Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor from Omaha, Nebraska, and one of the founders of WordSowers Christian Writers. He has written six non-fiction books and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines. He has also edited more than 50 books that are currently in print.
I met Lee at the first meeting of Omaha writers, before we chose the name WordSowers. For several years Lee served on the Steering Committee for WordSowers—he enjoys helping new authors find their voice. He is on staff for CLASSeminars, A Christian Writers Conference held in New Mexico and has presented dozens of writers workshops over the past few years.
Lionhearted Kat: When we met you worked at a bank. When did you decide you wanted to write?
Lee:My parents divorced when I was eight years old, so my dad came to get me on Saturdays to spend time with him. He was a painter (the kind who paints houses) and he owned his own shop, so we would often stop by there on Saturday afternoons. While he was busy, I often gravitated toward his big manual typewriter on his desk. I’d scroll a piece of paper into it and begin copying liner notes from albums, articles from newspapers, etc., sometimes picking up a story where it left off. I didn’t know it at the time, but the writing bug was planted in me back then.
During my teen years, I wrote poetry to deal with my emotions. As an introvert, the written page was my only safe place. During my twenties, I wrote songs to deal with my emotions. I became a Christian in my mid-twenties and a few years later got online, where I landed a singles column with Christianity Today Online.
And then in my thirties, I received a flyer for a Christian writers conference in Kansas City. I was intrigued so I registered and attended. For the first time in my life, I was among kindred spirits – creative types who expressed themselves with the written word. That’s when I really knew I wanted to write.
Lionhearted Kat: Before you started writing fulltime, you drove to Kansas City to attend a monthly writers group or critique group. It’s a long drive to Kansas City, how often did you go and how did that dedication help you as a writer?
Lee:The Kansas City conference above I mentioned took place in 1998. For a few years, they had annual conferences, but then the network changed hands and the new directors changed the conferences to scaled down versions that occurred quarterly. For the next few years I drove to Kansas City and attended nearly every one of them. I ended up building a relationship with an editor I met at one of those quarterly conferences and I still write for him to this day, even though he has changed publications.
Being around other writers on a consistent basis – writers who were serious about pursuing publication – really fueled my creative juices. Everybody is busy. Everybody has family issues, and church issues, and various other issues. But being around writers who were writing in spite of all that made me want to do it as well.
Lionhearted Kat: Were you involved in a critique group during the beginning years of your writing journey? If so, how did it help? Or if not, why not?
Lee:Being introverted I never had a big desire to be part of a face to face critique group. Takes too much out of me and too often those groups are not structured. They become social gatherings rather than critique groups. I did participate in a couple of them though – one with a few other writers here in Omaha. We would meet at Barnes and Noble monthly. The other one was not face to face. It was an online ACFW critique group. I was part of that for maybe a year.
I benefited more from going to writing workshops at conferences – especially ones that were dedicated to the craft. I took one workshop in which novelist Nancy Moser taught about the importance of showing rather than telling and that helped me a great deal. I took another one with novelist Angela Hunt about structuring a novel. It was gold. I sat in on workshops in which professional editors tore stories apart and then put them back together again. Andy Scheer, who used to be the editor at Moody and is currently an agent, taught one such workshop and I attended it several times. Again, it was pure gold.
Lionhearted Kat: You’ve given dozens of workshops over the years. Is there one workshop you enjoy presenting more than others–why?
Lee:I teach one called “Article Writing 101” that I really enjoy because part way through, I can see people’s faces begin to light up. They come to the class not really knowing how to structure an article and once they learn some basic journalistic techniques, then they feel equipped to give it a shot. I love that.
Lionhearted Kat: Your Contemplating Redemption is one of my favorite blog sites. One of your recent posts tickled my funny bone. I so related to your “Losing My Technological Touch.” What prompted this so true post and how do you think people older than you will keep up with the every changing technology?
Lee:The site you are referring to is my author website. But you picked up on the tagline: Contemplating Redemption. Most of my writing is steeped in redemption of one sort or another, so that’s the theme for my author website.
As a writer who is just trying to make ends meet every month, I have taken on a lot of different type of work. I love to edit, so I became an editor. I love to encourage writers, so I became a writing coach. I knew more than the average bear when it came to setting up blogs, so I began setting up blogs for writers. But somewhere along the way, I bit off more than I could chew and I found myself drowning in technology.
