Posts tagged writers
Keeping It Real With Mom-Blogger Sam Lenz

My goal is to share our experiences of women all over the world to show how much we can relate to each other, as well as support one another! I'll be reaching out to mom-bloggers, artists, entrepreneurs and influencers who you should be following if you aren't already.

Sometimes there is nothing better than getting lost in another’s story then your own for a moment.
-Samantha Lenz

Samantha Lenz is a mom-blogger who should inspire us all. Not only is she a freelance writer who makes her own schedule, she advocates for mental health awareness and effortlessly snaps pictures of her life in British Columbia which is incomplete without her adorable toddler, Ry.

1. I was raised by a single mother and I know how tough it can be. What is your biggest struggle parenting solo?

Hmm, that’s a tough one - because most of the time the struggles can change day-to-day. One day I can be having a struggle getting my son to eat, and no other parent to try and help, etc. It can be something so minor to something so extra.

For the most part I would say my biggest struggle would be financially supporting my son on my own and the fact I am a “solo” parent. There is so much more responsibility - you’re playing the role of both parents.

2. What is your biggest concern about introducing new people you’re dating to your baby?

What’s dating? HAHA just kidding. Honestly, I haven’t had this concern yet. My son will be two in a few months and I sadly haven’t even gone on a date (I’ve considered it) but being a single parent - you don’t get out on your own much. So dating yet alone meeting someone is a hard task.

I feel though, my biggest concern when introducing someone is - not wanting me son to see me get hurt or attached to someone and have it not work out. And visa versa, I don’t need him getting attached to someone who isn’t in it for the long haul.

3. You were able to breastfeed longer than most of us could! How were you able to incorporate that into your busy schedule? Do either of you have separation anxiety after choosing to ween him?

Oh the topic of breastfeeding is one I cringe at but also smile. I was one of those people who were completely against it. I wanted no part of it (I said I’d breastfeed 6 weeks max)... well here I am 22 months later and still breastfeeding. I should say primarily at night and the odd time in the day still. You just do… I don’t really have an explanation for it. I finally got comfortable in public - so doing it wherever and whenever my son needed was how I fit it in.

I think he is having some separation anxiety and maybe I am too? We’ve cut back the day feeds - which yay! It was getting a bit too much for me. The night-time is hard though, he uses it strictly for comfort and I am exhausted. I’m hoping as he improves his sleep schedule and the amount of times he wakes up that it’ll improve his neediness for the breast.

I’ll update you once we’ve officially weaned though!

4. You talk openly about your battle with depression which affects so many of us especially after baby. What do you do to cope with your mental illness?

It does. And for myself I had it well before I had my son and to this day still have it. It’s not something that just goes away… it takes a lot of time (medication, therapy, etc). to get a handle on things. I don’t think I will ever get over my depression - but I can use tools to help manifest it and properly deal and cope.

For me I see a psychiatrist monthly - it’s a big help. I have also become very self-aware over the years so that also helps. I journal (hence I am a writer, I love to write) and read. Sometimes there is nothing better than getting lost in another’s story then your own for a moment. Other things that I know can worked and have for others are exercise, support groups, and just talking to family and friends.

5. How does your depression affect your life as a mom and your everyday life?

The way it affects my life as a mom would be towards to simple everyday things. Some days I am just too down to want to do anything or leave the house. Don’t get me wrong I am still putting on my fake smile and being the best mom to my son. But some days there may be extra cartoon time and we’re eating McDonalds for dinner. It’s sad because I want to enjoy more of the little things… going to the park etc. but my depression and anxiety hinders me sometimes.

Same goes for my everyday life - I am very controlled and calculated and stress very easily. I can’t just be like oh let’s go to the zoo today. If I wake up on the wrong side, something doesn’t go right, the day is already shot to me. I like to pre-plan and be organized. I know this has to do more with the anxiety but depression hinders you from having a “normal” outlook on day-to-day things.

6. Blogging is definitely a great creative outlet. What other outlets do you have to blow off some steam?

I like to read, write, go to the driving and shooting range, shopping. Sometimes just having a good ol’ vent to a friend is cathartic!

