Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Arnita is the youngest of 12 children. She learned early in life about family dynamics and the concept of sharing. After graduating in 1983, with a degree in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, Elizabeth married Shadi and they have been blessed with four fabulous children. Her love for the Lord has opened her eyes to a world in need and ignited her compassion for those who are less fortunate. She and her husband founded and continue to manage Welcome The Children; a non-profit organization that funds and supports children who are experiencing the reality of poverty. Elizabeth Arnita has designated all of the proceeds from her book sales to support WTC.
VS: Liz, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. My first question is...What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Arnita: If I would have chosen to be an author earlier in life this would absolutely have been a problem. Juggling work, husband, kids and sanity is no easy feat. Fortunately, I don’t have to work outside the home, my husband is busy with our business, the kids are almost self-sufficient and sanity, well I gave up on that one a long time ago.
As with any endeavor that you pour your time, energy and heart into, you must set priorities that work not only for you, but also for those you love or failure is eminent. I have found that in order to maintain harmony in my life, I need to put God above all else. When my relationship with God is priority, He guides all else that I need to accomplish and sets my day in order. He gives me the heart to know that my husband is stressed and I need to quit what I am doing and comfort him. God gives me the wisdom to know that my kids need my attention and taking time with them would ease their uncertainties. Sanity? I would be certifiably insane if I didn’t rest in the fact that God is in control of not only my life but of all that I worry over.
VS: How long have you been writing?
Arnita: I believe that if you are a writer, you have always been writing. Whether the work reaches a piece of paper is another story. I remember being a child and jotting down story lines and poems, but never having the confidence to keep them. I would fear what people would think if they read it. For a long time, I wouldn’t even venture to put it on paper. It was safer in my head. To this day, insecurity plagues my inner most thoughts. By developing my relationship with God, I have come to realize that what I write doesn’t have to be perfect (that is what editors are for), but it just has to come from a heart that wants to serve the Lord and others. Are my writings worth reading? Some are; some are not. But that is ok. Realizing that I am not anywhere near, the “epic” writer I would like to be has given me a freedom to express who God wants me to be and rely on others to help me make the story worth reading.
“Baby Come Home” is the first writing that I have allowed to be presented to the world, so, if you like, you can say I have been writing for less than a year, but truth be told, I have been writing my whole life.
VS: What inspired you to write your book?
Arnita: I feel that if the writer wants to interest the reader, a piece of their heart must be laid on the line in the writing. I have witnessed so many people struggle with just surviving day to day (myself included). I am praying, that God uses something I write to give some of them a perspective they may not have seen before.
“Baby Come Home” was written for children keeping in mind that adults will read it too. The message (though in simple terms) is that God loves us despite who we are. He simply loves us because He is God. He cannot change being God and He cannot change loving us. It is who He is. Mankind often chooses to ignore or refuse to believe this fact. I am hoping to reach the ears of children who tend to have a more trusting faith and let them know that they don’t have to walk this life alone and if a few adults can get the message too, then all the better.
VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Arnita: Wake up. Lay in bed thinking if I want to get up. Praying to God to get me up! Finally, stepping onto the floor with a grudging grunt. Realizing that getting out of bed was a good idea, cause boy, I have to tinkle. On a good day, I get dressed, get food, clean up after the kids who stayed up way too late last night making cookies, sit down at the computer, answer emails, look at a piece of writing I started a few days ago, add a line or two, go over it again and realize either “not bad” or “what was I thinking?!”, kiss my husband as he sets off for work, go back to the computer, write a few more lines, get a snack, go back reread or write a few more lines, stop ask God what He would like to say, get frustrated because I didn’t hear Him clearly, go do a load of laundry, come back, maybe write a few more lines or a thought comes and I write a whole concept. Each day is dictated by the necessities of that day. I may go weeks, even months and not write a sentence. Other times, I can be in the middle of home-life chaos and write a whole storyline for a future book. If you want to write, then write. Don’t let the boundaries of your day interfere with the creative process. Let it flow when the inspiration comes and chill when the creative juice is ebbing. If there is a story in you, it will come.
VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Arnita: My husband is the sole financial provider in our home. The fact that he has given his blessing on spending a large amount of money on the publishing process is proof that he is in my corner. My daughter is a wonderful cheerleader and does everything she can to promote book sales and helps me to stay organized. My boys give me the kudos they deem appropriate. All in all, I couldn’t/wouldn’t have published without their support.
VS: If this isn’t your first publication, what was the first thing you ever had published?
Arnita: “Baby Come Home” is my first publication. I have been blessed with the opportunity to have a second book coming in the Spring of 2013 entitled “Be Brave Bettina” so the next time asked, I will be able to answer this question more appropriately.
VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book?
Arnita: “Baby Come Home” is a book that conveys a message of the unconditional love and acceptance God, the Father has for us. Baby is a young bird who thinks that life beyond the protection of Sam is more exciting, more adventurous and more desirable. After he gets over the initial excitement of his escape, reality sets in and he realizes the terrible mistake he made. Even when he reaches the safety of being with Sam again, his new dilemma is worrying that Sam will never love him the same way. Sam gives Baby the reassurance he needs.
VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your books?
