[00:00:00] Jenny Kate: Hey everybody. Today’s episode is sponsored by author Chris Mandeville. She is one of the most inspirational writers I have in my life. She wrote a book called 52 Ways To Get Unstuck, purely to help fellow writers get over writer’s block. She now has out three fiction novels and is working on her fourth.
You can find Chris and all her email@example.com.
This is Writer Nation.
Hey everybody. Welcome to the Writer Nation podcast. I am your host, Jen Kate. My guest today is Ms. Mandy Houk. She’s a writer I caught up with in Colorado last month when I was in town for a couple of nights. Um, I grabbed as many Colorado writers as I could for that weekend chat, hang out with, cause I really liked doing the podcast kind of in person as opposed to doing it over Skype.
Frankly, I just not very good at it. [00:01:00] But anyway, I’m headed back in January for another conference and hope to grab a few more of my favorite writer friends out there because Colorado, it really has an enormous amount of talent and they hold a special place for me. It’s kind of where I got started focusing on my writing career because they’re just an incredibly supportive community of writers.
And Mandy is absolutely one of those people. So this girl’s been writing since before she could walk. And I love her take on creativity and art. Her view is exactly what Writer Nation is trying to promote. That the art you have in you is very wonderful. It’s God-given and it’s totally meant to be shared.
So kind of whatever doubt you have, and we all have it, I promise, it’s okay. And we want you to get that out. The public needs it, our culture needs it. And hopefully you’ll get some inspiration to keep going. So I love this chat with Mandy because she’s very upbeat. She’s very fun, and I think you’ll enjoy it too, because as you know, Writer Nation exists to bring you motivation and inspiration to help you [00:02:00] keep going on that project.
So keep at it. And I hope you enjoy this conversation with Mandy.
All right, so here we are. I’m back in Colorado Springs for the first time in like two years. So yeah, it’s overcast, but it’s still beautiful and I love it here. All right, so I’ve got Mandy here with me, and I want to start with. How you got started writing? Were you like three?
Mandy Houk: Four, actually. Yeah. Um, my family’s Southern.
I mostly lost the accent, but, um, I didn’t really, you know, we would sit out in the carport and listened to the stories and it’s just, storytelling was always part of my upbringing. And my mom taught me to read by the time I was four. Um, and so I just started writing like really goofy, silly stories that [00:03:00] made no sense.
Usually it was animals that fell in love and got married.
Jenny Kate: That’s so great.
Mandy Houk: I have one from when I was in the third grade that in the class we got to make our own books like with hand sewn bindings and everything. And it was Rocky, the squirrel.
Jenny Kate: Do you still have that book?
Mandy Houk: I do, I still, yep. And, um, I illustrated it myself and it was all about getting married. So then at the end, the two lovey squirrels were in, you know, the tuxedo and the wedding dress and the whole thing.
Jenny Kate: That’s awesome.
Mandy Houk: That’s funny cause I don’t, maybe that’s why I don’t write romance. I got it all
Jenny Kate: You got it all out in the third grade. So I, I wrote a book too, in the second grade, and I don’t remember anything about this book that my father pulled it out in like 2003
Mandy Houk: Oh my goodness.
Jenny Kate: I had no idea that he even had it. And it’s funny, to this day, I still don’t know what it was about, but I just remember he had the book.
Mandy Houk: So you [00:04:00] don’t have it?
Jenny Kate: My mother has it. Yeah. It’s in her trunk back in Tennessee.
Mandy Houk: Yeah. I had it somewhere. Probably in a box.
Jenny Kate: I do have the one, a friend of mine and I wrote the seventh grade. And this was about a chick who was like traveling all over Europe and she hit every single country in Europe and like three days.
Mandy Houk: She was speedy.
Jenny Kate: She was very speedy. And you know, it’s funny cause I travel a lot now and I’m like, maybe that was just me telling myself I was going to travel in seventh grade. So that’s pretty cool. I think these things really tell us something.
Mandy Houk: They do.
Jenny Kate: So. All right, so. After your squirrel wedding, no longer writing romance.
