Tag Archives: author

Q&A with Lindsay Hardin Freeman, author of The Spy on Jacob’s Ladder

Lindsay and her dogLindsay Hardin Freeman has been a priest for over thirty years and is currently the interim rector at St. Nicholas Church in Richfield, Minnesota. She is the author of eight books, including The Spy on Noah’s Ark, The Spy at Jacob’s Ladder, and Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. Her most recent publication with Forward Movement, The Spy at Jacob’s Ladder, is a collection of your favorite Bible stories, told from a unique perspective. She worked on this book with talented illustrator Paul Shaffer, who has recently departed, may his soul rest in peace.

When did you begin writing?
I began writing as a teenager, when my 8th and 9th grade English teacher required us to write 75 words a day, then 150 words. Middle school is such a horrible time for most kids, and it certainly was for me. I poured out my heart on paper.

The fact that someone read what I had to say made all the difference. And you know what? You could say that about readers who read what I write today. The fact that someone is listening and willing to explore what I’ve written makes all the difference.

The Spy on Jacob's Ladder coverWhat was your favorite part of writing this book?
When I’m deeply into a writing project and making progress, that makes me happy. I think that writing is a calling from God and I’m happiest when I’m getting words on paper that others will read, that will make a difference, that will help keep the faith alive for future generations. I’m also a parish priest, and it’s hard to be faithful to the writing life while teaching, preaching, and being a pastor because it all requires significant emotional labor…. so what makes me happy is to be making progress.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
The most difficult part is what it always is—finishing the book! It’s easy to start a book, but hard to take it all the way through to the end. To diligently go from start to finish, to take apart stories, if needed, with a buzzsaw until  you get them right—it’s a labor of love. I’m fortunate in that I’m married to a writer and fellow priest, Len Freeman, who knows his Bible well and always has new ideas…and seems never to tire of reading what I write and helping the stories to be even better.

Where do you typically write?
Lindsay Writing My goal is to get up early and write for an hour early in the morning, usually curled up in a living room chair after I’ve fed the dog. If I have that discipline down, characters and ideas are freed to run around in my head most of the day. Sometimes I’ll only get a half dozen paragraphs done in that early morning hour, but progress is always better if I’m on track. The funny thing that I find about writing is that it’s physically exhausting. I’m always tired when I set down my laptop, but that’s also usually a sign that I’ve accomplished something.

Where did you go for inspiration?
I wrote the first volume of The Spy series in Hawaii, while serving St. Jude’s Church on the Big Island. Now if I need inspiration, I go to northern Minnesota along Lake Superior.

What would you do if you felt stuck while writing?
If I get stuck on a sentence—which happens often—I get up and walk around. I put the laundry in, get the mail, pet the dog, admire my garden…but I come back and sit down and keep writing. It looks like I’m not doing anything as I wander around the house or go out in the yard, but I’m thinking, musing, creating.

What’s your favorite book?
The Bible is right up there on the top of my list, and that’s a good thing, because I spend so much time with it. In terms of children’s books, I’ve always loved The Princess and the Goblin, written by George MacDonald, of whom CS Lewis said, “He baptized my imagination.” The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are a favorite series, as are the Uncle Wiggly books, written from about 1912 – 1927 by Howard Garis.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
It means a great deal to me when people say they’ve loved a book I’ve written, or when they share a story that the book has inspired. I will never take a reader for granted, and am honored to be a part of their reading life.

Q & A: Grandpa’s Tent authors, Sarah Kinney Gaventa and Mary Davila

Authors Sarah and MarySarah K. Gaventa and Mary Davila are Episcopal priests, mothers, and authors of Grandpa’s Tent, the newest Forward Movement publication. This story gently and honestly explains death and grieving to children and is perfect for emerging readers and for adults and children to read together. Here is what Sarah and Mary have to say about Grandpa’s Tent.


How did the idea for this book form and develop?
Mary: Having served as parish priests, Sarah and I were aware of what seemed like a lack of resources to recommend to folks when they asked for children’s books about death and heaven. Many books dealt (beautifully) with death but not heaven; some painted a picture of heaven, but the theology didn’t resonate. We thought, “If it doesn’t exist, let’s create it!”

What was the writing process like?
Mary: Scripture gave us the key image from the very start: Paul’s description of the body as a tent (2 Corinthians 5:1-10). The story was crafted around that…camping, tents, heaven as a permanent home. When Scripture provides such rich metaphors, the writing process is much easier, because the launching point is already there. Sarah and I reached out to fellow clergy of various denominations, asking what material they would like to see addressed in a book. We also met with groups of children, inviting their questions. The writing process itself was less laborious than researching, asking questions, and studying Scripture.

Grandpa's Tent coverWhat was your favorite part of writing Grandpa’s Tent?
Sarah: My favorite part of writing Grandpa’s Tent was FaceTiming with Mary while we collaborated on our Google Doc. I was so grateful for the technologies that made it possible to work together, even though we were hundreds of miles apart. It was a great way to stay connected with an old friend.

What was the most difficult part?
Sarah: The most difficult part was narrowing in on how best to express resurrection theology to small children. There are so many different images used in the Bible and we had to balance communicating in simple language with the complex ideas found in the Bible about life after death.

Where do you typically write? 
Mary: Sarah and I did all of our writing via Skype. She lives in Austin, Texas, and I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Using a Google document, we wrote on the spot, while we Skyped. I wrote in my kitchen on my days off while my children were at school.

Where would you go for inspiration?
Mary: Scripture and people—those are my sources of inspiration. I went through seasons of feeling convicted to write the book, and then other times, it fell to the back burner. But when someone in the parish died, or a child lost a grandparent or friend, and I was asked for a resource, I’d think, “We really could write something that seeks to affirm what we do know about life and death, and yet upholds the mystery of life after death.” I also felt like Sarah and I could be both direct and comforting in addressing some very practical things, from a feeling of discomfort with the smells and sights within assisted living facilities, to what to expect in attending a wake, funeral service, and burial. To be direct about the practical, and yet expansive and generous about the mystery of it all, was a balance we tried to strike.

How do you see this book being utilized?
Child reading Grandpa's TentSarah: We created Grandpa’s Tent as a resource for children who were dealing with grief–and for pastors teaching children about death in general. In the early part of our priesthood, Mary and I both were responsible for children’s formation and we share a philosophy of really listening to children and addressing their deep concerns. Many children worry about death, even if they are not actively grieving. We wanted to give parents, pastors, and hospitals a resource for beginning a conversation about this difficult topic.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
Mary: This book deals with topics that most people would really rather not talk about. People feel afraid to bring up the subject of death, and they don’t feel equipped to answer children’s questions. If this book brings comfort to even one family as they journey through death and grief, then our work has been fruitful.