What I am currently reading: The Friday Night Knitting Club
LeAnn Thieman is an author and nationally acclaimed speaker. Her book, This Must Be My Brother details her daring adventure of helping to rescue 300 babies during Operation Babylift in 1975, as Saigon was falling to the Communists. An ordinary person, she struggled through extraordinary circumstances and found the courage to succeed.
She is also the co-author of ten Chicken Soup for the Soul books including Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul, Chicken Soup for the Caregivers Soul and Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul.
Her newest book,Balancing Your Life in your War Zones Balancing Life in your War ones, uses her experiences from Operation Babylift to illustrate life lessons that apply to us today. This book provides techniques and inspiration for people to reduce their stress and cope better with conflict, and create the lives they want to live.
I had the privilege of interviewing LeAnn to ask her thoughts about writing personal stories:
Did you always want to be a writer?
LeAnn: "No! When I decided it was time to write my own story, I hired a ghost writer. Fortunately, that fell through and I had to learn to write it myself. I attended every writers conference, workshop, retreat and seminar and invested in mentors, magazines, books and asscociations to learn this craft."
How did you get to be an co-author for Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul?
LeAnn: "After I finally learned to write my own story, I couldn't stop! I wrote everyone else's after that and sent them to Chicken Soup. Since a true personal story was the only thing I could write, I apparently caught on and Chicken Soup bought almost all of my stories and included them in 11 books. Then I approached Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and told them they needed Chicken Soup for Nurses (since I am one.) Three years later they called and asked me to coauthor the book!"
What was that whole experience like?
LeAnn: "It is a lot of work to read 2000 stories to select the top 101 for the books, then most of those I have to rewrite "Soup" style. I always send them back to the contributor to make sure I got it right, kept their voice, their message. It is an honor to help someone share their story---and it is a lot of work!"
You worked closely with Jack Canfield on that book. What would you say is the biggest thing you learned from him?
LeAnn: Jack taught me to see the message in the story and to make sure it is carefully and subtly woven in, so the reader can grow and have hope from reading it.
Now that you have co-authored 10 Chicken Soup for the Soul books, what would you say is the biggest mistake writers make when writing personal stories?
LeAnn: "There is a difference between recounting an event and telling a story. Good stories have engaging characters, dialog, and an "aha" moment....some conflict or challenge or change that the character grows from."
What would you say are the most important elements of a personal story?
LeAnn: "Same as #5. Write like you are seeing it on stage. Put the reader in the moment--show don't tell what is happening.
You were recently inducted into the National Speaker Hall of Fame. Has being a speaker helped your writing?
LeAnn: "Writing has helped my speaking and speaking has helped my writing. Both are about creating and sharing a message, word by carefully crafted word."
What are the benefits for writers who are also speakers?
LeAnn: "Speaking is a great platform from which to sell your book and share your message."
What advice do you have for new writers?
LeAnn: "If you want to write, write. If you have something to share and say, write it. After that you will learn its purpose, its mission, what to do with it. It is my personal belief that God calls us to write. We are the ones who see it in hardback, or on the bestseller list, or in the biggest magazines. That may not be His plan for it. But the writing of it is important...the rest will be shown to you."
Anything else you want to add?
LeAnn: "My first book was rejected 21 times! On the 22nd it was sold. I agree with Winston Churchill --never never never give up!That said, it takes a lot of work to learn this craft. But it is worth it to share your message with the world."
To learn more about LeAnn, visit her website at www.leannthieman.com