Facing Stories with Kelsey Timmerman

In which I yell at Kelsey and he looks very afraid. Even if that’s not exactly what happened. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, and this one seems to tell its own story. But if you have lots of time, click “play” because we talked about story, and community, and writing the book ...

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In which I yell at Kelsey and he looks very afraid.

Even if that’s not exactly what happened. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, and this one seems to tell its own story.

But if you have lots of time, click “play” because we talked about story, and community, and writing the book Praying Upside Down. And, based on the length of the video, it seems we talked a lot. But it was fun for me—as long as I don’t have to watch or listen to myself. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

Where Am I Eating?: A pseudo book review

Here’s the thing. As American consumers, we are used to people catering to us. Sometimes we forget — or, in my case, don’t really know — how our products get to us. We don’t know, or maybe don’t care, that some of the workers on these farms are, literally, modern-day slaves. Or that the divers ...

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Eating-Cover1

Here’s the thing. As American consumers, we are used to people catering to us. Sometimes we forget — or, in my case, don’t really know — how our products get to us. We don’t know, or maybe don’t care, that some of the workers on these farms are, literally, modern-day slaves. Or that the divers in Nicaragua dive without proper equipment and suffer horrible physical pain to track down the lobsters we crave in too large a number. Or that the concentrate in our apple juice may come from 7 or 8 countries, some of which have outdated controls or no bans on chemicals we know are harmful. Or that if somehow the farm workers could get an extra half-cent per bag of coffee*, they could afford to feed and educate their families. Or that the chocolate spa in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has mysterious “codes” that prohibit men from indulging in chocolate baths.

Admittedly, some of these injustices are more tragic than others.

If you’re familiar with my pseudo book reviews, you’ll know I write about one thing that really stuck with me rather than summarize the plot or writing style. I won’t disappoint you today. Kelsey Timmerman (who happens to be a friend of mine, I say with pride, like that will make me look more important) is a natural storyteller. He manages to interject statistics and facts — objective information — in between stories that are so funny I had to read them out loud to my family, and observations so poignant and compassionate and hopeful that I had to stay near a box of Kleenex.

Where Am I Eating? is so good. You need to read it, even if — at first glance — you’re not sure the topic is one that interests you. Because it will. Because we all eat. And because Kelsey has two beautiful children to support with his book sales and speaking engagements. But mainly because it’s just such a good book. It’s hard to pick just one thing to tell you. But I will, because that’s how I roll.

Near the end of chapter 2 (“The Grande Gringo Picks Coffee”), Kelsey is handed a coffee tree seedling to plant. And what he wrote about that moved me — maybe because I’d had the same thought, last year, as my sister and I visited the farmland we had recently inherited when my mom passed away. To me, it’s the perfect definition of hope. But since I didn’t actually put my experience into words, I’ll repeat his.

I stop at my plant on the way back and pull out my water bottle. I kneel down and pour half of it onto the waxy leaves that wave under the deluge. I take a moment to think about this plant and the people who will tend it. My thoughts turn into something more, something I don’t regularly do; I pray. Maybe it was the view, or the having survived this experience. There just seems to be something miraculous about putting a plant in the ground in a place like this and having faith that it will survive and thrive, and will, in turn, allow Felipe and his family to survive and thrive. Every farmer has to believe in a higher power.

It’s a novelty to think that someday you or I might drink coffee produced from my plant. It’s humbling to know that rain or shine, Felipe tends his plants on these slopes, just like his grandfather’s grandfather did, producing a product that we take for granted each morning. Coffee isn’t a right. It’s a livelihood and an Internet connection.

Their work is coffee — and their lives are each other.

Whether we know it or not, our lives are intertwined with theirs. We need to remember these people, understand their lives and sacrifices, and be intentional about choices and decisions we make that can affect them. Starting early in the morning, with your first cup of coffee.

Read about Kelsey’s travels (and his other book, Where Am I Wearing?) here , or order your own copy today on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or others.

*I don’t always remember things accurately, and I’m too impatient to search for it in the book again, but it was an extra half-cent for something. Maybe not per bag. Maybe per bushel. Or maybe it was bananas instead of coffee. But you get the idea.

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 ...

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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.) 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? My book is represented by The Blythe Daniel Agency and will be published by Tyndale Momentum sometime in 2015!

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.

Sarah Schmitt  |  Alison Bliss  |  Megan Powell  |  Karen Lenfestey

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