Wayne Clark is a retired United Methodist minister. He has been a member of the Iowa conference UMC under appointment for forty-two years. Wayne has had a dual career in parish ministry and as a therapist. He has served congregations in Iowa as a pastor and as a District Superintendent and appointments beyond the local church. Wayne has a Doctor of Ministry focusing on Pastoral Psychotherapy with special interest in the impact genetics has on couples and families. He also has certification in Pastoral Counseling from Care and Counseling, St. Louis, Missouri. Before retiring full-time, Wayne was an approved supervisor in the American Association for Marriage and Family, a Diplomate in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Wayne has been published in professional journals and magazines. He has given presentations at national and
regional conferences for AAMFT and AAPC, Hospice, and the United Methodist Board of Ministry. Since retirement, Wayne has volunteered in numerous ways but particularly enjoyed his work with a local therapeutic horse riding
program designed for children and adults.
Wayne wrote his first Christmas Storybook in 1977 followed by stories every year since. He folds messages for both children and adults into each story. Wayne’s wife, Susan, is a retired nurse. They have two children, Nathan and Nicole Jones. Nicole’s husband, Andrew, is also an important part of their lives. Wayne and Susan live in Ankeny, Iowa, where Wayne maintains a small counseling practice and continues to write.
Author Spotlight Q&A
- What triggered your desire to write?
The most straightforward answer is my Junior High English teacher. One Friday, she gave us the assignment to come back to class on Monday with a story or poem to hand in during class. Over the weekend, my head and heart had a lot to say that could only be expressed in writing. While the exact number escapes me, I believe I handed in twenty-three poems and three short stories on Monday. My teacher gave me an A.
- Was there someone who encouraged you to write when you doubted you could or should?
Besides my English teacher, when I was in high school, I was introduced to an author by dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Pierce. Mrs. Pierce showed him a poem I wrote for her. He read the poem and told her he wanted to meet me. Mrs. Pierce drove out to the hayfield where we were bailing hay, and Mrs. Pierce had a brief talk with her husband and told me to come to the house with her. I looked at Mr. Pierce, and he nodded. Then, she introduced me to their guest Stephen (Whitfield) Poe, the author of The Making of Star Trek. We talked about writing until late in the evening. He was an encourager, my greatest critic, and my writing navigator for the next six years. P.S. I never doubted I could write. But, I doubted if anyone really wanted to read what I wrote.
- Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
Writing both energizes me and causes me exhaustion. The more I write, the more I want to write. Sometimes putting deep and heavy thoughts into words wears me out, and I have to step back and take a mental and spiritual rest. I often seek insight into what drives my pen and my soul.
- What is your Kryptonite?
My Kryptonite is allowing too many commitments to fill up my time. My mentor used to tell me, “Writing is a career. When you write, you are on the clock. The difference is you aren’t paid until you produce something your publisher thinks others will want to read.”
- What are common traps for writers?
I think common pitfalls are run-on sentences, pushing your characters out of their personality and assigned roles without a crisis or unexpected event, and putting into narrative what could be said better through dialogue between characters. I also think not following an editor’s advice is an elephant trap for a writer.
- What authors are you friends with, and how do they help you (or you help them) become a better writer?
The first author I was acquainted with was my mentor, Stephen (Whitfield) Poe. He critiqued a lot of my earlier writing. He was the first person to challenge me to start writing with a more positive tone that offered hope for people. I believe greatly in the idea that by God’s grace, people actually can stop violence, live in harmony, accept others for who they are and who they have the potential to become. Unfortunately, before my mentor challenged me, my writing did not consistently demonstrate that belief.
My second author friend was Bill Cotton. Bill was a very close personal friend. When he wrote or told a story, that was often in the style of Garrison Keillor. I am not sure who copied who. The farm crisis came about in Iowa when I was the senior pastor of a United Methodist Church in Creston, Iowa. Another UMC pastor served a very rural three-point charge about twenty miles away. Almost two-thirds of his parish were farmers hard hit by the crisis. We believe the stress of trying to minister to his parish became too much to him. Instead of reaching out for help, he took it all upon himself to find a solution. He couldn’t. Apparently, when it became too much for him, he died by suicide.
Bill was his District Superintendent. Bill came to me and asked me to help him create a solution; two ideas came out of our meeting. One was developing a rural CPE program which I completed. The other was starting a magazine that would offer hope, healing, and resilience for pastors when it seemed their world was falling apart. The magazine was named Penuel (Genesis 32). A small group of us became the editorial board. By then, Bill already had one book published. His critique of my articles and encouragement to write about challenging subjects like suicide, depression, compassion, fatigue, and divorce among clergy furthered my strengths and confidence in writing about what people needed to bring out into the light, but the world hid under a bushel. Bill also helped me grow my writing skills in writing about what people set in their ways would hear differently if written rather than spoken.
- Who are others you have never met personally but have learned a great deal from?
Lajos Egris, The Art of Dramatic Writing; Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird; Patricia O’Conner, Woe is I; Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones; Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, among a few. They all helped me improve my writing skills, add more depth to my characters, and stay focused on the story’s primary reason.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with a connection between each book?
My books are not built into a body of work. But now that you mention it, I do think there is a thread that weaves through all my stories: a thread of hope and the fundamental belief that all people have within them the ability to do well for another, to do well for the best of the world and hopefully, “to care for the least of these.” The challenge is to write so those who read my words can see possibilities. On second thought, my Christmas stories have a common theme regarding the holiday and how each one reveals that reason.
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
First, I would tell my younger self to read aloud what I write before expecting someone else to read it so I can listen to what they will “hear” on the page. Then, I would ask myself, “Is that what you hope they will hear?”
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Publishing my first book gave me more confidence and brought me an overflowing bushel of joy! Finally, I was able to say to myself, “I can actually do this!” Even though I have had articles published in national and international professional magazines and journals, my first book, WOW! It was a miracle.
- What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The best money I have ever spent was buying a pencil and a writing tablet. I would also have to say money for stamps to send my poems and stories out to magazines, and of course, money for a cup of coffee is a close second. The umbrella over all of this is paying for an editor. What does literary success look like to you? Becoming a best seller and, but more importantly, bringing light into the hearts of people where darkness has tried to hold them captive.
- What has been the best tip you ever learned about writing?
The best tip I have learned is to write, rewrite, and write again. Repeat the process until your head and heart tell you it is good.
- What was your favorite childhood book?
My favorite childhood book was Charlotte’s Web.