November 2, 2011

Made It Moment: Janet Oakley

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 6:29 am

Tree Soldier

Leave a comment today and be entered to win a copy of Janet’s novel!

Like many authors who have come to Made It Moments, Janet Oakley’s was a twisting path. But she sunk down roots in this writing world–much like the tree in her title–and when the e-volution arrived, Janet was poised to take advantage of it. Along the way she discovered that *how* you get published is less important than the responses you get from readers–and Janet describes this in her Moment much better than I.

Janet Oakley

There is no doubt the road to publication can be one long slog. And on the way you can lose heart. Though I had short pieces published in my local newspaper’s call for essays, the queries I sent out for my novels resulted in rejections. There were ups- my first novel, The Jossing Affair was a finalist  at the Pacific NW Writers Conference and a second novel, Tree Soldier, received similar attention. I even had requests for full and partials, but no agent or publication. Things changed when I submitted personal memoir essays to the Cup of Comfort series. Five were published in five different books. One won the top prize in non-fiction at Surrey International Writers Conference. I was also getting historical articles published on-line at I was clearly on the right path. And I made sure to celebrate each little publication success. I began to call myself a writer, but I still couldn’t get an agent.

In 2008, I entered Tree Soldier into the ABNA contest. Then I put it up at Authonomy. In doing so, I got a whole new perspective on writing and publishing. I got great comments and suggestions. And I made wonderful friends. Most of all, I got the confidence to self-publish the novel and find out what was going on in the totally game changing world of e-books and POD.

Tree Soldier was published in March 2011. This, one would think, would be my Made It Moment–but not yet. There was still marketing and getting the word out. Just as I was getting ready for my first book talk at my local indie bookstore, a request came from my book club to read it as one of our book selections. I was never so nervous in my life. This is no ordinary book club. Every one of these women have been reading teachers or heavily involved in literacy in the elementary grades. They are avid readers and what we read are some of the best in the last 15 years. To have them take on my book was both exciting and intimidating? Would they like it?  Or find it a bore? After two nerve-wracking weeks, I finally began getting emails from them. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

Just a day after I gave my book talk at Village Books, my book club gathered to discussed my novel. To be honest, I don’t think anything has meant more to me than their positive support and gushing over sentences and characters in Tree Soldier. To get their respect…well that was a Moment for sure.

With their enthusiastic comments, the library has been propelled to put together a book club kit. Four book clubs have read or are reading my book. And that’s my Made It Moment. Not to mention that now I understand why word of mouth is such a powerful marketing tool!

JL Oakley has published essays on topics ranging from the dreams of four generations of women in her family to doing drywall after the sudden loss of her husband. “Dry Wall in the Time of Grief” was the winner in non-fiction at Surrey International Writers in 2006. Her articles on Washington State history are at Her novels THE JOSSING AFFAIR and TREE SOLDIER were finalists at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest. TREE SOLDIER is also a finalist in historical fiction for the 2012 EPIC Awards.

JL lives in the Pacific Northwest and writes every day. No matter what.


  1. Hi Jenny, thanks for this! It sounds great. Also my best wishes to Janet. Hope she gets her Award.

    Comment by André — November 2, 2011 @ 7:11 am

  2. Congratulations on your success!

    Comment by Judy — November 2, 2011 @ 7:55 am

  3. Jenny – Great interview!

    Janet – I went to Amazon and read the product description for Tree Soldier and it sounds fabulous! Best of luck to you.


    Comment by Sandy — November 2, 2011 @ 9:11 am

  4. Best of luck! Glad you’re having success. It is, indeed, a hard road.

    Comment by Savvy — November 2, 2011 @ 10:18 am

  5. Your story gives me hope about my own efforts to get published. Thanks, Janet.

    Comment by Joseph Rinaldo — November 2, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  6. Made it Moments are just the best, and your’s is no exceptiong! Congrats!! What a wonderful and inspiring post as I am on the slog to publication myself. ~Janet~

    Comment by Janet — November 2, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  7. Made It Moments really give you the opportunity to think about your writing path. Nora Ephron said once at a conference that she keeps a champagne bottle in her refrigerator to celebrate even the small successes. We can get so down, but we look for the small things, you are actually making progress.

