Gina Holmes is a freelance writer, whose work has appeared in Woman’s Day, The Roanoker and Epiphany’s magazine. She also co-runs the popular fiction blogs: Novel Journey and Novel Reviews, where she has interviewed Frank Peretti, Karen Kingsbury, Ted Dekker and more than a hundred others. She makes her home in Roanoke, Virginia, where she types her third novel with one hand, vacuums with the other, and listens to incessant knock-knock jokes from her two boys.
PORTRAIT: Gina, thanks so much for agreeing to share your life and struggles with me. I was drawn to you because we seem to be in a similar life stage and are playing the waiting game with publication. Not to mention the cool name! It is my desire to learn from your experience, and I hope those who read this interview will be blessed by your journey.
Tell us a little about your family and a typical day in your life.
HOLMES: I have been married for ten years and have two sons, Jacob and Levi (9 & 4). We live in Southern Virgina in a 1920’s craftman’s cottage in the world’s best neighborhood. I work part time as a RN, freelance write here and there for magazines and try to get my novels published. I wake around six, have coffee and post on my blog, Novel Journey. I then walk my son to school, come home write, edit, work on setting up blog interviews, etc. Get my younger son off to school, write some more. Run around the house about five p.m. cleaning. Make dinner, take the kids to the park or wherever, write some more, read the kids a book and pray with them and go to bed.
Pretty boring stuff.
I remember at one point you were homeschooling. How long did you homeschool? Why and when did you stop?
I homeschooled my older son for 2 years. I stopped because something personal happened in my life and I had to go back to work full-time for a period. My son’s been happy in public school, so we’ve let him continue.
When you homeschooled how did you fit writing in?
Oh, everyone will hate me but the truth is my son Jacob is self-motivated. He woke up, made himself breakfast, got out his curriculum and went to work. If he needed help, he’d call for me.
I worked along side him writing while he did his schoolwork. I doubt that would have worked that well with my younger son who I adore but is much higher maintenance.
Gee, you’re no help in figuring out how to write and homeschool! 🙂 This is my second year homeschooling and it seems like every week when things get tough, I’m questioning whether homeschooling is right for my family. Did you ever second guess when you homeschooled or were you assured homeschooling is what God wanted for you and your family?
I did a lot of research before I chose to homeschool and the judgment from friends and family was almost unbearable. So I was constantly having to defend this decision. It was the right one at that time. I’ve always said we’d take one school year at a time. My son is so bright, and worked hard without prodding. I knew he was doing great. When he went back to public school he was ahead of the game.
Would you homeschool again?
Sure. Every year we reevaluate. Next year he’s going to public school but if something comes up, we wouldn’t hesitate to homeschool again. I think there are huge benefits to it.
I heard you’re an RN as well as a wife, mommy and writer. How do you juggle all these things in your life?
Good grief, no idea. I gave up TV and the majority of my once grand social life. I bring the laptop if I take the kids to the park or play zone or wherever and write while they enjoy themselves. I like things clean and orderly and have had to abandoned my tight ship and chill out about the way I would like things to be. I was once a bit of a gourmet, hah, now I don’t cook it if it’s not boxed or frozen, pretty much.
I guess we Ginas are a lot alike! 🙂
What do you do to keep yourself sane during those crazy days at home?
Well, I’m not homeschooling anymore but it still gets crazy when both boys are off (ugh, summer vacation). I have a couple of close friends I can call when I’m at the end of my rope who always make me laugh at myself.
Did you ever feel like you’ve “missed” God in regards to writing or homeschooling, that maybe you should be doing something else?
I’d love to say no way but that would be a lie. I had at one point wanted to be a missionary. I’ve done some work with CEF (Christian Evangelism Fellowship: At home missionaries that evangelize children). I got to lead quite a few children to Christ and that seems so much more important than little old suspense stories. But, every time I pray for guidance, God makes it clear I’m on the right path. I may go back to missionary type work someday. That is where my, and I hope all Christian’s hearts are, but for now I must focus on the task at hand.
Do you ever feel inadequate in any of your roles? If so, which ones and how do you battle those feelings?
Are you trying to make me cry? Gina’s are so mean! I feel inadequate in every area in my life sometimes. I’m a confident person. I’m happy with most of my life. I know I’m a good mother. I know I’m a good writer, a good friend, etc. Most of the time. When I start questioning my abilities and I’m a melancholy so I’m way moody—high highs and low lows—I just remind myself tomorrow I’ll feel differently. A good night’s sleep usually cures those down on myself feelings. (And reminding myself that I’m the daughter of the King of Kings).
That’s great advice. I have some melancholy in me also!
What one thing/person keeps you going when you felt like quitting?
Great question. I had a boyfriend back in college who liked to say, “Never say die.” I got to hate that saying. But whenever I thought failure was imminent, he would say that and ask me what I needed to do to make success happen. I got rid of the guy but kept the mantra.
I also have a couple of writer friends who pep talk me when I’m sure the latest rejection is going to send me over the edge. We talk each other down. It’s so important to have good friends.
Do you ever feel like you’re neglecting your children when you write? How do get over that mom guilt?
Oh yeah and I am. But I just have to look at my beautiful, sweet, happy, well behaved and loving sons to know I’m doing just fine.
Well behaved sons? Gee, you’re no help, again! I thought I’d be able to learn something from you. 🙂
If you do feel your priorities slipping, what do you do to get back on track?
I am very goal oriented. Everything I do I balance against my overall goal which is to get my books published and have them be as excellent as possible. If I thought writing would hurt my children, I would stop. I do have to remind myself to spend time with God before writing and that’s just a matter of reminding myself on a daily basis. It should come more naturally than it does. I’m a work in progress.
I hear ya! Maybe it’s a Gina thing.
Has there ever been a time God told you to set aside your writing to focus on other areas of your life? If so, how did you handle that? If not, how would you handle that it if he told you to hang up your laptop?
I have not had to do that. I’ve asked myself this question. Could I stop if I needed to? Honestly, Gina, I don’t know. I have such tunnel vision now. It would really have to be a compelling reason. I’m not sure I could stop writing. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
Well, take it from a fellow tunnel visioner. If God wants to get your attention, all He has to do is cave in the tunnel. I hope you never hit that road block.
How do you handle interruptions in your writing life?
I hiss. I need to turn the phone off but I’m kind of lazy and don’t. I have a pretty good ability to block out the world when I write so it’s not too much of a problem.
How do you get back into the flow of writing after you’ve been interrupted?
I reread the last chapter and that usually puts me back in the zone.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I don’t think so. Thanks for the thoughtful questions. It’s not the easiest path: homeschooling and writing, but both are so worthwhile ministries that only you can do. I’m proud of the folks that are pulling off that juggling act.
Well, I don’t know how well I’m pulling it off, hense the red light on writing from God. But I hope to get a yellow light soon!