An Interview with Brenna Simonds of Living Unveiled

Brenna's bookAn interview with the indomitable author, Brenna Kate Simonds! Welcome!

Abby: What is your book title, and when will it be available?

Brenna Kate: Learning to Walk in Freedom: A Journey in Five Steps
It’s been released on Kindle. The paperback release will be in late January.

A: What is one word that sums up this book…Why?

BK: Freedom! What freedom is and how it plays out in the life of a Christian is one of the most misunderstood topics in Christianity. But Jesus died so that we can experience true freedom, and it’s worth taking the time to discern what that might look like in our lives.

A: Is this your first book? If so, what was the inspiration that led you to begin this project? And if you’ve written others, what are they?

BK: This is the first full-length book I’ve written myself. I’ve been involved in a few other projects in the past. I began to compile this book for the ministry I direct and while gathering the material, I felt God saying that this book was for a broader audience. It’s certainly been a labor of love, but I trust God will use it as He sees fit.

A: Who is your intended audience and what do you hope your readers take away from your work?

BK: My intended audience is everyone! One of my biggest fans is not even a Christian. I really think anyone could gain something from Learning to Walk in Freedom. It’s for people whose heart’s cry is telling them that there is more to life than they have experienced thus far.

A: What was the hardest part of writing this story? What brought you the most joy?

BK: One of the more difficult pieces of writing this was sharing my story so publicly. The book is not centered around the details of my story, but I do share it at the end to give readers context. It’s all stuff I have written before and even spoken publicly, but putting it in print for all eternity is a different story! But the same thing has brought me the most joy. I already know from the times I’ve shared both my story and these five freedom steps, this is God’s story and He is using it to impact lives. If I can help one person with my transparency, then it’s all worth it.

A: Who has inspired you most in your writing career? Personally? Professionally?

BK: I was mentored by Mike Olejarz; he also wrote the foreword of Learning to Walk in Freedom. Mike began pouring his life into mine when I attended the campus ministry he directed in Boston. Even beyond our years of serving side by side, Mike has taken an active interest in my development and in me in general! He’s a fantastic man of God, and I pray I can influence as many people in my life as he has. My husband and I find ourselves quoting him on a regular basis!

I have a long list of unofficial mentors, some of whom I’ve met, some I’ve only emailed, and some with whom I’ve never spoken.  I’ll list them in no particular order: Nick Fatato, John Ortberg, Russell Willingham, Gary Thomas, Joyce Meyer, Charles Stanley, Richard Foster, and Bob Hamp.

A: Tell us a little about yourself:

What was your nickname as a child?
Banana Cake! Kind of sounds like Brenna Kate, doesn’t it?

Favorite color?
Burgundy – because it’s so pretty ☺

Preferred writing attire? (Jammies? Yoga pants? Three piece suit?)
I don’t have preferred attire. Whatever I’m wearing at the time is fine, but I have a preferred beverage. Coffee!!! Mostly decaf. I’m high-energy enough as it is.

Tea or coffee?
Coffee! I drink it black. I do try and alternate it with herbal tea.

Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?
Though I’m originally from New England, I have to say Starbucks. Their coffee is just better. Their food is, too!

Favorite author?
I have to pick one? This is far too difficult a question. But I’ll try. I’d have to say Russell Willingham. His concept of core beliefs is one I’ve shared more than any other concept. It’s why I asked him to read my book and possibly endorse it (if he liked it – which he thankfully did!). I can’t wait to see what else he has to say in future writings. Gary Thomas is a close second. I always give his book Sacred Marriage to newlyweds, and his book Sacred Influence to struggling wives.

Thanks for being with us, Brenna! Best of luck on your book!
If you’d like to purchase Brenna’s book, the e-version is available on Amazon now: Learning to Walk in Freedom: A Journey in Five Steps.

If you want to pre-order a paperback copy of Brenna’s book, you can do that here: Pre-order!

A Conversation with New Author, Heather Letto

Dear Friends,

You’re in for a treat today! Author Heather Letto, is a new friend of mine. We are both represented by the phenomenal, intuitive, Christian agent, Vanessa Grossett. The first book in Heather’s new Impervious series, Lone Wolf, will debut on shelves in May 2014. Today, my lucky readers get an inside look into Heather Letto – the writer.

