Interview with Chila Woychik

Hey, here we are. I’m excited that Chila Woychik has agreed to spend an hour or so here on my site with all of us who are hunkered around our screens across the United States and maybe even into other parts of the world. We’re an eager, inquisitive bunch–we writers and publishers–and that shifting in the air outside my windows here in Crestline, CA. just may be anticipation and enthusiasm filtering in from you. A few words on the format/procedure. I will ask Chila Woychik for beginning comments, and she will respond. After her initial words, please join in with any questions you have. I have a long list of questions and I’m sure you do also. It would be great to hear from all of you–at least to know you’re there, and to know where you live. I’m certain we’ll all be polite and respectful of everyone’s opinions, even when they may differ from our own.

untitled (1 of 1)Chila M. Bradshaw-Woychik is the owner of what has been referred to as an “exceptional midwest small press.” Port Yonder Press publishes both mainstream and religious books in a number of genres. Though small and young, PYP has already been the recipient of several literary awards, among them the Spur Awards, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, Westerners international Fred Olds Poetry Award, Grace Award, and Selah Book of the Year Award.

Chila has written many articles and short stories, has been widely published, and has released at least one book. ON BEING A RAT resides on my Kindle and is beautifully written–a touch sassy, a touch brilliant. She refers to those particular writings as lyric essays and vignettes. I bring you one line from the introduction: “I’d lay my pen on the tiny porch outside my door and let the sun renew it with words.” Exquisite writing.

Welcome Chila. Before I turn you loose, though, I have one question: Did you bring Dudley? If not, why not?

I suspect there may be several with us today who are not familiar with you and your work. Please tell us as much–or as little–as you wish about yourself. A smattering of background, how you happen to be a publisher, a little about your heart–your vision.

68 thoughts on “Interview with Chila Woychik

  1. After reading the postings in respect to Christian fiction I wanted to add that I do not believe that your book – The Soul of Abram – falls into the “rut” of Christian fiction. There are may authors/genre’s of Christian fiction, that I have stopped reading because they were so much the same repeated over and over in different settings. Your book does deal with some heavy moral issues, but they are universal issues shared by many people/families. You treated them from a Christian human perspective, but the humanity was definitely there. Humanity is what we all share : ).

    Thank you, Johanna. (THE SOUL OF ABRAM CLARK is my first novel and is now looking for a publisher. Johanna has been kind enough to read and critique the manuscript.)

    Like

  2. Fascinating interview! There were some very interesting questions and good answers. It would be interesting to explore the subject of Christian writing further! Thanks for hosting this interview on your blog!

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, it’s a fascinating subject. Possibly more important than it seems on the surface, for writing endures.

    Like

  3. Lisa Peter

    Well I mananged to sleep through the live interview but enjoyed reading all the blog posts. I have published a two volume set of lyrics and poems through PublishAmerica but also have several novel manuscripts I would love to have published commercially. This year I have been writing one song/poem per day and I always try to participate in Nanowrimo in November. I love writing and I love reading Anne of Green Gables books and the Love Comes Softly Series.

    Lisa, sorry you didn’t make it for the live interview, but appreciate your input so much now. Let’s stay in touch.

    Like

  4. Chila Woychik

    Shirley, you said: “Agree with what you’re saying, but think about it: The finest art from ancient days is of a religious nature.”

    Totally true. But much that is fine is also distinctly irreligious, i.e., it extols nature or animals or love or whatever, without directly mentioning a specific religion. In essence, it doesn’t /always/ have to have a Bible verse associated with it to make it reflect the creator.

    Agree, totally.

    Like

  5. Chila Woychik

    Shirley, you said: “I have a problem understanding why anyone would be offended by reading an excellent book with a Christian theme–even overtly Christian. I’ve read many books with whose premise I did not agree. I’ve cried over nuns in Catholic stories and I am far from a Catholic. It did not offend me that they prayed the rosary or took vows of poverty.”

    You are a most excellent example of a human being and a Christian, Shirley, that’s why. I’m not sure what else to say, except perhaps that there has been a lot of abuse in the name of Christianity – you know, the hitting folks over the head with a Bible type of thing – and that’s hard to get over sometimes.

    I know there has been abuse, and I hate it. It causes me to weep.

    Like

  6. Chila Woychik

    You asked about me, Shirley, in the original blog post.

