Monday, June 29, 2009

Sandie Bricker on Bliss and Writing

Thank you so much for inviting me to join you today. I’m a big fan of the Seekerville blog ever since discovering you while my Abingdon editor, Barbara Scott, was a guest. She had such a great time, and the interaction was so great; I was really happy to be invited.

Tina asked me to talk a little about finding your bliss in your writing. I’ve been blessed to find my bliss in humor, and the first thing I thought about was an old Steve Martin joke. I’ll delete the expletives he included, but it goes something like this:
“People ask me all the time, ‘Steve. How can you be so funny!?’ And so I tell them. When I get dressed in the morning, I slip a couple slices of bologna in my shoes. It just makes me feeeeeel fuuunny.”

I don’t put bologna in my shoes but, like Steve, I started out writing for the Smothers Brothers and Sonny & Cher.

No, that’s not true. I was just seeing if you were paying attention. I’m old, but I’m not that old!
Steve Martin is arguably one of the funniest people living, but he started out studying philosophy, if you can picture that! As a writer I started out with my eye on suspense. In both cases, destiny took control and shoved us in a different direction.

Mary Higgins Clark, Jasmine Cresswell, Colleen Coble … all of these masters of suspense kept me riveted with their books, and I just knew that was what I was going to write. Avalon Books did actually publish me in the genre with Change of Heart and the sequel Sins of the Past, both of which got average reviews. But I kept getting reader mail that said things like, “I cracked up at Sage’s reaction to …” and “I laughed so hard I actually cried when the car blew up and …”

Wait just a doggone minute! I was trying to build suspense, but I made people laugh?
Then when Wish I Weren’t Here, a romantic comedy for Avalon, drew 4x the reader mail than the last two combined, you’d think I would have gotten the message, right? Well, never let it be said that I’m quick on the draw when my mind is made up! In 2008, while working on yet another suspense novel, I heard about a new market called Love Finds You with Summerside Press. I quickly submitted 3 or 4 proposals with mystery and/or suspense involved in the plot, and I anxiously waited to hear back. And then came the rejections. What is wrong with these people? I thought.

Then one day I received an email from Rachel Meisel, the editor for the LFY line, asking if we could talk on the phone. The first thing she said to me that day was that they wouldn’t be buying any of the books I’d proposed, and I remember thinking, “So you wanted to talk to me so you could personally reject my books for a second time?!” But then she added that they had been discussing what they wanted to launch the line, and everyone at Summerside had agreed they wanted something light and really funny, and they felt like I would be just the author to deliver it.

I had to ask. “Um, why would that make you think of me?” Everything I’d submitted was pretty serious. Her answer was, “Your emails crack us up!”

So Sandra D. Bricker, Author of Laugh-Out-Loud Comedy for the Inspirational Market was born. And if you don’t like it, you can pretty much blame Rachel Meisel for it.

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas was the most writing joy I had known up to that point. It was like stumbling into the Bermuda Triangle, except in a good way, where all the most important segments of my life merged together and sparked writing magic for me. My faith, my writing, and my humor all intersected, and wham! The best of all worlds. And I think that’s the key way you’ll know what you were meant to write, whether it’s comedy, suspense, screenplays, travel guides or true confessions. Hindsight being 20/20, I can say for certain that my heart always knew where I belonged. But my brain was busy making decisions without taking destiny into consideration.

Well. That, and the fact that an unnamed editor at a fictional publisher (that starts with H and rhymes with Marlequin) once told me, “I can see that you think you are, but you just aren’t funny!

I beg to differ, unnamed editor! And apparently so do my readers. (Thank GOD!)

Summerside has contracted two more LFY books from me (Holiday, FL which will publish at the end of the year, and Carmel, CA for 2010), both of which are comedies. In addition, they’ve slated a devotional that I co-authored with 3 other writers (Debby Mayne, Loree Lough and Andrea Boeshaar) for the end of 2009 as well. Be Still … and Let Your Nail Polish Dry is a lighthearted, often funny, devotional geared toward busy women.

