Kelly Boyer Sagert is a wise woman, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her a bit via these binary pathways. I hope you’ll enjoy her interview today and that you’ll pick up her new book if you’re a writer and a person of faith who needs a little encouragement, and don’t we all.
1.Tell us about your book.
My upcoming book is titled Everything to God in Prayer: A Writer’s Weekly Devotional, and the official release date is January 8, 2016. A small portion of the introduction shown below will explain how the book came to be – and my hope is that each person who reads the book can gain more insight and illumination about God’s intentions for his or her own life.
“I started writing this book during a tumultuous time in my life – and in the life of my church. I was once again an active elder in the Presbyterian Church, which meant that I was on the board of members who made key decisions for the congregation. During my first three years of service, the church suffered significant financial problems and went through multiple ministers. All was uncertain and, sometimes, even chaotic.
To add to the situation, in 2012, I was hospitalized with colon disease and underwent nine surgeries in just 14 months, four of them major and one of them an emergency. Right before my emergency surgery, I’d been told that, without a colostomy, I might not survive the night. With a colostomy, my bodily waste went into an external bag, and it was a challenging way for to me to live during the eight months before the colostomy could be safely reversed. Plus, my work life was undergoing significant changes, and I wasn’t sure how that would affect my income – right when I had more expenses.
During this time, I found myself thinking, Why me, God? Why does this all need to happen at once? Why now?”
This book came from my search for meaning during troubled times, and each devotional contains a suggested writing exercise to help readers explore the ideas and questions posed. It’s my belief that much about our own life stories lies deeply beneath the surface, often not part of our conscious awareness – and these exercises can help to bring them to the surface in a prayerful way.
2. What stories, themes, motivations do you find yourself drawn to in your work and in the works you read?
I am repeatedly drawn to people who choose an offbeat path in life. My first book, About Boomerangs: America’s Silent Sport, profiled people who are boomerang athletes, scientists, artists and more – and some of them are downright quirky. My first PBS documentary, Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story, is about a woman who, at the age of 67, became the first female to solo-hike the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. God created each of these people in unique ways, with special gifts and passions – and so, even if I’m not writing Christian material, per se, I am fascinated by the individual spirits of each of these people.
3. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Read! I’m an obsessive reader. Spend time with my family and pets. Watch sports, especially the Cleveland Indians, Cavaliers and Browns, and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Volunteer at church and at the Friendship Animal Protective League.
4. How do you balance what will sell with what you want to say?
I am blessed to be able to write full-time – and so I spend a good percentage of my time writing material that fits the needs of a variety of companies. I ghostwrite lots of blog posts and web copy, create email marketing messaging and so forth. I write magazine articles, encyclopedia entries, and more. Then, I set aside a certain amount of time for more creative endeavors where I have more freedom to write what I want. My plays and documentary fall into that category, as does this book of devotionals.
5. What is your favorite part about being a writer?
I love lifelong learning, I love the ability to interview people and hear their unique stories. I love delving into historical research. I love the opportunity to write about a wide variety of topics. I love working from home, living inside of my own head as I create. I love mentoring newer writers and speaking at writer’s conferences.
6. What is your least favorite part about being a writer?
Bookkeeping/taxes. Yuck. Double yuck.
7. What are a few of your favorite books of all time?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Faust Gilpin
Faith and You: 28 Short Essays on Faith in Everyday Life by Terry Pluto
The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
Agatite by Clay Reynolds
Just about any book by Agatha Christie
8. What are some things that get in the way of your writing? How do you move them out of the way?
I write all day, so here’s my challenge: balancing work that I do for income (the great majority of which, by the way, I really enjoy) with work that is more creative – and tends to pay less.
9. What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Be honest. If you can’t be honest, put down your pen.
10. If you could inhabit the setting of one book, where would you live and why?
Toni Morrison is from Lorain, Ohio – which is where I live – and, although the city is urban, gritty and raw with plenty of challenges, I’ve chosen to stay and to continue to inhabit this setting, one that Morrison used in The Bluest Eye. I’m close to Lake Erie, which is a blessing.
Kelly Boyer Sagert is a freelance writer with more than a dozen books to her credit, along with three full-length commissioned historical fiction plays and a PBS documentary. She has also published more than 1,000 articles. Her latest book, Everything to God in Prayer: A Writer’s Weekly Devotional, is available. Her websites include www.kbsagert.com and www.EverythingToGodInPrayer.com, and she follows back on Twitter.
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