    I’m a wife of nearly 31 years, have 1 grown son, and a hobby farm. My interests range all over the place: from nature and healthy living to Jeeps and ultralighting to animals and … well, you name it, and I probably like it or have done it.

    Thanks again for having me here. You and your guests have been fantastic!

    And thank you again for coming. It has been an honor to have you. I pray every blessing on you and your family, and of course on Port Yonder Press . . . and never to forget dear Dudley. (He’s my favorite, you know. 🙂 )

    Like

  7. I have a problem understanding why anyone would be offended by reading an excellent book with a Christian theme–even overtly Christian. I’ve read many books with whose premise I did not agree. I’ve cried over nuns in Catholic stories and I am far from a Catholic. It did not offend me that they prayed the rosary or took vows of poverty.

    Like

  8. Chila Woychik

    Shirley asked: “Is there not a place for fiction to address heavy issues of morality in thoughtful, beautifully written ways?”

    Yes, I think there is, Shirley, and I love seeing that happen. But I also think it’s neither the only way nor always the best way. And when we as Christians get stuck in a rut, doing things only 1 way, we soon begin to think it’s the only way, maybe even the “holy” way, and we’ve lost out, our creativity is superseded by what amounts to superstition, and we find ourselves in that bland box again.

    Writers, artists, of all people, should be the most open and flexible to the many mysteries of God …

    Agree with what you’re saying, but think about it: The finest art from ancient days is of a religious nature.

    Like

  9. To answer your question, Shirley, I started Splashdown in 2009 as an outlet for what was then a surplus of excellent science fiction and fantasy manuscripts that could find no home. We’re now about to release our 26th book into the wild! As we are a traditional publisher, I never ask the author for money (except when they buy extra copies of their books, and that is at discount) but I bear all of the financial risk for the project. Some people would prefer to learn all the technicalities and publish themselves, which is absolutely fine, but I offer an alternative for those who don’t wish to do that – non-techies, or anyone just wanting the full editorial and design support we can give. And in the end, I publish the stories I love, which makes it all worthwhile.

    It has been so nice “meeting” you, Grace, and again I thank you for visiting and posting here. We must definitely stay in touch.

    Like

  10. Chila Woychik

    Very good, Cindy. And I agree. Universal themes are just that: UNIVERSAL. That is, anyone can relate to them, and that’s the essence of a really good story.

    Like

  11. For what it’s worth, the publisher of now one soon to be 2 books of mine is a practicing pagan. She has contracted two of the most blatantly Christian works I have saying that if she can read it and not feel offended or preached at, it has the right balance of spirituality, character, and story. I didn’t set out to do that, incidentally.

    Being palatable to the world does not mean to forgo the Christianity in it.

    Like

  12. Chila Woychik

    And you’re very welcome, Shirley. I’ll hang around for just a bit longer to see if we have anything else show up here.

    Great point, Grace! I agree completely. We can write what we do without feeling we have to stamp it with an icthus or something. We can write for the masses, great books, universal themes, real people, and still keep our faith intact.

    Like

  13. Chila Woychik

    Shirley, you said: “It concerns me greatly, for I am a Christian, and am convinced that my faith should never detract from anything I do. On the contrary, what I produce should build up and enhance the faith, even though that may not be the subject under consideration. The quality of my writing is a reflection on me as a Christian.”

    Lots of good stuff in there. Consider, for example, the Anne of Green Gables books (I love referencing that set). Not Christian, per se, but the characters went to church, mentioned God on occasion, prayed once in awhile. Now, they don’t /directly/ “build up and enhance the faith,” do they – these books? No, but at the same time, they entertain and make us smile and give us a gentle reprieve from the heaviness of life.

    I call these types of books “crossover.” My Amish friends read them as do my atheist friends.

    I have not read the whole set of Anne of Green Gables books, just what I suppose was the first one. I too love that little girl with her feisty ways and that beautiful hair. And I agree its pleasantness is a reprieve from “the heaviness of life.”

    I wonder, though, is there not a place for fiction to address heavy issues of morality in thoughtful, beautifully written ways?

