If there is anything writing-related that Teresa Funke hasn’t tried yet, I’m not sure what it would be. In addition to the fiction and essays she’s had published, she is also a writing coach, a presenter of a great variety of programs, and an accomplished businesswoman.
Teresa even put together an entertaining one-woman performance based on her touching stories of women in World War II. That’s how beautifully she thinks outside the box and strives to expand the reach of her books.
Stick to What You Believe In by Teresa Funke
As the author of six published books, I’m often interviewed with specific questions. When Pat told me I could tell you whatever I wanted to about my books and career, I was intrigued. I’ve been a professional writer for twenty years and a published author for ten. What can I tell you that will motivate and inspire you?
How about this . . . I started writing in fifth grade and was encouraged in my writing throughout my school years. My work was lauded by teachers, published in district magazines, submitted to the Young Writers Conference. Then when I turned 18, everything changed. When I told people I wanted to be a writer, everyone said it was impossible. That it wasn’t a steady career, that it would never pay well, that it was a nice hobby, but that’s it. So—beaten back—I took their advice and got a history degree, knowing that if I ever DID write, I wanted to write about history.
After graduation, I worked two dead-end jobs and then quit to become a freelance writer. But the nay-saying didn’t stop after I committed to a writing career. I was told it would be impossible to get an agent (I eventually signed with four different agents). When I decided to self-publish, I was told I’d ruin my career (this was back in 2002). When I published my second book, Dancing in Combat Boots: and other Stories of American Women in WWII, I was told that short story collections don’t sell. (It’s now one of my best-sellers.) When I started my children’s series, The Home-Front Heroes collection, I was told that kids don’t like historical fiction and I should write fantasy instead. When I started my business, and became one of the first successful writer’s coaches in this area, I was told that coaching was not a real job and could not be grown into a business. At every turn, I’ve been told what I could NOT do, and every time I did it. And I’ve enjoyed the challenges so much.
As a writer, I’ve taken a unique approach. All of my books are based on real people that I’ve interviewed. Early on I was told by my writing advisors that writing books based so closely on real events would force me to sacrifice poetic license. That if I stuck to the true story, I was setting myself up for a harder time, but I never believed that. I felt, and still do, that TRUE stories are as inspiring as made-up ones and that you, as readers, would enjoy knowing the story had happened, not to a hero, but to someone just like you.
I continue this tradition with my newest Home-Front Heroes novel, Wave Me Good-bye, which we are giving away on this blog. It’s based on a real woman who grew up as the only Jewish girl in her Bronx neighborhood. She befriends an English orphan sent to America to escape the deadly bombings in England. In real life, these two kids had spoken only through a fence, and I wanted to keep that unique relationship intact in my book. My writer’s group told me I’d never pull it off. That kids wouldn’t want to read about characters who could talk only through a fence and that it would be too hard to move the story forward with such a restriction, but I believed it could be done. And now—true to my beliefs—I’m hearing back from readers and teachers that those scenes are everyone’s favorite parts of the book! This is also one of the only children’s books that features Jewish citizens in America during the Holocaust.
I’m proud to be introducing children to one of the most important times in our nation’s history. In fact, I’ve created a program to provide all of my children’s books, along with teaching materials, to teachers for free. That sponsored program took me a full year to create. Why? Because people told me it would never work, and I had to figure out how to prove them wrong. We have now placed over 70 Do Your Part School Kits in classrooms around the country. And have 50 teachers on our waiting list.
So stick to what you believe in. It will pay off in ways you can only imagine!
Thanks a bunch for this excellent post, Teresa. I’ve read all of your books for younger readers plus the Dancing in Combat Boots collection, and have to say I’m glad you’re doing what you believe in because your books have given me many hours of good reading.
And now for the book giveaway. Teresa is giving away one copy of Wave Me Good-bye as part of today’s guest appearance. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post today or tomorrow. The deadline is midnight MT Friday August 3, 2012. I’ll post the winner here on Saturday.