Welcome to my interview with the incredible Lori Z Scott!
Lori Z Scott
Hello Lori, please introduce yourself and share 5 fun facts about you.
I’m a teacher and a writer. My down time is filled with two quirky habits: chronic doodling and inventing lames jokes. Neither one impresses my friends/parents/random animals/casual strangers but they inspire my writing. Somehow, my odd musings led me to accidentally write ten books and on purpose write over 150 short stories, articles, essays, poems, and devotions. I’ve also contributed to over a dozen compilation books, mostly so I have an excuse for not folding laundry. (Hey! Busy writing here!)
Five Fun Facts of Lori Z Scott
My favorite things include ice cream, fuzzy socks, Batman, Star Trek, Star Wars, books, and hugs from students. Guess which one is my favorite?
Once, I won the talent portion of a Junior Miss competition for playing clarinet.
I can draw and write with both hands at the same time.
Had a short-lived online cartoon called Knights N Daze.
I competed in swimming, track, softball, basketball, and volleyball.
How did you begin your writing career?
I actually am going to give you a pretty lengthy answer for this because it’s an usual story.
I began my career quite by accident. I’m a teacher by trade, but when my kids were young, I took a break. One day during that hiatus, I was at the library with my toddler and saw a flyer for a Science Fiction writing contest. It looked like a lot more fun than changing diapers, so I sat down to write. When I did, something strange happened. Time moved differently. I lost myself and found myself in the words. I remember very distinctly how I felt, like the dragon Smaug awaking from his long slumber. Do you remember the famous scene? Gold coins spilled away from his mountain of a dormant body, revealing a giant eye that opened and blinked into focus. It was that moment when the viewer knew nothing would be the same. And it was the closest thing to real magic I’d ever experienced.
Okay, dramatics aside, despite the spontaneity of the submission, I took second place in that contest.
Shortly after that, I got a copy of Momsense Magazine (put out by MOPS International) in the mail. They advertised a writing contest. This also seemed more exciting to me than changing diapers, so I entered. This time, I won.
Encouraged by the feedback I received, a woman encouraged me to join a local critique group and sign up for a free online writing classes.
So I did. As I continued to learn, I submitted short stories, poems, and devotions to several magazines and book compilations. To my delight, many of the pieces got accepted for publication. More than 150 actually. But my real break came when I went to the Write-to-Publish conference in Wheaton, Illinois. (How I ended up there is another story, too lengthy to detail here.) The host suggested that attendees prepare elevator pitches and sign up to meet editors. So I did.
You see, my daughter had suggested I write a book, so I did. I pitched that book, Meghan Rose on Stage!, to three different publishers, and they all showed interest. I eventually signed with Standard Publishing. They asked me to write four books in the series, so I did. The books were a hit in the CBA market, earning a bestselling status. Because of that series, I was asked to speak at several conferences. So I did, including one with a sizable crowd (for me!) at Disney World in Orlando.
Standard asked me to write four more books in the series, so I did.
Eventually the series expanded to ten books. Standard asked me to write a spin off series too.
So I did.
I drafted two more Meghan Rose books and then shifted to draft four Ryan Baker stories. However, before those six books could go to pub board, Standard got absorbed into another company and ended their children’s fiction line. This occurred about the same time as a tragic event in my life.
That event stopped me cold. I was devastated. Although I had plans to shift my attention full time on writing, I went back to teaching. And. Just. Stopped. Writing. Completely.
For six years.
I stayed there, throwing myself into teaching, until I got a call from an editor at one of the magazines I had written for. She wanted to get permission to publish a short story I had submitted years ago and wondered why I was no longer submitting. I explained my situation. She empathized but didn’t let me stay in my state of limbo. Instead, she urged me to get back to writing.
So I did.
And the dragon inside awoke once again.
Within six months, I had four more stories accepted for publication in her magazine.
My mom, a big believer in me, was thrilled I’d picked up the pen again. She insisted I return to Write-to-Publish conference where my books began.
So I did.
