Write from the Deep ~ Karen Ball & Erin Taylor Young

A publishing professional for over 30
years, Karen Ball has overseen fiction for Tyndale, Multnomah,
Zondervan, and B&H Publishing Group. She’s worked with such notable
authors as Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Robin Jones Gunn, and many others.
Karen is currently the owner of Karen Ball Publishing
Services, LLC, a literary agent with the prestigious Steve Laube Agency, and an
award-winning, best-selling author.
Erin Taylor Young is passionate about helping others embrace deep places with God.
She’s an acquisitions editor and author liaison for Redbud Press, a publishing
company she helped to found. She’s also an award-winning humor writer. Her
recent book, Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe,
has been repeatedly accused of making readers laugh until they cry.
Tell us about your new project.
K: Write
from the Deep is a podcast and website resource to encourage writers, to help
them remember why they’re doing what they’re doing, and to equip them so that
they can rediscover the joy in the task God has given them, the task to share
His truths through the vehicle of words.
E: What
she said.
Where did the idea for this project
come from?
K: Erin
and I were together and I was telling her that I had noticed over the last
several years how discouraged writers were. It doesn’t seem to matter if
they’re just getting started or even if they’ve been successful, so many are
struggling…feeling as though they’ve lost the joy of what they’re doing. I was
so grieved that these amazing people who have shared so much with their
readers, who’ve been given this task from God to bless and encourage and
challenge others, are struggling to hold on to—or even regain—the passion and
the joy of writing. I just kept wishing there was some way that I could help
E: And
I’d been noticing that in the midst of writing conferences, where we’re
focusing on craft and pitching projects, it can be so restorative and
refreshing to hear teaching from people like Allen Arnold that focuses on the
writer’s heart. I wished there was a way to bring that type of message to
discouraged writers everywhere, or to those who feel overwhelmed, dry, or just
plain used up.
How did the two of you
Karen’s teaching and writing—her underlying message of encouragement and her
focus on obedience to God—has always resonated with me. She has a remarkable
ability to speak truth into the hard places where we writers find ourselves.
I’d been encouraging her to write a book based on her blog posts, but I could
see she didn’t have the time to do it. One weekend as I was praying for her,
the answer dawned on me. She needed a cowriter—someone to cull through
material, organize and edit it, and help weave it all together into book form.
It seemed the perfect solution to get the benefit of Karen’s 30-plus years of
experience out there. Then came the next revelation—maybe I was supposed to be that cowriter. At which point I questioned
whether this was an idea planted by God or just a random neural hiccup in my
brain. I mean, compared to Karen, my publishing perspective is pretty dang
puny. So I didn’t say a word to her about any of this. I figured if it was from
God, He’d make sure it came up again, and then I’d know.
K: And
here’s the beauty of how God works. That very weekend I was at a brainstorming
retreat with a group of writer friends. We had just brainstormed the book that
Erin’s been talking to me about. We pinpointed what the message and the focus
should be, so I was really wanting to do this book. But as excited as I was
about it, when I got back home the thought of going through all of my blog material
and organizing it…it was so overwhelming to me, another thing to add to my
already overloaded to-do list. I told God I’m willing, but I just can’t. Not on
my own right now. So…any chance You can send me some help? A couple of months
later, I went to visit Erin. I didn’t mention any of this to her, but it was
very much on my mind and my heart.
E: As we
were talking one morning, the idea of Karen writing a book came up again, and
the issue of her lack of time being the stumbling block. That’s when God tapped
me on the shoulder and said, “Tell her what you’ve been thinking…”
K: It was
so funny, because Erin started to talk to me, and she was almost apologetic
saying, “Don’t feel like you need to do this,” and “Don’t feel like this is
something that you have to respond to”—
E: More
like, “Don’t laugh at this, but…”
K: As I
was listening to her, I think my mouth was probably hanging open. Everything
she said hit home and resonated. I looked at her and told her, “This is God.
Pure God.” Because what she was saying about coming alongside me and helping
organize was exactly what I’ve been praying about. And God was telling her the
same thing.
E: And
the rest of Write From the Deep just came from that point.
So, then, what does Write From the
Deep mean?
K:  That’s a great question because it means
different things to different people. When I talk about writing from the deep,
I mean those deep places of struggle, the places where it feels so dark—like
you’re in a cave and you can’t see anything. You’re not sure where you’re
going, where it’s even safe. All you can do is listen to that small whisper from
God telling you, “Step here…stop. One step to the right…stop…”  You take one, trusting step at a time. That’s
how publishing feels to so many people. Something else that I’ve noticed is
that when we’re in those deep places, all we want to do is get out of them. And yet it’s in those very places that we find our
truest voice and our truest message as writers. So we need to embrace those
places… to listen to God and be with God and let Him refine us through them.
E: For me
being in the deep is about soaking in God and in His word. It’s about embracing
Him and letting Him sink deep into our hearts. When we’re in those deep places
of pain it’s easy to close off and not let anyone or anything in. But so often
the enemy is already in there with us. That’s why it’s so important to let God
into those deep places. It’s where we’re the most vulnerable, it’s where we
most need healing. And I think the deep is where His word can become clearest.
It reminds me of how water soaks through the earth—how it filters into something
more and more pure as it seeps through layers of dirt and rock. When we’re
writing the messages that come from these places, we’re writing what we’re most
passionate about, in our most authentic voice.
What made you choose the format of
a podcast rather than blog?
