Category: Lisa Wingate

New from Lisa Wingate & a giveaway

WingatecoverIt is my distinct pleasure to welcome my dear friend Lisa Wingate to the blog today to celebrate and chat about her new book, The Story Keeper. Lisa is a gifted storyteller, so believe me when I say you will want to read to the end to see how you can be in on the drawing for a signed copy of this wonderful book. Lisa’s books have held positions on many bestseller lists, both in the U.S. and internationally. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, a Christianity Today Book Award nominee, an Inspy Award nominee, a two-time Carol Award winner, among others. Lisa can be found on her website and also as a regular contributer to the SouthernBelleView Daily blog. And now for the chat!

Lisa, every book has something for us in the way of a lesson. “The Story Keeper” is a powerful tale. What are the lessons behind the book?

In many ways, The Story Keeper is an examination of self-identity. It’s about the many masks we wear, where those masks come from, and whether we can leave them behind and become fully authentic. So often, in rejecting the roles our childhood experiences have taught us, we only put on other masks. In the story, Jen believes she has left behind the girl who was raised in poverty in Appalachia and forced to comply with the harsh and cultish practices of the tiny Church Of The Brethren Saints. But in reality, even hundreds of miles away in New York city working her dream job as an editor, Jen’s in hiding from her past and all the painful questions of her childhood.

When she discovers the partial manuscript of The Story Keeper on her desk, she comes face-to-face with the tale of a young girl living a similar life over 100 years ago. That discovery breaches the mask. What Jen really finds in that manuscript isn’t the story of a 16-year-old Melungeon girl trapped in Appalachia at the turn of the century; it’s her own story. That’s why Jen is compelled to go back to the Blue Ridge Mountains in search of the rest of the story. She’s looking for her own truth, for the self she abandoned due to the wounds of her childhood.

The Appalachian setting becomes almost a character in the book. Why did you set the book there?WingatePisgahMtnA

Appalachia is a place where the air fairly whispers with stories. So much of the world has grown too fast paced these days, too busy for sitting and listening, too preoccupied with the future to devote effort to retelling the past. But in Appalachian culture, there’s still a reverence for it. There are still storytellers who can entertain a crowd at a ramshackle café, on a back porch or at the kitchen table over coffee. That tradition of the passing down of stories is part of The Story Keeper.

Appalachia is filled with mist and mystery. It lends mood to a story. The mountains are dotted with isolated communities where people can live differently, undisturbed by outsiders. It’s also the place where mysterious “little races” like the Melungeons lived historically, and in some cases still do. I knew that the historical tale of Sarra would have to do with her Melungeon blood and the myths, legends and prejudices that sort of heritage would bring. Even today, the heritage of “blue-eyed Indians” discovered in the Appalachians by the first English and French explorers remains a mystery. What were the origins of their Caucasian blood? Were they descendants of shipwrecked sailors? Journeying Norsemen or Turks? The progeny of the Lost Colonists who vanished from Roanoke Island without a trace, decades before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock? The mystery fascinated me, and it pulled the story from me, and yes, the place became a character in itself in the book.

This new novel tells a story within a story, as did your last novel in the series, The Prayer Box. These are my favorite kinds of stories to read – and to write! Do you find dual-time frame novels a challenge to write?

It’s always a challenge to balance dual time frames and a story within a story. It falls in the category of double-the-work and double-the-risk, but also double-the-fascination and double-the-reward. There’s twice as much research, but in doubling the research, you also discover twice as many interesting historical facts, unanswered questions, and nearly-forgotten bits of history. Those things weave new threads into the story loom. For me, the biggest challenge was balancing the two stories, ensuring that both would be fully satisfying, and that the historical story would serve a purpose in modern-day characters’ lives.

WingatePubPic2014-3So, how did you write 20 books in 12 years with a family to take care of?

I’ve always loved to write, but I didn’t get serious about freelance writing and selling until after I’d graduated college, married, and started a family. I wrote and sold various smaller projects in between naps, diapers, and playgroups. And when the boys were older, during soccer practices, in carpool lines, while helping with homework, and in all sorts of other situations.