The cover is just SMOKIN HOT, and the minute you see it, you think, “Funny!” It’s drawn some fantastic pre-release endorsements from the likes of Candace Cameron-Bure (remember DJ Tanner on Full House?) and Robin Lee Hatcher. A portion of the proceeds are going to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Since I’m a survivor of that cancer, I’m over the moon about that. Comedian Jon Lovitz opened his own comedy club on Universal Walk in Hollywood at the end of May, and he stunned us all by putting up a banner with the book cover on it right inside the door on opening night, and handing out glossy color cards of the cover to every one of the 400 people in attendance that night. His audience included Dana Carvey, Garry Marshall and Darryl Hannah. It was really great exposure for a group of Christian girls who just wanted to inspire and uplift women. If anyone would like to visit the Be Still blog, you can pop over here.

In the Spring of 2010, Abingdon Press will release The Big 5-OH!, a romantic comedy I wrote for their new line of fiction. In addition to the unexpected perk and utter joy of working with Barbara Scott, I am really excited about this book because it was a great opportunity for me to take a look at some of the most serious things from my life, such as growing older, surviving cancer and moving to another planet called Florida, and poke fun at all of it. If Seekervillians would like to read an excerpt, there’s one on my Web site.

So … all this to say that finding your niche is as important as finishing your first book. Or your 30th. Listen to that still small voice; it will never let you down.

I love that old adage that says, “The definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior again and again while expecting a different outcome.” I circled the suspense mountain for eons, wondering why I wasn’t succeeding. All the while, God was shaking His big head and telling the angels, “Try again to get through to her. And if that doesn’t work, go talk to Rachel Meisel and Barbara Scott. They listen better than this one does.”


  1. Good morning, Sandie!!

    Welcome to Seekerville.

    There are hot pecan rolls and cinnamon streusel to your left and Ruthy filled the coffee bar with Tim Horton's this am, to your right.

    I am delighted you accepted my invitation to join us.

    So what do you think, can funny be taught?

  2. I would love to learn how to write funny, but I've wondered if that writing style can be taught or if it's a part of voice.

    Congratulations on your books and the exposure they're receiving. I'll have to check them out!

  3. Tina and Lisa, thanks so much for meeting me here so early this morning!

    I really don't think funny can be taught. My feeling is that God whispers in your spiritual ear long before you find your physical ones with a very certain plan for your life. If we don't follow it, we spend a long time circling mountains.

    Apparently, I found my funny very early in life, or so my mother used to say. Well. Actually it went something like, "Why can't you be serious like your brother?" But you get the picture. Sometimes people laugh, and other times they just stare strangely. But I crack myself up, and somewhere along the line, I started making other people laugh too.

    If you'll excuse me, I'm going to make a short life of those hot pecan rolls before anyone else comes in to witness the attack.

  4. Sandie, there is something funny in the air. So glad you sucked some of it out this morning. Funny is vital to survival, dood. I know, I'd be dead now if I couldn't find the funny. I agree, funny cannot be taught. That's why God gave us folks like you, to lighten the load for others. Keep laughing, my friend.

  5. Hi Sandie,

    Great advice. I think sometimes we find an author we enjoy so much that we want to be "just like them" yet our voices are all unique.

    Thanks for letting us know, it's okay to take the chance and change directions.


  6. Welcome to Seekerville, Sandie. Thanks for the fun post! And congratulations on your books and the terrific exposure for your devotional. Was that a God thing or how did it come about?

    Finding what we're meant to write is vital. For me it's historical inspirational romances. Naturally I was thrilled when the market came back. Any suggestions for what a writer's to do when the opportunities for what they love to write aren't there or disappear?

    Tina, thanks for breakfast.


  7. Sandie,

    Thanks for your insights. One message I get from this is to keep submitting and getting your name out there, because that's how you get discovered.

    A sort of similar thing happened to author Shirley Jump. She was writing all serious and someone in publishing alerted her to the fact she was funny.

    I supposed it could happen the other way, too.

  8. Joyce, that means a lot to me because I happen to think your Agnes Sparrow book is just about the funniest "touching" book I've read. You have such a great writing style. For anyone who hasn't had a chance to take in The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, I highly recommend it.

