Writing as a spiritual journey and what it means for writers and readers was the topic of a July 11 authors forum at House of James Christian bookstore. Drawing on a variety of experiences, three Mennonite book authors addressed “writing as a spiritual journey” as they discussed their books and the process of writing them.
First to speak was April Yamasaki, whose recently published book, Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal, explores how spiritual disciplines can enrich the Christian’s devotional life. “Writing is an act of faith,” said Yamasaki, who wanted to be a writer since childhood; she currently pastors Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford. “Writing helps me to reflect and articulate.”
Sacred Pauses, she explained, was something she felt she’d been writing all her life, and she decided it was a personal journey even if never published. She described the distractions, detours and roadblocks she experienced along the way to completing the book, as well as the “way stations” that gave her encouragement.
Shirley Showalter of Harrisonburg, Va., author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World, talked about how she came to write her memoir. Showalter grew up in a conservative Mennonite church in Pennsylvania, where career options for girls were limited, but she entered the academic field and eventually became president of Goshen (Ind.) College.
Showalter said, “When I was little, I wanted to be big—big as in important.” Now in writing the book she said, “I wanted to do writing as an exploration of self, meaning and purpose, not tied to academic practice.”
Danny Unrau, a Mennonite Brethren pastor in Richmond, B.C., is the author of You are the Boy, a novel of Jewish connections in a Mennonite family, which turned out ironically to be true in his own ancestry. Unrau shared insights he had gained about writing, including listening, hearing, finding one’s identity, and “just start writing and it will come.” According to Unrau, “writing is medicine,” and he compared it to a strawberry-rhubarb dessert, “a mix of sweetness and bitterness.”
A question-and-answer session followed. Topics included the process of writing a book, writing for a secular audience, and if spiritual traditions other than Christian had influenced them.