People often ask me if I need quiet in order to write. With boys in the house, if I’d waited for quiet, the writing would never have happened. I learned to lose myself in a story amid the noise of life and I loved it that way. I asked myself what makes a story last, what really makes a story worth telling and worth reading? I wanted to write books that meant something, that explore the human soul.

One day, I came across a notebook in which I’d written some of my grandmother’s stories. I’d never known quite what to do with those stories, but I knew they were significant in my life. When I rediscovered the notebook, I had the idea of combining my grandmother’s real stories with a fictional family who is like and unlike my own family. That little germ of an idea became my first women’s fiction novel, Tending Roses.

Now that the boys are grown and the house is quiet, I’m redefining the writing routine again. Just as in books, life is a series of scenes and sequels, beginnings and endings, and new discoveries.

Can you give us a sample from the first page of the book?

This is the glory hour. This is the place the magic happens.

The thought fell quietly into place, like a photographer’s backdrop unfurling behind the subject of a portrait. Its shimmering folds caught my attention, bringing to mind a bit of advice from Wilda Culp, the person without whom I would’ve ended up somewhere completely different. Someplace tragic.

It’s strange how one person and a handful of stories can alter a life.WingateOldHomestead

The trick, Jennia Beth Gibbs, is to turn your face to the glory hours as they come. I heard it again, her deep-raspy Carolina drawl playing the unexpected music of a bygone day. The saddest thing in life is to see them only as they flit away.

They’re always a passing thing. . . .

My first afternoon in the war room at Vida House Publishing was a glory hour. I felt it, had an inexplicable knowing of it, even before George Vida shuffled in the door and took his place at the head of the table to begin the weekly pub board meeting—my first at Vida House. This meeting would be different from all other such gatherings I’d attended over the past ten years at a half-dozen companies, in a half-dozen skyscrapers, in and about Manhattan.

There was magic in the air here.

George Vida braced his hands on the table before taking his seat, his gaze strafing the room with the discernment of a leathery old goat sniffing for something to nibble on. His survey paused momentarily on the pile of aging envelopes, manuscript boxes, and rubber-band-wrapped papers at the far end of the conference room. The odd conglomeration, among so many other things, was Vida House’s claim to fame—a curiosity I’d only heard about until today. One of the few remaining actual slush piles in all of New York City, perhaps in all of publishing. In the age of e-mail communication, paper-and-print slush piles had quietly gone the way of the dinosaurs…

Delish! Readers, for a chance to win a signed copy of The Story Keeper, just leave a comment below by answering this question: Have you ever been in a place that seemed to whisper stories, like Lisa said of the Appalachians? Tell us where! Those that answer will have their names put in a hat and will draw a winner at 10 AM Pacific on Sept. 12. Good luck and I can’t wait to hear your places. Mine is Ellis Island….


The wondrously mysterious life of A. L. Sweet

 To mark the release of A FALL OF MARIGOLDS this month, I am happy to welcome writer friends to the blog to share with you a story about a family heirloom that is precious to them. An heirloom scarf is what ties two women together in A FALL OF MARIGOLDS, and heirlooms are what tie these blog posts together. At the end of the month, there will be a fun giveaway. Enjoy!

The amazingly gifted Lisa Wingate is my guest on the blog today. Selected among BOOKLIST’S Top 10 of 2012 and Top 10 of 2013, Lisa skillfully weaves lyrical writing and unforgettable Southern settings with elements of women’s fiction, history, and mystery to create stories that Publisher’s Weekly calls “Masterful” and ForeWord Magazine refers to as “Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, and the author of over over twenty novels and countless magazine pieces.

Her books have held positions on bestseller lists, both in the U.S. and internationally. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, a Christianity Today Book Award nominee, an Inspy Award nominee, and a two-time Carol Award winner. Read to the end of this post to see how to be in on the drawing for Lisa’s newest book!

“Among scraps of the past”

Wingatepubshot2011julybWEBWhere do I write?

Among scraps of the past.

I think all writers do.  As a writer, you eventually find that the people you create, the places you thought were plucked from the ether are not so misty and ethereal, after all.  They’re really just a patchwork of people you’ve known and places you’ve been.  They’re sewn together with a fine, glistening thread of imagination, stitched and fitted and nipped, turned this way and that, their textures and colors creating a quilt of story.