    Rose and Cathy, thank you for the comments. I think Rose's point about not trying to be someone else should have a spotlight shining on it. I spent a lot of years dreaming of being Danielle Steel, but it turned out that the Lord just wanted me to be Sandie Bricker!

    Janet, the Be Still devotional was TOTALLY a God thing. A great writer named Andrea Boeshaar came up with the idea, then she brought it to me and we started brainstorming. Then we added Debby Mayne and Loree Lough, and we put together a great proposal that (thankfully) Summerside really loved. God tossed in an editor named Connie with the insight and personality to make it a perfect fit. So YES, it was a God thing all the way!

    I liked your question about what to do when your genre goes into hiding because I have the best advice for you that I've ever given. Are you ready? Do you have a pencil? Because you'll want to write this down. ... PRAY. Pray without ceasing. Pray that the Lord will complete the work in you that He's begun, that He will open doors (and windows and foxholes). And pray that He'll help you in the meantime to hone your craft and get ready for what He's surely going to do for you. It's a sure-fire solution. :-)

  9. I really enjoyed this interview. My Mom always told me not to attend anything empty handed so I added a little fruit salad to your delightful buffet.

    As I write more and more trying to find my "voice" I am always torn between the dramatic and the humorous. But perhaps living such a dramatic life calls for leaning toward humor as a balance.

    I have a bookcard just collecting dust (hey, I got it three days ago which is a pretty long wait for use in this house) and I'm hoping to find some of your humorous titles to purchase online.

    Thanks for your candor.

  10. I'm deadly serious before coffee.

    I like your comment about praying through. That's part of obedience.

    One of the joys of my WIP includes a string of badly trained, misbehaving horses. They are in memory of all the "project" horses I owned as a teen. Critters that big can make things happen, which is good for plotting.

  11. Welcome to Seekerville, Sandie, and WOW, what a great post!! I am SO glad you finally listened to that "still small voice" ... it certainly sounds as if it has "loud, large things" in store for you, girl!!

    And I really understand circling that mountain over and over again before God finally gets our attention. I was a romance snob who wouldn't read one much less write one until the "still small voice" screamed in my ear to get a clue that romance was what God wanted me to write! I am glad you finally turned onto the path God has for you, Sandie ... sounds like He has a pretty exciting road ahead for you to travel.


  12. Welcome to Seekerville, Sandie. I LOVE comedy. Isn't it great when you find your niche? Your post was great and inspiring, because I write romantic comedy too. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Jenny: Oooh! Giftcards for books are the best gift EVER. I hope you'll start with Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas. It's the one out there at the moment that I'm most proud of. The ones that will follow it over the next few months are very exciting too.

    Ann: Even in the most serious of stories, I think humor has a place. And there is no vehicle better for that kind of humor than animals! I'm a dog freak, and I pretty much use them in every story I write.

    Julie: I hear that a lot about people starting out as romance snobs. I was the opposite; a non-romance snob. I've been a sucker for a happy ending since the womb. I think I was in my 30's before I ever read a book (without being forced by a teacher or professor) that WASN'T romance. In fact, my writer business card shows my title as "Architect of Happy Endings." So welcome to the family, my friend!

    Hey, thanks so much for the fruit salad, by the way. Any more sweet stuff, and you'll have to peel me off the ceiling. Perhaps some protein is in order.....

  14. Sandie, thank you so much for loving Agnes. I know all about praying and waiting. Agnes had been around the block a few times before the wonderful and talented and genius Barbara Scott found her. But, and I know all you writers waiting for that first contract will roll your eyes and utter bad words at me, it is truly TIMING. God's not ours. It all has become so clear to me, well, clear like vaseline some times, but clear none the less. I now see what else had to happen to get Agnes published. And now, with authors like Sandie and me in CBA, ha! Lookout world. Funny is in!

  15. Good morning, Sandie! Welcome to Seekerville. Glad you could join us.

    You are such a hoot! I'm so glad Ms. Meisel and Ms. Scott flicked the switch that led to great comedic writing : )

    You are so right about listening to that inner voice. I've tried writing suspense and historical, but my voice is in contemporary. Why do we fight these things?