7. Being a freelance writer takes a lot of entrepreneurial skill. What do you love most about the writing industry? What is your biggest obstacle for launching your writing business?

I like that the writing industry is always changing and evolving. Writing and written content is never going to go away. However the biggest obstacle is making sure you are unique. There are TONS of other people out there who can do exactly what you do. You need to differentiate yourself and make sure you are well rounded. I’m still new so growing my business. I also want to take some courses so I can offer my clients and future clients more within house and not have to outsource it.

I currently still work with and for a lot of other clients whereas I hope to have that go the other way around. I work for just me and have people I can eventually contract out. At the end of the day it’s a competitive business (price wise, how many people in your area do the same thing) there are a lot of logistics.

Also networking and knowing the right people is key! That is definitely a huge obstacle.
 

8. Life is one big balancing act. How do you balance having your career and having time to spend with your son?

Ah the word “balance”, I am not sure I ever will have balance or have ever had it to begin with. First off, I am lucky to be able to work from home; however the downside to that though is I am at home! Lol. My son and I literally spending 24/7 together. For the majority of the day it’s focusing on him and running errands and maybe a random work function or task. My real day doesn’t start till about 9pm once he’s in bed.

All about time-management and doing what works for you. I’d love to work during the day, but my son is only little for so long and that time is precious. I am fortunate a lot of work functions take place at night - but for business meetings and calls during the day my son comes with me (for now). Once I start doing better financially I can look at maybe doing drop-in daycare for those important meetings.

Prioritize!!!
 

9. British Columbia is one of the most gorgeous places on earth and you spend a lot of time outdoors. What are your favorite activities to do with your son?

Everyday things. Going to the park, beach, playground, etc. My son loves being outside and we have a great backyard full of toys and outdoor activities for him - endless things for him to consume himself with.

As he gets older I am excited to do more day trips though - go into the city, sight see, take day trips!

10. You and I share a love for writing, and tattoos! What is your favorite piece that you have inked on you and why?

Writing and tattoos really two things I love! I have ten tattoos currently, and have a few in the works. All of mine have some sort of meaning so I cherish each one in a different special way. I have one on my left forearm that says “Ich Liebe Dich, Opa” written in his handwriting. Which means “ I love you, Opa” in German. My Opa has since passed so it’s a nice reminder he is always here with me.

Follow Sam Lenz on Instagram at @snlenz

Q & A With Award Winning Author Nancy Churnin

Some of us dream about writing award winning books that are acknowledged by other literary professionals. Can having an award-winning book open more doors for us authors? I'm picking the brain of award winning children's book author Nancy Churnin to talk about how her awards propelled her literary career forward!

At the end, I'm sharing a resource of national children's book awards that could help your career too.

A. Cole: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your journey as a children’s book writer. Your books are lovely! How did you discover your love of writing literature?

Nancy Churnin: I have loved going to the library for as long as I can remember and I grew up in a house with books in every room, with one room – my favorite- that had books from floor to ceiling. Reading is like listening and writing is like talking – both are part of the larger literary dialogue. I always had a little notebook where I was writing poems, stories and ideas as a way of keeping up my part of the conversation.
 
A. Cole: I find a lot of authors try to rush the process of creating a well thought out story. How long does it typically take you to finish each of your books from the beginning of drafting ideas to receiving sample copies?

Nancy Churnin: The writing process varies greatly depending on how ambitious or complicated the idea. The shortest writing time has been months and the longest has been years and it always involves lots of revision. Then, on top of the writing time, you have to add on the year or years it takes for the editing and illustrations on the way to publication. With Manjhi, it took many months of writing, and then months of revising with my editor and publisher Marissa Moss.  
 

A. Cole: My least favorite part of writing is editing. How many people do you let edit and critique your manuscripts?

Nancy Churnin: The editing is key for me. Sometimes I can have a wonderful idea and see the book so clearly in my head, I don’t realize that it isn’t coming across the way I think it does. I am very grateful to my critique groups for being honest with me about what works and what doesn’t. I have multiple critique groups. I enjoy using Rate Your Story as a way of assessing my work. I also occasionally pay for a critique from editors. You don't have to agree with every critique or adopt every suggestion. But the critiques get you thinking what is and isn’t working for the reader and sometimes they can push you to a better place as you discover a solution to a problem you didn’t know you had. It’s also a good warmup for the revisions you will need to make with the editor who acquires your work.

