Member Spotlight: Sarah Hamaker

Thanks for stopping by the ACFW Virginia Blog today!

Today we’re focusing on our member, Sarah Hamaker. Grab something warm to drink and sit down to learn about Sarah.

sarah-hamaker-squarePlease tell the readers about yourself:
I’m Sarah Hamaker in Fairfax City, a small community just outside of Washington, D.C. I’ve been writing since I was a child and was thrilled to learn that you could go to college to be a writer! As a freelancer, I now write about parenting and the convenience store association (yes, I can tell you why gas prices fluctuate), among other topics. I’ve had two nonfiction books published and am working with my agent on publishing a romantic suspense (which won the ACFW Genesis contest in 2015).

What’s a fun fact about you?
I had a paper route from age 12 to 17, delivering the local afternoon newspaper on my bicycle or walking with my border collie to around 60 or so customers in our neighborhood. One customer got a kick out of saying to me that she tells people, “My paper boy is a girl!”

What book(s) have you had published?
My two nonfiction books are Hired @ Home and Ending Sibling Rivalry.

What is your favorite writing tip?
You can write in any amount of time, no matter how small. I’ve been freelancing since my oldest was a baby, and it’s amazing how much writing you can cram into five, 10 or 15 minutes of time. Don’t focus on the time you have—focus on the writing you want to do.

What has been the hardest thing/things you have faced on this writing journey?
Waiting. I think that’s the hardest thing we face as humans. We can’t hurry so many things up when we want something to happen, and the same is true for publishing. I’m much better about this now, but I still have to give myself those pep talks about not getting discouraged because I haven’t heard about X piece of writing or Y book. Waiting is one of those things we must figure out how to handle as writers.

Is there one tip from your personal experience that you think would encourage your fellow authors in the area of writing, publishing, marketing, building a platform, a series, etc.?
Most authors hate marketing, but we shouldn’t. I call myself a “reluctant marketer” because it’s outside of my comfort zone and it’s just plain hard. But that doesn’t mean I don’t give it my all! View marketing as essential to your writing as actually writing. Because it is. Without marketing, no one will read your words. Don’t constantly try new things, but stick with ones you like doing, and add one new marketing thing a year. Make sure you can quantify your efforts and have a clear goal in mind, otherwise, you’ll be putting effort in without any idea what you want to gain. So embrace it, learn to like it and have patience—it takes many campaigns for success.

Thank you so much for being here today, Sarah! You can visit Sarah on her Website.

An Ordinary Writer Writing Ordinary Books

ACFW Virginia chapter member Sarah Hamaker recently had a blog post on the national ACFW blog!

An Ordinary Writer Writing Ordinary Books

What keeps you from writing? By Sarah Hamaker

appointment-15979_1920What keeps you from writing? What do you think holds you back from writing? Each of us could come up with a long list of reasons: lack of time, other obligations, I’d add something else: We don’t view writing as a business. To put it more bluntly, we often view writing as something “I do on the side. I’m not a real writer because ______________.” We fill in that blank with “I haven’t been published,” “I only write little articles for my church newsletter,” or “I’ve only sold a handful of books.”

Until we take writing seriously, we will find ourselves always missing our writing goals. Start this year by saying with me: “I am a writer and I’m going to pursue this calling to the best of my
God-given ability.”

Didn’t that feel good? Now here are some concrete ways to help us manage our time better in order to have more time to write.

  1. Guard against what some call “mission creep,” as in “you can’t meet your writing goals without setting priorities.” If you don’t view your writing as a business, you’ll find it very easy to say yes to things that eat into your writing time. Guard against that by keeping in mind even Jesus “understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things he ought to do,” as Kevin DeYoung put it in his excellent little book, Crazy Busy.
  2. Set manageable goals. We all want to bang out a novel in a month, but most of us don’t have time to do that while we’re working on our other callings, such as our job, taking care of our home/family, etc. Think about what seems reasonable and doable, so as not to set yourself up for failure right out of the gate.
  3. Consider your season of life. Maybe you have children who need more attention, perhaps your job is more demanding right now, maybe you have to help a family member or friend. Whatever your situation, remember, that we might be called to put our writing
    on hold for a time—and that’s okay. Even if you’re not writing, you can think about writing, pray about the time you’ll have to write in the future, and concentrate on what God has put before you at this moment.
  4. Build in margins. Richard Swenson, a Christian physician, said that “Margin is the space between our load and our limits.” All too often, we pack our lives so that there’s no discernible space between what we have to do and the time in which we have to accomplish it. That means, we’ve left no room for error. In writing, that translates into staying up all night to finish a chapter or book on deadline. That’s not a way to live and it’s definitely not a way to write our best.
  5. Give yourself grace for the “misses.” We can’t always hit our targets, but we don’t have to let those misses derail us—but we do. We consider the inability to put words on a page—or enough words on the page—that we needed to do according to our schedule as a failure and then we use that as an excuse to not try again. We let those failures to weigh us down and to slice away our self-esteem until we can’t write even if we have the time.
  6. Let go of perfection. We often get bogged down with wanting our writing to be perfect from the get-go that we can’t move past the initial page, chapter, section or draft. We’re not perfect and neither will our writing. That’s okay, and to realize that while we can strive to be the best we can be, we don’t have to hold onto perfection as our goal. It’s okay to have a rough draft that’s full of holes or needs a lot of work. Finish the piece. Edit the piece. Then review it again. There’s a reason they say writing is a process with many steps along the way.

Being a writer is more than putting words on paper—it’s a mindset, a calling, and yes, a way to bring God glory no matter what your genre, style, and outlet. So stop letting things get in your way and keep focused on your writing this year.

A freelance writer and editor, Sarah Hamaker has written two nonfiction books: Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace (Beacon Hill Press, 2014) and Hired@Home (DPL Press, 2008). Her stories have appeared in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children, and is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™. Visit her online at http://www.sarahhamaker.com, where she blogs about parenting issues.