    Like

  14. I’ve been coming more and more to the conclusion that a Christian who writes fiction should try to avoid the “ghetto” of Christian publishing, where so much is same-old, where you’ll be pressed into moulds called “respectable” and “appropriate”, and where any setting other than the USA is frowned upon. True story. No, we’re better served to make our stories universally approachable, and take them to the wide, wide world of the reading public that WANTS stories that illustrate right and wrong, etc. Whether you do that via getting an agent or by going to small presses (who often prefer to work without a go-between) is up to you. But let’s widen our vision!

    I want to widen my vision. I want to write well.

    Like

  15. Wow! When I checked a minute ago, we had over 325 “hits” during this little more than an hour. You were tremendous, Chila, bouncing all over the place trying to keep up with the questions. We covered lots of territory. Again, thank you for being here. And thanks to all the viewers, and especially to those who took time to question and otherwise comment.

    Like

  16. Chila Woychik

    Shirley, a lot of the larger publishing houses do require an agent. And from what I’ve heard, an agent is impressed by honesty, a great story, and an ability to sell yourself.

    Like

  17. Chila Woychik

    Sally said: “What causes the Christian pieces to be bland and what could be done to spice them up, but not so much that they aren’t Christian pieces anymore? Are there particular themes or subjects or locations that would make one piece better than another?”

    Well, I think this is the whole thing we were trying to skim over before, the whole “what has happened to all the great stories written by Christians years ago?” theme. I think it’s a huge topic that can’t be addressed in a few short minutes. Again, I have my theories, and those theories won’t be dependent on a few things that might “spice them up” as much as a worldview that says “I can be a Christian and be /in/ the world without being /of/ it.” It really takes a paradigm shift in our thinking (and don’t be afraid of that word – it simply means a different way of looking at something).

    It takes us not thinking “I want to evangelize” or “I want to moralize” but “I want to write the very best story possible.

    And we have to be willing to read the really good stuff out there, stuff outside our little Christian bubble.

    Like

  18. During the month of March I will attend Mt. Hermon Christian Writing Conference, where I hope to acquire an agent. Two questions: Do I need an agent? What can I do to impress such a person and cause him/her to want to be my agent.

    Like

  19. Chila Woychik

    Jana, any input from a knowledgeable reader is good input. So yes, if you can find honest readers who know a good story when they read it, sure.

    Like

  20. What causes the Christian pieces to be bland and what could be done to spice them up, but not so much that they aren’t Christian pieces anymore? Are there particular themes or subjects or locations that would make one piece better than another?

    Like

  21. Jana McVay

    Do you suggest having someone, like a fellow writer or someone who is an avid reader, read what has been written thus far to see if there is promise to it?

    Like

  22. Chila Woychik

    Writing contests? Cindy, I think they can be great motivators. One can spend a lot of $ on the fee-based ones, however, so it’s good to pick and choose.

    And Jana, don’t feel guilty. We all need the space away at times. Life isn’t ALL writing.

    Like

  23. Jana McVay

    Chila,
    Thank you. I love to write poetry/songs but also started a novel that is at a standstill due to the busyness of life. It is frustrating because I feel like the novel “needs” to be written. 🙂

    Like

  24. It’s an important distinction here that we do not publish everything that comes to us. Our time and resources are limited – Chila and I both run largely one-woman operations – so we have to pick stories we really believe in, because we spend a large part of our lives with them.

    Grace, tell us a little of yourself and your company.

    Like

  25. Chila Woychik

    Shirley, we get submissions in every day, sometimes every hour. We’ve received a lot, though I haven’t actually counted them.

    The quality has been mediocre to very good. I must re-echo my past sentiment a few comments down – most of what we’ve received that I’d call “very good” comes from mainstream authors. The Christian pieces I’ve read thus far generally have the same rather bland feel to them, though I’ve not read them all yet,

    This is a conundrum, and if I can figure out why it is – why this is happening, I’ll be more than happy to shout my conclusions to the world.

    Like

  26. Chila Woychik

    Hi, Jana. A lot of authors, some quite accomplished, say to write often and write a LOT of words. I guess I’m not in agreement with that. I think better time is spent learning our craft, reading and analyzing fantastic stories, then slowly working on our skills. But to each their own, I suppose. 🙂

    Like

  27. Chila Woychik

    Cindy, I’m not sure how to answer that. One editor/publisher may say they love the way a work sounds while another may say, “Not there yet.” I do realize that. But then I also realize that /most/ accomplished readers know when a book sounds “right.”

    Does that help, or befuddle?

