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The Magic of the Emerald Isle: An Interview with Jennifer Deibel
Episode 23411th February 2021 • WRITE NOW! Workshop Podcast: Write a Book, Change the World with Kitty Bucholtz • Kitty Bucholtz
00:00:00 00:55:49

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Today's guest is Jennifer Deibel, whose debut novel, A Dance in Donegal, just came out!

Jennifer tells us about life as a debut author, and how she started writing. She lived in Ireland at the time, and felt she'd finally found her heart there. That made her want to write about Ireland in a real way, not how it's portrayed in some movies and TV shows.

We talk about using all the senses when you write, and trying to capture what a place feels like when you write it. Jennifer also talks about starting a book, setting it aside when she had a child, picking it up and working on it again, having to set it aside again -- and how some stories just won't let you go.

You can buy Jennifer's novel wherever you buy books, and find out more about her and her upcoming projects at her website You can follow her on major social media sites, especially Instagram and Facebook, and join her Facebook reader's group.


[00:00:07.770] - Kitty

Welcome to Write Now Workshop Podcast, where you can write a book and change the world, I'm your host, Kitty Bucholtz. And this is Episode 234, The Magic of the Emerald Isle. An interview with Jennifer Deibel coming to you on Thursday, February 11th, 2021. So how is your writing going? You know, I have a little pop up message on my calendar and on the first of every month, it pops up and just says, how's the writing going?

[00:00:36.630] - Kitty

And it gives me an opportunity every month to ask myself, have I taken a step back and looked at the big picture and asked myself, am I making progress in the direction that I was intending to go? This is always a good question to ask yourself whenever you're doing anything that takes more than a day. Am I going in the direction that I'm trying to go? Am I not only am I going off in a wrong direction, but am I taking too much time to do something that maybe isn't quite as necessary as it seems fun, i.e. research.

[00:01:09.510] - Kitty

It's a good time for us to just ask ourselves, is this the right book? And do I need to do more on this particular kind of research or less on this? Am I making enough progress that I will have a book in a while? Could I be doing any more writing? Am I being too hard on myself? And I should just relax a little bit and when I relax, then I'll do better writing sometimes. That's one of the issues that I have to tell myself, you need to relax more because you're freaking yourself out. And I think you'll get more done if you just chill out. So what do you need to ask yourself about your writing also? Do you just need some more energy? Do you need some more people to be around even though you might not be able to physically be with people? You could join My Finish Your Book membership group. We get together twice a week and we do a 30 minute writing sprint. Everybody says this is what I'm working on. And then at the end, this is how many words I wrote. This is how much editing I got done. And we are getting a ton done. And it's also super fun. We've got more people joining and everybody adds their own kind of energy to it. And it's amazing how much faster you write and how much more excited you can be about your project, because in a few minutes you're going to tell a whole bunch of people, yeah, I got this much done.

[00:02:28.920] - Kitty

And sometimes you're saying, well, I only got two hundred words written, but I figured something out in the plot that I wasn't sure about, or I had to go back over my table of contents for my nonfiction book and realized that something was in the wrong place. But I still got, you know, two hundred and fifty words written.

[00:02:43.920] - Kitty

So then there are other people that, I'm just like, how fast can you type, woman? Yeah, one of them, she gets like nine hundred words written in a half an hour many times. And I'm thinking that's a lot of people's daily writing calls, a thousand words. So if you're interested you should come join us. So we not only have the two half-hour writing sprints, which actually takes us about forty five minutes for each call, but we also have a monthly guest. And in fact next week's podcast guest, Jill Cruz, was our February guest for the membership group. And for an hour, all of us could just ask our individual personal questions about things having to do with nutrition, ergonomics and how can I get more writing done? How can I make my body and my mind clearer and sharper so I can get more and better writing done? So that's always super fun having a whole hour with somebody where you can ask them more about either their writing process or some sort of health related thing or a business related thing to writing. Lots of fun things that we are doing in this group. And if you think that this sounds like something you want to check out, then you should go over to WriteNowWorkshop.Com/writing coach and you can see what it's about. Consider joining up and you can also see what other kinds of writing and coaching that I do, because there might be something else where, you are like, all this sounds like exactly what I need. So WriteNowWorkshop.Com/writingcoach. Also remember while you're there that you can download for free my Self-Publish Your Book Checklist, which is three pages of all the things that you need to know, find out, decide on in order to self publish your book if you decide to go that direction.


All right. Remember that we have transcripts now on the show notes pages, very excited. My friend Angeley is doing an awesome job and making them better each week. So hopefully they are of interest to you or if you know somebody else who would rather read than listen or maybe somebody who has any kind of hearing disability and having the transcript would make it easier for them to catch everything that's happening. Definitely go to the show notes page.