Arnita: Beyond gathering the money, it takes to publish a book, just the whole concept that I am under the microscope of criticism, a very uncomfortable place for me to be. Submitting my writings to the gifted eye of first a publishing company, who has the ability to reject it and then an editor who can and will take it apart, almost made me back off. Then I realized that if it were meant to be, then it would be. There are incredible amounts of fabulously written books out there that I will never read because I am not interested in their content. In fact, the Bible is a book people choose not to read for the very same reason. I resigned that if someone is interested in the content of the book, then they will read it and if they like it then that is a bonus. God instilled the courage to withstand the “potential” rejection and forge ahead to the published product. I still battle with the insecurity that the audience will not like it, but stand firm on the fact that God has given His approval (otherwise it would not have published) and that is what really matters.
VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally?
Arnita: The message of the book stands out to me. “Baby Come Home” carries a deeper message for children than most writings done for them. Although it is a picture book, there is a truth that I am praying children will tuck away in their hearts and allow to come forth in times of need.
VS: If this is a work of fiction, what character is most like you?
Arnita: Of course, Baby. In my life, I too have decided that things are more exciting, desirable and pleasing on the “other side”. Every time I wander off, the mistake of my disobedience slams, me to the ground and I suffer from the false imaginings that God will never accept me back into His loving care. Then I realize that it was me who perceived pushing Him away but He never left me. He is there always, no matter how far I choose to imagine being away from me, He never leaves my side.
VS: If this is a nonfiction book/inspirational book, what event do you feel was the turning point to your story?
Arnita: I do feel that this book can be an inspirational book and that there are several turning points within the story. In fact, so many turns that it eventually leads full circle. The main character is content with things the way they are, then other characters are introduced and he sees that the “grass is greener” over there. He makes choices that he regrets. He learns life lessons. He realizes that the grass was never greener. He comes home. A little wiser now, he is content with what he had to begin with.
VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Arnita: “Be Brave Bettina” is in the publishing works as we speak. It will be released Spring of 2013. In this story, Bettina is a tiny caterpillar who struggles in the grips of paralyzing fear. She establishes a friendship with Burt (Baby – grown-up) and allows Sam into her life. With the guidance and encouragement from Sam, she reaches goals that were meant only for her. There are also several other garden adventures/lessons in the making, but not yet ready for the publication process.
VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Arnita: First and foremost, realize what the goal is, then set priorities straight and lastly do something to make it accomplishable. I think the hardest of these three is realizing what the goal is. Most people think that the goal is writing a book. I believe it is bigger than that. Recognizing a life goal and giving it the time, energy and resources it needs to be birthed is usually laborious. Pun intended. It is not easy, but the result is worth the anguish.
VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?
Arnita: Proper motivation is a basic ingredient of a good book. Why are you writing it? If the why is worth it, then the how will come into focus. The storyline, characters, moral…will fall into place. Another necessary ingredient is heart. If you have not opened your heart and poured some into the story, then it will not be believable. And yet another, humility; you must be open for others to give their input and not let your focus be so narrow that only you see the greatness of the book. If your perspective is broad enough and honest enough, then the writing will come and others can enjoy a glimpse into your imagination or life.
VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours? (answer only if your book is fiction)
Arnita: For a character to be believable, the audience has to identify with them on some level. Even though Baby is a talking/thinking bird who couldn’t possibly exist in the real world (at least not to that capacity), I feel that people can identify with his “grass-greener” attitude and his wanting of something more mindset. They may also be able to relate to his rebellious spirit and the circumstances he gets himself into. And it is my prayer that they relate to the lesson offered in the book. My characters are created from life lessons. I look at the different situations life finds us in and realize that there is a lesson to be shared there. Just because the characters are fictional, doesn’t mean their dilemmas are. It makes no difference if the character is an alien, or a tree, or a spoon or even a bird; can the audience find a piece of themselves in their story?
VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?
Arnita: Anything worth achieving is worth the struggle. When I was in labor with each of my children, there was a point that I would have called it quits. Each time, I remember telling the doctor; “OK, that’s it! I’m done! Let’s just stop right here! I don’t want to go any further. This is too hard!” Usually, the doctor would either ignore me or look at me and laugh. But in every circumstance, I knew that the hardest part was yet to come and God would allow me to muster up the strength/courage to finish the job and today, I have 4 fabulous children as proof that I had more in me than I imagined. That said, I think that as parents we need to teach our kids that perseverance on a goal worth achieving will reward wonderful blessings. Children need to see that you have the stamina, the desire, the love, and the passion to finish a job even though it may be a very difficult task. They need to see the value of courage and strength of character in you. Your display of these characteristics will show them what they are made of and give them the confidence to pursue their own goals. We as parents need to show our kids that life lessons can be perceived as labor pains, but hang in there and work hard and the result is the most beautiful blessing offered by God.
VS: Have you received any awards for your writing?
Arnita: Not from the public. The book has been submitted for one public award, but the results will not be known till May 2013. I have already won the “You did it!” award from my family and friends. Truthfully, I am not concerned with awards, I have already been given too many rewards to even count.
VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?
Arnita: On the Halo Publishing website and various other venues of retail. Also on our non-profit website Welcomethechildren.org
VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?
Arnita: Enjoy the ride.
You can find out more about Elizabeth Arnita, her books and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://tinyurl.com/ayhg69o