Welcome to the five hundred and eighty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with Christian non-fiction author Shirley Brosius. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Shirley. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Shirley: I was a former teacher and a director of Christian education who lives in rural Central Pennsylvania. When I needed to make a job change in my fifties, I had a yen to write. My husband suggested I try it for a year and see what happened. I enrolled in graduate journalism courses, took a job as a newspaper correspondent and was hooked. My fingers have danced across the keyboard to the tune of hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles plus two books.
Morgen: I like your husband already. 🙂 You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Shirley: For newspaper stories I just keep my eyes and ears open for people who do something of interest to their communities (or stories are assigned). My first book grew out of a seminary class I taught on women in ministry. As I researched, I was amazed at how women had impacted the church. So I decided to write a book in which I would tell the story of an inspirational woman on each page. My second book was written with two gals with whom I share a speaking ministry called Friends of the Heart. At church events we find women burdened, sometimes paralyzed, by guilt over things that happened in their pasts. And we carry our own share too. So we wrote a book sharing personal stories of how we handle guilt—both real and imagined—in a godly manner.
Morgen: Bad memories, and worry, are very hard to shake off. My mother worries, often about little things, and it’s easy enough to say “don’t worry” but it’s harder to stop. What have you had published to-date?
Shirley: I have published two books: Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories About Women Who Made a Difference and Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. The latter was written with co-authors Janine Boyer and Kim Messinger.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Shirley: My first book was with a traditional publisher, but as I sought a publisher for my second book, they said they were not doing women’s devotionals at that time. After spending a year or two seeking a publisher or an agent and finding neither, I decided to self publish.
Morgen: I was the same with looking for an agent but to no avail, although I only tried just over a dozen – in the end self-publishing was the right thing for me anyway. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Shirley: Sisterhood of Faith was published as a hard cover. That edition is now out of print (after more than 16,000 copies were sold), but the book is still available as a trade paperback from Simon & Schuster. Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides is available in hard cover, soft cover and as an eBook. I myself read only paper.
Morgen: 16,000 copies – wow. Congratulations. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Shirley: Titles and covers are extremely important. For the first book, the publisher tweaked my suggested title and chose the cover. For the second, we developed the title and chose the cover.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Shirley: Just catching my breath after the last book and keeping busy with speaking engagements.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Shirley: Of course. Every writer does. Since things have quieted down in my life since spring speaking engagements, I hope to look over some of my old writings and possibly tweak them for current markets.
Morgen: I’m sure you’ll be able to. As we develop as writers, it’s easier to see how our earlier pieces can be improved. You mentioned trying to find an agent. Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Shirley: I had an agent for my first book, and I credit her for finding a traditional publisher for me. Although I could not find an agent to take my second book, I found agents’ comments on my submissions to be extremely helpful. I made changes according to their suggestions. Authors should certainly try to get agents because their input can be invaluable.
Morgen: You were very fortunate to have feedback. Many agents don’t have the time, so they clearly thought highly of your book. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Shirley: I just finished a Blog Tour for Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. Our platform as speakers is our main outlet for sales.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Shirley: Don’t quit your day job. If I were not married, I could not write. But do pursue writing as a hobby and learn all you can through books, writer’s conferences and experience. Take every opportunity to write and speak. The two go hand-in-hand. Who knows, perhaps you will be the next best-selling author. But maintain realistic expectations.
Morgen: Ah, I did quit my day job (mid-March 2012) but I found two lodgers to take its place so I get to be at home all day every day, it’s fantastic. 🙂 Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Shirley: Nothing other than writing occasional book reviews and posting them on my blog.
Morgen: I often get asked to review books but I simply don’t have the time. I have a list of those who do (https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/reviews) and will gladly add you (or any other book reviewers reading this interview) if you would like. Just let me know (email@example.com). What do you do when you’re not writing?
Shirley: I have five grandchildren, so I have lots of games and concerts to attend. I also love to read and take day trips.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Shirley: I love David Fryxell’s books. How to Write Fast While Writing Well was of great help to me as a newspaper reporter.