[00:05:01.410] - Kitty

That would be and find the episode that you're looking for. So, for instance, today's is 234. Alright, I think those are all the announcements that I wanted to remember to make. In the meantime, I hope that you're excited to listen to Jennifer talk about setting her very first book ever in Ireland when she lived there not too long ago. But a little while back, she's got this wonderful story that is just kind of heartwarming and makes you think, oh, I need to go to Ireland or I've been there once and it's like I need to go back to Ireland. She's right. I felt this and that when I lived there. Maybe I should set some books...wait, wait. Remember that thing I said about the big picture? Sometimes I just need to stop and go, OK, maybe later. But right now, big picture. My progress needs to be on finishing this book and publishing this book. But in any case, I am very excited for Jennifer. Her very first book is coming out and she tells us all about the process and the things that she learned and also just the whole idea of writing a book set in another country. So I hope that you find lots of interesting tips. Here's Jennifer.


Today's guest is Jennifer Deibel. Jennifer is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on (n)courage, The Better Mom, Missions, Mosaic magazine and others, with firsthand immersive experience abroad. Jennifer writes stories that helped redefine home through the lens of culture, history and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children.

[00:06:44.600] - Kitty

Welcome, Jennifer.

[00:06:46.280] - Jennifer

Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.

[00:06:48.320] - Kitty

Yeah, and this is going to be like you're at the beginning of a whole bunch of new things because this is your first published novel, right?

[00:06:56.390] - Jennifer

That's right. Everyone asked me, how does it feel like, surreal is the only word I can use because it's exciting and terrifying. But I can't like even believe it's actually happening. And so to be sitting here talking is just amazing.

[00:07:09.080] - Kitty

Yeah. And it's got to be more surreal based on the fact that this interview, because your publicist is so on top of things, is actually being recorded months before your book comes out.

[00:07:23.480] - Kitty

But we thank you, Karen, because you rock and you're really good at your job.

[00:07:26.540] - Jennifer

So she is the absolute best. She is. I would be lost without her.

[00:07:32.570] - Kitty

So here we are talking about your book. And at the time, people are listening. Your book is actually come out.Congratulations.

[00:07:40.580] - Jennifer

Yeah,Even more surreal.

[00:07:42.740] - Kitty

I bet you can like almost not even quite grasp like what that is even going to feel like.

[00:07:49.220] - Jennifer

No, I was talking with some other writer friends of mine the other day and I said, I'm almost convinced the world is going to end before February 2nd because I can't fathom what it's actually going to be like to have it. It's been such a long time, such a long process just to even get the contract. So to have it actually happening is, yeah, just unreal. I'm so humbled and grateful, but also still somewhat in shock.

[00:08:15.950] - Kitty

Right. Right. Well, enjoy it because there is kind of a sense of excitement in the shock as well, right?

[00:08:22.250] - Jennifer

Oh, for sure. Absolutely.

[00:08:25.100] - Kitty

Well, listen, so tell us the story. Start wherever you want. We don't want to take the stories are awesome. We do want to hear the story. We just want to also make sure we talk about writing and that sort of thing as well. But tell us the story like, have you been writing stories since you were two or did you start three years ago? And how did you get the call? How did it all happen for you?

[00:08:45.530] - Jennifer

So I have always kind of been a writer. I was forever writing in my journal when I was a kid. I got a diary for my birthday or Christmas one year. I think I was like fourth or fifth grade. So without fail every night I would write in there, you know, as little girls do, pouring out their hopes and dreams. And I would write little stories every now and then. And then I really fell in love with creative writing in high school. And so I wrote a story like a a novel in high school. It was so bad. I'm pretty sure my main character's name change like four times because I can't remember what I named her and things like that. But I enjoyed it. But I never really thought about pursuing writing anything formal. And then in college, in my first English class, we did a creative writing unit and my professor then said, you know, you really should pursue a career in writing like you, you can really write. And I was like, Oh, thank you. I want to make money, though, so sorry.And then I ended up majoring in education. So I laugh at myself for that a lot. But then it kind of laid dormant for a long time until we were back in Ireland and blogs had just become really popular. And so I was reading a bunch of blogs, and saw an announcement that they were starting a new sort of contributor blog about parenting and they were looking for auditions. So I sent in an audition piece and was accepted. And that website called The Better Mom. And I still write for them 10 or 11 years on.

[00:10:22.810] - Kitty


[00:10:23.770] - Jennifer

And Ruth, who's the gal who started the whole thing, said, you know, you really should consider starting a blog. So I started a blog so that people would have a place to go to after they read my work on The Better Mom if they liked it, and that's when I picked back up a story that I had first started. So I guess I have to back up just a wee bit. We spent two years in Ireland when we were first married before we had kids. We went over as students to study the language and culture and we lived in Donegal, which is where my story is set. And it was the most amazing and most difficult two years of our lives. It was really, really hard. We were completely isolated. And so when we came back, I needed a way to process everything that was happening. And I had this story idea of this young American girl who moves over to teach. And so I started writing it. I was expecting our first child. I got, I don't know, a couple of chapters done and then she was born. So then it sat for years because then I had two more kids after her. So at this point when I started my blog, we've just had our third. So our oldest was like six and I started working on it again. Bit by bit. And just through the blogging world with the connections that the better mom, I can go back in and see how things had lined up from that opportunity that lined up for me, nine, 10 years later, to get the contract that I signed with Revell a couple of years, about a year ago.I guess it was now, so I can see how it was in the workings and sort of meant to be. But it's still. Weird thing.