A. Cole: They say the work begins when you publish your book. What is your biggest challenge in marketing your books?

Nancy Churnin: I may be a bit of an anomaly in that I enjoy marketing my books. I write picture book biographies and I consider myself an advocate for my heroes and heroines. I come up with a plan based on reaching out to my support groups and support groups for my subjects that are based on our hometowns, educational backgrounds and groups to which my subjects and I belong. The biggest challenge is coming up with the money and time to travel to all the places I want to go. I have to be creative in finding ways to connect with faraway groups. Once I sent an audio Q and A to a class in Singapore! I am so appreciative of your help in helping me get out the word about Manjhi to everyone who cares about diverse books.

 A. Cole: We’re in 2017, yet we’re still talking about how we need diverse books for kids. How old were you when you started seeing diverse children’s books?

Nancy Churnin: I don’t remember too many diverse children’s books growing up, which is really sad because diverse stories enlarge your world and your heart. John Steptoe’s books, particularly Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, was a beautiful revelation when it came out and is still a favorite. I love Pat Mora’s Tomas and the Library Lady. We have so many more wonderful diverse books for this generation and I hope to do my part to provide more.

A. Cole: We are both passionate about promoting diversity in our books. What made you take interest in diversifying children’s books?

Nancy Churnin: I wrote my first book, The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, because a deaf man, Steve Sandy, who is a friend and spokesman for the Hoy family, told me how sad he was that deaf and hearing children didn’t know the story of this great deaf hero. When I took on the mission of writing this book with Steve’s help, he didn’t just tell me about Hoy, he educated me about the prejudice deaf people faced and continue to face. Writing William Hoy was a life-changing experience. It left me wondering about the many other untold stories about diverse groups. There are so many! I began to search actively for stories that inspire me and I hope will inspire kids about people they don’t yet know, but will benefit from knowing because these people persisted and prevailed in making a positive difference in the world. I feel like a better person for knowing about Manjhi and I hope kids will feel that way, too.
 
A. Cole: Coming up with creative stories and characters can sometimes be challenging. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Nancy Churnin: Inspiration comes from so many places. Sometimes someone will bring me a story, as Steve Sandy did with William Hoy. I found Manjhi searching for heroes from India. I discovered Charlie Sifford when I wondered who was the first African American player in the PGA. The key for me always is that I have to fall in love with the subject. If I love the person I’m writing about, as I did with Manjhi, I know I can help the kids fall in love with the person, too.

A. Cole: You’ve achieved some notable awards as an author. How many medals have you won for your books? What is your most memorable accolade?

Nancy Churnin: I was thrilled to have Manjhi selected for the 2017 Junior Library Guild list. With William Hoy, librarians have made all the difference by putting the book on the 2016 New York Public Library Best Book for Kids List, the 2017 Texas Library Association’s 2017 2X2 and Topaz lists and the 2018 Illinois School Library Media Awards Monarch Awards Master List. I’m also happy to share William Hoy is also a 2017 Storytelling World Resource Award Honor Book and a finalist in the 2017 North Texas Book Festival Best Children’s Book.
 
A. Cole: Not everyone appreciates diversity and ethnic characters in the literary world. Where do you look for opportunities to submit your books for awards?

Nancy Churnin: I leave that up to my publisher and to the kindness of librarians. For many awards, particularly for the state librarian associations, the librarians make the nominations. I enjoy meeting as many librarians I can at the American Library Association and Texas Library Association conventions.

A. Cole: Does having book awards open more doors for you or help increase your sales? Where are your books available for sale?

Nancy Churnin: I am grateful for each and every recognition because each one has helped me get my books in the hands of more kids!

Books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, crestonbooks.com and more! For more about Nancy Churnin, visit her website here

Follow Nancy's Social Pages! 

Nancy Churnin Children’s Books Facebook

Nancy Churnin on Facebook

Nancy Churnin on Twitter

National Children's Book Awards