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My Writing Journey.


Though I had begun writing short fiction as a child, I never aspired to have anything in print until I took a creative writing course in high school and my teacher wanted us all to get something published before the school year ended. Ironically, the poet in the class had a first sale of a short story. I was the short story writer and I sold an essay and later a couple of poems. Perhaps it was a glimpse into the far distant future.

I continued to write, off and on, as I became an adult, married, and had children. It was always a chore to find markets, especially in the years before the Internet. Infrequently, I would send out a story, sometimes getting a handwritten rejection and once a second read for REDBOOK. But no one published my work. 

Vicariously, I read and reviewed others’ books first for Myshelf.com and then for Muse Book Reviews and Midwest Book Review, turning in 50 to 90 reviews a year for over five years. I learned a lot about the craft of writing, even if it was subliminally.

In the meantime, I had built a stable full-time freelance writing business, writing features and cover articles on a broad range of topics. I wrote about ocean ecology in a beautiful photo spread for CITY SMART MAGAZINE in Florida. I wrote about beauty and health for a glossy beauty magazine out of the United Arab Emirates. I wrote medical entries for Gale/Cengage encyclopedias. I contributed several chapters for a new organic gardening book. I wrote about travel and music for AAA LIVING. I wrote about art for an Australian publication, a Caribbean-American glossy, and a copper industry trade publication. And I wrote about asphalt, landscaping, food, wine and spirits, parenting, business, health and relaxation, bellydancing, and women’s issues for all manner of magazines, newspapers, and websites. I also co-wrote two books on weddings with Texas DJ Bill Cox, and I wrote a freelance writing manual. 

Being married to a singer/songwriter, of course, I wrote about music for several US music magazines, a South Asian publication, and a Czech bluegrass website. Then last June, I launched my own music website, Refrain Magazine (www.refrainmagazine.com).

Still I kept saying that I would find time to write when I could make a steady income. That actually happened about when the Muse Online Writers Conference began about four years ago. I learned a lot as a participant, but I still wasn’t writing like I wanted or getting the short fiction I had published. 

When I had convinced the University of North Dakota to bring in essayist Sam Pickering, a fellow Tennessean, two years ago for the UND Writers Conference, I was his driver. I had interviewed Sam a couple of times for different things over the years so it was a special treat for him to be here and to be able to have long discussions with him. I chuckled every time, I delivered him to a dinner (to which I was not invited—even though I was responsible for bringing him to campus), Sam always told the faculty he was eating with just how many words I had written that day or the night before (I had been on a tight deadline doing medical articles) and that I was a hardworking freelance writer. There was an unasked question there: And how many words did you write today and got paid for, hmm? That endeared him to me!

So, it was natural I asked Sam for advice about writing. I thought at the time I might do a series of quasi-autobiographical essays that I could do piecemeal so that I would be able to keep the journalism up while writing something of my own. I knew that if I returned to novel writing or even short stories that I would be so consumed I wouldn’t want to do the writing that actually put food on the table. I sent Sam a couple of sample essays, and he encouraged me to find my writing bliss.

Last October, Lea Schizas, who runs the Muse Online Writers Conference, asked for attendees to send in book pitches. I had a couple of novels that I was just beginning to do some substantive editing for, but none of it was at the point where I could pitch it. After the deadline for pitches passed, Lea asked us to see if we could help fill in the few openings she had. I wanted to help her out so that she would be able to offer pitches again at the next conference. I looked at the publishers’ guidelines again and some took shorter works so I sent in two and got a slot for each of my pitches. 

The first pitch asked for a rewrite from first person to third and to resubmit. I did that, and it is pending at the moment. 

The second, Breathless Press, asked me to send my work to them. That was THE BOWDANCER, which was a novelette at the time. They liked it, sent me a contract, and the work grew into a novella through the editing process. I like to think that an act of kindness got me published. 

THE BOWDANCER launched a new subgenre for the publisher, and it spurred me to continue the main character’s story in a series, The Bowdancer Saga. I have written two more, longer books for the series, though they are still considered novellas, just under 50,000 words. The fourth, THE LOST SONG, which I am working on at the moment is turning into a full-length novel.

Currently, THE BOWDANCER is the third top selling book at Breathless Press! Find out more about THE BOWDANCER at: http://thebowdancersaga.wordpress.com/ 

About the author:

Janie Franz still calls herself a Southerner (she was born in Tennessee) though she has spent more than half her life living in North Dakota. She holds a degree in anthropology and has an unquenchable curiosity, which may explain the broadness of her journalism credits that include regional, national, and international publications. She has co-written two books with Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox (The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book), and has published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid! She is also a prolific book and music reviewer, and runs her own online music publication, Refrain Magazine. 
She has been a radio announcer, a booking agent for a groove/funk band, and a yoga/relaxation instructor. She has been happily married to a singer/songwriter for almost four decades. They have a daughter who is a fiber artist and is married to an animator, and a son who is the executive chef of The Toasted Frog, a high-end martini bistro, and who plays drums and blues harmonica with local bands. 


"The Bowdancer" is her first published work of fiction.