A transplanted Jersey girl, Lisa Lawmaster Hess writes both fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of four books, contributes to three others, and has written close to 100 articles for a variety of print and online publications. Lisa blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles and Organizing By STYLE.
Pennwriters: What do you think is special about the genre you write in?
Lisa: I write in both fiction and nonfiction, and I like that both offer the opportunity to be instructive without being heavy-handed. With my nonfiction, whether article or book-length, I like being able to write in a voice that is approachable and to reassure people of their capabilities. With my novels, I started writing in the inspirational women’s fiction subgenre because I wanted to write in the gray areas — real people who aren’t perfect, who may be deeply faithful or struggling with their faith (depending on the character), but who aren’t preachy. So much of what I was reading when I started writing in this genre was black and white, right and wrong. Real people live in the gray and I wanted to bring that to this genre because I believed there were more readers like me who wanted to read about those kinds of characters.
PW: What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing? Did you ever encounter a serious roadblock and how did you overcome it?
Lisa: Time is my biggest roadblock — I never have enough of it. And, since teaching (my day job) and writing both require creative energy, it’s easy to feel depleted. I have no magic answer; I just keep chipping away in whatever snippets of time I have, partly because my characters are pretty good at nagging me to pay attention to them. I join Ramona DeFelice Long’s sprint thread whenever I can and have found sprinting to be very helpful, plus I love the camaraderie Ramona has inspired.
PW: What’s individual or unique about your writing space? Do you have a memento or good luck charm on your desk?
Lisa: The mood lighting. I am not a fan of the overhead light, so I have a desk lamp on my desk and white lights strung from the cabinets behind me. This all started because the existing lighting in my office was a sort of Goldilocks and the porridge scenario: the ceiling fixture cast too much light, and the desk lamp didn’t cast quite enough. My goal was to create something that would create a warm, inviting atmosphere, luring me to my desk when I wasn’t 100% convinced that I wanted to be sitting there. And I have all sorts of inspirational items around me, from family photos to quotes to tchotchkes.
PW: What has been the most satisfying or significant project of your literary career?
Lisa: I just signed a contract with Our Sunday Visitor for Organizing by STYLE, which has been in the works in one form or another for over a decade and will finally come out in book form next spring. I’ve taught classes with kids and adults, written articles and blogs and done presentations on this topic. From the very beginning, it was both an outreach and symbiotic — a way to provide both strategies and confidence to people (like me) who organize differently. I am so excited and gratified that it will actually be in print in the not-too-distant future.
PW: What is your favorite tip or advice for writers?
Lisa: Just start — put something on the page. Blank pages are impossible to edit and never get any less intimidating.
PW: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
Lisa: I’ve become so enamored of technology that my desert island would need to have wireless service or I wouldn’t be anywhere near it in the first place. But, since this is not the case with most desert islands, I guess I’d have to say reading material, writing supplies and a big umbrella.
PW: If you had a time machine, where and when would you be right now?
Lisa: Right where I am. I’m one of those people who believes we are where we are for a reason.
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