Jo Ann Wentzel remembers always writing from at least her late teens. There always seemed to be some type of writing going on even though she spent years working at other jobs such as retail and in the human services field. She did all kinds of selling which now she finds very helpful in promoting books. For decades she and her husband did full time foster care where their house became a group home. They then created and implemented two separate programs where they contracted with many counties to provide services.
Her writing covered numerous topics for many years and she wrote hundreds of non-fiction pieces for several online websites and print outlets. She spent a couple years writing for a local weekly newspaper and college newspapers as an older student. Many of her articles were aimed at helping parents and foster parents. Jo Ann also wrote about rescue pets and party planning, two of her greatest interests. The topics were endless since all this happened over many years.
The parenting topics were of such interest to people that it encouraged Jo Ann to write her first book, a non-fiction volume called It Begins and Ends with Family. Originally, it was put on a CD-ROM for the parents that they worked with; other than that it languished in a box for many years. When she felt a new need for this she was spurred into action. Jo Ann finally did something with this in the past few months and now it is available as an e-book and in a print format on Amazon.
Meanwhile, Jo Ann felt compelled to write about a topic both disgusting and unpleasant. She felt it necessary to produce a book about this issue and was excited to try her hand at fiction. The book features the issue of pedophilia. Decades ago a case worker told her one out of four divorces was because of incest. Not sure how accurate that was but, she always remembered that fact. It was evident that the majority of foster kids they welcomed into their home had been victims of sexual abuse. The signs were there and the ways it destroyed young lives prompted her to write Ultimate Betrayal. Yes, it is fiction and an improbable scenario but, all the signs are there for this sickening problem increasing. The evidence is in the news daily. Jo Ann has already been asked for a sequel and has begun to write it. Knowing how many people prefer to bury their heads in the sand and ignore unpleasantness, this is a challenging book to market. She will persist because that is who she is when something is this important and this problem should be of concern to everyone.
One year ago, Jo Ann and her husband, Dan, retired to a small, older motor home and travel the country with their two rescue dogs. This old Mallard, affectionately known as ‘the Duck’ needs constant repair but, the lifestyle is appealing. In the past, she says, their lives were always too busy to do much traveling but, now they finally can get to see some of the beautiful country they live in. Jo Ann reports her husband of over 51 years and the love of her life is helping her with promoting the books and freeing up all her time to write, a wonderful man for sure. He takes care of her website as well as Jo Ann and the pets. Family is everything to them so they fit in visits to their scattered family as often as possible.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When in grade school, I enjoyed doing essays and extra writing assignments. As a teen and young adult I continued to write for myself but, never thought seriously about being a writer. I always wrote stuff while working at additional jobs. Eventually I started to submit articles here and there, but, did not look at this seriously until maybe 20 years ago and after that began writing for many online websites. It took a need for a book to help explain the calling of foster care and give new parents some advice and help to supplement their training when the first book was born. It was many years after that till it was first published. The next book was my first novel.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The first book took a whole year and the novel was about 2/3rd’s that time. I’m fascinated by different lengths of time to complete a book due to the varied writing styles of authors. I’m sure some books are harder to write than others and take more time or research.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I have not yet developed one that works perfectly as other projects and just life cause me to be more flexible. I try to work for at least a couple hours most days, if the words are flowing easily I work more time. I prefer to work mornings since I seem to come to the blank page less worried and less frustrated about results. I prod myself, most days, to write a certain number of words, but, still word count varies.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Don’t know that I have one but, I have already awoken in the middle of the night, quickly wrote notes about my idea but, was unable to decipher them by daylight. I also remember a time when I ran dripping from a tub with an idea that was really not that great. Mostly I stare at a blank screen till genius hits which is very rare. I suspect this is a more common occurrence for most authors. I find certain places seem to be more conducive to writing. I love being outside or at least be able to see and enjoy nature, especially looking at water relaxes me and helps creative juices flow. I seem to be more productive and imaginative.
How do your books get published?
The only way I can be sure they will get out there and be exposed to readers is to self-publish until I am an expert and seasoned writer. Being an Indie writer means lots more work in addition to writing. Promoting is time intensive and you must have help to do it. One thing about self-publishing is that you are forced to learn a lot, most of it the hard way.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
First and fore-most from life experiences. There are other things that just come to you as an idea and require research but, mainly it is just what is of importance to you, what life has given you as challenges, passions and values that direct your thinking in the beginning. What you hold dear will usually end up in a book.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book in 1999 at 52 years old. It Begins and Ends with Family is a non-fiction describing our experiences of foster care. We had a group home with up to 8 teen boys at a time. Boys that chose to come to our house instead of detention were our specialty. Some parenting and mentoring with girls and young children were part of other programs and experiences.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to read, love to hunt for antiques and collectibles, to cook, to enjoy pets, to fish, to travel and to experience new things.
