The Next Big Thing
My friend Kelsey Timmerman, banana ninja and famed underwear journalist (he’s one of the top ten underwear journalists in the state of Indiana, I have been told), is author of Where Am I Wearing? and the soon-to-be-released Where Am I Eating? (Click any of those links to read all about his travels and insights as he has discovered the people around the world who have made our clothes and grown and produced our foods. You’ll be glad you did.)
Kelsey tagged me in “The Next Big Thing” blog hop, so after I post my answers to these questions about my work in progress, I’ll tag other writers, who in turn will tag others. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the posts by the authors I tag, and I hope you’ll also go to Kelsey’s blog and read his post and those of the other authors he tagged. Lots of interesting writers and good books out there!
What is your working title of your book (or story)? The Art of Praying Upside Down
Where did the idea come from for the book? The pieces were all there, but it took the right sequence of events at a writing conference a couple years ago for me to put them all together and do something with them.
My husband and I owned two houses for two years, and during that time — rather than praying for myself or my finances — I started praying for the woman who would buy my house. It struck me then that what I was doing was upside down, and I taught a Bible study at my church about it. I spent a few hours one afternoon starting to design a colorful gift book on the topic, but since I didn’t know what I’d do with it anyway, I put it away.
That year, I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop with a goal of figuring out what I really wanted to write. My writing up to that point had been all over the place — articles, essays, fiction. As I talked to an agent one afternoon, I mentioned my idea for a gift book, and she was intrigued by the concept. The next day, I attended workshops on topics like literary journalism, the stunt or immersion memoir, what really matters/priorities, and a keynote speech by an artist and illustrator talking about whose point of view you are writing from.
On the two-hour drive home, my brain started making connections, and (don’t tell anyone) as I drove I scribbled down a bunch of ideas. What was I passionate about? God, my faith, my art, and my writing. I’d already had the “upside down prayer” insight, but then I realized that I could relate to prayer nearly every aspect of art that came to mind. My whole life experience was covered by this topic, and the connections seemed endless. I think there was a giant light bulb hovering in the air over my car as I drove, somewhat recklessly, home. And the book was born.
What genre does your book fall under? Nonfiction, specifically Christian Living — even more specifically prayer.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? This isn’t exactly a movie-type of book, but I’m pretty sure Matthew McConaughey, George Clooney or Channing Tatum needs to be in it somehow. Or Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? As an art major I learned that when you turn a drawing upside down and then draw what you see, you will achieve better results because you’ve freed your mind from its self-imposed constraints — because you’re not naming it or defining it, you’re seeing what’s really in front of you. By applying this (and many other) artistic concepts to prayer, you can learn to make new connections and see God and prayer in a new way. (OK, that was two rather long sentences. Forgive me.)
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’ll let you know when I’m finished! I worked on it for three or four months, then put it aside because of events in my life, such as the loss of my mom. Three weeks before the Midwest Writers Workshop in July, I pulled it out and put together a proposal. Then I submitted it and put it away for another four months. And now I’m working hard to pull it all together! I’m about halfway there — maybe a little further.
What other books within your genre would you compare this story to? Maybe Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen, in the sense that it’s about the way she came to pray a new kind of prayer and be open to whatever God had in store for her life. But my book is very different from hers in other ways. Truthfully, I haven’t really found a book that is all that similar to mine. Some are about creativity and how you can apply that to business or life, and some are about prayer, but I can’t find anything else that combines the two subjects in this way.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? I don’t want to sound like that person — you know, the one that makes you roll your eyes with her claims that God told her to do it. But I guess I am (sort of). I didn’t hear an audible voice, and maybe I never sensed God telling me directly to “WRITE THIS BOOK.” Still, I felt as though the ways I look at prayer and approach God are unusual and I wanted to share my insights. I simply did what I always try to do, which is to move forward in faith, using whatever skills and ability and inspiration I have at that moment and asking for direction at each step. And when things started happening with this book, I had the sense that it was time. It didn’t feel like pushing my own agenda, but more like hopping on board for the ride.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I think my approach is quirky and unconventional. I don’t want a single word of it to sound churchy or preachy. (Unless, of course, you would say that about the scriptures I use to illustrate Jesus’ unconventional and unexpected approach.) I try to face doubt head on and not sugar-coat the hard stuff. Each section is tied to a different art concept and supported by real-life stories. Although they’re more than welcome, and probably more interested than some others, artists are not necessarily my intended readers. The book is about prayer, about trying to use new methods to see like an artist sees, to start making new connections that allow you to see God moving in situations where you might have missed Him before.
OK, who’s next? I look forward to reading about the projects of each of these friends and writers in the next week or so, and I hope you will, too.