Please, introduce yourself beneath this post, visit Heather’s website, ask her questions, and by all means, mark your calendars for May so you can be one of the first to get your hands on her book!

Welcome Heather!

You wrote a piece titled “Dream On” on your blog. Tell me about your dreams as a little girl, besides wanting to be a princess. 🙂 Did some of those dreams influence the character development or settings in your stories?

As a little girl, I played ‘pretend’ like nobody’s business, taking my characters to the N-th degree. I was a girl IN the 70’s so when I put on a record, I was Cher. I didn’t play house, I was Fonzi’s wife. While doing flips and cartwheels in my front yard, I was Nadia Comanci. In other words, when I hung out, I weaved myself right into a story. As you can imagine, to date each female protagonist who I’ve created tends to be a quirky, fierce girl who thinks she can take on the world.

When did you start writing or telling stories? Is it something you have always enjoyed doing?

I’ve always been a tale teller. However, my quirkiness didn’t find its proper place on a page until my mid-30’s. Life was a little rough at that time and that’s when I discovered my ability to take ridiculous or tedious moments and cloak then with humor. As I re-created what originally was a headache or heartache I was able to see the silver linings on many a gray clouds.

What motivates you to write? Do you go outside to straighten your thoughts and get inspiration or listen to music or free write? What works for you?

My true inspiration is God, plain and simple. A lot of prayer goes into my writing and I truly feel that when I create, the Holy Spirit is my driving force. I find him in the gym as a pray during a workout, on a nature stroll or even just sitting at my kitchen table.  It doesn’t matter… whenever I call upon Him, He shows up.

Who are your favorite authors or favorite books? Do you read any specific genres most?

I’m a die-hard fan of YA. Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins and Lauren Oliver are my current A-listers. However, they have to battle with Beth Moore and Pricilla Shirer for my attention. And my favorite up and coming author–Nicole Quigley. (Like Moonlight at Low Tide…a work of art!)

Did you discover or learn anything while writing your book? Something about yourself or your own experiences or even about God?

Oh, always! God is constantly teaching me and pulling me deeper into my faith as I work.

Tell me a little about your family.

I am a blessed, blessed woman! I’m the proud mother of two God-fearing and very successful young men who are just starting to get their paws wet in this wonderful world. I am the wife of an amazingly supportive and fabulously successful software designer husband. I originally was sprung from a very quirky and loving home with a crazy mom & dad, sister & brother who helped form me into the weirdo I am today. P.S.  I love  my cats.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Because I taught fitness for 20+ years, I have a hard time sitting still. I totally enjoy a hard gym workout, a hike in the woods, a long bike ride, a refreshing swim, paddling a kayak or a few hours on the tennis court. Oh… my newest obsessions is figure skating… and one day I’m gonna be good!  😀

Book Review, Bury the Hot

I hesitate to say myriad stories, because there could never be too many, or too similar accounts to remind our generations of the Holocaust and warn us, less history repeat itself. However, there are numerous books about it, some written by family members, some collected from the journals of children, some by the few survivors themselves.

I have devoured many of these books, held rapt by dauntless courage that seemed to sprout in once common hearts. Where once stood a child, a tradesman, a farmer, a businessman, suddenly emerged men and women refined by unimaginable pain and loss. Also, came men and women with the compassion and faith to go to great lengths to protect the innocent.

But Bury the Hot, by Deb Levy, tells a story of those same blood-drenched years in a different tone.

Levy grew up with Sal Wainberg’s children. Hardly anyone knew his story. Though he was proudly Jewish and obviously of the right generation, he had never revealed much, and most were reticent to ask. Then Levy, grown with children of her own, received an unexpected phone call.

“‘Hi Debbie?’ he said without introductions or formalities you’d expect from a lifetime friend who you haven’t spoken to in a lifetime. “Do you know my story?’”

Bury the Hot, was written as Levy sat at her desk for months, in hours’ long conversations with Sal and his wife, Sandy. Every few chapters, the saga pauses and Levy lets the reader listen to their real-time conversation. We hear her probe softly, ask some practical questions and some that are so personal, she is fearful to ask.