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband Dan is my biggest fan and help. My children have always been supportive and my best fans are family and friends but, because they love and know me and are probably a bit prejudiced.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I know a lot of stuff that is not particularly valuable but, my interests have always been widespread and the stuff that means nothing to others-well I have a wealth of knowledge in those areas. Once in a while, it comes in handy.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve only written two so far but, am working on the sequel to my novel. Of the two my first try at fiction is my favorite. Ultimate Betrayal is set in ‘end times’ when everything is falling apart and crime in one factor of the population is widespread. This is also a time of technological advancements and the two collide to solve a horrific problem.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I’m too new at this myself to offer much advice but, my own would be don’t be easily discouraged. Write what you want to write and be genuine. Readers can spot a fake. Don’t write for fame or fortune.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Not too many readers yet but, my family is good at giving me feedback. They wanted a sequel. They liked it and they thought it was good. I’ll take that till more readers weigh in.
Do you like to create books for adults?
I do but, nothing too erotic, there are already plenty of works on the market for those who prefer those types of books. I also have planned a project of a kid’s book. Hope not too limit myself too much by age group or genre.
What do you think makes a good story?
Some people are born story tellers and their ideas never end. The story should flow. Dialogue should be believable. It should be full of the unexpected with well – drawn characters that seem real enough for you to love or hate them. I’m aspiring to learn to do all that one day.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I always wanted to have a large family. We were so happy to have two wonderful children. I wanted to be a ballerina as a child and then as a teen a model. Foster care met my first need and the other dreams made place for another impossible one to become an author. I am technically one now and so the next dream is to be a well-read author – different than a top selling author.
Ann Wentzel’s first novel about a topic she feels passionate about and a concern she has for the direction society has taken to a more and more immoral place. Morality is fast disappearing. Caring about others has almost become obsolete. Selfishness prevails. These characteristics are also said to be present in the biblical period called ‘end times’ so the problems fit the ‘what if’ theme of the book. The book explores the fight we are all engaged in of good against evil. Everyone has a personal battle going on inside themselves and depending on your faith, personal philosophy or even your perceptions your choices are made and one side of evil versus good will win. Jo Ann says,”Since society had broadened its concept of what is acceptable more people feel freed from restrictions and boundaries. Behavior that should be unacceptable is now running rampant because no one cares or says ‘NO’. As a Christian this concerns me, knowing the bible teaches we are all sinners, I know people are not perfect. But, when one groups behavior destroys lives and results in broken people my heart hurts.” The characters in this book may be fighting the battle and a unique solution could temporarily stem the tide of this explosion but, what can we do about this problem in real life? The sequel will offer yet another tact to dealing with this issue. But, readers will need to wait on that for a while yet.
IT BEGINS AND ENDS WITH FAMILY:
Parenting has never been foolproof. It has never been easy and without challenges. For most kids that you might call average, ’normal (though I do not believe that child exists) well -known, tried and true measures are sufficient. The average parent has instincts good enough to help kids through tough times and parenting skills that allow them all to survive the ordeal of children growing up.
For those kids who have additional behaviors that are a bit out of the norm, unusual and troubling some of the old time methods do not always work. I believe in tougher discipline for these kids than most modern parents want to engage in. Not abuse mind you, but, spanking in certain cases might need to be one of the tools in your arsenal. This can be a last resort but, if you wait too long it will be of no use at all. When the thinking changed from making your child obey and be responsible for their actions to coddling and letting them run a muck, all hell broke loose. This is responsible for the breakdown of many families.
For foster parents, they rarely have a placement without problems and issues. Partly for the reason stated above that no one makes a child responsible for their actions and also because the current parent is part of the first ‘if it feels good do it’ generation of kids. They want to be kid’s buddies not their parents. Foster kids are difficult because of all these factors and the non -parenting action has gone on too long.
These children need more innovative and practical parenting. Unusual situations call for unique parenting methods. This book supplies new ideas and challenges all parents to think out of the box. When we truly listen and watch our children, we learn to head off unacceptable behaviors. We must connect with foster kids on many levels so they want to please us and are willing to work with you. When they decide they wish to succeed, you have a great chance of helping them to function in a way society accepts and move them closer to their personal goals.
Jo Ann and her husband, Dan, fostered full time for decades and worked with more than 75 kids. Often their house saw eight teen boys at one time.
This author’s future will also see the publishing of a Life Skills manual since they taught that program for many years.
Author Jo Ann Wentzel is Promoted by The Owl Branch Book Promotions
Crystal & Susan