Explain a bit about how She Reads came to be.
I have always loved fiction but Proverbs 31, the women’s ministry I work with, didn’t really cater to fiction readers. We would carry the occasional Christian fiction book as a resource but it was rare. When I went to the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference this past May, I met lots of other people who were crazy about fiction. It got me thinking: there’s not really a place where people who are passionate about a well-written story can come together and discuss, compare, etc. There’s no place for the writers and the readers to connect. How can we at Proverbs 31 create that place? The obvious answer was the internet. I started jotting down the ideas as they came to me and working with a friend who became my partner in these efforts. Pretty soon we had a full-blown proposal to take to the executive team at P31. They approved it and we launched this fall. It’s been a whirlwind ever since and we are so excited by what God is doing!
How can our readers (authors, editors, marketing professionals, agents and wannabes in all of the above) help you to achieve your She Reads goals?
Participate in the discussion. Leave comments on the blog. Read the books we select. Recommend those books to your friends. Follow us on Twitter, friend us on Facebook and put the button we have available on your own blogs to direct people to us so they can find out about us as well. Our goal is to become a trusted place women can come to to find consistently great reads, connect with those writers, and communicate with other people who love a well-written, thought-provoking story. It is to all of our advantage to see this thing grow as that creates more fiction lovers by increasing awareness of the books, publishers and authors that are out there.
How can She Reads benefit our readers?
Writers and publishers can benefit because we are spreading the word to readers that there is great fiction being put out in the Christian marketplace. Shortly after I started running with the idea of She Reads, I had a defining conversation with a friend. I was telling her what we were doing and she said, “Oh I don’t read Christian fiction. None of it’s any good.”
I said, “Will you let me issue you a challenge? Can I put some books in your hands that will change your mind?” She took me up on that challenge and is now one of my readers for our selection committee! She has found that there is great Christian fiction out there and it’s changed her opinion. I want to continue to spread that message on a larger level through She Reads.
What is the most encouraging thing you see in Christian fiction today?
Two things: the quality of the writing and the realness of the stories. You don’t have a lot of riding off into the sunset salvations and rounds of Kumbayah. Instead you get real people with real problems dealing with those issues in real ways. They aren’t plastic characters you can’t relate to. You could give these books to a friend who is not a Christian and they would be impacted– and even drawn to Christ– without feeling preached at. You could have a book club and read these books each season (we choose 3), discuss them and invite people who don’t go to church or want anything to do with Christianity and they would be moved by these stories. These same folks would probably never come to a Bible study, but they would come to a book club. Jesus knew the value of stories. These authors do too.
Do you have any marketing or public speaking tips that might benefit our readers?
My She Reads partner, Ariel Allison Lawhon, and I have a little saying we have used since She Reads began: One reader at a time. We want to build relationships and trust with each reader on an individual basis. When we get comments that say that they have found a new favorite author or that they are so happy to find a place they can connect with other fiction readers and the authors, we feel like we are doing what God wants us to do. We believe that this entire venture will be built on relationships between authors, readers, publishers, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. The relationships are key.
You write non-fiction, run a ministry, raise a large family and still have time to add to your plate with an upcoming fiction title and She Reads. Any helpful hints on juggling a busy, busy life?
Do the next thing. I try not to get overwhelmed with what I have to do and instead ask myself “What is my next thing that needs doing?” Sometimes it’s sitting down to answer interview questions like now. Sometimes it’s cleaning my house for our church small group meeting (which needs to happen in a minute!). Sometimes it’s listening to my teenage daughter tell me about her school day or helping a child with homework. Sometimes it’s writing or making dinner. Whatever it is, I do that one thing because it’s all I can do. I trust God to accomplish within my days exactly what He would have for me to do. And I make every effort to begin each day with Him. I have certain boundaries I have erected in my life to make sure that happens.
What have you learned while transitioning from non-fiction to fiction and your additional ministry commitments and goals?
Fiction is hard to write. It takes a lot out of you and comes from a deeper place. But it’s also so much fun. I feel blessed to be doing something I am so passionate about! I have had several women tell me that by watching me chase after my dream it has inspired them to chase after theirs. That was an unexpected benefit of taking the plunge into fiction. It doesn’t get any better than that!