    Thanks for sharing your journey and words of wisdom.

    Hot pecan rolls? Be still my heart!

  16. What a delightful blog post. I tried my hand at a couple of contemporary romances and realized after finishing the second one that my heart belongs in history.

    I'm glad you found your bliss!

  17. What a great story, Sandie! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I'm so happy for you, finally finding your niche!

    Why does the road sometimes seem so long and torturous? I don't know, but I'm glad you found the light at the end of the tunnel! I hope to read one of your comedies soon!

  18. Pepper: LOVE YOUR NAME! It's perfect for comedy, too. It just made me smile.

    Joyce: I did SO identify with your voice. Let's go out there and turn around the genre of inspirational giggles, shall we?

    Audra, Erica and Melanie: Thank you so much for your sweet comments. Finding your niche is the most important thing; the first thing, in fact, after you realize you're a writer is to find out what you should write. Our own mindsets can really trip us up, and asking the Lord to SPEAK UP!! will usually bring about the still small voice. Now if we can just hush and listen, right?

  19. Hey, Sandie! I've always been a big fan of yours--even way back during the Avalon years. I think one of the reasons you're so funny is that you relate to all women. Reading one of your books is like hanging out with you, listening to stories about life. I can't wait until The Big 5-Oh comes out!

  20. I will mention for those of you who knew her, that Janet Edgar was a good friend of Sandie's also. So seeing the Nailpolish book coming to fruition is just awesome.

    I am excited to get my own copy.


  21. Sandie, Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and especially for the encouragement to listen to the Lord's prompting. Why do we so often obscure His direction with our own ideas? He always has the better plan, doesn't He? Guess it makes sense since He's the one who made the intricacies of our personalities. :)

    I'm so glad the Lord loves diversity and gives us all something unique to contribute to our stories. I love humor, but I can't write it to save my life. Passion and unconditional commitment are my 'bliss'. Still, I hope some light-hearted interactions for my characters will rub off if I hang out with the right people enough. :) Looks like I'm coming to the right place!

  22. Good morning, Sandie, and welcome! Thank you for sharing your gift with us. It is so liberating to finally discover the "voice" God has given you. I, too, started out trying to write in one genre and have recently realized it didn't work because it didn't fit! Congrats on all your books!


  23. Tina, thanks for mentioning Be Still and the connection to OCRF. Because I am an ovarian cancer survivor, and because my fellow authors have hearts as big as the planet, we have jointly decided to donate a portion of our proceeds to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. The donation will be earmarked for finding early detection and an eventual cure for a disease that is a silent and indiscriminate killer of women.

    Janet Edgar was a dear, sweet friend of mine for many years. We co-hosted the Heart & Soul workshop for inspirational writers on AOL for something like 7 years, and we went through our ovarian cancer battles at the same time. I was heartbroken when her cancer returned and she was taken from me. I considered her a close and treasured sister in Christ.

  24. Sandie, great topic for Seekerville.

    I suspect you're right: funny can't be taught.

  25. Well, ARGGHHH I had a long comment written, full of wisdom I'm sure and the lights blinked.

    I don't think I'll burden you with it again.

    But I will say Sandie, I love comedy and I'll be looking for your books. Thanks for being with us today.

  26. Well, I've heard so much of your new books that you definitely sound like you're in the niche!
    :-) Congrats on all these sales and I hope you get tons more.
    Looking forward to reading one of your books.

  27. Sandie,

    Thanks for stopping by. I was just thinking about what you wrote. Do you ever think you were trying to write serious because no one ever took you that way.

    I ask because I like to write deeper stories with elements of laughter. But I had to stop and ask myself if I do some of it hoping people might she me other than some dumb blonde.

    And then I have to stop and wonder if I am even funny at all.

    Now I'm confused. That's what happens when you don't keep up with your hair coloring. When I'm blonde, I just let it slide in one ear and out the other.

    The darker dishwater roots have me reassessing everything.


