Meet Debut Author Jayme Mansfield
Jayme’s debut novel Chasing the Butterfly. I had the privilege of helping her through the early stages of her story. Her vivid, literary voice grows out of melding artistic pursuits as an artist and owner of Piggy Toes Art Studio with those of a writer, complimented by extensive travels and adventures with her husband, James, and three sons, Ian, Adam, and Graham. To pass on her passion for story, she teaches the reading and writing process as an elementary school language arts teacher in Colorado at the acclaimed Aspen Academy. Visit Jayme to see what’s on The Blank Canvas, www.jaymemansfield.com.
We are giving away a copy of Jayme’s debut novel. Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered to win. The winner will be announced on October 22.
When did you know you were a writer?
The first time I found myself in “the zone” was when I knew I had found my passion to write. Hours and hours went unnoticed and turned into full days in front of the computer. Ironically, for being an extrovert, I discovered a wonderful place—to be by myself, creating new stories.
Now, I’m not sure if this counts, but in fourth grade I received an A+ on my story. I don’t recall knowing the meaning of plagiarism at that age, but I did an awesome job retelling the horse story of National Velvet (my favorite movie back then). Fortunately, my teacher hadn’t been to the theater to cheer on young Elizabeth Taylor. Regardless, I still have that paper (really!) and believe that’s where my writing seed took root.
What inspired you to write this novel?
I was inspired to persevere and complete the novel as a personal journey and challenge. At some (often many) junctures of our lives, we have to contend with forgiveness. Writing the book was my way of navigating pain, communing with the Lord, and ultimately realizing the freedom and joy that comes with forgiving.
Where did the idea come from?
Chasing the Butterfly grew out of a writing lesson through the Christian Writers Guild. The assignment was to create a character—Ella Moreau, an artist in France, was born. I’m an artist as well, and find expressing through visual art is always a journey. I’ve traveled to and love the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of France.
What was you toughest challenge in writing this novel?
I cannot tell a lie…time. Yes, I’ve heard all the writers’ advice to get up early, stay up late, set a daily word count, and prioritize. I failed quite well. But alas, somehow I got in enough big block times of that “zone” thing to get ’er done. Going forward…I’d prefer one of the other options.
What did you learn about yourself in writing this novel?
I learned that writing is a tremendous part of me. It provides a peace—a quiet place to be calm, yet at the same time, a place to adventure, dream, and express what matters most. I also learned that—against so many odds—I was able to accomplish something that is important to me.
Tell us about your writing schedule. How do you make the time to write?
Well, I am working on a new strategy for that to circumnavigate my day job as a teacher, owning an art instruction studio, being a mom to three teenage boys and wife to another big kid, and nourishing my author career. Accepting that I am most fresh early in the morning is a no-brainer. Even sneaking in an hour before I head off to teach elementary school helps me make progress. But, when up against needing to make big strides, I resort to the longer and intermittent “zone” periods. Funny though, I believe I do much of my writing while driving and walking the dog!
Are you an outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer? What makes your method work for you?
I admire the outliners. I am not one of them. Despite being an organized kind of gal, I write as the story goes. Sure, I know the general storyline and where it will end, but I like to piece the scenes together, find surprising twists and links, and develop the story as all of us (the characters and me) get to know one another. It’s kind of like a big party!
Who’s been the biggest influence in your writing life?
I’ve been blessed by author, and Christian Writers Guild mentor, DiAnn Mills. Her expertise and encouragement helped me believe in myself as a writer and believe my story deserved the light of day. Truly, I’ve been awestruck by the support from so many who genuinely wish for my writing career to succeed.
Tell us about your publishing journey. How long from first submission to contract/publication?
The story began nearly eight years ago (remember, I don’t meet a daily word count, and not proud of that fact!). I attended several conferences, followed up on requests to submit a proposal, and waited for responses. In 2011, the novel placed in the top ten of the CWG Operation First Novel. That success helped the story get noticed, and in the spring of 2012, a big breakthrough happened— I signed with the Blythe Daniel Agency. A year later, my agent found a home for the novel at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Now, a year later, the book releases on October 14th, 2014.
Looking back, what one thing would you change about your writing journey?
I would allow myself the opportunity to view myself as a professional writer much earlier. It took me a long time to grant myself that identity, and quite frankly, I still rob myself of that title when I’m buried in all of life’s other responsibilities. I suppose waiting on the perfect moment to write doesn’t avail itself too often—I would grab those small moments more frequently, even it they can be fleeting.
Name the top three craft books you would recommend to a beginning writer.
For the craft of writing, I recommend Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maas, Story Trumps Structure: How To Write Unforgettable Fiction By Breaking the Rules by Steven James (the title alone sold me). For inspiration, I suggest The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. For understanding the immense marketing and social media prowess needed to launch a book, I recommend Connections—Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers by Edie Melson.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
An oldie, but goodie – Show, not tell. It sure makes writing a whole lot more fun. However, I would be remiss to leave out author Steven James’ advice, “Strive to be exceptional, not perfect.”
What would you say to an aspiring writer?
If you know in your heart that you are called to express with words, then by all means do it. It’s one of the most difficult, yet one of the most exhilarating means to create.