Mandy Houk: No, I don’t. I, um, I don’t have anything against it. I just, I don’t know. I, maybe I’m still stuck in the third grade framework, and so I just don’t know. I don’t do it well, and that’s kind of not where my. Uh, mine where my imagination goes anyway. Why? I just don’t love love anymore.
Jenny Kate: But I don’t write either. I mean, I write, I [00:05:00] write thrillers, you know, big adventure stories about people killing people. So what did tell me, um, well, let’s get back. So, okay. Third grade, you wrote a book, decided you didn’t want to write romance. So what’s next?
Mandy Houk: Um, after third grade? Well, I was just always writing. I mean, um, I was the kid that my teachers, if we had to submit some kind of writing sample from their class for the school magazine or for the district, whatever, I was always, usually it was poems, but if it wasn’t stories, it was poems.
Jenny Kate: Me too.
Mandy Houk: Um, yeah. So, um, I wrote and they always had to rhyme then, but then in high school I was like, no. And I issued. The whole rhyme scheme thing. No more romance. Free verse, you know? Yeah. So, um, I really, through high school and stuff, it really was mostly poems. I never, um, dared [00:06:00] to think of myself as a book author. I never thought I would even try that. So I would write short stories. I think I entered one into the 17 magazine contest. Bombed. Did not, I don’t even know. I guess they probably wrote me back, but I don’t know. Anyway, nothing came of it, we’ll say.
Jenny Kate: I bet you stopped reading the magazine though, and like three years later they published it and you don’t even know.
Mandy Houk: Probably.
Jenny Kate: You should definitely check that out. Alright so did you go to college after high school?
Mandy Houk: I did go to college after high school.
Jenny Kate: What was your major?
Mandy Houk: Okay. Woo. This is fun. Okay, so my major was English because I wanted to pursue writing. But then I freaked out and got scared and decided that’s really never going to happen, which is partly, I can only say this because I know my sweet 80 year old mother will not listen to the podcast. She doesn’t even have a computer. Um, but really my upbringing was, what are you gonna do with that degree?
Jenny Kate: Oh my gosh, girl. We are like [00:07:00] sisters from another woman. I’m telling you, I was majoring in English. I wanted to be a writer. She’s like, uh, maybe you should find something that’s going to pay you first and have something to fall back on.
Mandy Houk: Yep. Oh, I didn’t even get that. I just got, no, that’s not going to work. Which of course, now in retrospect, I’m like, yeah. Why didn’t any of us think about like journalism that that would have been a
Jenny Kate: I also think too, that when we. Back then we were thinking about writing I think all we were thinking about was books. You know, there was no thought of branching out. I mean, I’ve been a writer my entire career, but I write speeches and technical articles and reading, you know, that kind of stuff. So I’ve been able to keep writing, but, um, but definitely not, I’m not publishing fiction books right now.
Mandy Houk: Creative. Right. Exactly. So I think I basically got scared of the dream and um, I don’t remember if I had a conscious thought of it, but it’s so obvious to me now that maybe I did. I, I got to the point where I thought. Surely this will hurt [00:08:00] less if I don’t try it, then if I try it.
Jenny Kate: Oh, that’s terrible.
Mandy Houk: Oh yeah.
Jenny Kate: And now you’re trying it. And you love it.
Mandy Houk: I do. And so, so for years and years, I didn’t write. I, I, um, I worked at a camp, um, during college in the summers, in between my college years, and I would write song lyrics for my friend who wrote music and, um, uh, just things like that. So I net, the funny thing is, I. I tend to say when I tell this story, um, the short version, but I think you’re not asking for the short version.
Jenny Kate: I’m asking for whatever version you want to give me.
Mandy Houk: The short version of the story. I always say to people, yeah. So I didn’t write for however many years. Well that’s totally not true. I was writing, it was just, you know.
Jenny Kate: Yeah, me too. I mean, yeah, I think we were always writing. Right, cause you still have the stories in your head. That creativity is still there.
Mandy Houk: Yeah. I have this whole notebook that it’s all just prayers of stuff, which really are kind of poems, really, if you think about it.
