Danyelle Ferguson discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her first article was published when she was in 6th grade. Since then, she’s won several awards and has been published world-wide in newspapers, magazines and books. She’s grateful every day to work in her dream jobs – author, editor, and nurturing her readaholic tendencies.
Ferguson will present Let the Words Fall Out: a Study of Music Lyrics for Novelists, Voice: Making Your Manuscript Sing and will sit on a panel discussion on Writing Dialogue with Kristin Huston and Nathan Jackson at our 2016 Writers Conference.
Introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
Hello, everyone! My name is Danyelle Ferguson (which you figured out from the title of the blog post). =) I moved to Kansas City about nine years ago. To be honest, I was pretty worried about my family's new hometown. The only place I had visited in Kansas previously was a tiny town called Lebo, which is where Mr. Ferguson grew up. I adore small towns, but even my hubby's hometown was a bit on the small side for me. I am loving the Kansas City suburbs, amazing schools and yes, even the weather. As a writer, I'm lucky enough to work from home. Mr. Ferguson also works from home thanks to the wonders of telecommuting. When we have mutual work breaks, we go for walks around the neighborhood and often share lunch together. On the days when I need a break from the house (ahem, about twice a week), I generally nab a back booth at one of my fave restaurants, enjoy an early lunch, then work for about three hours before my alarm reminds me it's time to pick up the munchkins from school.
What kind of writing do you do?
My writing career has evolved over the years from newspaper and magazine articles to nonfiction books before finally coming to my lifelong reading obsession - love stories with humor and sass.
How long have you been writing?
My first newspaper article was published when I was 12 years old. So I'm just gonna go with "awhile."
Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?
It's been a combination of both. Most of my newspaper and magazine articles were results of being asked to contribute on a specific topic. My first nonfiction book - (dis)Abilities and the Gospel - came as a request from parents of children with special needs. My hubby and I cofounded a nonprofit for an autism preschool our son attended. After publishing articles about being a special needs parent, I was invited to present at parent support groups and disability conferences across the USA. One question parents often asked was how I helped my son attend church services. At that time, there weren't special need ministries or even anything available on the subject. Our family had a lot of success in this area (after consulting with lots of amazing special education teachers and working closely with our congregation leaders), so it spurred a series of articles and led into the book I coauthored with Dr. Lynn Parsons.
Now in my fiction writer life, I definitely chose my genre. I'm a readaholic. In fact, when I'm in reading mode, I devour 3-4 books a day. I can read almost any genre . . . as long as it has a good love story. I enjoy writing about characters who are as real as my circle of BFF's, who have flaws and face real-world challenges, but also a story filled with humor, friendship, and yes, love. There absolutely must be some fabulous foot-popping kisses!
How many unpublished manuscripts are stuffed in your desk drawer (or in a folder on your computer)?
Full manuscripts? None. As I finish a manuscript, it's polished, then sent out for publication.
Story ideas . . . So, so, sooo many. Please don't make me count them all. I have a folder in Dropbox for each of my story ideas that are fleshed out a bit (scene ideas, character sketches, etc.), plus another folder that fill with stuff like: "What if . . ." questions, characters to incorporate into books (or have their own book one day) and short "a story like this would be fun to write." I also have notebooks stacked in a drawer with even more ideas, as well as story and character ideas on my cell phone's voice recorder. I try to gradually transcribe the recordings and story ideas into my Dropbox, but it seems like there are more ideas than time to get it all down.
What do you find most challenging or surprising about the writing process? The publishing process?
Writing for various publication markets at the same time is challenging. Different word counts, audience, voice, etc. It can take a few hours to a few days for me to make the mental writing shift. The part of writing that always surprises me is how a project develops. Sometimes it takes a whole turn or twist I wasn't expecting.
My favorite part of the publishing process is the connection with my readers. On my Facebook page, they give me feedback on naming businesses, characters, and other research stuff. My favorite thread was wedding horror stories. Oh my goodness, some of the responses had everyone cringing and offering their sympathies. The hardest part of the publishing process is getting to the point that I decide my manuscript is done and ready to be sent to my editor. Even after ten or twelve content editors, I always feel like my books suck. They just aren't good enough. I have two really awesome writer friends who kick my butt into gear when I obsess over edits for too long and force me to hit the submit button.
On what does your writing productivity depend? Is it a routine, a place, a special pen?
My productivity depends on my ability to say no. Seriously. I have this problem of saying yes to requests - school visits, PTO, marching band spirit wear, cross country snack bag coordinator, yearbook advisor, teaching Sunday School, and the list goes on. The problem isn't necessarily saying yes, as much as I don't consider how one commitment impacts my time for other commitments. I have to reevaluate my schedule, commitments and priorities each month or else I drown in overwhelming stress that no amount of chocolate bingeing can cure.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
Surround yourself with writers you trust and be just as trustworthy. In other words, find your team.
To whom do you look for inspiration?
Ooh . . . this question could go so many different ways. The ups and downs of life inspire me. The way that musicians put those experiences and emotions to music inspire me. Meeting kids, teens and adults who love reading or who are passionate about my nonfiction projects inspires me. When I'm down on myself and want to give up, Mr. Ferguson inspires me with a well-placed nudge in the right direction. =)
What books do you recommend to fellow readers and writers?
If you're a writer, I recommend the Save the Cat series for plotting and pacing. It's an excellent resource! If you're looking for other fun items put in your writer's toolbox, I love Scrivener and the ability it gives to break the book down scene by scene (so fabulous for editing!). When I'm in final editing mode, I recommend printing out your manuscript, get some fun colored pens for marking different types of edits (pacing, voice, grammar) and lots of sticky notes to jot down ideas to incorporate into the book.
If you're a reader looking for awesome books to read, I have two websites I highly recommend for discovering new authors. I'm a fan of excellently crafted clean fiction (with no religious undertones) for all ages. Here are a few of my favorite websites to find just that -
Happy reading and writing! See you at the conference!