  28. I've loved all the comments today! This is such a phenomenal group, and I'm so happy to be with all of you.

    Tina, I think the reason I thought I should write suspense is becamse I was "raised" in the soaps. I had my own PR business for 15+ years, and all of my celebrity clients were soap actors. With all of that melodrama, suspense and mystery, I guess I just thought that's where I was supposed to be. I think it was John Lennon (?) who said life if what happens when you're busy making other plans. LOL

    Thanks for all the support, Seekers! The dialogue is a joy.

  29. Don't you just love her hair, Ms. Pinson? I am thinking of rethinking my "natural" brown locks now.

  30. Hi Sandie:

    Wonderful post. I love comedy. I hope your books are available in larger print or as eBooks so I’ll be able to read them. Unlike Steve Martin, one of my favorite comedians, I started out as a comedy writer and wound-up in philosophy.

    I don’t believe that we find our voice as if it were a lost set of keys hiding under a sofa cushion. I believe we become the voice we have developed over time.

    There is a saying in Eastern Philosophy that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I believe that when the writer is ready, the ‘voice’ will appear. The years spent wandering in the wilderness, rather than being wasted; prepare us for our entry into the Promised Land.

    Does anyone really believe that if he or she had just written a different type of book, way back when, that success would have been instantaneous?

    A famous comedian, in thanking God for all his fame and good fortune still ended his prayer with this question: “Dear God, did all my good fortune really have to come at the price of my horrible childhood -- as a poor, skinny, four-eyed, persecuted, outcast?”

    And God answered, “Yes, as a matter of fact, it did. I didn’t think you could come up with your own material.”



  31. Hey. Who said my red hair isn't natural? Who have you been talking to?

    Vince, I think you pose the old "which came first -- the chicken or the egg?" question. My belief is that everything that has happened to me in life has been a part of the journey to get me to where I belonged. And timing is everything, and I'm always trying to hurry along God's timing. I'm always reminded later that His thoughts are much higher than mine, and so I am learning to wait; to do the best I can every day; to take the opportunities as they come; and to give all the glory to the One who is due.

  32. Sandie,
    God must really like humor too. Raising kids puts one through all sorts of emotions, most of all laughable ones. If you can't laugh at stories an exuberant four-year old shares, then you don't have a funny bone. :-) I think you have to keep your eyes open to see the funny moments sometimes, because they get buried between the 'everyday' and the "God...WHAT are you doing?" moments, but they're certainly there. HA! Providentially, my four year old came up to me just now and said, "A bug peed on his shirt.", as if it happens all the time. :-)

  33. Hi, Sandie and all! Sorry to be late for the party, but I've been slaving all day over revisions on my next HP.

    Oh, I am so with you and Joyce on how blessed we are to be working with Barbara Scott. If not for her willingness to take a chance on a relative unknown, my life would be quite different these days. Just making that connection was only by God's grace. We truly have no control over where the Lord leads us on this journey, so our only choice is to keep our eyes open, keep trusting, keep working, and snatch the opportunities He puts in our path.

  34. Sandie, it has been pure BLISSS to have you here in Seekerville today. Praying for continuous success and health for you.

  35. Late again. But I have to say that if anyone doubts the power of a good interview, stop right here. I've heard of these books but meeting Sandie (I mean your photo alone says it all!) really makes me want to get my hands on any of these books.

    Have a great week everyone.

  36. I was going to make a comment about how utterly ADORABLE Debra Marvin is ... but I wasn't sure you'd all get it. That photo (I'm guessing it's your baby?) is just as cute as can be!

    Tina and SeekerPeeps, thank you so much for having me. I had such a great time with you, and I hope you'll invite me back again.

  37. Sandie,

    I am so happy for you. I love your writing style. Congratulations on all of your new sales and your upcoming books. I can't wait to read ALL of them!

  38. Sandie,
    What a great topic! It's nice to get to "know" you through this blog and your website! Checked out both books - and they sound great. Can't wait to get my copies!


  39. Sandie, what a great post!! I'm sorry I'm late arriving for the fun.

    I love your story of finding your niche in the publishing world! Thanks so much for sharing. I look forward to your upcoming releases!!