I'm pleased to have Sarah Kohnle as my guest today. I met Sarah a couple years ago when I was a speaker at the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers guild conference, and she invited me to give a writing workshop at the annual Missouri State Teachers' Association retreat along the Jacks Fork River in the Ozarks. During the retreat I met so many teachers who are also writers, which was an inspiring experience. When Sarah told me about her book, I invited her to be interviewed on my blog, and she graciously agreed to do it!
Sarah has been a reporter/editor for many years and has multiple
publishing credits to her name in newspapers, trade magazines, and corporate
newsletters. A native of North Dakota, she earned a bachelor’s degree in
journalism from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in
communication from the University of Illinois. Currently, she is managing editor
for a state association for teachers.
For Shifting Gears, she put her
professional skills to work, interviewing numerous professionals including those
associated with cycling and exercise, law enforcement, and funeral homes.
Additionally, she conducted first-hand research while bicycling on roads across
Kansas and Idaho, and on bicycle trails in Illinois and Missouri.
Thank you, Sarah, for taking time from your busy
schedule to visit, and congratulations on the release of your novel,
Shifting Gears. You are an accomplished writer, reporter,
photographer, editor --- and now a published novelist. What (or who) inspired
you to become a writer?
journalism career started early; I recall publishing a newspaper in elementary
school with a classmate. I have no idea where the inspiration came from,
however, I do know one of my relatives was a newspaper columnist in the 1800s.
It’s a real treat to have some of her articles.
It seems like you were destined to become a reporter! One of your passions is long-distance cycling.
How did long-distance cycling spark your idea for Shifting Gears, and
what kind of research did you perform while writing your novel?
Sarah: I had ridden across Iowa years ago. When this idea came along, as a former newspaper reporter, I wanted to do some firsthand research, so I signed up for a ride across Kansas. To train, I logged many hours on a bike trail in Illinois. My love of long-distance cycling was rekindled. So far, Idaho was my favorite state to ride. Next spring, my husband and I hope to go on a bike and barge trip in Holland.
Traveling to Holland for a bike and barge trip sounds so exciting! Shifting Gears has been described as a relational novel, written in the style of Anne Tyler. What can you tell us about the characters and story line of Shifting Gears?
Sarah: A reviewer really nailed it: “I enjoyed the writer's clear voice, the consistency of the book's purpose and progress as Meg and Josh traversed life together -- but not quite together. This was a careful drawing of the changing relationship of a mother transcending her care-worn past and navigating new realities with her ever more independent son. The author thoroughly explored the power and presence of the absent husband-father. The supporting characters were well drawn and the description rich and visceral as the two travel together through thick and thin across America.” That is an impressive review! Now, onto the business end of your book. Shifting Gears was published by Astraea Press. Why did you choose Astraea to publish your novel, and how was your experience with them?
discovered Astraea Press last summer and was intrigued by their concept of
publishing clean fiction. They were exceptional to work with. The editors were
wonderful and pushed me in a good way. Working on the cover with a lot of fun
as the artist and I tried various approaches. I love the cover; it is colorful and inviting. You and the artists did a wonderful job. So, where can readers find Shifting Gears?
Sarah: It is available online through Astraea Press, Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble. In your full-time job, you are managing editor of the MSTA magazine. Will you please discuss submission guidelines for the magazine—who is eligible to submit, what kinds of submissions you’re looking for, etc.
Sarah: Our quarterly magazine is mailed to approximately 44,000 educators. I am always looking for good pitches from writers on a variety of education topics. For MSTA questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You also are coordinator of the annual MSTA retreat at Bunker Hill. What can you tell us about the annual creative retreat—how did it get started, where is Bunker Hill located, when is the retreat held, who is eligible to attend, what kinds of speakers or workshop leaders are involved, etc.?
I first started at MSTA, I spent a weekend at Bunker Hill, a rustic property
that has a fascinating history and has been part of the organization since 1947.
The tranquil property sits along the Jacks Fork River in the Ozarks. I was
inspired during my first weekend and thought other writers could benefit as
well. From there I started the annual fall Creative Retreat. This year it is
for writers and photographers Oct. 3-5. Enrollment is limited and more
information at www.bunkerhillretreat.com.
This year, I am excited to welcome you and Lou Turner back to meet with
aspiring writers. It will be a weekend to create and to learn.
Another of your other passions is mission trips to
Central America. How did you get involved in these service trips, and what can
you tell us about your experiences?
Sarah: This spring was my fourth trip to Honduras. We work with World Gospel Outreach, an organization that has been in Honduras for 30 years. We provide medical, dental, optical services and children’s ministry to neighborhoods. One of the aspects I like about the organization is how it partners with local churches and professionals to provide on-going physical and spiritual care. That is a worthy cause, and I'm certain it is also gratifying to make a difference in the lives of so many children. I do have another writing question: What are you working on now, and what’s the best way for readers to contact you to find more about your writing?
Sarah: I have another fun story I am working on. Readers can find me at sarahkohnle.com. I'm looking forward to learning more about your next book. Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to add?
Sarah: Donna, thanks for this opportunity. I am really looking forward to our fall weekend, when the air has a slight crispness to it and the leaves begin to change.
Thank you, Sarah, for your answers to my questions, and I look forward to seeing you at Bunker Hill again this fall!
If anyone has a question or comment for Sarah, please feel free to leave them.