together an anthology of Christmas stories. How did that come about? Was this something you pitched to an editor?
I had submitted an Advent book to a Canadian publisher last summer. He turned it down but kept my name. When he came up with the idea of a Christmas anthology, he thought of me. I sent out a call for submission via my e-mail list and on Facebook. I ended up with 3 times more than we could use, so I had to select what we could use, write acceptance and rejection letters (no fun on the latter), then do all the editing.

I sent in the finished manuscript last week. Now we're talking about doing one for women--stories and recipes from or about mothers and grandmothers.

How do you promote your books? What has worked best for you?

That's my weakness--mostly because of the time elements. I not only do editing and proofing (usually with tight deadlines), but I take care of a disabled husband who's had 4 heart surgeries, diabetes, a broken hip, 4 fractured vertebrae, etc. I've had a couple of book signings and some sales through Facebook and blogs like yours, but mostly they're at the writing workshops I hold. (I actually have only 3 books in print right now--Healing in God's Time, the story of my songwriter nephew's healing, and my two writing books.) Oh, yes and two cookbooks.

What book has been your best selling?
The cookbooks, and also before I wrote the writing book, I had a series of self-published booklets on specific subjects--poetry, selling what you write, writing devotionals, writing and selling your first book, starting and running a Christian writers group, and editing hints. Except for the writers' group one, they sold for $5 apiece and I sold a lot of these through the years.

The only one of those I still sell is the one on starting and running a Christian writers group. That also has a section on critiquing hints and one on planning a conference. However, the Step in the Write Direction is selling steadily at the present time.

What do you know now about getting published that you wished you had known earlier in your writing career?
Not to take a rejection personally. There are many reasons manuscripts are rejected. The other thing is--I began writing when I was 9. I didn't know until the first conference I attended in 1980 that you could sell reprints. I had sold 200 manuscripts up until that point, so it opened up a whole new world to me.

Let’s end with another book that is in the works, the one about letting go. Tell me about that.
"The Freedom of Letting Go" book. I'm very excited about this. It took me 11 years to let go of my mother after she died, then one day I realized it wasn't just letting go of her, but the whole principle of letting go. This book includes chapters on letting go of: grief, failure, success, possessions, your children, your youth, people who hurt you, health issues, guilt, worry, doubt, fear, then the last chapter is "The Land Beyond Letting Go."

It will be released May 1, 2012. I'm thrilled now to have something to offer people when I speak on this topic.

If you would like to know more about Donna and her writing or to buy her books, you can email her at or visit her web site at

1 comment:

  1. Great interview and I look forward to the next book. Outstanding job.