I have a strange fetish for old things – especially antique organizational furniture.  If I buy one more thing-with-tiny-drawers-in-it, my family will probably have me committed.  I love card catalogs from library sales, my big roll top desk, oak file cabinets with heavy old drawers that are hard to open.  The new ones with stainless steel sliders would work so much better, but they wouldn’t have history.  They’d lack the character of the graceful old forms cabinet that sits at the end of my row of bookshelves.  The forms cabinet is a family heirloom of sorts.  I found it covered in depression-era green paint and a patina of grease, in a warehouse belonging to my husband’s granddaddy.  The cabinet was filled with tools, nuts, and bolts.  I knew I had to save it.  It had so many drawers!

I could never have imagined how beautiful the cabinet would be, refinished and sharing space with the massive oak bookshelves of my childhood.  The forms cabinet has thirty-six drawers in all (there are eighty-one little drawers in my office, but who’s counting).  I don’t know how the cabinet came to be in Grandaddy’s warehouse and neither does he, but it’s a great place to keep manuscripts and paperwork.  I wonder at its story.  Clues hWingateFormsCabinetide inside the drawers in the form of log sheets, affixed on the drawer bottoms at the time of manufacture.  Someone with lovely handwriting used a fountain pen to make notations in the drawers from 1900 to 1925, off and on.  I don’t know what the notations, like the one in this photo, mean.  I wonder about them sometimes.

Who was A.L. Sweet?  What did he do in 1907 that caused his name to end up in my forms cabinet?  Did he buy something, sell something, borrow money?  Get arrested?  Start a business?  Join the army?  Pass away?

Did his name fit him?  Was he sweet?  Was he the town baker, or the candy maker?  Or was he a dastardly villain with a handlebar moustache, the type to cast helpless widows and orphans from the their farms in the dead of winter?

Did the whole town turn out for his funeral—pay final respects as Mr. A.L. Sweet traveled on to the great by-and-by?  Or was he buried alone, in the rain, with only the undertaker and the gravediggers to bid him adieu?

Wildwood_Creek_standing_book_image This is where the crazy quilt of story begins—with a name, a glimpse, a notation in an unlikely place.  With questions tumbling over questions, all arms and legs like children cartwheel racing down a hill.  With a mist of wondering, with oddly-shaped shreds of reality, scraps of truth and fiction floating about.  For me, storytelling is so much about snatching up what’s already there, about the turning, and the trimming, and the fitting, and the stitching.  That’s why I like my busy writer space, with its clutter of found items and its myriad of nooks, cubbies, and drawers.  There are dozens of stories here, hundreds perhaps, or thousands.

Like the tale of A.L. Sweet.  He’ll find his way into a book sooner or later, I’m sure.

 You can connect with Lisa  in so many ways! Her website: On Twitter:!/lisawingate On Facebook:  Pinterest:  She blogs Mondays at:

Thanks for being here, Lisa, and sharing such a beautifully composed story about your passion for furniture with drawers!  Readers, a signed copy of Wildwood Creek awaits a lucky winner. Just leave a comment below between now and noon Pacific on Wednesday, Feb 26, and you are in the running.

I know what conventional wisdom says is the oldest profession in the world, but I simply don’t agree. I think storytellers have that spot, and I think history will back me up on that. Before there was paper and ink, or even commerce routes and trading posts, there were stories.

Oral tradition is as old as hunting and gathering. We’ve been endowed by our storytelling Creator to respond to Story as an art form that transcends art. Story is more than just “Once upon a time, something happened, and they lived happily ever after.” Story allows us to interpret life; record-keeping just observes it. Story lets us pass on what we learn to the next generation. And so on, and so on. It’s the “something happened” part that is the heart of story, not the “Once upon a time” part.

A few months from now I will join other storytellers (novelists like me: Mary DeMuth, Jenny B Jones, Nicole Seitz, and Lisa Wingate) at a Proverbs 31 SheSpeaks pre-conference offering to help women of faith and influence hone their storytelling skills. I can’t wait to get there. Story is the heart of communication. We haven’t all had the same experiences in life, but we can all imagine the same experience and learn from it if there is a storyteller to guide us. 