Jenny Kate: I have [00:09:00] journal after journal after journal, and I’ve just piled up. You know, kind of stuff.
Mandy Houk: So, yeah, mostly laments cause I was in college. Not a lot of songs of praise.
Jenny Kate: A lot of angst about life. What’s gonna happen in the future.
Mandy Houk: Yes.
Jenny Kate: I’m like, okay, the future is here. And it wasn’t that bad.
Mandy Houk: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So then I dunno, I always told people I wrote and people always knew I wrote. So I would write like. I don’t, I dunno. I wrote for this and that newsletter and whatever. And then finally I really just started to feel like, you know what? This is who I was made to be and I’m betraying who I was made to be if I don’t just write. And, um, right after
Jenny Kate: That’s a revelation. And where did that come from?
Mandy Houk: Totally. It was, well, I mean this, I was actually at a women’s conference and it just became really clear to me when the woman was talking about how were each made, created uniquely and
Jenny Kate: To do something and perform,
Mandy Houk: To do something and also lift the gifts were given. Yes. When you think of, Oh, I have a [00:10:00] gift. Okay. But it’s, yeah. It’s not that the gift was given to you to keep, it’s as if you were expected to share that, to share that. That’s what the gift is for. It’s not for you.
Jenny Kate: I feel great when this is done, but if nobody else sees it, nobody, I mean,
Mandy Houk: Exactly.
Jenny Kate: Yeah, I totally get that. Right.
Mandy Houk: So that was really, it was really, I guess, the, you know, to use a churchy word, it was like a conviction that I was like, I’m, I’m not doing what I was made to do. So yeah. Um, and that really released the pressure of whether it works or not, you know, quote unquote works or whatever that means. Um, whether I succeed at it, because really at that point, that was the first time I went, well, I’m just supposed to write and not really care what happens after. Of course, most of the time I really do care, but at least I knew that at that point. And that was the impetus to get me to actually start writing again. And then right after that
Jenny Kate: Wait wait wait, how long ago was that?
Mandy Houk: That was, oh girl.
Jenny Kate: She’s not a day over 30 and she looks fabulous. [00:11:00] So whatever.
Mandy Houk: I am 49.
Jenny Kate: You look awesome for 49.
Mandy Houk: This is a podcast
Jenny Kate: I’m gonna throw a picture up there so they can see it.
Mandy Houk: Okay. Anyway, um, okay. It was 2004 I think. Yes, it was 2004. Wow. Now that’s really sad cause now.
Jenny Kate: So 2004 so, so you’re done. College is over and career with your,
Mandy Houk: I already had both my daughters, my girls were born in 95 and 98 and I was homeschooling them. So, um, I, but yeah, so right after I had that conviction to start writing, I was leafing through this magazine world magazine, and they were announcing a short story contest. And so I was like, well, I guess I’m supposed to enter that contest.
Jenny Kate: Cause there’s a sign.
Mandy Houk: Yeah. So I did not win, but I actually was top 10 finalists, which meant they published the story online and then my name was in the magazine and stuff. Um, and it was cool cause are you familiar with the author Brett Lot? He’s not super, [00:12:00] super.
Jenny Kate: No, I don’t think so.
Mandy Houk: He the thing he’s most famous for was Jewel because it was an Oprah’s book club. But anyway, he was one of the judges and it was really cool cause I got gutsy and wrote him a letter and asked. I was like, so cause I knew he read it cause only the, uh, only the top 10 were read by the elite judges, which included Brett Lott and some other authors.
Jenny Kate: And you wrote him a letter.
Mandy Houk: I did. Well, an email. And he was so nice and he wrote back and he, he’s, he told me it was a bathtub story. Which in case,
Jenny Kate: I don’t know what that means.
Mandy Houk: Yeah, I know. I’m educating. Yeah, no, I didn’t either at the time. I don’t know if he made it up on the spot, but anyway, he said it’s sort of the kind of story where the character is like it’s as if they’re sitting in the bathtub, not literally, but figuratively, sitting in the bathtub thinking about things. But nothing actually happens, which is totally right. I mean, I read that story now and I go, how did that, yeah, get to the top. He said it was well written at the sentence level, and I guarantee you [00:13:00] that is quote unquote. Cause I, Brett Lott said my work was well-written at the sentence level, so,
Jenny Kate: so that’s great though that he gave you feedback.
