As many of you know from Facebook, I’m taking a very strict social media fast through the Spring to crank out a new book. It seems a bit illogical. Writers need to build up a platform! I know this. But God seemed to whisper to me, “Andrea, get off the merry go round and get rooted. Stop marketing and worrying about strategy. Just write. You need this time. Your family needs this time. You will get back on later when the time is right.”
So I took the very hard plunge and stepped off. (And it’s felt A. May. Zing.)
That said, I had this interview lined up and I couldn’t go off into that gentle good night of silence without posting it. I started following this writer on Twitter (she is a bright spot in a sea of crazy online voices) and I had to find out more about her book coming out this Spring. If you’re like me – someone who enjoys a great read and is interested in things of faith – you won’t want to miss this interview.
Partnered with Church Publishing Inc., her book Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost is her church story, along with those of a few of her friends. Together they explore church traditions and discover the pleasure of finding more of Jesus over and over again.. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of this author in the next few years.
Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost, Coming Spring 2020
1) Where are you from and where do you live now?
I grew up on a piece of land outside a rural farming town outside of Kansas City, Missouri. Moved to Michigan when I got married, and we now live on a piece of land outside a rural farming town outside Grand Rapids. In many ways, it feels full circle.
2) What do you do for a living?
I don’t work outside the home. My days are spent writing and building up my author’s platform. I also hold a number of community volunteer positions; I serve as women’s ministry coordinator at my church, am on the local school board and teach Bible study and Sunday School.
3) What influenced you to write a book?
When I started my blog, tracesoffaith, in 2014, I worked with a friend on getting the site and social media pages set up. At the time, I shared with her I was comfortable writing blog post-sized articles but couldn’t imagine ever having a topic that would fill a whole book. Over the years of writing blog posts, I discovered I had a real passion for writing about church. More and more, this was the topic I felt led to explore and discuss. Fast forward to 2016, I was attending a conference called Festival of Faith & Writing. That’s where the blog posts I’d already written, the books I was reading and the conversations I was having, came together into a book idea.
4) Have you always wanted to write?
My mom saved the first story I remember writing, from second grade. It’s a whimsical tale about two elves who are unable to have children, but then the wife gets pregnant and they live happily ever after. I’ve learned, if you’re a writer, that’s who you are. Most of my adult life, I thought publishing a book was out of reach for me. I barely pursued it because it seemed like too much of a challenge. Social media has changed the way we can get ourselves noticed. I was able to build an audience organically rather than wait to be discovered. I have always written in one capacity or another, and this gave me the audience I needed to secure an agent and eventually a publisher.
5) What is your marketing strategy and how important is this for writers who are publishing their first books?
I’m not very good at strategy. Like I mentioned above, social media offers us an endless audience. At first I targeted people who knew me. Friends from home, my women’s ministry ladies, other faith writers, etc. Over time, and as I honed in on a the topic of church, I discovered readers interested in that. We all know of a few instant success stories but in my experience, these are rare exceptions. Identify what you could talk/write about for hours and find people who want to discuss that same thing. Accept that it’s going to take time and effort, but consistency and persistence do pay off.
6) What was the most difficult part about writing your book?
My book is narrative nonfiction, and largely my church story, so the writing came pretty easily. The biggest challenge for me was knowing what to do with the book idea. I had a ton to learn about writing a proposal, finding beta readers and finding an agent. The publishing mechanics were the most challenging for me.
7) What was the most fun about writing your book?
My favorite kind of writing is story-driven. If I’m reading a book and they get to quoting statistics or lots and lots of other people, I get irritated. Tell me stories to get your point across! This was, by the way, Jesus’ preferred method of teaching. My book is one big story (very few stats or quotes) and I loved the process of thinking through my past to retell the details of my church experiences. I often refer to writing as turning on a faucet. At first you get an idea and the water trickles. Then it goes full force and you remember details you’d not thought about in a long time. The writing process is addictive.
