Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Interview With Cara Putman

One of my favorite writer blogs to keep up with is Cara Putman's blog. This homeschooling mom of three, part time law lecturer at a university, and novelist is quite a dynamo. I was curious as to whether she had any advice for those of us who struggle to find a balance. She was kind enough to do an interview here for us. I hope you enjoy learning from her. She has inspired me for sure!

Cara, thanks for joining us today. Please tell us a little about yourself:

First, thanks so much for having me, Marybeth. I was so honored when you asked.

I’ve been married for 13 years to a wonderful man. Eric, a boy from Indiana, and I, a girl from Nebraska, met in Colorado when we were 18 and 16. I’ve always said only God could pull off something like that. We were pen pals and long distance phone call buddies for four years. Then we both graduated from college in 1994 and found ourselves in the same corner of the country. We started courting and five months later were engaged.
Eric is an incredibly patient man to be married to someone like me. He says I’m the speedboat zipping around his ocean liner. It’s a great description. I race through life, from project to project, and absolutely nothing fazes him.
We have three children with one in heaven. Abigail is eight and in third grade; she’s our gymnast. Jonathan is five and in first grade; he’s our Lego king. And Rebecca is nine months and our delight. I’ve homeschooled since Abigail was 4 and ready mentally for Kindergarten, but not ready age-wise. Since I was homeschooled, it was very natural to step into homeschooling our children.
I’m an attorney who lectures in business law at a Big Ten University. I also write books, am active in our church and American Christian Fiction Writers. I have a hard time saying no because I love to help others, but have learned with homeschooling that I need to set some boundaries – I’m not great at it, but trying to be more intentional.

How did you get started as a writer?

I’ve always loved to read and actually started two novels as a young teen. My mom let me call them English. While my daddy assures me they are on one of the computers in the basement, I hope they don’t find the light of day. Then I started college, got married, started a career and went to law school. The dream of writing didn’t die, but got shelved. Then Abigail was born and we moved to Indiana. It was starting from scratch for me, and I began to check out books on writing mysteries from the library. Then I started working at a local firm and had our son. The dream got shelved again until April 2005 when I insisted on going to a booksigning at our local Christian bookstore, Carpenter’s Son. I didn’t know then why I was so determined, but there I met Colleen Coble. For reasons unknown to me, she took me under her wing.
That fall I attended my first ACFW conference. I had a partial suspense manuscript and tried to soak in everything I could. I left the conference with three invitations to submit to editors. I followed up on those, and received my first contract at the ACFW conference in 2006. That book, Canteen Dreams, was my first printed and the ACFW 2008 Book of the Year in Short Historical.

How did you get started homeschooling?

It honestly started when my four and a half year old had started reading, knew her alphabet, basic math, etc. I knew if we held her back until she was technically old enough, kindergarten would bore her. And I wanted to walk her through those early steps. I was working three days a week, so it worked well to homeschool her on the other days. Then she hit first grade the next fall, and I knew I had to decide whether to homeschool or keep working. After finally listening to God, I decided to step back from the active practice of law. At the same time, I’d started teaching a course here and there, and then received my first contract.
Jonathan was even more ready for school and raced through Kindergarten in 3 months. We’re now doing first grade. I love watching my children learn. And know God teaches me so much as I interact with them. Just last night Abigail and I had a long conversation based in part on homeschooling. She knows I’m not perfect, but she still wants to be homeschooled. Each year we reevaluate, make sure it’s what we are still supposed to do. But the tentative plan is to homeschool them until they are 16 and then integrate them into a community college or university, much like I did.

How do you juggle the calling to homeschool with the calling to write?

I don’t get a lot of sleep. Seriously, my prime writing time begins after 8:30 when the kids are in bed. When I’m under deadline, that means I have to write until midnight or later. I treat writing like a job and focus on word count. I track it in a spreadsheet, so I can track whether I am being faithful to do what God has placed before me.
I still need to get better at juggling it all. Find that right balance. But this system has worked for the last two years.

When do you find time to write?

Very carefully. It’s usually late at night and I guard that time jealously.

Do you have any outside help?

Not consistently. Hence the late hours. However, I’ve had friends and a wonderful mother-in-love that help when I’m in desperate need of time during the day to write. I’ve also used a mother’s helper one summer – even a couple hours at a time during the afternoon once or twice a week was a gift when I was under multiple deadlines. And I’ve learned to ask for help before I’m under the gun.

If you could name one thing you do to keep yourself balanced, what would it be?

Hop on the treadmill with a good book. I love to read, and I need the stress relief of exercise. Both help me cope.

What advice would you give a homeschooling mom who has a dream she wants to pursue, yet still wants to homeschool?

Ask God if the dream is from Him and if the timing is right. If it’s from Him, but He says wait, then focus on the other things He’s put in front of you. But if He’s said wait, then start doing little things to prepare. Study the area. Take classes if you need to. Prepare. Because when He says now, you may find yourself running to keep up with Him!

That's excellent advice to leave us with, Cara. Thanks for stopping by. You all make sure to stop by her blog and thank her for sharing with us today, ya hear?
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Sandra in Phx said...

Thanks for doing this interview! I am still struggling to find a balance in my life!!

Cara Putman said...

Thanks for having me, Marybeth!

DOakley said...

Thank you for posting this, Marybeth. And, thank you, Cara, for sharing.

I'm a WAHM and struggle with maintaining a freelance writing/editing schedule with two children--one who is in school, the other is only 6 months, but I'm planning on homeschooling.

One of the things I find most amazing in connecting with other writers, is just how good it feels just to know that someone else out there is going through the same thing.

Marybeth said...

Darlene-- that's exactly why I try to post interviews like this from time to time. It's easy to think we're the only ones attempting this and throw our hands up. Knowing we aren't the only ones helps us persevere sometimes!

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Marybeth, again, thank you.
You just bless, bless, bless!
This interview was so encouraging to, yep, us down in the trenches, wanting to be faithful to Father.

So grateful for you and all you do in this place,

Kimberley Payne said...

Great advice. Thanks for the encouragement!
Kimberley Payne

conarnold said...

Thanks for sharing this interesting post, Marybeth and Cara, and especially the advice about waiting for God and being prepared!