In The Valley of the Jolly Green Giant lives the author of “A Can of Peas.”
A Wisconsin transplant, Traci DePree has lived in Minnesota long enough to call it home. “I came to Minnesota at 18 to attend Bible college. After college I traveled, living in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Upstate New York before returning to Minnesota. I’ve lived in Minnesota for 33 years, in the Minnesota River Valley for the last 21,” she recalls.
“A Can of Peas,” her first book, is the first of three in the Lake Emily Series which also includes “Dandelions in a Jelly Jar” and “Aprons on a Clothesline.” The series tells the story of Peter Morgan and his extended family. In real life, DePree’s father grew up on the shores of Lake Emily in Wisconsin but the stories take place in rural Minnesota. It’s little wonder how much Le Sueur, DePree’s current home, is reflected in the tales and how much the Morgans feel like neighbors.
It’s also not surprising that DePree’s favorite part of living in rural Minnesota is the people, “I love going to my little grocery store and having at least three conversations. They have become family.”
Taking Her Own Advice
Her advice to aspiring authors? “Be humble. Take all the criticism you can from your editors. Always keep learning. Grow a thick skin.”
Humble well describes her own journey to becoming a published author. “I worked in the customer service department of Bethany House Publishers in the Twin Cities. Sometimes the phones would be quiet so I’d be looking for things to do. The Editorial Department was always looking for someone to review manuscripts so I would take these and write up my thoughts on their publish-ability.
“I was transferred to the Editorial Department as an editorial assistant, and they trained me to be an editor. I was a proofreader, copy editor, and line editor before moving to Le Sueur to become a freelance editor, editing fiction titles for best-selling authors like Ted Dekker, Erin Healy, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, Lisa Bergren, Robin Lee Hatcher, Ace Collins, Robert Whitlow, and many others. I love editing and I adore my authors.”
DePree tells of the nudge that began her writing career, “One author and dear friend, Lisa Bergren, encouraged me to write my own books. So I submitted a proposal for ‘A Can of Peas.’ It was accepted right away.”
“I think we romanticize writing as if the writer sits down and everything just flows out. Most days I have to sit and force words onto a page.”
On The Job Training
Preparation was strictly on-the-job. She offered her regimen, “Years of editing, reading great writing, seeing how more experienced editors did their work, learning to take criticism constructively without taking it personally and reading books on the craft.”
One thing she didn’t expect was how much discipline is required. “Writing is just plain work,” she said. “I think we romanticize writing as if the writer sits down and everything just flows out. Most days I have to sit and force words onto a page.
“I liken it to running. I run competitively. Most days I don’t want to train; it’s exhausting, hard work. I whine and complain, yet I push myself to do it. Afterward, I see the fruit of my labor. I win a race or I’ve created a book I’m proud of.”
Her favorite part of the process, she said, is “third drafts, when the story has taken form. This gives me joy. Characters come alive. Plot thickens and my pulse is racing, or I’m bawling at some sad turn.”
DePree says that the length of time it takes to write a book varies, “It depends on how long I procrastinate. I wrote ‘A Can of Peas’ in six months. With edits and rewrites another six months. My Guideposts Books were quicker turn-arounds since I wrote two to three books each year.”
Guideposts Books is a reference to two series.
The first, “Mystery and the Minister’s Wife” series features Kate Hanlon and her husband Paul. The stories take place in Copper Mill, Tennessee. Kate finds herself in the midst of mysteries and puzzles and uses her quick mind and faith to figure out what’s going on. DePree, one of several authors in the series, has contributed six titles.
The second, “Secrets of Blue Hill Library” series is her most recent work under the pen name, Emily Thomas. It focuses on young widow, Anne Gibson, who inherits her great-aunt’s Victorian mansion and turns it into the town library unraveling mysteries along the way. DePree has contributed three titles.
What is the process for writing a book? She offers her steps, “First, I come up with a basic concept—setting, plot, and main characters. Then I create a ten-page outline, beefing this up until it’s about thirty pages, adding detail and subplot ideas as I go.
“I will be doing research throughout so that the details of setting and whatever it is I’m writing about are accurate.
“Once I have the larger outline,” she continued, “I begin the actual writing. As the writing fills out it will affect my overall plot so I’m updating that as I go. Characters take on a life of their own, ideas flow. It makes for a more organic, true work.”
The fruit of this process is the initial full draft. She explains, “I like to let it sit for a week or three. This isn’t always possible with quick turnarounds. After it sits for a while I’ll give the manuscript a quick read so I can get a feel for overall plot character weaknesses to come up with some good strategies on rewrite. Then I’m onto draft two.
“I do this several more times, if I can, before it hits my editor’s desk. Then it’s back and forth with my editors. They’ll read, offer suggestions, I’ll rewrite, they’ll edit, I’ll rewrite…. I will go through my books three to four times in this process. Then it’s off to the printers and I won’t see it again until it’s a finished book and time to market it.”
The Heart of the Matter
What’s the one thing DePree wants people to know about her? “I am first and foremost a Christ follower. I write to give Him glory; everything I do is about that. He is the One who gives me everything I have—every gift, every blessing. I want my life to be a reflection of Him to this hurting world, so people understand that they don’t need to live in the guilt of their sin.
“Christ bought us freedom not only from sin but also from trying to work hard enough to please God when He died on the cross. That is my life message. It is everything. It’s why I help out at my local nursing home and lead Bible studies. Why I write, why I run. Because I have come to know Him and His presence sustains me in the hard times, I want others to know this too.”
Traci and her husband, John, have five daughters. Her books can be found on Amazon.com