This week it was my pleasure to chat with a new friend whom I met through a mutual friend. Jenny and I became friends through Facebook and the online community. We were able to talk about creativity and whether or not you could/should call yourself a “storyteller”. It was such an interesting conversation! I hope you will enjoy it! Feel free to *listen* on Storyteller Station Podcast OR keep reading for all the fun:
Jenny: Maybe you could help me address this with your questions [today]...I don’t think of myself as a storyteller. I don’t create unique, creative stories, I retell things that have already happened or write my opinion about things…
Me: The way that you use your personal stories in your articles, it’s like, you are telling stories. You’re a creator: bringing forth something from nothing.
When we share our story with people we bring them along with us. It’s powerful.
Jenny: It is, I agree with you!
Me: So...Jennifer Polk. Jen, Jenny, Jennifer, what do you prefer to be called? What’s your favorite?
Jenny: Most people call me Jenny unless you’re my mother and your angry at me so…
Me: I’ll stick with Jenny then!
Jenny: Thank you, I appreciate that!
Me: You are not in trouble with me, girl!
Jenny: Oh good-I don’t want to make you mad!
Me: Well, thank you so much for agreeing to come on the show and share you personal stories and experiences with creation! I first found out about you through someone I go to church with and have enjoyed learning more about you through Facebook posts but also to read some of the articles you’ve written as well!
Jenny: Well, thank you! I’m humbled by that. I consider myself an accidental writer. Whenever I hear somebody say those type of things that you are saying is kind of takes me aback. I get surprised by that. But thank you so much, I appreciate that.
Me: You’re welcome! So I just want to ask you a little bit about your writing journey. Which is interesting since you are kind of surprised by the creator/writer compliment. Perhaps you don’t even consider yourself an “author” even? So then how did you “accidentally” end up writing articles and such?
Jenny: I have a lot of strongly held opinions and it seems that is the genesis for a lot of them. But I have a rich personal history that God has given me and as a child I loved books and I loved words and I had this great relationship with my dad where we had these really deep, colorful discussions. The seeds were probably bred in childhood but then I grew and became an engineer and a business owner. As we all know, engineers and business owners do not write so I started putting stories out on Facebook and some opinions and somebody noticed some of them and published me. That’s how we are here today.
Me: Wow! So now, do you write on a regular basis? You write for American Greatness, online magazine, correct?
Jenny: Yes, and a couple other little ones here and there. I write but very irrationally. My business life is a very busy one, I work a lot of hours during the week. It seems I’m still waiting for lightning to strike and that’s when I can write. In between those times the well sort of runs dry. I haven’t figured out how authors who write regularly put a lot of their volume out in those sorts of increments because I just wait for lightning to strike.
Me: Right. And with the business you own being SO busy I would imagine it’s difficult to find the time even if you wanted to write every day or every other day it’s probably difficult to find that time.
Jenny: It really is! My days typically start between 4-5 in the morning and I hit the ground running and fall into bed exhausted at 9 o’clock at night and don’t really know what happened in the in between hours. So…
Me: So it’s like finding the space for that creative spark is a rarity in your life.
Jenny: It is! But it’s like one of those sweet cathartic moments when it does happen. The world kind of gets shut out and you find yourself rejuvenated in telling one of these stories as I’m sure you know! You’re a wonderful writer! I’m sure you know what that’s like-it restores part of the inner part of me when I can do that.
Me: Yes! So then, it’s restorative to you personally but do you have a mission in creating that work and sharing those stories with others?
Jenny: Sometimes I do. Sometimes I want to make a religious point or a political point. I’m a Christian and one thing that I have found in the Christian community is sometimes we are not honest enough with one another about our weaknesses and our failings and our frustrations. So I would say that part of my mission is to let people know that we are all real, we are all struggling, we are all kind of working together at this thing called life that God has put in front of us. And it seems like we can bolster one another if we’re honest and we don’t pretend like everything is okay in our world.
Me: That’s great! So like, honesty, honesty resulting in true caring.
Jenny: Yes! That’s sounds more high-flouting than I intended it but…
Me: it’s beautiful though!
Jenny: I know I have appreciated it when I have either read other or when others have sat me down and said, “Hey listen, I wake up sometimes and the dog has vomited on the carpet and my hair is greasy and the day isn’t going the way I want it to.” And I would like others to know we all have those same struggles.
