Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Terry Lynn Johnson

Everyone, please, make Terry Lynn Johnson feel welcome today. She's our guest for today's Friday Feature. I love visiting her blog and feeling as though I'm hiking through the Canadian winter with her.

Here's a quick glimpse of Terry:

Terry Lynn Johnson's passion for the outdoors evolved while she paddled Quetico Provincial Park as a Canoe Ranger. One winter she worked for a dogsledding company and 18 huskies followed her home. Terry's writing has been published in Dogs in Canada, Adventure Kayak and many other magazines. Her debut middle grade novel, DOGSLED DREAMS will be published through 4RV Publishing LLC. Terry is a member of SCBWI and Outdoor Writers of Canada and lives in Whitefish Falls, Ontario. Visit her at

Terry, thanks for being here today! What are you currently working on?

Ice Dogs is a YA novel about 15-year-old Victoria, who gets lost with her dogteam and finds an injured teen with a secret. But she must trust him if they are going to survive.

Terry, your book, DOGSLED DREAMS is due to come out in 2011. Can you share with us your road thus far towards publication--finding an editor and everything that involved?

After I had a polished manuscript, I sent it out to five Canadian agents. I received four rejections and a request for a partial. For the 30 day wait, I struggled to suppress my fantasies of the book tour. Six weeks later, I still hadn't heard. My gentle reminder email was returned with a gentle rejection. To recover from my disappointment, I continued to submit down my list of Canadian agents, then on to some American agents. Finally I started submitting to publishers. I received 32 rejections with a few partial and full requests before I reworked my first chapter.

Then I heard about the Muse On-line writing conference and when I signed up, I also applied for a pitch session with 4RV Publishers. They were the first to read my rewrite. 22 days later, they sent me a contract.

Currently I'm pumped and ready to begin working with my editor Keri Rouner.

If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

*blushing* Thanks for the compliment! Now about your blog--what is a favorite blog post that you have written?

I think I like one of my earliest posts about snowshoeing. It just makes me smile.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Definitely, the Verla Kay boards.
So far on that site I've:
• found a great critique partner
• learned about the free on-line Muse writing conference
• been given great advice on a query letter
• learned from more experienced authors about their hits and misses with submitting, writing techniques, book marketing and promotion
• I've found and joined the Indie-debut group- a fantastic group of authors of small presses with books coming out in 2010 and 2011.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

If I don't feel up to writing, I never write. The rule of writing everyday doesn't work with me. But sometimes when the mood hits, I can write for ten hours straight, forget to eat and drink, tell the family they can make themselves sandwiches for supper, kick the dog out so she doesn't annoy me with her pleading eyes and only stop when the inspiration starts to fade.
One thing I obviously need to work on in my life is balance.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

I read Cold Nights, Fast Trails by Dave Oleson when I first started running dogs. He wrote short anecdotes of his life with sled dogs in the Northwest Territories. I loved how he made me feel and how his writing made me look at my dogs differently. He had a philosophical approach to his life that really spoke to me. When I wrote Dogsled Dreams, I hoped to convey to the reader the special relationship between musher and dog, and maybe capture some of the magic that Dave Oleson so eloquently expressed.

Terry, tell us. What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

So far, I write on the side. I have a full time job so my writing needs to be fun. I guess that's my goal - keep it fun.

Of course, as with any writer, my pimped-out dream would be to write books that attract rabid fans from around the world, and see my books made into movies, and have action figures made out of my characters and...wait a minute, I may be borrowing that dream from somewhere.

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

It was very cool when I finally got the call that my book will be published. But I think the best personal experience was when a character from my book did something that surprised me, something I had not planned. Seriously, I used to read stuff like that from author interviews, how their characters argued with them and I would think - whoa, crazy much? But it actually does happen and I was so amazed.

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

Well, I grew up wishing I was Tarzan. I thought it would be so cool to be able to swing through trees, run around barefoot and hang with your adopted family all day.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

I've always thought coffee tastes like burnt water. Nothing beats a hot cup of herbal tea with honey.

Thanks so much for the great interview, Terry! Faithful followers, feel free to ask a question or two in the comments and Terry will stop by to answer as her work schedule permits. And, if you want more Terry Lynn Johnson, pop over (after commenting here, of course!) to the Shut Up! I'm Reading blog for a previously blogged interview.


  1. Terry-- You found a publisher first, and now are looking for an agent--how's that going?

  2. Great interview!

    Terry, how on earth do you have time to work full-time, do all sorts of adventure-y things, and write? I'm in awe!

  3. Great interview, Terry and Heather!!
    I also learned so much about writing and publishing at Verla's boards!

  4. Thanks for the the interview- (I agree about coffee and love tea as well) I thought it was great you had dreams of jungles and and bare feet and ended up in the far north and snow- I also ended somewhere not expected! It seems you are writing about what you know- dog sledding- "growing where you were planted" do you think you will stay with stories of the the great North or expand to other ideas?

  5. Thanks, Anna and Kelly. Terry had some really honest, insightful answers!

    Anna--I'm interested to find out how Terry does it all, too!