E: I
don’t think we ever intended it to be a podcast exactly, it just turned into
one. There will still be books and a website, but at the same time we wanted
something that was easier and more accessible for people who might be tired and
who just can’t cope with reading right then. I was at the ACFW conference last
year, and happened to be talking to Thomas Umstattd Jr., who does the Novel
Marketing podcast with Jim Rubart, and the idea came to me about using a
podcast to help meet the need of ministering to writers’ hearts. I ran the idea
by Thomas to see if he knew of something already like it (and to see if it was
dumb—that whole random neural hiccup thing and all). He thought about it for a
couple minutes, nodded slowly, and said, “That’s a very interesting idea.”
K: It
made great sense to me when Erin came to me and talked about doing a podcast,
because, yes, we want to provide resources, but we also want create a sense of
community, of a place where people can come and rest and find things to
encourage and equip and energize them. A podcast is a great way to do that,
because they can just click the button and listen. They can find our podcast on
our website: www.writefromthedeep.com
and also on iTunes.
What else are writers going to
find on your website?
E: We
have all kinds of resources we hope will encourage people and help them through
their deep places. We have books we recommend, videos, and we’ll do some craft
tips as well. And we’re working on some collaborative book projects. But I
think the primary thing is still the podcast.
K: We’re
doing different kinds of podcasts. Some will be just Erin and me talking about
what we’ve seen and learned, some will even be on craft. And others will be
conversations with writers who’ve experienced the struggles, or have gone
deeper with God on their journey into writing. We hope to join people together,
to say to them, “You’re not alone. This is a safe place for you.” 
We assume you’ve both been in deep
Absolutely. Too often.
So what keeps you going when you hit those places?
K: The knowledge that I don’t have to deal with
all of this by myself. God is there with me every step of the way, and all I
need to do is take my focus off the circumstances and get it back on Him. The
fact that I have friends and counselors with whom I can talk and who will pray
with and for me. People like Erin, who’ve been there themselves and can speak
truth to me rather than platitudes. Also, the kinds of books and resources that
we are putting on the website. The words from those who’ve known the emotions
and struggles I’m facing. And you know, sometimes I find my greatest momentary
encouragement from looking at funny things, whether it’s memes with funny
sayings, cartoons…anything that can get me out of the funk and back into seeing
things with a better perspective.
E: What
keeps me going is the absolute perfect peace that we find when we go deeper into
God. It draws me. It makes me hungry for more. It makes me thirsty to drink and
let God fill me with the abundance of who He is and what He wants to give to
me, which is really just Him. I keep finding that the more I know Him, the more
I want to know more of Him. Being in
His presence…that’s more powerful than anything I could find on earth.
What books have helped you the
most in the deep places
E: Okay,
I’m going to stick with my focus here. I am one of those people who is serious
about memorizing Scripture because it speaks to my heart like nothing else.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other great books out there, because there
are. But one of my favorite books in the Bible is Jeremiah. You talk about deep
places—here’s a prophet who never saw anyone listen to his words except to do
the exact opposite of what he said. Or to use them as an excuse to arrest him
and plot to kill him. Shoot, they even burned his book. How’s that for a bad
review? Here’s a guy stuck in the midst of the consequences of Judah’s sin, and
all he had was God, and all he could do was be obedient. And therein was his
joy. I haven’t faced anything like that. He was a guy who walked in deep places
and was faithful, and that inspires me.
K: I
always go to the Psalms, because David is such a whiner. I relate to David. I
relate to “How long, O Lord?” And
yet, he always ends with praise, with an acknowledgment of who God is. And Streams in the Dessert. I’ve gone
through that devotional every year since I discovered it because I always find
new truth and new help in it. We like to forget that we’ve been called into a
fellowship of suffering with Christ, but that’s exactly what this whole gig is.
It’s about learning to be a servant, learning to keep hold of the Savior in the
midst of the difficulties, in the pain. The writers in Streams always speak truth and peace to my heart.
Best advice you’ve been given in
the deep places?
K: It’s
actually the same message we want to share through Write from the Deep, and
that’s the fact that I’m not alone. I never have to face any of this by myself.
God is right there with me, and His heart is grieved even as my heart is grieved.
He doesn’t delight in my struggles, but He’s present in them. He’s working to
refine me, to make me a purer reflection of Christ.
E:  Remember your
heart’s story. When we’re discouraged, when we’re frustrated, when we’re
hurting, remembering our story is remembering how God took care of us in the
past. How He led us through the wilderness and brought us to exactly the right
place at exactly the right time. God’s credibility is in that. He wants us to
remember those things because His past performance is His guarantee of future
Worst advice?
K: “God
can’t want you to be this unhappy.” That is, hands-down, the worst counsel I’ve
ever been given. Because frankly, God isn’t all that concerned about my “happiness.”
He’s concerned about my obedience, my refinement—and He’s concerned about my joy— which is a far more powerful thing
than happiness could ever be.
E: I get
my advice from Karen, so it’s all been good.
K: It’s
been great.
E: Yes.
Right. That’s what I meant.
Erin, what is it like to work with
a nice way.
Karen, what’s it like to work with
organized—in a nice way.
E: And
that’s why we make a good team. We balance each other.
Parting thoughts?
E: Write
from the Deep is not about me, and it’s not about Karen. It’s about you. It’s
about writers. It’s about anyone who wants to use creativity to share and to
express the messages God has planted inside them. We want you to know that
we’re here for you and we want to hear from you, too. Join us in the deep!
K: What
she said.