    Like

  28. Chila Woychik

    Annette, from all the submissions we receive each year, we choose only 6 to 8 of those, the very best of the best, offer a contract, and get to work. From contract to final product is usually 12 to 18 months. I know that seems like a long time, but we’re very thorough and won’t skimp on editorial or design work.

    Like

  29. Jana McVay

    Chila,
    How often should an aspiring writer be writing? I used to write very often but life has gotten in the way and now it is a challenge to find sufficient time to commit to writing.

    Like

  30. Chila Woychik

    Sally, Port Yonder is nearly 4 years old, and I chose the name because I love the sea. Yonder conjures up a little bit of speculation/uncertainty/mystery, and I kinda like that. 🙂

    Future – I want to see each and every book we publish win at least 1 substantial award, and eventually I want us to be recognized as a “big” name in the small press world. As we gain further recognition, I’d like to see that reflected in book sales.

    Like

  31. Chila Woychik

    Cindy, literary fiction means many things to many people. For me and subsequently for PYP, it means that I like work that’s a bit beyond commercial – the author has spent the extra time needed to make sure each word counts, the language flows.

    Like

  32. Chila Woychik

    Shirley, I do indeed believe /most/ Christian fiction is substandard in a number of ways. How did it get to that place? I have several theories, and am working on a blog post with a professor, a post which will address this very issue. Basically, I believe because we’ve been told we need to “restrict” our thinking to Biblical ideals, we’ve effectively boxed ourselves in with regard to creativity, usually in a way that God never requires. With the restrictions, we’ve often refused to read outside a somewhat sanctioned group of authors or themes, and as such we lose touch with anything outside our little bubble.

    To me, that’s the gist of it, and it’s hard for me to explain more without going on and on here. I’ll definitely try to flesh it out more in the blog post.

    It concerns me greatly, for I am a Christian, and am convinced that my faith should never detract from anything I do. On the contrary, what I produce should build up and enhance the faith, even though that may not be the subject under consideration. The quality of my writing is a reflection on me as a Christian.

    Like

  33. Thanks so much. Appreciate your insight and your time. Thanks Shirley for putting this together. This has been a great time.

    Thanks for being here and for your input, Darin. We’ll have to do one of these for you. How about that? 🙂

    Like

  34. Shirley, I’m in New Zealand, and honoured to be a kind of comrade in arms to Chila… we are collaborating on a bunch of stuff, although our presses are fairly different there is some overlap. We started up in the same year, too, and met very soon after. Check out http://www.splashdownbooks.com 🙂

    Cool, Grace. Welcome to the USA. I actually have visited your site a couple of times. Thank you so much for being here and for your contributions.

    Like

  35. Chila Woychik

    Sally, I can’t speak for the larger publishing houses or even small presses other than PYP. We take our editing very seriously – it’s the crucial thing that brings a manuscript up from “good” to “great.” I’ve read books from all size presses, some from larger presses which have been poorly edited, and some from smaller presses which have been edited very well, though generally I see the reverse.

    Re: how to get a job in editing – I’m not sure there’s a shortcut beyond sending out your resume.

    One thing that has impressed me greatly with Chila and PYP is her insistence on excellence.

    Like

  36. A sizable group of persons exists who believe “Christian” fiction books to be lacking in quality. Do you agree with this? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts as to the cause of this situation. Some of the greatest literature in the world would now be perhaps be classified Christian. What happened?

    Like

  37. Chila Woychik

    Annette, I’m not sure what you’re asking.

    And Darin, no, we don’t do vanity or subsidy publishing, just traditional (commercial) publishing.

    Like

  38. I have some questions about the editing aspect. Is there a difference between editing for a traditional publishing house and editing for a small press? Would you have any advice or comments for someone looking for an editing career?

    Like

  39. Thanks. Yes the landscape of publishing seems to be shifting but there is nothing like having a book in your hand. I just like the feel of a book better but I love the convenience of having many books all in one place. I have at times purchased the digital format then went out and bought the hard copy because I enjoy marking books up! LOL

    Like

  40. Chila Woychik

    Best format? I suppose that depends on many factors. Cost wise, digital is cheapest, and print is most labor-intensive. So I just suppose it’s up to the publisher and author. At Port Yonder, we do both for nearly every book.

    Personally, I prefer print books, but again, the market is changing, and I’m glad we have more opportunities today than ever before.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s