I’ve asked Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon, the engineers behind this pre-conference storytelling track, to join me here on Edgewise to chat about this very thing. Marybeth and Ariel are gifted novelists as well as part of the conference design team and founders of the SheReads component of P31.

EDGEWISE: You both are devotees (as I am) of the power of Story to communicate truth. I am often asked why that it is so. Why do you think Story speaks to us in a different way that mere exposition?

Marybeth Whalen

MARYBETH: In some cases I think story can tell a less imposing, more clear explanation of a topic than non-fiction. I once read a quote that basically said that truth coming from our characters’ mouths is so much more powerful than truth coming from our (the writers) mouths. And I think that’s true. To witness a character going through the full range of a story is so compelling– we are drawn to the journey with them. I have heard people say “Oh I don’t read fiction. It’s a waste of my time.” That makes me sad for them. They are missing the power of a well-told story.

ARIEL: There is an old Jewish saying that goes, “What is truer than truth? The story.” I think the power behind story comes from the fact that it is disarming. It sneaks up on you and then lingers. Because stories are so emotional, we take ownership of them.

EDGEWISE: Does the nonfiction author need to know the anatomy of a great story? How come?
MARYBETH: I think that whether we’re writing fiction, nonfiction or speaking, we’re obligated to tell our stories in a way that is compelling and engaging. When we know the proper elements we can make it more so. Do they have to? No. But their writing will be more powerful when they do.
Ariel Lawhon

ARIEL: I think that anyone who communicates for a living needs to understand the anatomy of a story. To grow an idea from beginning to end, there are a minimum of seven steps: Weakness/Need, Desire, Opponent, Plan, Battle, Self-Revelation, and New Equilibrium. Even thirty-second commercials follow this structure. Whether you tell the story in front of an audience, in a novel, or a work of non-fiction these steps don’t change. We often hit them without even realizing it but when used intentionally, they become the storytellers’ most powerful tool.

EDGEWISE: What has Story taught you about life and life’s purpose?
MARYBETH: I want my life to tell a great story – one full of tension that includes overcoming obstacles. And yet the obstacles and tension are the very things I shy away from. Learning about the elements of a great story has made me realize that my full and complete “character arc” can’t be accomplished if all the elements are not there. It’s made me see that God’s writing a great story through my life and I need to just go with the flow of my personal story and not resist out of fear.

ARIEL: Story has taught me that “the middle” is the hardest part of life. I know where I came from and I know where I’ll end up, but it’s right here – in the tension of now – that things are hardest. All I can do is slow down and enjoy the story.

EDGEWISE: What prompted you to include this component into the SheSpeaks experience?
MARYBETH: As fiction writers, we see what power story brings to any audience. If you go hear a speaker, you will often come away unable to repeat the three points that speaker made, but you will almost always be able to repeat the story they told. I believe our brains are hard-wired to connect through story. Jesus knew this because He is our Creator. He made use of it and we want to more effectively as well.

ARIEL: I think the one thing we fail to tell aspiring writers is that there is a huge difference between Writing and Story. They are different art forms and we must master them both. We wanted to offer a storytelling track at She Speaks specifically to explore the art of Story – what you say, not how you say it. Writers conferences abound. Storytelling conferences? Not so much.

EDGEWISE: What are you hoping women who attend this pre-conference treat will come away with?
MARYBETH: Inspiration and encouragement to pursue their unique writing/speaking calling. We have gathered the best fiction writers to impart the strongest teaching and make this time worth their valuable time.

ARIEL: Story is the shortest distance to the human heart. I’d love to see these women moved and inspired not only to become better storytellers, but to live a better story. 

EDGEWISE: Thanks, gals, for stopping by. Dear reader, the first 50 spots at this pre-conference track were filled before it was even fully advertised. An instant waiting list prompted organizers to get a bigger room and expand the enrollment capabilities to 100 but those spots are expected to fill fast. If you have a speaking or writing ministry and are wondering which conference to go to this year, may I recommend SheSpeaks? It’s a great conference, and not just because the value of Story is known there! The dates are July 22-24. All the info is on the p31 website. Hope to see you in North Carolina this summer. 

See you on Friday. . .