So, I know that you write under a pseudonym and I wondered if maybe the mission of your pseudonym is different from Jenny Polk’s mission?
Jenny: It absolutely is! It’s almost like I have a split personality. The pseudonym takes care of a lot of my political beliefs. I have four children and a business and I’m involved in my community and the pseudonym takes care of the politics and the ugly stuff, that way I don’t feel a lot of repercussions and can protect my family. Jenny Polk tends to write the more real, honest, “pretty” stuff maybe.
Me: So the mission of that is to kind of have a voice to put some of those political thoughts and beliefs out there?
Jenny: Yes. I think the most powerful weapon [tool] we have is our words. And if we can convey effectively through our words we might be able to convince somebody to think differently. I have no evidence that I have ever changed anyone’s mind, but there’s always the hope that you can change somebody’s mind or at least help them look at something a little differently.
Me: Right. It seems like in our world today we could do with a little more thinking about the “other side” and giving that some consideration.
Jenny: Absolutely! And how little can any of us do that?
Me: Right. So...It sounds like you don’t have a set in stone “storytelling process”. You’re kind of “waiting for lightning to strike” but where do you get your inspiration from? The lightning striking? Is it like something happens during the day and you’re like, “Woah! I have to write about that!” Or is it more like someone asks you, “Hey we need an article on Easter, can you write us something up?”
Jenny: The answer to your question is YES! It could be anything. I remember the day my grandmother died. She was almost 101 and as soon as I heard that she was dying I had this inner compulsion that I could not fight back just to sit down and write about her. So sometimes things like that will happen where I just have to get the words out. Or one of the kids will say something funny to me or they’ll misbehave and I have to write about that. And then other times like you’re saying, a discussion will come up or I’ll overhear something in a grocery store or I’ll watch their response to somebody else and that will inspire me to write about it.
Me: Hm. At your very nature it just seems you are a writer. And it makes me chuckle that you’re like, “Yeah, I don’t know if I’m a writer. I don’t know, I’m just an ‘accidental writer’. I don’t know.” And I’m like, “Own it, girl!”
Jenny: One of my editors in particular is going to listen to this interview and want to beat me about the head because he’s always frustrated with me about this very thing.
Me: Then he’ll probably be sending me a big “thank you”! “Thanks for backing me up!” So, are you working on anything right now? Do you keep a work in progress or do you keep notes along the way any given day? If something along the way piques your interest do you write it down for later? What’s your process?
Jenny: I do. I have a notebook stuffed full of napkins and scraps of paper and post it notes and church bulletins where I’ll start scribbling down some ideas then I’ll just jam them in the folder and wait for day when I can put some thoughts together. I have some articles pulled. I’m thinking about writing about Mike Roe right now and his story. Also during church a lot of time a thought will come to me and I’ll jot it down and shove it in the folder for later use.
Me: So are you working on anything right now? An article or a story?
Jenny: I am working on Facebook censorship and social media censorship overall. And then there’s a story about industry in America and what’s happening to it and why it might just be our future.
Me: Wow! So, where will you publish those stories?
Jenny: Probably American Greatness. If they’re interested. I always given them the opportunity first if they’re not asking for something directly and then if they’re not I’ll just shop it around.
Me: And what’s that process like? Do you have a list of online magazines or…
Jenny: I have a great resource for anyone interested.
Me: Yes, please!
Jenny: I’m sure every writer has heard of it. Again, I’m a Johnny-come-lately...it’s called Writer’s Market. It’s a book with a huge list of publications and it lists the specifications that each publisher is looking for. It will give you the editor’s name, word count, the general flavor of the publication and that sort of thing. It’s really well organized. I can look things up in there and see if anyone might be interested in anything that I write.
Me: What’s the name again?
Jenny: It’s called Writer’s Market and they republish it every year. You can get it on Amazon or wherever.
Me: That’s great! So did you study or learn how to write a query letter and do you attach that with your article, or send them a sample of your writing? Or just send a letter?
Jenny: They tell you all of that! They tell you what each publication is looking for and you tailor your letter to each one and what they’re looking for.
Me: Okay. Including the letter. Perfect.
Jenny: Yeah. They give you addresses where to send it, how much they pay for an article. It’s really a good resource.
