Oh, friends: you are in for a TREAT. It’s author week here on the ol’ blog – I’ve got SEVEN authors (or co-authors) for you over the next SEVEN days, with SEVEN opportunities for you to win copies of their books. I can’t wait to introduce you to these women and their projects, so be sure to pay us a visit everyday this week and get to know these phenomenal authors. Spread the word!
We’ve got Sarah Authur and Erin Wasinger, co-authors of The Year of Small Things – and their book is a favorite of mine (that you can read about here). I’m so glad you’re here with us today! Tell us a bit about yourself, will you?
Sarah: I’m the author of eleven nonfiction books, including a number of popular devotionals and guides to prayer–but I also write/speak about such varied things as “New Monasticism” (more below) as well as Christian fiction (I’m the preliminary fiction judge for the Christianity Today Book Awards). I’m also the mom of two busy little boys and the volunteer youth coordinator of Sycamore Creek Church in Lansing, Michigan–where my husband, Tom, is pastor.
Erin: I write and blog from my adopted hometown of Lansing, Mich. After working seven or eight years as an editor at a daily newspaper (*waving to Oshkosh, Wis.*), I now freelance. Also keeping me entertained: I’m a volunteer on the teaching team at Sycamore Creek Church and I lead the kids’ ministry program (I lead the adults who lead the kids; my three kids are enough to overwhelm me). My husband and I are passionate about advocating for refugees, so we volunteer for a couple agencies as family mentors and as a writer/ videographer team.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? Erin: One city, one church, one year: that’s the Year of Small Things. It’s about our two families — and that’s Tom and Sarah and their two boys; and Dave and I and our two girls — who want to grow deeper in our discipleship but, you know, have school loans, sick kids, and busy schedules. Each month our families would discern how we planned to do one small thing that focused on one particular area of faith, particularly those influenced by a movement called New Monasticism.
Each week at dinner, our two families would ask how we were doing in keeping the pledges we made. For instance, in November, we (Wasingers) wanted to talk about our debt and budget messiness. So the Arthurs opened up our budget and we walked through it. This is where our beliefs and our practices meet. And sometimes we failed really hard (see: the chapter on Christmas spending). But sometimes, we nailed it (see the chapter about church).
The fun part is we invite readers to take their own small things challenges: each chapter ends with discussion questions meant to ignite imaginations over what God might be calling others to do in their lives.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? Sarah: For three years of grad school my husband and I lived in an intentional Christian community in inner city Durham, NC–where we practiced things like simplicity, common prayer & shared meals, racial reconciliation, and hospitality to the homeless. So when my husband was appointed as the pastor of a suburban church in the Lansing area, we faced a unique challenge: how to translate the practices of “radical” faith (a la Shane Claiborne in The Irresistible Revolution) into our new context. In Lansing we met the Wasingers, who had newly started attending our church, and together with all our kids (five of them under the age of 6) we embarked on a yearlong experiment to implement twelve small practices of radical faith–not waiting until we were out of debt or the kids were out of diapers or God sent us elsewhere, but right now. Right here.
How do you hope readers will be changed by reading your words? Sarah: Probably our biggest takeaway from the entire experiment (which is ongoing: our families still meet for dinner every week to discuss how we’re growing/changing) is the practice of discernment. How is God calling you, me, our readers–uniquely–to make small changes for the sake of the gospel and for the poor whom Jesus loves? Because whatever that looks like for me is not the same as what it looks like for Erin. Tom and I still practice hospitality in our homes to those on the margins; Erin and Dave, meanwhile, partner with refugee families to help them navigate all the baffling aspects of American culture. This is hospitality. But it looks different from family to family, person to person. How is God calling our readers to reach out to a hurting world? All of us making small changes in our churches and communities adds up to big impact.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? Erin: Writing The Year of Small Things forced me to look at decisions we were making — I mean, that was the crux of the whole year of experiments. Decisions like whether our kids would go to an urban school or a suburban one or learning to talk openly about my mental health were suddenly not just my decisions. They belonged to our friends (we call them our covenantal friends because they hold us accountable to certain values we’re growing into), our church, and our community. Having to articulate them for our readers meant I was challenged to really ask myself what I believe and what my beliefs look like in practice.
Finally, a lot of my blog readers are also writers; since you just finished writing (and publishing!) a book, what encouragement or tips would you offer those who are just dipping their toes into the water, so to speak?
Erin: I didn’t get to be an author on my own, so my advice is only good when I couple it with a disclaimer: Sarah took a risk on me. When she did, though, my prior experience in journalism and my decade in blogging had prepared me. So my best advice is to either know Sarah Arthur or to remember that even the little assignments are helping you develop voice and insight to how you write best. Virtually every opportunity you get to write will help you hone your craft: even the local newspaper articles you freelance for twenty-five bucks, the blog posts you don’t get paid for, and the articles that pay solely in nachos.
Sarah: Erin is being super modest. What I wish every writer could experience is having a co-author whose background in journalism means (1) she nails deadlines; (2) she’s a digital native (“Erin, what’s a hashtag?” “It’s the pound-si–never mind; give me your phone”); and (3) she and her husband can produce any multimedia anything you can imagine–website, book trailer, podcast, etc. (Stay tuned for more info about the Wasingers’ launch of a new production business for authors!) As for my own background of multiple publishing contracts with multiple publishing houses, my best advice is to attend writing conferences. Over and over. Come prepared to learn–not just about the craft of writing, which is vital, but about the publishing industry. Come with business cards, introduce yourself as a writer, practice your one-sentence pitch that articulates your brand and the writing projects you hope to deliver. Unfortunately, publishers are not scrolling the internet looking for bloggers. You need to get out there and meet them.
Yup. It’s as good as it sounds. Head over to Erin’s website and Sarah’s website, and cheer them on – otherwise, go straight to your favorite bookseller and pick up a copy of The Year of Small Things. Otherwise, leave a comment answering how the little things really ARE the big things. TWO winners will be drawn on Wednesday, March 15th.
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