Mandy Houk: Yeah, he’s a super kind about it. So, um, but, but the top 10 finalists. All of us were invited to submit a novel to the publisher that sponsored the contest. So then I went, well, I guess I have to write one. So of course, by the time that was done, that publisher had been bought by a bigger publisher and didn’t exist anymore, and that’s a crappy book anyway. That’s my, yeah, that’s my learning process novel.
Jenny Kate: I have a few of those. Okay, so now, so now we’re up to 2004 or five ish.
Mandy Houk: Uh, by the time I finished the book, 2008 ish.
Jenny Kate: How long did it take you to write it?
Mandy Houk: It took me, well, because I was also homeschooling and I had no idea what I was doing and had never planned to write a book before anyway. So actually I think I was still revising that one when we moved here in [00:14:00] 2006.
Jenny Kate: So you were still down South before?
Mandy Houk: No, I was in California, but we don’t talk about that.
Jenny Kate: Alright, so regardless, you moved to Colorado?
Mandy Houk: We moved to Colorado in 2006 and I finished the book and like a year or two I think?
Jenny Kate: Okay, so did you, when did you find Pike’s peak writers?
Mandy Houk: That first, like within a few months, um, I found them.
Jenny Kate: Signs were all over the place.
Mandy Houk: What?
Jenny Kate: The signs! They were all over the place.
Mandy Houk: I know Chris Mandivelle developed, this won’t be super exciting. Anyway, it just ended up being 2007 was my 20th reunion, high school reunion, and I reconnected with my friend Kathy, who happens to be Chris Mandeville’s sister and Chris Mandeville is president of Pike’s peak writers.
Jenny Kate: Yes, she was.
Mandy Houk: I had actually already found it cause I was looking for a writing organization, but then that kicked me in the butt to actually go. So my first Pike’s peak writers event was a right [00:15:00] brain, write brain. And I met Chris and Roo and of course Martha.
Jenny Kate: So yeah. So that would have been?
Mandy Houk: 2007. So that’s, that was my first Pike’s peak writer’s conference. My first write-brain was the preconference write-brain.
Jenny Kate: Oh, okay. And then one where they can talk about what’s going to happen.
Mandy Houk: Yes.
Jenny Kate: Okay. Okay. Show, this is now 2007, 2008ish.
Mandy Houk: Yes.
Jenny Kate: What do you do with your writing after you get done with that novel?
Mandy Houk: Well, then I was trying to get an agent with that novel, but because I was unaware of its crapiness.
Jenny Kate: So I think that’s true for all of us. On our first like couple were like, this is the best thing ever. Then you go back and read it later and you’re like, Oh, maybe not so great.
Mandy Houk: So um, so, um, but I was tired of that one and then by that time I had another idea. So sort of at the same time, I started writing my second novel while I tried ultimately unsuccessfully to get an agent with [00:16:00] novel number one. Um, so then I was working on novel number two from like 2008 to like, and by this time I’d actually started teaching English also at a private high school.
Jenny Kate: Oh, here in town?
Mandy Houk: Yeah. Um, and I was still kind of homeschooling, but the girls were going to that school too. It’s a combination. So anyway, um, so I used my day jobs as an excuse to not really buckle down.
Jenny Kate: I think we all do that, frankly. I mean, I really do. Every writer I’ve ever talked to who’s not actually sitting at home doing nothing but writing. I mean, well, of course the ones that are at home, sitting there writing where are like, I got to clean house and to have their own procrastination.
Mandy Houk: That’s me right now. My linen closet has never been more organized. And that sounds like a joke, but it’s actually true.
Jenny Kate: Well, I’m going to have the same problem. This, this fall. I’m um, I’m going to take some time and just be a writer, I guess. I’m not going to work. Just be a writer. And I’m a little concerned about just how clean the house going to be.