  6. Julia--I love that, "growing where you were planted." Lots of wisdom in that.

  7. Great interview!Thanks Terry and Heather. Cold Nights, Fast Trails sounds like a great book.

    I really enjoy Terry's blog and am interested to hear about some of her canoe and kayak adventures. And of course I'm interested in reading Dogsled Dreams!!

  8. First, congrats on your book getting published. I think dogsleds is an extremely interesting topic for kids - maybe because it is so different than the life of just going to school. I guess that depends on where you live though. Best of luck on finding an agent! Continue to have fun writing!

  9. Super interview Terry and Heather.

    Terry - I am wondering, do you feel that being isolated in the 'Far North' (we are both straddling the 45th) is beneficial to your writing? Do you find it a struggle to be in contact with the rest of the world or is it easier to be on the outside looking in?

  10. Wow! What an amazing job Heather did with all the links! I'm telling everyone I know they should apply to get on Edited to Within an Inch of My Life! I've also blogged about it over at the Indie-debut blogspot.

    Heather - right now I'm doing revisions with my editor so I'm completely focused on that. I'm learning so much! Once we have a handle on that, my plan is to revise my latest WIP and resub to a certain agent. Bummer I don't have the attention span to do both at once.

    Anna,Kelly and Paul - hey, thanks for the support. You guys rock.

    Julia - I've never thought of it that way before! You're right, it's a little funny ending up in the snow. I do plan on writing more adventures with dogs - it's what gets my blood pumping!

    Pauling - thank you for your encouragement!

  11. Great article Heather! Terry, it was fun learning more about you! I am looking forward to the release of your book--and good luck with the edits!! :)

  12. Thanks for stopping by Amy.

    Jonathon - hello fellow Far Norther. I once worked in downtown Kitchener Ontario and the traffic alone took years off my life.
    I much prefer the pace of life here. And since I started to blog, I feel very connected!

  13. Yay, TerryLynn. I KNOW your female leads will be strong, just what girls need to see.

  14. Excellent interview. I, too, love the blue boards. Good luck with the book!

  15. Great to get to know you, Terry Lynn. Your books sound like the sort of thing that my kids would love! I love that when you don't feel like writing, you don't. And you still get so much done! I'm afraid of letting myself do that, yet think that must be the best way. How often do you get the urge to write for 7 hours straight?

  16. I really enjoyed reading that. Just looking at that picture of you in the snow makes my hands cold!

    I used to always think that authors were exaggerating when they talked about having conversations with their characters. But while I haven't done this myself yet, I often think it's only a matter of time before it happens.

  17. Great interview! Thanks go to both of you.

    I headed over from Terry's blog, Heather. It's great to meet you - I'll be back. :-)

  18. Heather,
    Excellent interview, and thank you to Terry for sharing your journey to publication story. I always like hearing those.

  19. Hi Terry, it's karenb from the blueboards. I was curious if your full-time job is working with dogs in some capacity? Thanks for sharing your publishing journey!

  20. Hi, Terry, no question here, just wanted to say that I loved the interview. I like the fact that you stayed with it--sending out your manuscript so many times! That's an inspiration to us all not to quit after a few rejections.

  21. Love this---especially publishing story. Thank you!

  22. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Of course I always like learning more about "my" authors.

    Hey, Terry, you don't need an agent to go with us. As much as Keri and I like your Dogsled Dreams, I know we would anything else you have to offer.


  23. Tina Lee - Thanks for your kind words! Sometimes, I may go a week without writing. Then I'll get on a roll and write non-stop. I mean sometimes for days, I have to use vacation days at work. But I'm thinking that may be changing because I'm now working with my editor and HAVE to get revisions done. I've managed to write every day since I started that.

    Hi Karen B from the blueboards! I actually did work with dogs for a while, but now I'm a Conservation Officer. I'm one of only 9 women in the Province of Ontario. I love it and my schedule is flexable which is perfect for me! (I do miss working with dogs though, they are so funny)

    Thanks to everyone for all your great comments! I think my man is proud - he keeps patting me on the back when I read him each new comment!

  24. This interview was a joy to read. I am definitely checking out the Verla Kay boards site. Thanks!

    -Alisa Hope

  25. Hi Terry! I don't write every day, either. I write when I'm inspired. I've been inspired to write each of my stories,they just came to me and I took off with them. I'm anxious to see your book when it comes out.

  26. Terry, I loved getting to know a fellow 4RV and Indie-Debut author a little better. I'm curious though, when you said "18 huskies followed you home," did you mean that literally or figuratively? :o)

  27. Yes Beth, I had a team of 18 individual and crazy dogs. They were my world. The best lifestyle going.

  28. Hey Tarzan!

    Great interview. I love your sense of humour. Dogsledding is something so outside my realm, and I'm guessing it is for most people. That's one of the reasons I'm so looking forward to your book -- such a unique perspective.

    I can completely relate to forgetting to eat while writing. I've also forgotten to get dressed before. My husband came home and asked me if I was feeling sick.

    Congrats. I'm sure kids will get a kick out of this adventure story.