I think the moment of truth came about a year ago with I tried to set up an e-book for an author on Amazon.com and I lost a ton of time on the project. Learning to format the e-book wasn’t bad, but the layout afterward was a nightmare for me. The text somehow flowed into a hidden boundary. A horizontal line just appeared on the bottom of every other page and I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it. Then the author told me he had a bunch of photos to insert. I was in over my head and I admitted it to the author.
I just learned to stick to what I can do well and then hire someone to do the rest. And that’s probably my advice for people who are older than me. Jump in, give it a try, but if you find yourself getting too frustrated or in way over your head, find someone who can do it for you.
On a Personal Note:
Lionhearted Kat: You are big into sports, watch them and write about them. You also interview many sports celebrities—often on the fly—in a few minutes. What do you enjoy most about talking with those in the sports world? Is there one interview you haven’t done and hope to in the future?
Lee:I love talking to the athlete who doesn’t have a big name, but who is working hard behind the scenes either to excel on the field, or to excel in his or her faith.
I interviewed a baseball pitcher named John Wasdin in 2006, I believe. He was pitching for the Texas Rangers and was near the end of his career. Not many people knew who he was, but he found a way to stay in the game because of his work ethic, willingness to adapt, and continuing to tweak his game. Those players are called journeymen.
We were in the Rangers clubhouse in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. I introduced myself as a sportswriter for a Christian publication and he pulled a seat up to his locker, inviting me to sit down. That doesn’t happen often. During that interview, I learned that he had witnessed to a Triple-A player when he was in Triple-A himself and that player became a Christian. Wasdin made a commitment to disciple him, but after he got called back to the big leagues, that made face to face discipleship impossible. So he committed to discipling that player on the phone every night after their games were over.
Digging for and finding a story like that is invigorating for me as a journalist. They are inspiring and faith building. Journalists live for the “get.” They want to get the story nobody else knows about. I feel that way too, but I want to get the journeyman story because the odds are stacked against him.
Even in a story like this, redemption is always lurking.
Lionhearted Kat: In the past you mentioned how you enjoy Jan Karon books. Is there another author you enjoy—one of those that the minute their latest book is off the press you gotta have it? What is it about the author that drives you to read their work?
Lee:I’m a huge Nicholas Sparks fan. His characters are often flawed, wounded, imperfect people who are just looking for another chance at love. That resonates with me, given that I’m 47 and never married. And there’s that redemption theme again.
I also love Richard Ford. His Bascombe trilogy about a sportswriter named Frank Bascombe is something to savor. He does something with a male protagonist that many in modern literature are unwilling to do – he explores the protagonist’s emotions as he struggles through his disappointments. I love that. As a man who is willing to explore my own emotions, I feel like I have a friend in Bascombe.
Lionhearted Kat: Last fall you participated in the National Novel Writing Month. How did you manage your daily schedule and producing a novel that fast? Where did you write most of your work, in a recliner or in a coffee shop?
Lee:I wrote that novel exclusively at night in restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores. I got into a rhythm most nights, writing 1,666 words (the average you need to hit the 50,000-word goal) in two and half hours. That’s doable for anybody if you’ll turn off the TV. I was dead tired most nights by the time I finished, but it was a satisfied tired.
Lionhearted Kat: Because you are involved in other conferences, you are able to travel to other states. If you had the opportunity right now to travel, where would you go and why?
Lee:I’m assuming you mean traveling to the conference of my choice? If so, I would go to Mount Hermon. It’s probably the premier conference in the CBA and I’ve never had a chance to go. If you mean non-conference related traveling, I would love to travel to see the four tennis Grand Slam tournaments in New York, Paris, London, and Melbourne.
Lionhearted Kat: I know as a fulltime author you face struggles in receiving payments on time and also, you’ve had some physical issues. Is there a specific need you’d like us to pray about for you or your family between now and the conference?
Lee:I don’t really want to get specific, but you have named all three of my primary struggles as a full-time freelancer – finances, health, and family concerns. I would love it if you would pray about all three of those areas of my life.
Interviewed by The Lionhearted Kat, one of the Leadership Team of WordSowers Christian Writers Group and the author of Capsules of Hope: Survival Guide forCaregivers. She is published in seventeen compilations and has written numerous magazine articles. After the death of her husband she wrote From theEyes of joyful Widow.
Katherine J. Crawford, author of Capsules of Hope: Survival Guide for Caregivers, is published in sixteen compilations and numerous articles. Known as the Lionhearted Kat, she resides in Omaha, Nebraska. Visit Kat’s website lionheartedkat.com.Read her journal through breast cancer and the loss of her husband: www.caringgiver/visit/org.
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