8) How did you go from “ticked off” to “happily” ticked off? (Basically, how did you use any of your challenges to motivate you to move ahead?)
The biggest hurdle I had was my anonymity in the publishing world. I had met a few author friends but no one who was willing to contact their agent about me. I didn’t have a tragic story or an issue with church. I wanted to promote learning from one another in an ecumenical way. That’s a slow work. For a long time I heard God whisper in my spirit, “Trust the process.” So I did.
Another piece of advice that kept me motivated was when a writer shared a bit of advice in a FB group about rejections. She challenged writers to aim for 100 rejections a year. Magazine publications, guest posts, book proposals, you name it. When you receive a rejection letter, it’s getting you closer to your goal of 100 that year. It was a change of perspective that was huge for me. Rejection is going to happen and I had to find a way to become comfortable with it. (PS I’ve never gotten close to 100 rejections in a year.)
9) Give a shout out to a few bloggers or writers who have influenced you the most.
Lauren Winner will always top my list. Reading her books circa 2000 caused an awakening in me. There were other people out there having a legitimate church experience, worshiping Jesus in an entirely other way than me. Lauren made me want to meet them.
My friendship with Phoebe Mikhail, (beingincommunity.com) is one of the greatest blogging gifts I have received thus far. We met online, I don’t even remember how, and she has been a wonderful resource in my exploration of the Orthodox tradition. She grew up Coptic Orthodox and is married to a Priest. We have a mutual love for the Church and had the opportunity to meet in person this summer. Our main topic of conversation, writing about our faith, of course! Phoebe just released her first book, Putting Joy Into Practice, this spring.
The blogging world has introduced me to so many other writers. Seth Haines, Shawn Smucker, Ed Cyzewski, Jerusalem Greer, Scott Cairns, Sarah Bessey. They’re all doing exciting things in faith writing and have yet to hit any NYT bestseller lists, but they’re on my bestseller list.
Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost is my heart. When Jesus prayed that we would be one as he and the father are one (John 17) I believe he meant it. The more I consider the things we focus on, the fighting we do, I wonder if some Christians even care about unity. As I look back on my church experience, and those of twelve other individuals I invited to write excerpts in the book, I see a well-represented Church. Many traditions had a profound influence on my faith journey, not just the one I happened to call “mine.”
Further, I’m doing some reading on church history and past ecumenical efforts. It should come as no surprise (but it did surprise me a little) that Christians have been having major discussions (often more organized councils) about the finer details of Christian theology since the day Jesus ascended into the heavens. God knew this would be the case, yet he asked us to be the church, the bride of Christ. How can we do that? Toward the end of the book, I refer to an ancient document called The Apostle’s Creed. Maybe, maybe this can help us take a step forward. At the heart of ecumenism though, what I have found to be essential is a listening ear and an open mind. What if the ways we’re worshiping Jesus aren’t by and large wrong but merely different? Where must we agree and where can we agree to disagree?
Oh, how I long for my book to be a conversation starter. I want long-time Christians, especially those who have only been in one or two traditions, to consider how other traditions do things. I want groups to share stories about their own church experiences, learn from one another, visit churches and bring new practices into their own local body. I want to awaken a holy curiosity. I want men and women to fall in love with Jesus more and more through the Church.
11) Does faith play a role in your writing? If so, how?
It’s in every tap of the keyboard for me. My audience is first and always God, but also the church, my teacher is Jesus Christ, my guide is the Holy Spirit. I know some faith writers can write about other things and you can see a faith influence. I write more as a Bible teacher, a voice to the church.
12) When we meet in person for tacos, what food item would you bring and why?
Salsa because I can my own and it’s amazing. Also guacamole because it’s a favorite.
For more information on Traci, visit her website Traces of Faith. In it you can find blogs, a chance to pre-order her book and some truly great conversations on faith and practice.
See ya’ll in the Spring!
(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.