I was blessed to meet Michelle DeRusha last November at a High Callings retreat in Texas at Laity Lodge. Her book Spiritual Misfit A Memoir of Uneasy Faith is releasing on April 15th. She agreed to sit down for a bit in the midst of book launch lunacy to answer a few questions. Grab yourself a cup of your favourite brew and join us!
Michelle, I have always been in love with words and wanted to weave them into poetry and prose. Did you have dreams of being a writer or did the urge to write surprise you?
The desire to write very much surprised me! I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English, and I've always worked at jobs that have involved a lot of writing – public relations, advertising, fundraising, communications – but I hadn't ever written anything creatively until this book. That’s how I know this journey is entirely God-ordained. One morning I slipped into my basement office before my kids were up and started to write a story about my childhood religious experiences – a few months and 75 pages later, I realized I might be writing a book. I was as shocked as anyone!
Did your blogging change as you dove deeper into the writing of Spiritual Misfit? Did it become easier to share the truth of who Michelle is?
What’s interesting is that I wrote the entire book long before I became a blogger. In fact, I only started blogging when I learned I needed a “platform” – a means for gathering readers and a following in order to attract the interest of a publisher. But over time I came to love blogging. I never anticipated the possibility that real, genuine friendships could be created and nurtured online, but that’s exactly what has happened with blogging. It’s been one of the greatest and most unexpected gifts of this writing journey so far.
I think writing the book first later helped me become a more transparent blogger. Even though the book wasn't published when I started blogging, in the back of my own mind, I knew I’d already “put it all out there,” so I didn't have anything to lose by being real and authentic on the blog.
I know first-hand what it feels like to relocate to a place vastly different from what has been familiar and comfortable. Has Nebraska become a right place for you?
Nebraska has become a “right place” for me. We've been here nearly 13 years now, and I absolutely love it. I love the vast sky and the wide-open landscape; I love the warm, generous people; I love that I can go for a run and leave my front door unlocked; I love sitting on my neighbor’s front porch, chatting with her on a hot summer afternoon with a glass of iced tea in hand. Nebraska offers a slower life than New England – less traffic, less “keeping up with the Jones,” and I have grown to appreciate that.
That said, I still miss my family every day. My parents, my sister, my nephew and all my aunts and uncles still live in New England. It’s hard to be so far from them, to see them only once or twice a year. I won’t ever get used to that.
Would you rather travel via rail, car, boat or plane? Is there somewhere you've always dreamed of visiting?
I’ve always dreamed of visiting Italy – particularly the Cinque Terre region on the coast. I joke with my husband, Brad, that we’ll be 80 by the time we get there. Now that we have young kids, it’s going to be a while!
I think I'd prefer to travel by magic carpet (though I realize you didn't offer that as an option!). I hate flying (truth be told, I am afraid of it). Boats make me seasick, long car trips make me feel like my head will pop off, and I've never traveled by train (maybe I ought to try that before ordering my custom-designed magic carpet?).
What's next from the pen of Michelle DeRusha? Have you ever thought about writing fiction?
No, no – no fiction! The thought of writing fiction terrifies me! I am currently finishing edits of my next book, entitled 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith, which will be released by Baker Books in September 2014. 50 Women is a compilation of short biographies – very much in the non-fiction category and very different from Spiritual Misfit. It was fascinating to research and write, and I am excited to introduce these amazing women, some of whom I’d never heard of, to others.
After that, I think I’d like to jump back into memoir. I am a storyteller at heart. I love what Natalie Goldberg says about mining your own life for material: “If you've lived ten years, you have enough writing material for your whole life,” she says in Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. “If you’re thirty years old, stop everything. You already have too much to capture.” According to Natalie, at 43 I have more than enough for another book, so I’d better get writing!
While Michelle gets back to work, why don't you order yourself a copy of Spiritual Misfit and come back next week when I'll share my thought about this charming and wonderful new book.