Mandy Houk: I know. It’s clean. But, um, [00:17:00] yeah, so then I, um, so while I was trying like sending out query letters and meeting agents at conference and things like that. I think I tried to get an agent for that book for a couple of years, and then finally I was like, this is not working. And then I was not interested in that book anymore anyway, and I’ve learned enough about writing to start to see its crapiness for what it was. And so then I really was more interested in my second book, and that’s the one that I got an agent for. So I finished that one. Like finished, finished, you know how many times we finish. Um, but finished as in, my agent told me to stop touching it. That was three years ago, cause I, that’s when I got her as my agent.
Jenny Kate: So let’s get back to your first Pike’s Peak Writers conference. Okay. So that would have been ’08sih? ’09ish?
Mandy Houk: ’07 was my first.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So what, what is something that stands out in your, in your mind about that particular conference? Your first one, right? Yeah. So you’ve got some ideas [00:18:00] about like what you expect the conference to be and then what, what’d you get out of it? Like what surprised you? What was like the thing for you.
Mandy Houk: Yeah. Well, really I was just surprised at how immediately accepted I was, because I totally, I mean, you talk about imposter syndrome, I’m like, I’m a homeschooling mom who just moved here and I wrote this book and I have no idea why. And you know, so actually one of the first people I met was Deb Courtney.
Jenny Kate: Oh, and who will be on the podcast later.
Mandy Houk: Yes. And I’m that first write brain I told you about. I, Chris said she’s. It was about log lines and I’m like, what the log line? A log line. And so then, um, so Chris is like, Oh. And also she asked me what genre my book was and I like don’t know.
Jenny Kate: Well it’s not romance cause I stopped doing that in third grade.
Mandy Houk: Yeah. After Rocky, the squirrel got married, I was done. I couldn’t top it. Anyways, so, um, I told, so I told Chris, I have no idea. Like, what are you talking about? [00:19:00] And she said, Oh, Deb Courtney is really good at, um, identifying genre. And so she introduced me to Deb and Deb, like she’s like duh, mainstream literary, and I’m like, Oh.
Jenny Kate: I don’t even know what mainstream literary means. Alright sounds good.
Mandy Houk: And then they helped me figure out my log line and all that stuff.
Jenny Kate: That was for the first book?
Mandy Houk: That was for the first book, yes. Because yeah, I did pitch it to agents. They just. Didn’t like. Yeah, they liked the pitch a lot better than the book. But anyway
Jenny Kate: But you got practice.
Mandy Houk: I did. I got tons of practice and really just, um, it really made me go, it made me realize just being at Pikes peak writers and, um, the workshops obviously are valuable. I remember there was a Carol Burge one about non outlining, outlining, which was good. It was being organized but not outlining. Um, and I just remember. I don’t know. I guess I was the Velveteen rabbit. I’m like, I’m real. I’m a real writer .
Jenny Kate: I [00:20:00] think that every writer goes through this. Right.
Mandy Houk: I mean, I clung to that notion for the past however many years.
Jenny Kate: And now you have an agent.
Mandy Houk: Yes. I do.
Jenny Kate: A little more legitimizing for you.
Mandy Houk: Yes. Yes it does.
Jenny Kate: Okay, so, so then, um, so you got your agent about three years ago? Now what’s going on with your book now?
Mandy Houk: Um, she has tried and she has not had success. I almost said fail.
Jenny Kate: She’s shopping it around.
Mandy Houk: She has shopped it around and I think we ran out of people. But, um, her theory is because it is totally mainstream literary. Um, it’s not mystery. There’s no. No romance. Um, no. Uh, I think people die, but not on purpose. So it’s nothing. So her thinking as well, and this is what the feedback she’s gotten back has been almost universally positive. Um, yeah. Like, it’s funny, my husband takes the [00:21:00] rejection letters harder than I do, cause like one of ’em, uh, milkweed press was, which is a tiny little literary literary press. Um, the guy said, clearly this was a near miss, and that was after he listed all the things he loved about it.
Jenny Kate: Oh no.
