Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Meet Jennifer Slattery: Speaker, Editor, and Author

Healing Love is a work of women’s fiction with a strong romantic thread

A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above. When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?

I should know by now not to attach the word glamorous to anything publishing related. But my inner muse is anything if expectant, and she has a tendency to be more than a little fanciful. She’s learned to release any hopes of working with a showered, well-attired and made-up author. She’s probably also come to terms with the fact that she and her author will spend most of their time in a small, quiet, isolated office.

While watching her friends and neighbors enjoy the feeling of a fresh breeze stirring and the gentle rays of the summer morning sun. Something she and her author frequently write about but never experience. She’s also given up any ideas of hot, fresh cooked meals, learning to enjoy handfuls of nuts or scoops of peanut butter, or whatever other uberly convenient food happens to be on hand.

But research trips, and traipsing across the country from one adventure to another, are dreams neither she nor I have been able to relinquish. Perhaps its our dual, interlocking imaginations, but when we planned our visit to Austin last summer, we fully expected a glamorous, glorious time, the stuff books are made of. Most specifically, ours.

I packed my cutest clothes, my computer, my hand held voice recorder—virtually everything I’d need to imitate Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer, or any other gorgeous, successful investigator. I arrived with a full tank of gas and a full agenda. I’d visit museums, eclectic and obscure restaurants … a murder mystery dinner theater.

I had it all planned out. What could possibly go wrong?

How many blunders did we experience; let me count the ways.

Actually, let me not. That’d take entirely too long. I’ll share “a day in the life” story instead.

It was midway through our trip, and I’d donned on my favorite outfit and sandals—the white wedges I’d paid entirely too much for.  This was the day we’d visit one of Austin’s finer restaurants, the location I considered having my heroine work at.

As we were walking toward it, my dad, who accompanied me on this trip, gave me a sideways shove. I frowned at him, certain he was making fun of my attempt to walk in my higher-than-normal shoes.

Nope. I realized, a moment too late, he was trying to help me avoid stepping in … something. Rather unpleasant, that I’ll graciously choose not to mention here. Gunk that remained on my shoes despite my numerous attempts to scrape it off as we went—now that led to some glamorous walking. (Insert sarcasm)

But I refused to allow this rather smelly mishap put a damper on our evening, so we continued on. Hungry, we stopped at a street corner in the shade of a tree to decide where to go for dinner.

When suddenly, something cool and wet splattered my leg. Sometimes it take a bit for my brain to catch up, and by the time it had, I was splattered a second time. I glanced first at the ground then at the tree above us and quickly zeroed in on the culprit. A lovely little bird had made his presence known.

My dad and I immediately dashed into the closest restaurant and headed straight for the bathroom where I practically dove into the sink. An hour or so later, with bellies full and still determined to finish our night strong, we rented a pair of bikes and decided to explore the area flanking the river.

I’m pretty sure dad had a great time. Laughing at me as I pedaled like a mad-woman while getting close to nowhere (my gears were broke) and fought against my perpetually spinning seat (apparently the screws were lose. In the seat, not my head. Though a convincing argument could be made for the latter).

That night, tired, amused, and just a wee bit flustered, I walked into our hotel carrying my stinky, gross sandals in a plastic bag, ready to crash before continuing our adventure the next day.

And that, my friends, is a day in the not-so-glamorous life of a writer.

 

BIO: Author, speaker, and ministry leader Jennifer Slattery writes for Crosswalk.com and is the managing and acquiring editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, an imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She believes fiction has the power to transform lives and change the culture. Healing Love is her sixth novel, and it was birthed during a trip she and her family took to El Salvador that opened her eyes to the reality of generational poverty and sparked a love for orphans and all who’ve experienced loss.

Her deepest passion is to help women experience God’s love and discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she travels with her team to various churches to speak to women and help them experience the love and freedom only Christ can offer. When not writing, editing, or speaking, you’ll likely find her chatting with her friends or husband in a quiet, cozy coffeehouse. Visit her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her and her Wholly Loved team at WhollyLoved.com

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Interview with Author & Teacher Daphne Simpkins

Daphne SimpkinsDAPHNE SIMPKINS is a native of Alabama and a great admirer of Southern eccentricities. She has been writing about the South and faith for about almost thirty years. Originally a writer of essays for major periodicals throughout the United States, most notably The Chicago Tribune, she began writing short stories as the newspaper industry changed. She has written over 200 essays and short stories, which have been published in the U.S. and Canada.

CLARICE: Daphne, I did a little research on you as an Adjunct English Instructor at Auburn University in Montgomery. Here’s what some of your students had to say:

  • “She is so full of life and really loves her job.”
  • “She is a nut case sometimes, but she is down to earth.”
  • “She is a very out of the box thinker.”
  • “It’s easy to get her off topic though.”
  • “I LOVE this woman! She is the best teacher at AUM! So helpful, nice, and funny! She actually cares and wants you to do well in her class.”

So what do you say? Is any of this true? What do you enjoy most about teaching?

DAPHNE: I love teaching more than ever. I teach business writing and it’s so practical.  I just heard from a student this morning via email who took a class with me in 2010. First, I was shocked that she could remember my name, and then I was delighted that she did. She wanted me to check her current resume. I did—offered some comments and told her how proud I was of her and to let me know if she got the job. She wrote back: “It means a lot to me that you believe in me.” I do.

