Thursday, November 01, 2007

Author Interview: Alison Palmer


Today's author interview is with a terrific writer, Alison Palmer. She writes in a variety of forms, many of which deal with children, especially working with children in the Primary department of congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Alison is a wife and mom, and a member of LDStorymakers.

Welcome, Alison. I'm so happy to interview you. What made you start writing?

I discovered writing in Junior High and loved it. Of course during such a hormonal time I wrote mostly poetry but I’d defiantly caught the bug. I had a secret dream to become the youngest published author. Sadly, the frivolities of youth got in the way of that one. My thoughts and dreams have always been full of stories that need to be told. I believe my writing talent is a great gift from God and the thing I like most to do with it is inspire others. The written word can lift me to such great heights, and feeling His love as I practice my craft is a great blessing. If I can return the gift by lifting someone else, or helping them succeed with their own dreams and goals, all the better.

How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

When it came time for me to go to college I wanted to major in writing. My parents wondered how I’d make a living writing. I became a nurse instead.

When I was pregnant with my third child I was placed on bed rest for an extended period of time. Suddenly I had lots of time on my hands and I remembered I wanted to write. However, it wasn’t until about late 2002 or early 2003 that I finally put my foot down and took the first real step at calling myself a writer. The first thing I did was sit down and write a children’s fantasy novel from beginning to end in about two months. It was a wonderful release. It felt like I’d finally found my wings and the view was beautiful. Then, I settled down and tried to figure out what I had to offer that was truly unique to who I was. I looked toward my religion. I sold my first two books to Horizon Publishers that year.

What a great start! You have published mainly non-fiction works. It sounds like you have fiction projects inside you, too, right?

Oh definitely. I have a fiction work right now that’s just itching to be finished. It’s women’s religious fiction. I’m also working on a fun picture book and still want to brush off that original fantasy. I love my non-fiction, but in a lot of ways, I am a storyteller at heart.

How do you decide what topics to write about? Does your publisher make suggestions?

My publisher doesn’t really suggest ideas to me; I generally take it to them instead.

It’s hard to describe exactly how I choose my topics. As any writer can tell you, there are always a million thoughts and ideas floating around my brain. As they appear I try to jot down a few notes about what I’m thinking in a running log of ideas that I keep. Even writing that little bit will generally clear my mind. I know I can come back to it when I’m ready for it. If I find myself going back to it again and again, wanting to add just one more note, I know it’s not going to leave me alone until I do something about it. That can be a little frustrating because I can’t keep up with my brain and all it wants to write. It’s a feeling, a warmth, a love for an idea, and a hope that it can touch someone else as much as it has affected me. It’s the thoughts that take over my entire being and make me a happier, better person just for their presence that get written first.

How do you research your topics?

That gets a little bit sticky with the type of non-fiction I do. I like to keep a general idea of what my competition is doing but I also try not to look too closely. When I’ve got a topic I need to write out I let it simmer while I look toward the scriptures, the official church resources, and especially music to help me focus on what I want to express. Sometimes I sneak into my own ward’s Primary just to see what they’re up to. When I visit other places I itch to peek in on their Primaries as well. I get funny looks sometimes, but I’m a people watcher. Some of my best research is just sitting back and watching children and the adults that interact with them. I try to be very careful to stick close to the gospel and the guidelines of the Church while engaging the children’s interest. To me the feel and simple messages of a lesson are very important.

What type of writing schedule do you have?

Schedule? What schedule? Honestly, it varies from day to day. Some days I’m on the computer from 9-4 (while my children are away). However, I am by nature a night owl. Sometimes I take advantage of the fact that the house is empty and go back to bed after the morning rush. I may get in an hour or two while they're gone and sneak back to the key board after the rest of the world has gone to sleep and the voices in my head won’t let me go to sleep.

I do try to make sure that I write every day. I try to make sure I connect with every open project at least once a day. I take a notebook or my mini-computer with me anywhere I think I might be able to steal another moment. I even write on Sunday. I won’t work on my general or paying projects but because inspiration is such a great part of what I value about my writing, when I’ve been inspired by something from my Sunday meetings or my own gospel ponderings that day, I write it out. If it is a specific inspiration about how the Lord wants me to phrase or explain something, I write it down as it is given to me. I won’t push it though. If I write on Sunday I write because of specific inspiration.

How do you handle life interruptions?

As you can probably tell, I’m a pretty easy going person. I try to take life as it comes, although I have a sneaking suspicion it’s trying to dog pile me most days. It’s hard. I’ve learned that for me writing has to be a priority. My family is very understanding of that. When life gets too crazy they’re apt to check in with me and see if I’ve written anything that day. I’m very blessed that way. I screen all of my calls and have been known to ignore the doorbell as well. My biggest challenge comes at deadline time for the Primary curriculum. That’s a race in pure insanity! Essentially, I receive the outline from the Church and I generally have a grand total of 6 weeks (if I’m lucky) to go from nothing to done and awesome. During that time everything is an interruption and everything gets put on hold. Thank goodness for cable, husbands and the vitamin fortified cereal that my children have to eat three times a day.

What have you always dreamed of writing, but haven't yet?