Me: That is excellent! See, look at you educating us! I didn’t know about that resource! I’m looking forward to it, thank you!
Jenny: Oh good! I’ll send you a copy. It’s great!
Me: Aw. You’re so sweet. Thank you!
Jenny: You’re welcome.
Me: So, where can people get ahold of your stories or learn more about you? Do you have a website or where are you at online?
Jenny: I am really sort of nowhere. I’m on American Greatness. So you can look for me on American Greatness. And I can get messages through the comment section on there. And then I have a Facebook page: Jenny Polk. And beyond that I’m not really anywhere...other than my pseudonym.
Me: Do you have an author page or have you ever considered creating an author page?
Jenny: What is that?
Me: If you went on Goodreads or Amazon you could create an author page where it just kind of gives a profile about you and where people can find your writing.
Jenny: I have never heard of that but I will consider that. What benefit do you see in an author setting up an author page on Goodreads or Amazon? I ask that as sort of a newcomer to this world.
Me: Sure. Well, the reason I have an author page is because I actually publish books. So I have eBooks and paperback books. I haven’t so much been in the article-world. So for me I just want people to know more about me or to know what other books I’ve written because I’ve written non-fiction and fiction. But I think that if someone reads something they’re very interested in, for instance, I really loved your the Easter article you wrote for American Greatness. And I absolutely would have like, “googled you” or tried to look you up to try to get more info about you. Like, “who is this girl? I’ve not heard of Jenny Polk, I loved the article and she’s so eloquent… Where did she come from?”
Jenny: Wow. Well, thank you!
Me: Yeah. So I think that when people are really interested in the work they’re interested in who created it and so then the author page gives them kind of a place to go to see who you are.
Jenny: I will think about that. Thank you so much.
Me: Is there anything else you’d like to share while we are together?
Jenny: Can I ask you a question?
Me: Yes! Sure!
Jenny: What advice would you have for somebody like me who is just starting their foray into the writing world?
Me: Hm. Well, I think it would depend on what your goals are. You know we already talked about your mission a little bit and the reason I say, “what your goals are” is because if you enjoy writing articles and that’s your wheelhouse, then I would say, write as much as you can and carve out time to write. Because as you and I both know, life doesn’t necessarily hand you the time too often. Make time. Whatever works for you, but make time, whether it's once a week or every other day find that time. You have that whole big binder and I would LOVE to hear some of those stories. I want you to tell them because I love to read your stuff. BUT, if your goal is “one day I’d like to write a book” then keeping track of all the journal article and compile them into The Chronicles of Jenny…ha ha ha.
Jenny: Ha ha ha. My mother would buy the only copy.
Me: Obviously that’s not a good title for the book but you get the idea! If a book is the goal the advice is similar: carve out that time so that you can keep writing. Then for the publishing piece of it, you know, I’m an independent publisher and I really kind of prefer it that way. I have complete control: I have creative control, I control when it’s published and sometimes through traditional publishing the projects take a bit longer to get out on the market than with independent publishing. So if you’re independently publishing I would say to just go for it because sometimes hitting that “publish” button is a little scary but in some ways I feel that your work is already tried-and-true! I mean people were tracking you down to publish your work. To me that says that it’s not just your mom saying, “You’re a great writer,” it’s someone in the industry saying, “Wow. We want your words on our page.” So, I just encourage you to write more!
Jenny: Yes ma’am! Thank you, I appreciate it!
Me: I hope that was clear! I have really enjoyed our time together. I hope that we can do this again.
Jenny: Me too! Thank you so much, Sarah, I appreciate that.
Me: Yeah. And keep creating great and wonderful things.
Jenny: Yes ma’am! The next piece will be out for Father’s Day.
Me: Okay! We’ll look for it! On American Greatness?
Jenny: Yes ma’am!
Me: Thank you!
Jenny: Thank you!
That’s it! The entire interview! It was so fun talking with Jenny and I hope to have her on again soon. If you’d like to learn more about Storyteller Station podcast or Storyteller Nation head over to Facebook and “like” Sarah Fenlon Falk Author page. Leave me a comment or join Storyteller Nation Facebook Group to begin sharing your stories or connect with others who tell stories in many different ways.
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Thanks so much for checking in today and I look forward to meeting with you again soon, friends. Until then: Create something great!