Morgen: A new one to me, thank you, Shirley. I’ve added it to https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-other-peoples/writing-related. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Shirley: The Writer’s View is an excellent forum http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheWritersView. It is hosted in two formats; one for advanced writers and the other for less experienced writers. They discuss topics such as marketing. By hearing the voices of other authors and writers you can make better decisions about your own work.
Morgen: I took a look and it’s described as ‘TWV is a moderated group for advanced and professional writers in the Christian market’ so ideal for Christian authors (I’ve interviewed quite a few :)). Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Shirley: Always edit and polish your work, but don’t obsess. There comes a time when you have to say, “This is as good as I can make it” and submit it. Or you will never see your name in print.
Morgen: You do. 🙂 Thank you, Shirley.
I then invited Shirley to include an extract of her writing and this is from Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides, (page 6, by Shirley Brosius, Janine Boyer and Kim Messinger, published by WestBow Press, December, 2011)…
Day 4 – G R A C E – God
Guilt Trip to Avoid: Failing to protect myself.
For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. Psalm 32:7
My Hiding Place by Shirley
As I work at my computer by a window, I watch a squirrel carry bunches of leaves up a tree. Up and down it goes, load after load. High in the tree, where a branch forks from the trunk, the squirrel is building a hiding place. That’s because hawks sit high in the trees, watching for any bird or small animal that might make a tasty sandwich. But now the squirrel will have somewhere to hide because a hawk is not likely to attack a squirrel’s sanctuary. The squirrel doesn’t wait until the hawk appears. It establishes its sanctuary on sunny days when all is peaceful and quiet.
Like the squirrel that knows how to build a hiding place by God’s grace, I can build a hiding place for my soul—also by God’s grace. The Word of God forms its foundation. Prayer builds its walls. The Holy Spirit fills the rooms with a sweet presence. I am safe in my sanctuary. When the hawks of life attack me, I have ready a place to hide. Who knows what might happen if I had not prepared?
Take the Joy Ride: When King Saul tried to kill David, God hid and protected him while he was on the run because he had a long and close relationship with God. David was a man after God’s own heart. We can be women after God’s own heart if we too take the time to build a relationship with him—a sanctuary. How might you build a hiding place?
and a synopsis of her books and this is from the same book, Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides…
Women today are busy, stressed and guilt-ridden, yet they long to develop their spiritual sides. This book offers inspirational thoughts based on scripture, brief enough to be read during a television commercial, yet insightful enough to open your eyes to God’s grace on days you change diapers and / or lead corporate meetings. Each reading suggests a “Guilt Trip to Avoid” and ends with a way to “Take the Joy Ride”. The book includes six months of daily readings listed under the letters of G-R-A-C-E, representing God, Relationships, Acceptance, Challenges and Emotions.
The co-authors hope these meaningful readings will help you deal with guilt—both real and imagined. By applying the insights shared, you may develop a calmer, less guilt-ridden lifestyle and become better equipped to function as wives, mothers, and friends. Younger women often develop patterns of thinking and experience feelings of guilt that carry over into their mature years, so women of all ages will find this book helpful.
The co-authors have been meeting for study for more than a decade. They lead women’s retreats and speak at women’s events. Shirley is an author. Janine works in a family business, and Kim is an elementary teacher.
Shirley Brosius lives in Millersburg with her husband Bill. They have two married sons, five grandchildren and a daughter waiting in heaven. A former teacher and director of Christian education, Shirley turned to writing in her senior years. She is the author of Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference and a co-author of Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides.
Shirley’s by-line has appeared in many magazines and devotional publications, and she has written hundreds of stories for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Patriot News. She speaks throughout the East as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s word through testimony and drama. She is also a Stonecroft Ministries speaker. When she’s home, she enjoys reading, embroidering and watching “Jeopardy” and “American Idol”.
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