“The only way to lose in the writing life is to quit writing,” says Pastor Rochelle Melander. I initially met this successful author, teacher and pastor through the small world of female Lutheran clergy who also write. Colleagues of mine told me about another female pastor/author I ought to get to know.
Though we share in common that we have both served parishes as pastors, I know Rochelle first and foremost as a very successful author. She is successful if by successful we mean published. She’s published ten books, all with established publishing houses and all but one without benefit of an agent. She is about to release her first Indie book, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity; A Guide for Writers, Entrepreneurs, and Creatives. The book will support writers in discovering their own best practices and building a productive writing life.
“I sold every book, except Write-A-Thon, on my own by sending queries and book proposals to publishers. Authors can still publish this way, especially with the smaller publishers.” For Write-A-Thon she worked with an agent, and sold it to Writer’s Digest Books.
I am using this book myself as I work my way through the fascinating details of what took place before the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflowerand the historic events that unfolded after the shop anchored off the coast of Cape Cod in 1620.
Success Means Being Paid To Publish
If by successful we mean getting paid to publish, Rochelle has a long list of magazines in which her work has been published – for pay. She began freelance writing primarily for faith-based publications while in seminary. She went to seminary to study spirituality and learn more about how people tell their stories. Rochelle was a theatre and religion major at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. “I’ve always been interested in ways people tell their stories. I had a desire to tell stories in a different way.” While in her first call she began writing for Augsburg Fortress, the Lutheran Publishing House (now renamed 1517 Media).
After she earned her Master of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (Now renamed United Seminary) she earned another degree, the Master of Sacred Theology. During this time she wrote articles on her own and sometimes with her husband, Harold Eppley. Rochelle wrote primarily for national Christian publications, but also a few secular periodicals, such as Highlights for Children.
After seminary the writing part of her life took off. “I grew more interested in writing. I read books about writing and went to writers’ conferences. I gained a lot of experience by trial and error. I kept submitting queries and manuscripts and I kept learning.” Eventually she migrated from periodicals to books. She co-authored several of her first books with her husband, mostly about spirituality and how to form effective small groups where people can share and explore spiritual topics.
Success Requires Discipline
After her first call as a parish pastor she served as an interim pastor in several settings and began doing consulting with congregations. “That was good discipline for a life of writing. I had to organize my day, I had to pitch ideas to people, and I had to meet deadlines. I also did a lot of teaching in workshops and at local churches.” For a while she taught an Introduction to the Bible course at a local college. “I had the students learn by writing their own version of the creation story, plus some psalms and parables.”
If by successful we mean an author who gets to spend most of her time in the writing world, she now not only writes prolifically, she also teaches others the craft in workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions. Rochelle recalls that in 2006 she felt called to help girls tell their stories. She started a writing program for a few girls ages eight to thirteen in a church. That has grown into her Dream Keepers program that is now a regular offering for boys and girls. She teaches in two Milwaukee libraries and in inner-city schools. Eventually the content of Dream Keepers will become yet another book she’ll release. “I teach them how develop tools to write about their dreams and get them reading and writing.”
Successful Authors Write
She writes a weekly e-newsletter of tips for the writing life. She periodically interviews authors for podcasts. She teaches. And she writes. And writes. And writes. I asked her for advice for others who want to spend more time writing and less time thinking about writing. These are her recommendations:
- Read the sorts of things you’re interested in writing about. Pay a lot of attention to the things that energize you.
- Do your morning pages. Another successful author, Julia Cameron, teaches authors to write three pages every day about anything that comes to mind to release the creative ideas searching for an outlet.
- Pick something you want to do and just start. Figure out how to do it and then do it.
She also suggests writing small filler pieces for magazines as a great place to start. These are easier to write and sell, and magazines always need them. She acknowledges that fitting in writing time is difficult. “The challenge is time. It is easy to make money writing; but not necessarily the writing you want to do. We have to balance between making money and writing what we’re passionate about. I am always reinventing myself in the changing publication world. Now I do a lot of content writing for clients, where I used to do a lot of freelance writing.” She now also teaches a course on blogging at a local university.
“We have to keep getting better, keep learning and keep writing. You do not have to show up to write at 9 a.m., but you probably should. All of your life will help you as a writer. The only way to lose is to give up.”
You can learn more about Rochelle, sign up for her writing tips newsletter, or find out about her coaching at Rochelle Melander.
Who has inspired you in your writing efforts?