I didn’t successfully pitch anything at that conference. In fact, I felt like the publishing industry had changed so much during the now 7 years I had hidden away that I was a novice again, making all those beginner mistakes and tripping over my own feet. Even so, an agent showed interest in me. I could work with him.
So I did.
And that’s where I’m at right now.
What have been the greatest successes in your writing?
It’s got to be the Meghan Rose series. But in life? I’m not sure we are always defined by our successes. Nor our failures for that matter. Instead, success can be measured by how we handle our failures and the people we encourage on the way. Plus, I have always felt that whether or not something is published, the act of writing carries its own reward.
What have been the greatest challenges for Lori Z Scott?
My biggest challenge lately has been re-learning the industry. Social Media was not a “thing” when my series came out, and I was able to make my submissions without an agent. I’m still trying to figure out the agent thing. I’ve had a lot of fun on Instagram, but it does take a lot of time.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from the writing experience?
Words have power. Think about it. God created the world with the words, “Let there be light.” As writers, we also create worlds with our words. Plus I’ve seen how words can touch hearts in places doctors can’t reach. And words can control your emotions, facilitating tears or laughter. But beyond that, our words have the power to encourage others, and that’s so important. So I guess the lesson is, use your words wisely. They are precious.
What has your experience been like with writing contests? What do you find are the biggest pros and cons with contests?
If you waded through my long answer earlier, you’ll note that I have fared pretty well with contests. I’ve won for short stories, poetry, and personal essays. In general, I believe there is value in trying these. Some are structured to help the writer, win or lose, by offering a critique or workshop for all who enter. All help the writer learn invaluable lessons on writing a topic, to a certain word count, and on a deadline. Some will offer publication even if you don’t win, just because they like your story. I would only warn to evaluate their legitimacy and how they might fit into your writing agenda.
What has your experience with traditional publishing been like?
It’s a slow process. But because I lack basic organization skills, it’s nice to have a team of people working with me to get things right.
What advice would you like to share with aspiring authors?
For starters, you aren’t an aspiring author. You’re an author. Own it. Second, educate yourself. There is a lot to learn about the industry but no single handbook you can turn to with answers. Online classes, conferences, blogs, and podcasts are all great avenues for learning. Also, network with other authors. This can happen through social media, critique groups, and organizations. These people “get” you, and that’s awfully nice. Finally, protect your writing time. It can be easy to procrastinate. Set yourself small and big goals to help you stay consistent in your writing. And say yes to as many writing opportunities as you can!
What are you plans for the future as an author?
I have written several humorous picture books, and I’m hoping at least one of those gets picked up. Just for grins, I drafted a YA novel about a volleyball player. Simply crafting the tale taught me more lessons than I could get from enrolling in a hundred classes on writing, so it was a win for me. But I actually like it, and hope to shop that around too. I enjoy speaking, so if I’m blessed to publish another book, I want to visit schools and share my journey. In the meantime, I enjoy being part of the writing community. I love connecting with other writers, so you can stop by my Instagram page for encouragement or visit my website for writing tips, general silliness, and a free coloring book download of some of my doodles.
Who or what influences the stories and poems you write?
Poetry is an easy call for me. I love Edgar Guest, who had notoriety 100 years ago, and Robert Service.
(My dad used to recite his poems all the time!) For children’s poetry, I turn to Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky for inspiration.
As for stories, I try to write what I’d like to see in the classroom. Going back to those picture books, I have stories—humorous ones—that target situations kids encounter every day.
For the Meghan Rose stories, I picked an overall theme for each book, such as encouragement or honesty, and centered the tales around that.
If you could sum up the writing experience to someone just starting out in one sentence, what would you say?
If the call to write is on your heart, answer it.
Any last words of advice/encouragement for your fellow writers?
Humor writer Erma Bombeck once said these inspirational words, which I hold dear to my heart when I feel overwhelmed or discouraged about my writing: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”
So, dear writers, make it your goal to use every drop of creativity and talent you have.
Thank you for reading about Lori Z Scott!
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