Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
This week we are featuring Emily Wierenga! To enter to win a copy of her book, A Promise In Pieces (Abingdon), leave a comment on this post.
What is the smartest writing advice you ever got?
I was attending a writing retreat in Lake Como, Italy, and Janet Fitch, author of one of my favorite literary novels, White Oleander, was teaching a session on description. She got us to go outside and use our noses, our eyes, our ears, our fingers and tongue to describe the particular scene we were encountering, and to do it without using any kind of cliché, or by turning the cliché upside-down. That was the most memorable writing lesson, but the best advice has come from either one of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird or Steven King’s On Writing.
What was your biggest break?
I’m not sure that I’ve had it yet. I’ve been blessed by a number of beautiful endorsers for this debut novel (including our own Suzanne Woods Fisher), as well as some grand influencers like Jodi Piccoult, Susan Meissner, and Janet Fitch, and I am also excited about my memoir releasing in July with Baker Books. But I haven’t had a “big break” yet—more of a number of small breaks leaning gently against the other like a line of dominoes. And I think if we’re always waiting for the “big break,” we will miss the miracle in the small ones.
I’m inspired by . . .
Literary novelists and writers like Toni Morrison, Jeanette Walls, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood and Khalid Hosseini—they all inspire me to write better and to say things in a newer, fresher way. I listen to music like The Piano Guys or Enya, or simply light a candle, grab some dark chocolate, and tea and sit in my favorite tan chair in the living room—the one by the bookshelves my husband made from his Pappa’s old farm boards, stocked full with children’s stories I read to my sons—and that’s where I find my inspiration. But before I even begin to write, I bow there in that chair, and I pray. Because without the Holy Spirit, my words are as dry as the bottom of an empty kettle.
My great adventure has been . . .
I am a traveler, and my great adventure has been the amazing cultures I’ve been privileged to encounter. This past January I traveled to Uganda and Rwanda on a bloggers’ trip, and I fell hard in love with the joyous ebony people I encountered—the red ribbon roads, the children who run and hug your legs in their bare feet and ripped T-shirts, the babies without pants and the mothers looking tired but radiant. They have nothing and yet, everything, and I long to spend my life serving them.
The one thing I hope to discover is . . .
The secret to the kingdom of heaven—the pearl, that the merchant sold everything for. I want to find that pearl:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. — Matthew 13:45-46 (KJV)
If I could go anywhere, it would be . . .
I’ve been to Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The only continent I haven’t been is South America, and my husband and I would like to visit the Amazon Jungle in Brazil.
But truthfully? I would return to Africa in a heartbeat.
If you have only . . . an hour . . .
I will hug my babies and husband and pray over them and sing to them and love on them.
If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save?
Besides my children, I can’t think of anything else—when my husband got in a car accident the other day, he asked me why I wasn’t upset about the car. “Because you’re alive, honey,” I said. “That’s all that matters.” And it’s true. In the end, it’s people who matter.
What has been your most surreal, “pinch-me-I’m-dreaming” moment so far?
When I was standing in Uganda, hugging babies. I have never been happier.
What drives you to succeed?
For years I longed to succeed due to a terrible loneliness that formed when I was a little girl desperate for her Daddy’s attention. My father was a pastor who put ministry before family, so everything I did was an attempt to get his attention—and when I couldn’t, I got an eating disorder instead.
My Dad and I are good friends now, and the reason I write is because of a calling I feel from God. I believe he wants me to write to the best of my ability but any success I experience is entirely because of God’s favor, and not because of my talent. He is gracious, and I long to succeed only so that the money I make can go towards helping those children who are abandoned and starving in the slums of Uganda. Education and clean water will revolutionize their future; I long to give that to them.
Best Saturday Afternoon Read:
Anne of Green Gables
Best Forgotten Custom:
Listening to people, playing board games with your family on the living room floor on Sunday afternoons, kissing your husband in public, singing.
Best Way to Break a Sweat:
I love to run. I don’t run fast, and to many passing by, it would probably appear like I am just speed walking, but those times down the country roads by my home are when I pray, when I soak in the silence of the fields and the sky, and when I find the peace I’ve been searching for all day.
Don’t write to be the best. Write to convey a message. But before you can convey that message, you need to live it. So don’t write until you’ve lived enough to have something to write about. And enjoy living. Live it to the hilt, with your hands raised high praising a God who loves you more than life itself.
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More About the Author:
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of four books including A Promise in Pieces, releasing April 15 with Abingdon Press. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.