Mandy Houk: Yeah. And so my husband’s like rawr. And he tells that story. It’s hilarious. He tells that to everyone. Well, one publisher said there was a near miss, and then there was another publisher that the board was split on whether or not to publish it. So like, because I’d come really, really close, but typically it falls to the, we have no idea how to market this because nobody knows who you are.
Jenny Kate: So tell me this, how was it working with the agent? Oh, is it your first time, first agent, yes or no?
Mandy Houk: Second agent.
Jenny Kate: Okay, so let’s talk about, and you don’t need to name names, but why did you go away from the first agent and what do you love about the second one?
Mandy Houk: Okay, well, the first agent, um, that, that was a, um, contract. What do you call, a time? Well, I don’t know. It was one year contract. That’s what I’m trying to say. [00:22:00] This is why I write what I, anyway, so it was one year contract. And, um, that agent actually helped me a ton in, um, encouraging me to go deeper into the plot and make the plot more complicated. And, um, I really, I struggle from the disease of loving my characters too much, so I don’t do stuff right. Well, I don’t even want them to go through things, but that’s a boring story. That was, I learned the first, first book is the worst because I was so nice. But the second one I got better. But anyway, so they helped me edit it. But, um, it got to the point where they were pushing me to make changes that were
Jenny Kate: And you weren’t read to do that.
Mandy Houk: No. And even today, like I go, I know that they would have been the wrong things to do, that they weren’t true to who the characters were. It just didn’t make sense. And right at that time, the year was up. And so we just agreed to part ways. Well, then my other agent, um, she, um. [00:23:00] Had wanted the book before, but the first agent got to me first, so I just went back to her, which I am not brave like that, so it’s really cool I did.
Jenny Kate: This the same person who emailed Brent Lott right out of the blue to just ask for his feedback. I think you’re a little more courageous than you think.
Mandy Houk: Behind an email I am. Anyway, so. Yeah. So I went back to her, her name is Amanda, and I went back to her and I, I of course, was like, I’m sure you don’t remember me. And she said, Oh my gosh, I still been thinking about your book. I’m sure. I remember she used the word thrilled that I’d gotten back to her. Yeah. And then within a week we were on the phone and I said, I’ll do anything cause I like revising. I’m like I’ll do anything you want me to do. I’ll change it. And she goes, the only thing I want you to do is to dump the prologue. Well, the prologue had been something my earlier agent made me add that I didn’t like.
Jenny Kate: Back story stuff?
Mandy Houk: Um, no, it was just sort of, I don’t know. It was like ethereal. It was, it was crappy, [00:24:00] but, but so that was like, I know you are my agent because the only thing she wanted me to change was the part I hated, so.
Jenny Kate: Oh, perfect.
Mandy Houk: That was, yeah.
Jenny Kate: Yeah. Okay. So now in this last three years, are you writing something else?
Mandy Houk: Oh, yes. So what I’m writing now is set in 1929. Um, the main character is 16 years old, and she was born and has never left. Uh, what they called a hobo jumble, which, um, just a shanty by the tracks and by the Creek in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Um, her mother is horrible and she has a little sister, um, who’s kinda horrible, but only in little kid ways. Um, and some traumatic events occur. And the, uh, my main characters name is poppy. So she ends up hopping a train and heading off, and she winds up in Colorado, and the town she’s in is sort of a mashup of several different towns. And then, um, she ends up at a dance hall, which is built to look like a [00:25:00] barn, and that’s based on a real barn in Broomfield, Colorado. That was never a barn. It was a dance hall. And even the natives don’t know that.
Jenny Kate: I was just there yesterday. Broomfield.
Mandy Houk: Yeah. It’s a big, pretty yellow barn with a playground next to it now. And it’s like if ya’ll knew. Yeah, no, the chicken coop is where they stored the liquor. I’m not even kidding.
Jenny Kate: Well that was prohibition, right?
Mandy Houk: Yes. Yeah. 1929.
Jenny Kate: Okay, so she’s going to. She’s a 16 year old’s gonna end up at a dance hall.
Mandy Houk: Yes.