[00:12:12.260] - Kitty

so if you only signed your contract a year or so ago, then the book was pretty much done when you sold it.

[00:12:17.870] - Jennifer

The book was finished. I think with fiction, you typically need to have the manuscript pretty well finished before you pitch to agents and things like that.And because I mean, I used the hashtag for this book, NanowriDecade instead of NaNowrimo. Because it took me I think it was 12 years from the time I wrote the first word to when I actually finished it and was polished and it was ready to pitch.

[00:12:48.350] - Kitty

So. Well, that is pretty typical. So don't feel bad about it at all. All right, let's see, where should we start? Give us the overview for, how did you end up in Ireland for so long and did you set the book in Ireland just because you were there and you were like, well, here I am, I'll just do it.And then also we should remind people that the name of the book is

[00:13:11.690] - Jennifer

So the book is called A Dance in Donegal. And Donegal is the farthest northern county in Ireland. So Ireland has counties in it, but they're kind of like our states here in America. And so I did sort of set it there because we had been there and I was kind of processing through all the things that we had just experienced. And I already forgot the first question.

[00:13:40.340] - Kitty

So, yeah, I was still focused on making sure we said the name of the book and I wanted you to say it because I wasn't sure I could say the name correctly. And it turns out, yeah, you do say it differently than what I was thinking, but did you decide because you were there or I'll just set my first book that I've ever written here where I'm at, because there you were.

[00:14:03.000] - Jennifer

Yes, but I don't know that it was that conscious of a decision. OK, another part of it was I had just read a book, it was one of those like compilation of novellas where four different authors wrote a strand of a story. So it was about this sewing circle groups. And so each novella was from one of these different, character's point of view is that and in the back and I was already kind of rolling around the story idea for dance in my head and I saw in the back and I don't remember the publisher now. I want to say it might have been Harvest House, it is a publisher that I don't think does much fiction anymore. But they said we're always looking for great stories, especially stories with a cultural celebration or something like that. And I went, St. Patrick's Day, okay, now we're cooking with peanut oil. So that was kind of the catalyst to get me to actually start putting it on paper. And then it became this sort of cathartic experience. So there's a lot of what we experienced poured into what Moira my main character experiences, but also very different because she's a different person and we were there in 2001. And she's there in 1921. So there's some differences in there, but a lot about the culture has stayed the same.

[00:15:20.810] - Kitty


[00:15:21.980] - Jennifer

I wanted, because I loved Ireland, I fell in love with Ireland. I've always said I think my heart was always born there and I never truly found my heart until we lived there and but at the same time it was very hard, a very hard place to live. The particular area we were in just because of how isolated we were. And so I wanted a way to bring authentic Irish culture to people, because I feel like the Irish sort of get, they call it oi-rish, that sort of stage , no patchy fingers, if you please, and top of the morning and all that kind of stuff. And I wanted people to see the beautiful and rich depth. Deep richness, we'll say it this way, of the Irish culture and her people, and so that's kind of why I ended up putting it there.

[00:16:17.040] - Kitty

Wow. And if you have this feeling like you found your heart finally when you got there, then I would imagine that would be a big part of like deciding, I need to start writing and get some things down on paper.

[00:16:30.180] - Jennifer

Absolutely. Because there are some things that you just can't. I'm always better expressing myself through the written word than the spoken word, which might be obvious at this moment. But yeah, just that way of trying to find a way to put into words what I'm experiencing, what I'm feeling, because I want other people to be able to share in that as well. Because if they knew if they really knew the truth of what it's truly like, they would love it just as much. Because I think there's a reason, even if you go over and all you see is Blarney and the Ha'Penny Bridge and Dublin and the cliffs of Moore. Maybe even if that's all you get, there's a reason people come back and say, oh, it was the most magical thing and they haven't even scratched the surface of what it's really like.

[00:17:20.620] - Kitty

Yeah, yeah. OK, now one thing in your bio that I was just like, wow to me just seems like total night and day. So I used to live in Arizona for seven years and I've been to mostly Belfast, but also drove down to to Dublin for like a day. So I had 10 days of my life that has been in Ireland. And I'm thinking, how could you move? Like, how do you feel going from the greenest place on Earth to the brownest place on Earth?

[00:17:52.050] - Jennifer

Yes, it was quite of a shock. So I was born and raised in Arizona. Both my husband and I were. He was based, he grew up in Flagstaff, which is up in the northern mountains. Snow, they get seasons up there. I was born just outside of Flagstaff, but mostly lived in the southern part. So brown, brown, brown. When we moved over to Ireland the first time, like I could not warm up, it was so cold and the cold there is different. I don't know if it's the humidity or what, but it seeps into your bones. And it is called the 40 Shades of green...