Jill Hartfirst attended a WordSowers monthly meeting at Parables in January 2006. I remember the meeting well. The regulars talked about developing a critique group but not one of us felt confident enough to get our feet wet. In November a couple WordSowers asked Mark Littleton of Heart of America Christian Writers Network to help us. He turned to me and said, “Kat, you do it. You know enough.”
On that cold winter evening with Jill in attendance, she said, “I sure wish I could find a critique group.” That night I jumped in and got my feet wet. The next month the WordSowers first critique group came together. Wow, Jill has come a long way since then.
Lionhearted Kat: What do you remember about those beginning days of writing, Jill?
Jill: I remember being terrified. I thought you would all kick me out of that first meeting because I wasn’t a “real” writer. I was shaking in my boots! You all helped me find the confidence to push forward and gave me a place to go to ask questions and get help. Oh, what a blessing WordSowers has been in my life! Lionhearted Kat: You were already blogging at that time, right? Why did you decide you need to attend WordSowers and a critique group?
Jill: I had started writing little devotionals and articles to post on my website in 2001. But, I only wrote them to have fresh content for my website, not because I enjoyed writing or thought that I was good at it.
I had a conversation with a writer friend in 2005 and she helped me see that the next logical step with CWAHM was a print book. So, I began trying to learn how to go about “real” writing and stumbled across WordSowers. The writing group gave me a safe place to learn, grow and network as a writer.
Lionhearted Kat: Let’s go back to before WordSowers.—what prompted you to build a business online and what do you wish you knew before you started—especially the writing aspect?
Jill: When I began CWAHM I had know idea that writing would even be involved. I put the website together as I was learning HTML and web design, never thinking that people would actually see it. God had other plans. J
If I could go back, I was be more purposeful. I would definitely have some type of business plan in place and I would have tried to figure out what types of things I was going to need before jumping in head-first. I think, however, that had I done things that way, I would have never ever gotten started. I was have been too intimidated, too afraid of failing, and I think God knew that. He is so gracious to us and knows just what we need.
Learn how to blog: create, re-purpose and find content.
Jill: Do Life Different has really been the theme of my life over the last couple of years. So many of my friends think my life is so weird – working from home, writing, speaking – it’s not the typical Midwestern life.
And I find that my spiritual walk has that same flavor to it. We have to be a bit weird to live for Christ, we have to “Do Life Different” to stand out from the crowd.
Lionhearted Kat: In your info about your workshop you said mentioned blogging helping your audience finding new content, repurposing content, run more contests and more. What do you want your workshop attendees to learn from your presentation?
Jill: I really would like people to walk away from the session with a sense of purpose and direction for their blogs. So many writers are told to blog, but they aren’t really sure what to do once they have the blog set up – how to engage their readers.
We’ll walk through the ins and outs of blogging for writers – what it means, why you should do it, and how to keep from spinning your wheels.
On a personal note:
Lionhearted Kat: Who is your favorite author and what hits home with you when you read one of their books?
Jill: My favorite author is Liz Curtis Higgs. She amazes me with her imagery and her ability to make eternal truths easy to understand. Liz writes both fiction and non-fiction, she doesn’t let genre or subject matter stop her. I love that she blazes her own trail and writes what God lays on her heart.
Lionhearted Kat: Author Emily Dickenson said, “I dwell in possibility.” How does that thought pertain to you?
Jill: Dreaming is my favorite thing! It seems I’m always trying to come up with something new or a fresh way to do things. One of the best things about running an online business and doing all my own web work is the ability to do whatever I want, to some degree. I love the freedom of working at home and working for myself. And I love that I go wherever God leads me even if it doesn’t necessarily fit with where I’ve been.
Lionhearted Kat: Share about your family life, how do you balance your writing/speaking schedule with your life as wife and mother?
Jill: Oh, the balancing act. This is certainly where the pressure sets in. I think I’m constantly evaluating and re-evaluating what I spend my time on. I’ve learned over the last 15 years that success isn’t what the world claims it is. There are more important things that money and making a name for myself. Building a relationship with the Lord must come before all else and my family second. Anything else is a bonus.
I’m learning that I can never truly be balanced, I can simply be flexible. So, I wake up each day and set about doing what God has asked of me for that day.
Lionhearted Kat: Your children are growing up, how do you see your life changing in the near future?
Jill: I can’t believe how big my kids are already! Where does the time go? My daughter is 12 and my son turns 9 in a few weeks. I honestly think that my kids need me more now than they did when they were small. They needed me to be present physically when they were little, but now they need me to be all-in emotionally and mentally as well. They are turning into young adults and it is a pleasure to walk through this journey with them.
While I have more time to work and write now that they are in school during the day, I’m much stricter with myself about not working evening or weekends. It does happen on occasion if I’m on deadline, but not often.
Lionhearted Kat: How can we pray for you between now and the conference?
Jill: I would love your prayers and I prepare both my heart and mind for speaking. That God will guide me to cover the topics that people truly want and need.
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.