Jenny Kate: What’s gonna happen to this girl? Seriously, what does she do in there? She’s serving drinks or she’s serving other things?
Mandy Houk: Well. She’s trying not to get on the dance floor. That’s kind of the tension. Cause she’s like, well, now I just ran away. Um, I don’t really want to be, you know.
Jenny Kate: Gotcha. I just need a job.
Mandy Houk: Yes. She, so she ends up, um, uh, all the girls live in the girl’s house, but poppy gets to live with Fay, in, um, because she Fay is sort of protective of her, cause we find out later, something occurred recently to another young innocent girl there. And [00:26:00] so Fay has like, not this one, you know, Fay’s trying to. Um, redeem herself from what she allowed to happen to Lillian as we find out. So poppy is poppy sleeps and, uh, what used to be a closet and now has a bed. And so she’s, she Fay though, is the, the chef of the gin and the. And so she’s, she wants poppy to just help her make the liquor.
Jenny Kate: Uh huh. She’d be a moonshiner then.
Mandy Houk: Yes. But you know, there’s the dance hall, so,
Jenny Kate: Okay. So are you done with it?
Mandy Houk: Um, I am going through the revisions my agent asked me for and her plan with this because it’s set in 1929. Um, she said this will be better because we can call it historical fiction. So she thinks that the problem,she thinks that my problem with the other one. And so what she would like to do is have this one be book one and then book two be book two, but we both know about. Right or bright. [00:27:00] Okay, go. That was confusing.
Jenny Kate: No I understand what you’re talking about. This goes back to the, like the business of publishing that when all of us writer types start working, we don’t understand any of it. All we want to do is write. So this becomes a little bit more complicated a little later. But no, I get it. I understand what you’re trying to do. So, all right, well that’s cool. So what are your plans for the next like six months? What are you gonna do?
Mandy Houk: Well, I, I was supposed to finish revisions on this one on Friday, but I didn’t. So I think, but I’m trying to, I’m, I’ve learned that if I put too much of deadline than I, that sacrifices quality. If I worry too much about time. So I do, I think within the next two weeks, those revisions will be done. And then I’m going to send that off. And then I actually, for a long time, we’ve had like this desire to try my hand at screenwriting. I don’t know.
Jenny Kate: Fun. Is that what you’re gonna do next?
Mandy Houk: Yes. And I’m, I’m, it’ll be a story based on the old Testament book of Hosea, and I haven’t decided yet if it’s going to be. How loosely based or how, like what time [00:28:00] period.
Jenny Kate: And so do you want to talk about that, um, the other fiction group that’s here in town that you belong to?
Mandy Houk: Oh yeah. The Anselm society. It’s not actually a fiction group. It’s all arts.
Jenny Kate: All arts. What is it?
Mandy Houk: Well, it’s called the St. Anslem society. And their tagline or motto or something is, um, a Renaissance of the Christian imagination. Because, you know, used to be the arts, all the best arts kind of came up out of the churches like, but then, um, because of like a misunderstanding of idolatry and iconography, then the church went, no, art is evil. And so then so this, this organization is really trying to go, okay,
Jenny Kate: Art is okay. It’s actually good.
Mandy Houk: It’s an expression of truth and beauty. And, um, so it’s really interesting to go because their meetings, they have a meeting once a month and. And then they have other stuff. And it’s cool cause it’s Anglicans, not like, it’s not run by like Baptist at night was a Baptist. So I’m not putting them down, but I’m just [00:29:00] saying there’s wine there.
Jenny Kate: Hey, all writing groups with wine are the best.
Mandy Houk: I know. So, but it’s really cool to have that. Um, have a group where it’s not only writers. I mean, we have amazing artists, visual artists. There’s a woman who does all mosaics because. Kind of the theme of all of her art is the beauty out of brokenness. Oh my gosh.
Jenny Kate: Being around those brains though, those kind of brains. I love that because it’s just, it gets you creative, right?
Mandy Houk: Like, well, yes. And it’s, it’s sort of just a cap on top of, of saying like before, like Pike’s peak writers reminded me that I’m real. Well, and St. Anslem just reminds me that all of this all really, really matters. It matters.