    As for book clubs and libraries, they are often overlooked in our marketing plans, but they are the readers. To date all 11 copies of Tree Soldier are checked out in my county’s library system. Now that’s a celebration.

    Comment by JL Oakley — November 2, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  8. Congratulations, Janet. It’s great to hear these stories of people keeping at it and how wonderful to have the book group discussing your book. I’m in the process of attempting a historical young adult novel now, getting a start in Nanowrimo, but I have to keep stopping to do more research. Hart reminded me of your informative post on her site for historical writing, so thanks for that!

    Comment by Marjorie — November 2, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  9. Janet’s is one of my favorite made-it’s to read about and know about. So pleased to see all the great feedback Tree Soldier is getting. Well deserved.

    Comment by Gae Polisner — November 2, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  10. I love your blogs Jenny! It is always so great to read the success stories of other authors braving the current market. Thank You! And congratulations Janet!!!

    Comment by Niamh Clune — November 2, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

  11. How great to see new faces and old friends here today! After digging out (literally and figuratively) the past several days, I am really glad to be here with all of you again. It’s a good point about book clubs and libraries–you know, I wonder if we should all have something of a joint effort where if one of you is willing to travel or Skype with my book club or one I know of, I set that–and we could all do that for each other. Does that sound like a workable idea?

    Janet (II), Marjorie, Joe, and others, as you continue on your journey towards publication, please check in here often! I would love to receive updates–and new and future Moments!

    Comment by jenny — November 2, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  12. Good luck, Janet. you’re on the right track.


    Comment by Arthur Levine — November 2, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

  13. What a wonderful Made It Moment. I think it means a lot more when someone you respect gives you a thumbs up! So glad you got that validation.

    Comment by mountainmama — November 2, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  14. Yet another wonderful interview! I wish you continued success always :)

    Comment by Collette Scott — November 2, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  15. JL I really admire the way you sought and tood great advantage of input from knowledgable resources. I am especially taken with the readers in the book club. Shuch a genuine resource with great knowledge and recommendations. Congratulations are well earned.

    Comment by Louie — November 2, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  16. Twisting path, indeed, Janet. Your determination to find your publishing way resembles the meanders of a river, always seeking a workable route and breaking new ground when necessary. Receiving the approval of your literary friends was a wonderful bonus, but you put in all the hard work and you were brave enough to take a chance on exploring this exciting new territory. Congratulations!

    And to answer your comment, Jenny, I’d be delighted to Skype with a book club. However, I write cozy mysteries and most book clubs read more complex offerings, so I don’t know whether that would work out. I’ve been the guest at several local book clubs, but their members mostly want to ask about the writing process, not the cozies themselves. Certainly an idea worth pursuing though.

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 2, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  17. Congratulations on your perseverance, Janet! I write historical fiction myself, and I’ve wondered about its popularity in the e-book market, compared to bestsellers in genres like YA, mystery, romance and thrillers. It’s great to hear that you’re having success there, and especially at the local level, among readers you know well and whose opinions you clearly respect. Best of luck with all your future success!

    Comment by Becca — November 2, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

  18. Jenny, I’d love to Skype with a book club. My book club Skped with author Stephanie Cowell (the 1st for both of us all)last spring and we had a great time talking about the book and getting to know Stephanie. Her novel Claude and Camille (Monet) is just wonderful.

    Comment by JL Oakley — November 2, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  19. You’ve worked hard to get to this point, Janet. Enjoy your Moment!

    Comment by Heidi M. Thomas — November 2, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

  20. Janet – I love The Tree Soldier. It is a wonderful story of how it really was!

    Jenny – another great Made It Moment!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — November 4, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

  21. Thanks to all of you who came and commented. Really inspired and encouraged me to keep at it. I love writing and I love writing about the historic past. Have faith in what you write, make it your best work and get out there.

    PS. Savannah Thorne is the winner of the giveaway. Congrats! Gae & Connie, you know I love you.

    Comment by JL Oakley — November 8, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  22. Janet You have been my favorite writer of all times.. I so enjoyed your books following a young couple to there most senior years.I have recommended your books to all that I know. The most exciting thou is the Christian values that go into your books. Thank You so much! Dorrine Provost

    Comment by Dorrine Provost — January 20, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

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