Do I get off topic sometimes? Sure. Am I a nutcase sometimes? Of course. You can’t live in the South without being a little nutty.  Do I teach business writing in spite of all of that? Yes, I do—with a glad heart that I can help young people prepare to succeed in the business world by learning how to tell the truth well and bravely. That’s my mission as a teacher.

CLARICE:  Let’s talk about your books. Nat King Cole: An Unforgettable Life of Music was written for 5th and 6th graders. How did you come about writing it?

DAPHNE: I was asked by a publisher to write it, and I was home taking care of my father at the time who had Alzheimer’s disease. It was a good way to fill the days with music while he and I kept each other company in new ways. My daddy liked to sing, and we sang quite a lot back then—a nice memory to have now.

CLARICE: Your second book, The Long Good Night: My Father’s Journey into Alzheimer’s was a personal memoir inspired by columns you wrote primarily for The Chicago Tribune. Can you tell us how writing the column and subsequently the book helped you process the experience of caring for your father, a victim of Alzheimer’s?

DAPHNE: People still like that book because the experience of caregiving is the same—challenging, frustrating, lonely and, in ways you don’t expect, freeing. I think it keeps caregivers company without dictating to them how to process their own experience or make demands of them to become a kind of caregiver they are not. I am presently writing a follow-up called WHAT AL LEFT BEHIND. Should I change that title? I don’t know. Still thinking about it……This collection of essays is about the ways that taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient broke my heart, and in powerful ways reshaped my values and changed my vocabulary for the better, I believe. I see aging and caregiving differently now and in very positive ways that have wrought peace in my life.

CLARICE:  I first met you through your Mildred Budge columns, which I found delightful. When your book Miss Budge In Love: The Short Adventures of Mildred Budge came out, I knew I’d love it since I enjoy your humor and character-driven plots. Tell us how you developed this character and how has she has evolved in A Mildred Budge Adventure: Cloverdale and A Mildred Budge Adventure: Embankment?

DAPHNE:   Well, thanks for liking Mildred Budge.  I started writing the Mildred short stories when I developed new friendships with older people who were not aging as sadly as someone does with Alzheimer’s. They were vibrant, lively, witty people who were such a distinct contrast to people who aged sadly with dementia of the Alzheimer’s variety. When I looked around, the people fading sadly got some of the attention, but the people aging well—the Auntie Mame sorts—were not getting any attention at all. I decided to celebrate them. Oddly I chose a nondescript sort Mildred Budge to be the center of the stories and let the other people around her shine. She likes it that way. And I really like Mildred. And, yes, she did pose nude in that last short story, so she’s got some surprises in her.

From those early stories, I began to see larger ones and the first novel Cloverdale was imagined and written. It’s set during a Missions Conference at her church, but the reader sees pretty quickly that the real missionaries are not only the world travelers who come in with exciting stories to tell but the quiet behind-the-scenes folks in a community who keep the good works going in the name of Jesus—the name that Mildred breathes in and out all day long because Jesus is her very breath, her water, her food—the substance of her faith and her life.

CLARICE: A Cookbook For Katie: Upon the Occasion of Her Marriage Recipes and Reveries for the Bride is your latest book, which you classify as “a Southern memoir masquerading as a cookbook.” I agree. I smiled my way through this book, enjoying your sweet and savory stories and wit. Did you originally intend on writing this cook book for your niece? Or did it just turn out that way?

DAPHNE:   I had no plans at all to write a cookbook. Truly. My niece fell in love with an airman who is stationed in Utah. When it was obvious that she was moving to Utah as soon as she could, Katie asked me to put together some family recipes so that she could make home style meals in her home.  I had been writing about the child I have always called Beloved while she was growing up, but I hadn’t shared very many of those stories with her. I thought it was time to do that, so I put those stories in the Cookbook, too. Also I had a number of stories about family members Katie could barely remember or had never met—a few of them had been published– and so I decided to layer the recipes with the portraits and stories of family members and family life, so that she would have a taste of home if she got homesick and the recipes that went with them to ease the strain of our being apart. A Cookbook For Katie was truly the most fun I ever had writing a book, and others seem to be enjoying it too. Mothers of brides are buying it for their daughters even if the bride’s name isn’t Katie. I like that a lot, and I hope my niece doesn’t mind sharing her love story with the world that way.  Just because other people like the book I wrote just for her doesn’t mean it isn’t still just for her—it just means that stories about love and recipes have a broader appeal.

CLARICE: What does an average day in the life of Daphne Simpkins look like? Besides writing, do you have any other interests?

DAPHNE: I am the happiest person I know. My average day is trying not to be too happy in front of other people because often people are suspicious of very happy people, but I am very happy, very healthy, very optimistic and I spend my days singing, praying and writing about how good life is when you know the rescuing love of Jesus. He had a job to do. He did it—is still doing it, and people like me are the beneficiaries of his mercy. That’s my story and all the stories I write eventually work towards saying that.

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful . . .” ~ Proverbs 15:13a (NIV)

To learn more about Daphne Simpkins, visit her website at www.DaphneSimpkins.com.  You can also look for her and Mildred Budge on Facebook.