Jenny Kate: Well, I think that’s, I mean that’s the message.
Mandy Houk: And that was the thing I got in 2003 or whenever, 2004. It all cycles back.
Jenny Kate: So if you were going to give piece of advice to a new writer, someone thinking [00:30:00] about writing, what would you give them?
Mandy Houk: Just write. Stop thinking about how do I write. Stop, you know, Facebook messaging your writer friends and asking them how to write. Sit down. I mean, I’ll answer you if you ask me, but
Jenny Kate: Because Brett Lott did for years.
Mandy Houk: Let me compare myself to Brett Lott. Anyway, um, yeah, just, just write and stop wondering if it’s good enough. It doesn’t matter. That was actually one thing. I went to an Anne Songwriter’s retreat. And this woman was talking about how all creatives, not writer’s retreat, artist’s retreat, all creatives struggle with darkness. And how do you cope with that? And, um, and she said one thing is you just stop worrying about whether it’s good. It doesn’t matter if what you’re making or creating is good, just create it.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So expand on that. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good, just create it because?
Mandy Houk: Because for one thing, you’re probably wrong about whether it’s good or not. You’re your own worst critic. And it just [00:31:00] depends. Um, and on that note, never actually delete a whole chunk of text. Put it in a another file that says deleted stuff so you can keep it, cause you may hate it on Monday, but then wish you remembered what it was on Thursday. I have done that. But, um, yeah, just, um, it’s. Part. It’s all a process. It’s a thought process, like when you’re, even right now, I’m stumbling over my words, but I’ll get there.
Jenny Kate: You will get there and it’ll be great and it’s expressive.
Mandy Houk: But if I just stopped talking cause I couldn’t figure it out and just waited to figure it out, then I wouldn’t get very far. So you really just have to do it. Oh, now I sound like Nike.
Jenny Kate: Yeah. But that’s okay. I think it’s one of the best mottos ever. Stop worrying about it.
Mandy Houk: You can do it.
Jenny Kate: Put your butt in a chair.
Mandy Houk: Yeah, and also, I can’t remember who said it, but they’re one of my favorite writing quotes as you cannot edit a blank page just, and that’s what, cause I used to teach creative writing and I would tell kids just throw up on the page. Then they would all giggle and I’m [00:32:00] like, no. But really?
Jenny Kate: Yes, because it’s really interesting what goes on in your brain. You know, and you’re not, if you don’t expose yourself to your own brain, you’re never going to know what you’re capable of.
Mandy Houk: Well, one of my favorite scenes, and my second book happened because I was forced to write at an improv night and I was like, Aw, man. And I just wrote it and then I went, Oh, this is important. And then I took it home and it became inter integral to the whole plot.
Jenny Kate: See isn’t that neat how that how it works out though? I had a book, I was writing one time and all of a sudden like seven sisters showed up out of nowhere. I’m plotting this damn book for a year, right? And then all of a sudden these pits, these tricks just show up. And I’m like, I’m not drinking. And where did you come from? But it was really interesting because it kind of folded right into everything that was happening and
Mandy Houk: Well, yeah. Actually when I, one time when I was writing really early on, the first book. Peter came home and my sweet husband, who’s an engineer, had no idea. He does not understand my brain at all. And he came home and he goes, Hey, how’s it going? And I go, this little [00:33:00] girl just walked up to my characters in the waiting room and the hospital and like, he’s like, like, what are you talking about? And she ended up being like, I would say the third main character.
Jenny Kate: Isn’t that funny how that works. I love that about writing.
Mandy Houk: Yes, me too. Yeah, it’s magic and it’s kind of creepy.
Jenny Kate: It is, isn’t it? In a good way.
Mandy Houk: In a very good way.
Jenny Kate: Well, thanks for being on the show. Great. How you feel? Good.
Mandy Houk: I feel good. Thanks for having me.
Jenny Kate: Fun, wasn’t it?
Mandy Houk: I mean, that was a given. With you.
Jenny Kate: Aw, thank you. Yeah. All right. Let’s cut it off there.
This is Writer Nation.