My guest today is Author Sarah Lynn Phillips. Another Jubilee Writer. Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story is a memoir of hope and inspiration. Welcome Sarah.
Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.
I’m from the Buffalo, New York area, went to college in Tennessee, and married a teacher/educator from Michigan. Barry’s work led us to a school near Rochester, NY and a college in Northeast PA. God has given us three wonderful daughters and all these years later, two little grandsons. My husband unexpectedly passed away in May 2015. I’m still adjusting . . . grateful for God’s grace every single day.
Besides college papers, I didn’t write much until about sixteen years ago. At that time, I took a community poetry class and discovered I really enjoyed it. I soon found the courage to submit some of my work to small houses, and to my delight, had a few poems published. Little by little I crossed over into prose and found some success writing devotionals and articles. My mom introduced me to the Montrose Christian Writers Conference, and I later joined a critique group.
Share about your memoir.
In September 2016, Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story was published by Straight Street Books/Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. This inspirational memoir shares “My Story,” “God’s Story,” and invites the reader to reflect on “Your Story.”
Here is a book summary as found on my blog:
Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story will draw you into the true story of one family’s journey of faith. It begins with a near-fatal car crash, resulting in trauma, uncertainty, and life-long limitations. Their experiences will lead you to sit at hushed bedsides, observe delicate operations, and feel the angst of life and death decisions. In the midst of multiple layers of pain and loss, you will witness quiet miracles, sure and certain lights that pierce through the darkness.
With portrayals of both present-day individuals and biblical characters, Sarah captures the essence of hope born through her struggle to trust and rely on God. Between the lines, you will also uncover your own journey of trust. A faithful and loving God desires to write your life story—no matter what happens.
How do you research for your book?
Accurate research was very important to me, but writing memoir can be tricky. Especially since I didn’t remember some of what happened immediately after the crash and beyond. I not only found news articles about the accident but interviewed a young woman from the scene – whose best friend’s aunt “happened” to be a friend of mine. My journals from that time period were probably the most helpful resources. I also interviewed family members and pieced together their stories with my recollections. I read each section with my husband, going over the last chapter just days before he passed away. I checked with nurses, a medical doctor, and a certified counselor to be sure I communicated those parts of the story with integrity. Photos of the crash and our recovery are on my blog under PHOTOS.
I also included many references to the Bible and not only carefully consulted context and commentaries but went over and over each reference in order to represent the Scriptures well. I depended on beta readers to catch errors I couldn’t see.
What inspired you to write your book?
The themes in my articles and devotionals often began with real life events, leading to come-along-side encouragement and hope. This became my pattern (http://www.sarahlynnphillips.com/p/my-stories.html).
After our family suffered the trauma and repercussions of a fiery car crash in 2003 and after months of recovery and years of adjusting to our new normal, I wondered if perhaps our story could encourage others. God opened doors for me to submit short pieces about our experience. I never dreamed of writing a book until later, but I needed these years to better learn the craft of writing and publishing. More importantly, I needed time to fully process what had happened to us and then be able to write about God’s grace through our suffering in a personal and realistic way that would lift others up.
After speaking on the topic of “story,” I began to seriously consider sharing our story in book format. It took multiple attempts using a variety of genres, but finally in 2014, I chose an inspirational genre and took the next year to rewrite my previous work. In July 2015, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas offered me a contract. I didn’t need to think twice!
When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?
For me, it was a gradual process. As a young student, I struggled to “write” until a high school English teacher assigned a character sketch every week. Because of her line-by-line patience, I did well in college—writing papers that helped me make the Dean’s List.
The poetry class and small “successes” along the way led me, step-by-step, to the decision to write our story in book form. Writing a book begins with an idea . . . a dream . . . then a few false starts . . . tenacity . . . hard work . . . re-writes . . . multiple edits . . . finally a book proposal . . . hopefully a contract . . . more hard work . . . more editing . . . and then the marketing. And lots of courage. I count it a privilege to share God’s work “with the world.”
Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?
The theme verse I chose for my book is Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (italics added).
My inspiration for writing comes from Ecclesiastes 12:9, 10: “Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.” These are my writing aspirations . . . so eloquently expressed.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?
Write with vulnerability. Avoid the extremes of sounding too plastic, preachy, or academic. It’s when you honestly write from your heart that you connect with your readers.
Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?
My writers’ group. There are six of us who meet regularly. Each brings a unique voice to the table. We take turns reading our work and critique page by page, line by line. We learn from each other, brainstorm ideas, and give suggestions. We go back and make our work better, so therefore read a fair share of re-writes. We give an encouraging word whenever we can and pray for each other. I have loved being part of this wonderful group of women, all believers in Christ whose goal is to glorify the Lord in all we write.
What is your favorite genre to read for fun?
I try to read a variety of genres to help me stay balanced and well-rounded, but if I just want to chill and relax I usually reach for historical fiction (many also published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas).
Where is your favorite place to write?
My office. My resources are close by. It’s set up in a way that works for me. And I have two windows to offer inspiration!
Check out her Book Trailer: https://youtube.com/watch?v=FryrDFsS73Y
Author Bio: Sarah Lynn Phillips is a freelance writer from Northeast Pennsylvania and has authored numerous articles, devotionals, and poems for both online and print publications along with her book Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story. Her life story has many wonderful chapters, but it has also taken some unexpected turns, including her family’s near-death experience resulting from a car crash and the untimely death of her husband. Through her writing and speaking, Sarah uplifts and challenges her audiences with her vision of hope in the hard times. She has three daughters and two grandsons. Winner of the Bronze Award in the 2017 Feathered Quill Book Awards Program for the Best Inspirational Category
Find Sarah at:
Her blog, Penned Without Ink at www.sarahlynnphillips.com.
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/sarahlynnphillips3
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