Monday, May 9, 2016

Write-to-Publish Faculty Interview: Jesse Florea, Plenary Speaker and Focus on the Family Editorial Director of Youth Publications

Tell us a little about your talks for the evening sessions.

Well, they won't be boring. :-) We serve an awesome, creative, loving God. In the evening sessions, I'll share a bit of the His-story of my life. Based on my childhood experiences, I'm the last person who should be editing children's magazines and working at Focus on the Family. But God uses the foolish to confound the wise. Our Lord uses our past experiences to flavor and grow our writing, but we have to lean into Him and be totally transparent. I want every writer to tap into their weakness to discover God's strength. 

I'll also talk a bit about digging into the craft and being obedient to God's call on your life as a writer. We need to finish what we start and walk through doors that He opens. I can't tell you how many times I've been to a conference, met a writer with a fantastic idea, given an assignment on spec and have never seen a thing. Obedience and discipline aren't fun words, but they definitely lead to success as a writer.

Finally, I'll talk about why the Christian writer is so important at this time in history. The world needs what we're writing about. It needs God, because it has lost so much. So we need to write the truth in a way that the world can hear it, understand it and wrestle with it.

We'll laugh a little bit, too. I have a lot of embarrassing stories and "how-not-to" get things done. I really appreciate this opportunity that Lin has given me. My talks aren't for children's writers; they're geared to all writers.

Give us a quick overview of Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines.

Clubhouse magazine is the longest running children's ministry at Focus on the Family. Next February we'll celebrate our 30th year of publishing. We're a monthly, 32-page magazine for boys and girls ages 8-12. A couple years ago, we rebranded the magazine as Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse—so now we have exclusive Odyssey content in the magazine every month. Next year is Odyssey's 30th anniversary as well.

Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. magazine is for kids ages 3-7. We do more puzzles and developmental stuff in Jr. Most parents and kids go through the magazine together, whereas, parents just give Clubhouse to their children to read. Jr. started in 1988.

Both magazines feature great fiction, personality stories, crafts, recipes, quizzes and Christian content (i.e. Bible stories, Christian worldview, biblical archaeology, etc.) We love featuring ordinary kids doing extraordinary things for God. Jr. also publishes poetry. Our readers are active participants in the magazines. We get hundreds of letters a month. We also match thousands of pen pals through our pen pal program in Clubhouse. And our art and illustrations can't be beat. Basically, I love my job and picture myself more of a children's pastor to 125,000 kids than a magazine editor.

How can a writer best prepare for an appointment with you?

Just be ready to be real. I don't care about a polished pitch. I mainly want to know what you're excited about and your area of expertise. Some of the best one-on-ones have been meetings where I've gotten to know a writer and then made an assignment based on what they're passionate about. I also love connecting writers with Thriving Family and other areas of Focus on the Family.

Of course, actual preparation isn't a bad thing. Pick up a sample of the magazines. Check out our websites. Know the style and voice and types of stories we're looking for. We need writers to fit into our box, instead of trying to make us fit into yours. (In other words, I'm not going to publish your middle grade novel as a serialized fiction story in the magazine.) I rely heavily on people who meet with me at writers' conferences to fill the pages of Club and Jr. In fact, I can pick up any issue and tell you where I met each writer. So like the Bible says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid." And make all the appointments you can with the faculty. I truly think it's the most important part of any conference.

Write-to-Publish meets June 8 – 11

in the Chicago area.

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