Keynote speaker Debora Coty's inspiring words on writing, stress, and glorifying God "in all things"
We are thrilled to have bestselling author Debora Coty with us at the 2020 Virtual Southern Christian Writers Conference for the Friday evening keynote session.
Debora will present a session titled "Too Blessed to be a Stressed Writer," and we are already anticipating how much it will inspire and encourage our conference attendees.
Debora's Too Blessed to Be Stressed book series has sold over a million copies; her other books include the historical novels The Distant Shore (VRP Publishing) and Billowing Sails (VRP), the award-winning how-to for writers Grit for the Oyster (VRP), and the devotional books Everyday Hope (Barbour), and Mom Needs Chocolate (Regal). She lives and writes from central Florida. (You can learn all about her at www.deboracoty.com.)
I recently had the chance to talk to Debora about her writing and what she hopes to bring to SCWC participants.
How did you become a writer?
Some would call me a late bloomer, but I believe I needed a little longer than most for the fertilizer to kick in.
I was an occupational therapist specializing in orthopedic injuries for 36 years, simultaneously teaching piano for 25 years and raising two children while leading the children’s ministry at my church. I also taught anatomy and physiology at a local college for a time. At first blush, all of that seeming has nothing to do with my writing career, but not so; in retrospect, I see that Papa God used every bit of it to prepare me for various aspects related to my eventual writing/speaking ministry. Just as He is doing right now with aspiring writers – like you – that He’s preparing.
As I was growing up, I devoured books of all genres and fell under the magic of the written word. Christy by Catherine Marshall captivated my imagination as a teen; it changed my world view, it changed my faith, and it planted in me the desire to touch other hearts the way Christy had touched mine – through the written word. That desire simmered on the back burner for 25 years as I married, started a family, and pursued a career in science.
Then one day in 2002, when my youngest chick was about to fly the coop, I sat in a dentist office praying about what I was supposed to be doing next. My careers were going well but something was missing. I couldn’t fathom what. There was something more … I could sense it. Then I picked up a magazine and randomly flipped it open to an ad for a writing contest. A light bulb popped on inside my head and I heard a still, small voice speak to my spirit just two words: “It’s time.”
Time to chase the writing dream Papa God had planted in my heart all those years ago.
I had no experience with writing at that time other than medical charts and annual Christmas newsletters, but I firmly believed that if He wills it, He fulfills it. So I jumped into Writing World feet first. I took crash courses in grammar, punctuation, and the nuts and bolts of writing, and found a mentor – a friend of a friend – who’d had some success with publishing magazine articles. That was my first goal: to publish three mag articles during my lifetime.
Now, fifteen years, over 200 published articles and 40 books later, I know for a fact that our God can work against all odds to fulfill His will. And He does so with panache!
What projects are you currently working on?
The final two books in my bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series will release during the upcoming year and I’ve been working with my publisher on final edits for those. I’ve also been trying to figure out how to answer my reader mail, which is now coming in languages of which I am clueless since several of my Too Blessed titles have been released in Spanish (throughout the USA, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Central America) and Portuguese (Brazil).
How has your Too Blessed to be Stressed series change your life? What has been its positive impact?
The success of the Too Blessed to be Stressed series was totally unexpected and I still have trouble wrapping my head around it.
After my first three books (two historical novels and a dandy little award-winning how to/devo combo called Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers) came out with a small press in South Carolina, I was able to secure an agent, who then opened the doors to larger traditional publishers. My focus shifted to inspirational women’s humor (what I’d personally loved to read for many years) and my agent was able to place my first book in that genre, Mom NEEDS Chocolate, with a mainstream Christian publisher.
Not long after that, I pitched an idea for a new women’s humor book to a Barbour Books rep at a writer’s conference and she was interested enough to ask me to send in a proposal. Eventually (it took nearly a year; the wheels move slowly in the publishing biz) they made an offer. After changing working titles several times, it finally became Too Blessed to be Stressed. Sales were moderate that first six months, but just enough for them to sign me for two more books in my Take On Life series, which eventually became four titles.
Shortly after the second book in the series, More Beauty, Less Beast: Transforming Your Inner Ogre, came out, something strange happened. My first book, Too Blessed to be Stressed, totally took off. Sales skyrocketed. No one could explain it – not my agent, not the publishers. We were all baffled. It was well past the 6 months post-release that usually predicts whether a book will be a hit or not. They had to quickly print another run to meet the public demand. And another. And another.
So as I completed the final two contracted books in the Take On Life series, Barbour decided to produce more books in a separate Too Blessed to be Stressed line, which we launched with gusto. Over the following nine years, the “Baby Blessings” as I like to call them, have proliferated to more than 30. What began as a single book became its own brand.
The most positive impact for me is that because most of the Too Blessed books are available at WalMart, gift shops, grocery stores … places people regularly go, they are getting into the hands of the very ones Papa God wishes to speak to. Those lives he wants to restore with His redemptive love and mercies, new every morning – the very prayer I lift before writing each and every one. Pretty covers and quirky LOL’s open the backdoor into the hearts of women that may not otherwise step foot into a church.
The reader responses and letters I receive swell my own heart full to bursting with gratitude for the opportunity to reach out and take the hands of other women striving, just like me, to live lives pleasing to Papa God in a world where ugliness and hate stalk us.
What role does faith play in your writing?
Early in my writing career, I had to decide whether to focus on a secular audience, and therefore tone down (or even omit) many “faith” aspects in my subject matter, or to write for a primarily Christ-following audience. I realized that my Christian faith and principles were so ingrained in every single facet of my perspective that I couldn’t possibly dumb it down enough for unbelieving editors. (Yes, sadly, I actually tried.) So I chose to pursue a Christian agent and publishers who “got it” and felt the same passion I did for glorifying God in all things.
The irony is that I receive significant correspondence from nonbelievers and unchurched women who have picked up my books anyway – or received them as gifts – and have felt that their lives have been permanently changed when they unexpectedly met Christ in the pages.
Your keynote address is titled "Too Blessed to be a Stressed Writer." What do you hope SCWC attendees will come away with from hearing your message?
Deadlines; restrictive word counts; editor response purgatory; rewrites; time management; juggling home, family, writing, work; editing in general – all are sources of stress for writers. Wallowing in the stress-pool long enough will result in us being too stressed to feel blessed.
My goal is to share tips and techniques to decom-stress and benefit the most from our writing time. To make the writing experience actually enjoyable; to not pay a costly stress-ransom in our massive effort to get everything accomplished.
Tapping into my decades of expertise as a stress management specialist in physical therapy clinics, combined with my own experience as a struggling, teeth-grinding, cross-eyed writer, I hope to share practical advice to help alleviate your burdens, unknot your muscles, and provide a few stress-relieving LOLs.
Join us for the Virtual Southern Christian Writers on July 24-25. For more information or to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.