Oh goodness. I think some of my best work has yet to be written. One that I hope to get to soon is a guide for leaders and teachers on how to work with special needs children. I have an autistic son and I know what a challenge it can be to know nothing about a child’s difficulties and still be expected to somehow inspire and lead them. My husband has also made me promise to write our story for him before he dies. That one I don’t think I’ll ever try to publish, but I do look forward to writing it someday.

What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?

The inspiration. The feeling of being loved by my Heavenly Father as I realize that I just wrote something that can bring tears to my own eyes or light into the eyes of someone else is just awesome. I love the creativity and the process of creation. I love who I am when I write. It’s still fun to see my name in print and see the looks on people’s faces when they say, “Wow, you wrote that?!” I don’t mind rejections as much as some writers do. To me, they’re just part of the package. It does bother me a bit more when I think it’s something powerful that I’m supposed to find a home for and I can’t. What I like the least is self-promotion. I’m not a very social person. It’s hard to put myself out there instead of hiding behind my book cover. I dream of the day when I can be that mysterious writer who makes tons of money but nobody really knows what they look like!

What is your next project?

I’m eagerly trying to finish my women’s fiction. The Prodigal Son, that I mentioned. After that is a fun book of motherly advice for Young Women. After that is the special needs book I mentioned. After that. . .

What is your advice for other writers?

As my friend James Dashner says: if you have a dream to write don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Work at it and amazing things can happen. If there is something you’re compelled to write there’s probably a reason. It may not be because it’s supposed to be published or make you rich and famous, but I can bet you’ll be a better person because you did. I’ve never met someone who said, “I should have never written that book.” I meet lots of people who say “I wish I could write a book.”

Tell us about your new books.

I thought you’d never ask! I have two new titles that just came out, both for Primary. The first came out in September. It’s called Sharing Through Primary Songs: I Am a Child of God. This is the Primary outline for 2008.



The other came out in October. It’s called Sharing Through Primary Songs: Special Occasions. This is for all those special days that crop up through the year. There are lessons for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Pioneer Day and many others.

Both titles are available through area bookstores and directly from Cedar Fort. They come in three different options. The book, the book on cd-rom with colored illustrations, or a combination set with both the book and cd.

My Primary curriculum really does stand out above the competition. As I said earlier, I stick very closely to what the Church asks us to do. With Primary, that’s a bit different from what most people are used to. When I write a sharing time lesson I also write in the music time. They’re one complete whole, just as the general Primary board has asked us to do. Most people consider sharing time and singing time two separate events, but they’re not meant to be. We’ve been asked to mesh the two so that the childrens’ learning and the power of the Spirit is greater. Really, what do you remember more about Primary: the lesson or the music? Most other resources focus on lessons and music separately and you have to buy multiple books to get the material you need.

In my books you get two lessons for every month specifically focusing on the material from the Church outline. You get one that teaches the children how to sing the song for the month while also involving them in the message of that song. You get a second lesson that focuses on a specific principle and gives them lots of songs to sing that reinforce that gospel concept. I work on the philosophy that children have to hear the gospel, and then sing the gospel, then they’ll feel the gospel, then they’ll know the gospel. It’s an entire program focused on instilling testimonies in the children, not just entertaining them.

What other work of yours has been published?
Planting Seeds of Faith: Fun Character-building Activities for LDS Children, 2004, Horizon Publishers
Walking the Path of Faith: More Fun Character-building Activities for LDS Children
, 2004, Horizon Publishers (Horizon is now a division of Cedar Fort)
Sharing Through Song: I Will Follow God’s Plan for Me, 2004, Horizon Publishers
Sharing Through Song: I Will Trust in Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ—Their Promises Are Sure, 2005, Horizon Publishers
Sharing Through Primary Songs: I’ll Follow Him in Faith, 2006, Horizon Publishers

I also publish in the Friend and Ensign magazines occasionally, and write for a lot of other children’s magazines. I do a monthly family home evening lesson for Desert Saints Magazine and keep a lot of other technical writing projects on the fire as well!

Thank you for the interview, Alison.

Thanks for thinking of me! I've never had so much fun talking about myself!

8 comments:

  1. Great interview. What fun things to write, Alison. I learned a lot. Thanks.

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  2. wow! Now why couldn't I have thought of that? Good on ya. Obviously you have been inspired. I especially pricked up my ears aout sharing time blending with music time. That makes perfect sense. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Sherry Ann Miller10:08 AM

    Allison is a great author, and the interview was very inspiring. I will keep her in mind when I suggest books to my children for my grandchildren's benefit.

    Hugs,

    Sherry Ann Miller

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  4. What an interesting interview - it was so nice to learn more about Allison. Her products are really excellent, especially since they now come with a color CD which saves primary leaders so much time and effort! And think how many children benefit from her work.

    Janet

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  5. Super interview. Makes me wish I still had children in Primary. Oh, wait! I still do--grandchildren :-) I'm off to the store.

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  6. Great interview! Alison's book are very useful!

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  7. I just discovered your blog by way of Alison, and I love it! I will be a frequent visitor. Today, I found inspiration for my dream of writing because of you! Alison is quite an inspiration herself, but you certainly helped! I loved reading your different postings. Thanks for contributing to the world of lovers of writing and inpiring others!

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  8. Thanks, everyone.

    Judaloo, I'm glad you found my blog, and that it's been helpful and inspiring to you. You've made me very happy.

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I welcome your comments.

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