Inspire Member Spotlight: Jennifer Sienes

How long have you been a member of Inspire Christian Writers?

I’ve been a member for two years.

What prompted you to join Inspire?

I met author Joanne Kraft at Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2009—we were housed in the same cabin. The following year, we connected at the conference again and I met Beth Thompson, Chris Pedersen and several other members. I realized how much I could learn from these amazing writers and decided to join. Although it requires a little bit of a commute for me to attend, it’s well worth it.

 

When did you first know you were a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve. I loved reading and the idea of creating my own stories fascinated me. I took several creative writing classes in college, and then life got in the way. I married and raised my two kids, and went back to school to earn my teaching degree because that’s what paid. The dream of writing was put on a shelf. Then my daughter was in a near-fatal car accident requiring me to be home with her for over six months. With all the free time I suddenly had, I started writing again. The dream wouldn’t die.

 

Describe your writing career high point and low point.

I feel that I’m still relatively new to the career of writing, even though I’ve been at it for almost five years. It’s such a process. This year at Mount Hermon’s conference was probably the highlight of my writing career. An editor made it very clear that he loves my writing and believes in my work. I don’t know where that will lead, but it’s pretty exciting.

The low point was last summer when a well-respected agent, after asking for my entire manuscript, eviscerated my book via email. I was in Vancouver on vacation when I received it. For about three hours, I thought I’d never write again. Then I pulled out my notes and got back to work. The ferry to Victoria Island is a great place to start.

 

Which of your stories is closest to your heart?

The story closest to my heart is the one I’m completing now. Absolution was inspired by my brother’s suicide three years ago. I’d been working on another book when I attended his service in Colorado. The church was packed with his friends. Michael was a very strong Christian and that made his suicide all the more confusing for me. Several years ago he brought me to Christ. While watching the montage of pictures playing on the big screen, I clearly heard God say, “This is your story.”

 

Describe receiving your first book contract.

I haven’t been blessed with this event to date, but I’m hopeful.

 

What project of yours is gathering dust?

I don’t have projects set aside that need to be revisited. I have books, poorly written, that have become dust collectors and rightly so.

 

What’s next for you?

I have two book ideas I’m working on right now. I haven’t decided which will take precedence, but I’m excited about both. They can either be used as series novels with Absolution or stand-alone novels. One of them is themed around traumatic brain injury, a subject with which I’m well-acquainted. My daughter suffers from it, which is why I was off of work for six months after her car accident.

 

What does it mean to you to be a writer?

To me, being a writer is to see the world in story. When I’m driving down the freeway and spot another commuter, I wonder what his or her life is like. What trials and victories have they faced? What made them who they are today? Part of this may be that my degree is in psychology, part of it the need to be connected to others. But everyone has a story worth telling.

 

Was there a book that changed your life?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it my sophomore year of high school and it cemented the drive to write. Scout’s voice in the story is so lyrical and clear I felt I was living the story with her. I wanted to do that for others—to bring a story to life in such a way that the reader lives it with me.

Describe your writing environment. Or better yet, include a photo.

My office is a dream. My husband and I live in a very small (and I’m not kidding) log cabin in the middle of 20 acres in the Sierra foothills. We have an additional two-story building placed behind the house. My office is the top story.

The view outside is the wilderness around us. Inside, I’ve painted the high ceilings and sloped walls my favorite colors–think Southwestern. My favorite pictures and books surround me and my mood shifts the moment I enter. It’s the perfect environment for me to be creative. I told my husband that if it had a kitchen, he’d never see me.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

If writing is truly a calling, you should never give up. It’s those who persevere through it all who succeed.

To connect with Jennifer, visit her website or friend her on Facebook.