Vonda Skelton is an author, speaker, and entertainer who is thankful God can use her messes for His glory…and YOUR entertainment! From black eyes to pink pigs and spider veins to webs of deceit, life is a stage—and every day offers a bounty of new material. You just can’t make this stuff up!
Vonda is the author of four books, including Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe, “A hilarious journey through all thing female as we search for truth in a counterfeit world.” She also has a three-book children’s mystery series for boys and girls 8-13. Her latest book, Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island, was nominated as a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Award.
Vonda also writes for magazines, including Focus on the Family publications, HomeLife, ParentLife, Christian Single, and many others. Yes, she’s been married 42 years and is a 60-year-old grandmother of four…and she writes for Christian Single Magazine!
She is the founder of the Christian Communicators Conference, training Christian women how to develop a speaking ministry and co-founder of the NCompass Writing Retreats.
As a speaker, Vonda addresses business and social groups, churches, women’s groups, writer’s groups, and schools. Her philosophy is that everyone needs to laugh—and it’s her job to see that they do! For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
What initially drew you to writing?
I hate to admit it, but I think a propensity to lying initially drew me to writing! From the time I was a little girl, I’d been able to manipulate the truth to meet the LETTER of the law without being honest with the SPIRIT of it. I realized I could make most anything a little bigger, badder, meaner, or sadder—and get more attention for it.
It’s sad to say now, but I was an adult before I realized I couldn’t manipulate God. To others, I could sound good, look good, and appear to do all the right things, but God knew my motivation, knew my heart. So now I take real life and simply WRITE it bigger, badder, meaner, and sadder…and everbody’s happy—including God!
Do you write with music?
Not usually. I wish I could, but I’m one of those people who can be easily distracted by music if I know the words or even if it doesn’t have words, I’m distracted if I know the tune and where the music is going.
But if I’m doing non-creative stuff like answering email, bookkeeping, cleaning, etc, I love to have Soaking.net streaming from my computer. You can choose between just music or music and songs. (I have it on right now!) I have a direct link to the music only track at my website, if you’d like to try it. Simply go to my website (www.VondaSkelton.com) and scroll down to the yellow Soaking.net link/banner on the right.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
So far, the easiest to write have definitely been the Bitsy books. Bitsy is basically me as a kid, with all the loud-mouthiness, talents, failures, fears, insecurities, impulses, and idiosyncrasies I had as a child. I LOVE writing Bitsy! I know her, I hear her voice. My family is her family. The first book, Bitsy and the Mystery at Tybee Island, was based on my childhood family, and since writing the first book, my sweet daddy and one of my sisters have passed away. I’m so thankful I didn’t put off writing any longer. What a joy to know they continue on the pages of the book!
The last two, Bitsy and the Mystery at Amelia Island and Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island, include my adult children and grandchildren. It’s been so much fun to make it a family series.
The most difficult so far has been the women’s book, Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe. It’s a book of my heart, and even though it uses lots of humor, it required some gut-wrenching honesty and transparency. The truth is, we women have been sold a bunch of lies through the media, the culture, and even some well-intended (and perhaps some NOT so well-intended) Christians. We look at the topics of beauty, busyness, marriage, motherhood, pride, materialism, servanthood, among other things. In each chapter, I admit my own struggle and then we look at God’s Word for His answer. Each chapter includes five practical things we can do to overcome the lie, as well as five daily Bible readings related to the subject. There are Group Discussion Questions at the back of the book for group study.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
I’m currently working on a novel, Pigtail, loosely based on my experience caring for my sister during her terminal illness. So far this has been even more difficult to write than Seeing Through the Lies. I’m having difficulty separating fact from fiction, knowing when to stick to the truth and when to fictionalize. The topic is a sticky one, with lots of situations that I’m not sure I need to include, but they’re the most compelling of all the scenes. I’m still searching for the answer of how to make it fiction, and yet bring all that emotion to it.
And even though I’m currently working on it as a novel, I’m feeling more and more compelled to write it as a screenplay. I originally saw the story in scenes. I can act them out. They have me—and others—laughing our heads off one minute…and sobbing the next. It’ll be interesting to see how it finally comes out!
Do you begin with character or plot?
In the Bitsy books, I obviously began with the character. In Pigtail, it’s all about the plot…and well developed characters. Did I just contradict myself?
What advice would you give new writers?
Never give up! I received 63 rejections before I ever had anything published! Most new writers will get 5 to 10 rejections and quit. That just shows they’re not really writers. Writers learn and write and submit and learn and write and learn and write and submit. And in all that time, they have to receive rejections and difficult-to-swallow critiques, and keep going. If you just want people to tell you how wonderful your stuff is, you need to be something other than a writer.
Also, be prepared to invest in your writing journey. I’ve often compared writing to my nursing career. Even though God gifted me to be a nurse by creating me as a compassionate person who wants to help and as one who can take charge and think quickly, would you believe they made me go to school to LEARN how to be a nurse? Not only that, but they made me PAY them to teach me how to be a nurse! And even more ridiculous, they made me work at the hospital FOR FREE while I was paying THEM to teach me how to be a nurse!
Yes, God may have created us with certain gifts to be writers, but that doesn’t mean that’s all we need. He expects us to learn, to try and fail, and perhaps even to sacrifice for the calling. That can be a hard lesson to learn, but if you go into it with that attitude, you’ll be miles ahead of those who think they can do it on their own.