Sal was born, Szulim Wainberg in Zelechow, Poland. He was a mere four-years-old when German planes began bombing his home, disintegrating his life. His family evaded the Germans, hiding in lofts, basements, wheat and rye fields. Sal tells Levy he kept a mental tally of the miracles that kept his family just barely out of the jaws of certain death.

Now, he’s old, retired. His wife and children have lived and aged under the cloud of his secret past. But, how could a little boy assimilate the horror of seeing babies dashed against buildings, of digging his sister’s grave when he was only six, of living for months on end in a dank cellar without light, of feeling the hot, unjustified hatred of his own neighbors? How could he contain that and not be changed; and live a life just like everyone else?

That’s what makes this book unique. Through the interview process and passing back and forth between the decades, Levy shows how a man dealt with that past and carried it forward into a successful future. She unveils how thousands of Jews must have felt emerging from the Holocaust into a world that wanted to pretend as if everything is “normal”.

Bury the Hot, is an exceptional read, unparalleled in its approach to addressing the Holocaust. For anyone with an interest in history, for anyone with an interest in human nature and the aftermath of survival, this is an revelatory book.

From Cheers to Tears

Funny how quickly we can go from cheers to tears.

This afternoon, some girl friends and I embarked on a teaching series by Mark Gungor, called Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. I’ve written on that here before, but if you missed it, just click on the tags related to this post.

We picked this teaching series because there’s no homework and life is crazy at the start of the school year; and because no matter what we’re discussing, we always gravitate back to marriage issues. I don’t suppose that’s surprising. Our husbands are the single most influential persons in each of our lives – for better or worse. Right?

Mark Gungor is hilarious. His accurate and exaggerated portrayals of his and her’s brains kept all of us in stitches. However, within 15 minutes of ending the video, one of my closest friends was nearing tears. The beauty of it, is that she’s one of those super-women who leads and coaches and strengthens and mentors, but never needs.

She whispered, “I haven’t been able to cry for weeks.”

I think it’s easier to hurt than to watch a loved one hurt. When I see someone I cherish whimper in pain, I see no privilege in it. There’s rarely beauty in the creases of their eyes or the way their chin tugs when they cry. But then she said something else.

“I have never had someone else to reach out to in order to get my needs met. I’ve always been the coach, the mentor.”

She’s also been the mom, the wife, the professional coach, the teacher. And it’s here where I think our roads cross. I think this loved one is walking a similar path to my own. (Hmmm, we’ve done that before.) 🙂

You see, I’m the oldest. I’ve also been the FRG leader, the team captain, the manager, the Bible study leader, the financial manager, “household six” in Army lingo. For most of my life, someone has looked up to me. For most of my life, I’ve been praised for my leadership skills and my charisma. Believe me, I’m not tooting my own horn. These generous accolades have not always benefited me.

I only recently discovered what I believe lay at the root of my eating disorder. Needlessness. Does that sound crazy? Is anyone really needless? Anyway, what do the privilege of pain and needlessness have to do with each other?

Ruth Graham wrote a book called In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. I recently read an interview with her.

This is a long excerpt from the interview, but worth the read:

RUTH GRAHAM: Sometimes I think we miss the most obvious example of suffering – the crucifixion. I believe that suffering strips us of self-sufficiency and we learn that we can’t go it alone. And it makes us rely on God. Of course, the more we rely on God, the more we find that He is trustworthy. And the more we find that He is trustworthy, the more we trust Him. And I know that God doesn’t delight in pain, but I know that pain is where growth takes place. And if we are to know the deep things of God, I think very often it is taught in suffering.

ELLIOTT: This idea of self-sufficiency that you mention is interesting. It is often our tendency as humans to try to cover up our problems because we don’t want people to know what we are dealing with. Why is that the wrong thing to do?

GRAHAM: Well covering up our pains, our faults, and our mistakes only isolates us more. I have found that as I have shared my faults and failures it’s as if I’m giving permission to others to share theirs with me. And I believe that’s where real ministry takes place, when there’s a real communication on the deeper level. And I think when we take our masks off, we enable each other to communicate on a deeper level.

I can’t speak for my friend, but I surmise we’re learning the same thing. I’m not needless. And the beauty of being needy is that it makes me more aware of my Jesus’ nearness.