Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stick to What You Believe In by Teresa Funke

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. 

To learn more about Teresa and her books, visit her website, Teresa Funke and Company. She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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.


Kenneth W Harmon said...

I had the good fortune to sit next to Teresa at my writer's group Christmas dinner. What an extraordinary lady and writer. If you haven't had an opportunity to read her books, I highly recommend them.

Heidi Windmiller said...

Thanks for an inspiring post!

It makes me think about how careful writers need to be in surrounding ourselves with supportive individuals--how important those critique groups are in motivating and supporting. I'm surprised that a writer's group would tell Teresa she'd "never pull it off". This saddens me. Critiquers are there to help you figure out how to pull it off--not to tell you that it can't be done.

Kudos to you, Theresa, for not listening to the naysayers.

Jemi Fraser said...

I actually got a chill reading this! Kids are fascinated by history and often WWII in particular. My students always have so many questions about that time period. They have a hard time believing such hatred was possible - that such horrific things happened. Seeing unique friendships and hope spring up amidst all the tradegy is powerful.

(As an aside, I needed a cheerleader moment today and you've provided it! Thanks so much.)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Ken, I agree 100%. Teresa's an inspiration.

Hi Heidi. There are great critique groups and some not so great. Luckily, Teresa didn't get discouraged.

Jemi, Teresa's books are poignant reminders to adults as well as great educational books for kids. I love reading them.

John Paul McKinney said...

This is, indeed, inspiring. Reminds me of a poem of Edgar Guest, It Couldn't Be Done. It starts:

Somebody said that it couldn't be
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he
would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd

Thanks for the helpful post!

Dean K Miller said...

So true, not only in writing, but in life. What a great personal story. Smileys all the way.

The content of this guest post says it all for's exactly why I've jumped back into my first novel with gusto...It is what I believe in most "write" now.

Rob-bear said...

I'm glad you were not dissuaded by the negative opinions you have encountered. I've done a number of things that I would not have imagined for myself.

The notion of writing books base on interviews intrigues me. I have been a broadcaster/journalist for many years, and have been accustomed to interviewing people. That approach to fiction does not necessarily strip away your creative licence, and it gives your writing a real-world grounding for your work. Thanks for sharing that.

Lynn Proctor said...

her story makes me want to go back and believe what she says---i agree with her that stories about real people are just as inspired!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm posting a comment for Teresa because Google doesn't seem to be cooperating with her today:

"Thanks everyone! I'm glad you found the post inspiring. And I seriously DO hope you follow your own hearts when it comes to your work.

I think it's time we redefine success in the writing world. It has always been that you were either a bestselling author or a literary darling. But I think it's more important that we stay true to our individual art.

Oh, and my writer's group is GREAT, by the way. I've been with them for 17 years, and I usually agree with them, but not this time. :-)"


Rosalind Adam said...

An excellent mantra for life as well as writing, I'd say - stick to what you believe in! Thanks for sharing.