I'm officially naming this the "Cheering On My Awesome Friends Who Write Books" year, here on Mother Inferior. So many of the wonderful people I've met on this publishing journey are releasing titles (or have already released them), and I couldn't pick just one or two to share with you. So I'm sharing a bunch of them!
Today, I'm hosting Michelle DeRusha, a dear friend whose publisher graciously offered a giveaway copy of her memoir, which comes out today: Spiritual Misfit.
Spiritual Misfit is LOL-funny, thoughtful and extremely well-written. Michelle takes us on a honest, warts and all journey with her, from childhood angst over confession with priests to a confession of faith she made little by little, one shaky and messy step as a time, as an adult. It's a quick read, but not a lightweight one. I gave it five stars on Goodread. And I don't give those out lightly!
I'm so glad Michelle took some time to answer a few questions that popped in my head as I read her wonderful work. So without further ado, here's our conversation. (Stay tuned--at the end I'll tell you how to win a copy of Spiritual Misfit.
Michelle, what compelled you to write the book?
Honestly I didn’t set out to write a book. In fact, I never wrote anything creative prior to Spiritual Misfit. I’d always worked as a business writer – I wrote annual reports and fundraising letters and ad copy for various jobs, but I never did any writing in my own personal time. At one point about eight or so years ago, a friend suggested I try my hand at creative writing, and when I did, I unexpectedly found myself writing about my religious upbringing. I’d been raised Catholic but had fallen hard from religion and faith for about twenty years, so it was as much a surprise to me as to anyone that I began to write about my faith history. By the time I’d written 75 pages, I realized I was writing a book, but that hadn’t been my original intention.
You speak movingly of being "found" instead of finding God. I love that! Can you say a little bit about how you came to that verbiage, and why you think the distinction is important?
I love the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. From the moment I first read that story, I knew that’s what God had done for me; that’s what he does for all of us. I believe God pursues each one of us relentlessly, just like the shepherd pursued the one lost sheep, even when he had 99 safely contained in the pasture. God is always present, and he is always making his presence and his love available to us. So it’s not so much a matter of us “finding God” as it is about becoming aware of his presence, a presence he makes known and available in an infinite number of ways. I was blind and stubborn for a long time, and as I say in the acknowledgments at the end of the book, I’m so glad God pursued me, fought for me and held onto me by the scruff of my neck.
You have a talent for incorporating humor into your work. That's something I love to do, too, but it's hard to do well. Any tips on writing funny for aspiring authors?
I think you have to be willing to be real and vulnerable, and I also think you can’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. All of the funny stories in this book were real moments from my own life. Most of them weren’t funny in real-time; they were difficult, challenging experiences. But later, looking back, I was often able to see the ridiculous elements of a particular experience; I was able to roll my eyes and laugh at myself. But I also had to be willing to share those humbling, often humiliating experiences – the ones in which my flaws are obvious and I don’t look like a particularly “good” person. I think to write funny non-fiction you have to be willing to poke a little fun at yourself, not take yourself too seriously and be willing to look less-than perfect.
I agree! How do you juggle kids, writing, marriage, church, etc? What advice would you give moms who want to write but feel guilty for spending time away from their kids (at least mentally)?
I do feel guilty. All the time. It’s a bit easier now that I’m able to write while my boys are in school. But I admit straight-up that I spend a lot of time on my computer when they are home, too. Social media and audience-interaction is a requirement for most authors these days, and that kind of personal connection entails a lot of screen-time. When Rowan, my youngest, whines, “Why are you always on the computer?” I do feel a twang of guilt, but I also remind him that writing is my job and that the computer – even Facebook! – is part of that. On the other hand, I make a concerted effort to step away from the computer on the weekends and in the evenings to spend time with my kids and my husband.
It’s a challenge. Everyone is always talking about “finding a balance,” but for me that “balance” is ephemeral. My life is never perfectly balanced, and it’s a constant struggle for me to learn to live with that.
Wow, I say "amen" to that. So true. Anything else you'd like to add?
Regarding the faith journey, I would offer this advice: be patient with those who seem to be floundering in faith. I think sometimes we don’t “get” questioners; we don’t understand why they can’t just believe, darn it. We want them to experience the kind of peace and love that we relish in our relationship with God, and we feel frustrated and disappointed when it looks like they are spinning their wheels, or asking the same questions over and over or persisting in their stubborn skepticism. My husband Brad, who has been a spiritually grounded person for his entire life, used to always say to me that he was confident I would find faith someday. That statement, though I didn’t entirely believe it, gave me a sliver hope when I was still stuck in unbelief. He didn’t nag or push me; he simply believed for me.
Thanks, Michelle, for your time, and for gifiting us with this extraordinary book.
To win your own copy, leave a comment sharing a time when you felt like a misfit. It can be humorous or serious, playful or poignant. (Mine? All through junior high and high school. College was a different--and better-story! I'm thankful for that, and for my church and other supportive and nurturing communities God has blessed me with in adulthood.)