Sunday 25 March 2012

Sarah Reinhard - Author Profile

I have been following Sarah Reinhard's writings almost since she started blogging and now she has a few books out and I asked her to do an author Profile and interview for the readers at Book Reviews and More and Catholic Dad's Online. I always looked forward to her contributions to the now defunct Catholic Carnival. So without further ado her is Sarah in her own words.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I started bloggging in May, 2007, because I felt like I needed some kind of an interactive writing experience. I don't know that I would have said "I want to be a writer," but when I look back, that was the desire at the heart of it.

Recently, my mom mailed me an old notebook from my grade school days, in which I had written a story. I remember writing back then, too, and really, writing has been part of me for my entire life, though it has always served a purpose. In my childhood, I told stories. In high school, I wrote essays for college scholarships. In college and grad school, I wrote papers and papers and papers. In my professional life, I've done a variety of other kinds of writing. Now it also serves to help me think through my faith and share it with others.

2. How did you nurture that dream?

I prayed during Adoration one time, "God, I just feel like I'm supposed to be writing. What does that mean?" In my journal from that time, I can see where I asked, over and over, for God to use me as his instrument.

So I would say *I* didn't nurture it: God did. (And that sounds fruity, a bit, even to me. But it's how it happened.)

On the other hand, I've always been an avid reader. A professor in my first class in grad school said something that's stuck with me, "If you want to write, read." I remember wondering if I would someday write, as much as I loved to read. Who knew?

3. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

This question makes me smile, because I think of what I do as "playing." The money is always a surprise (though a welcome one).

My working from home and cutting back on hours professionally had to do with my discernment that I needed to be home with my kids and more time to pursue writing.

4. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

Take myself less seriously. (I'm sure someone did try to pass it along to me, but I refused to believe it until I learned it the hard way.)

5. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

First and foremost, my husband. A close second was my priest, spiritual director, close friend, and boss at my job at our parish. I've also been blessed by a number of devout Catholic writer friends who have supported and encouraged me along the way (and continue to do so).

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

My process varies by project. I try to always start with a prayer or an offering of some sort.

For columns, I usually sit down and crank out my word count in whatever time I have allotted to me.

For books, I often sit down and use various forms of spreadsheeting...with both my Advent and Lent books (Welcome Baby Jesus and Welcome Risen Jesus respectively), I had a table of each day of the season with columns for the scripture verse, the theme of the week, and the think, pray, and act sections.

I usually have the best success giving myself hard and fast goals, either by word count or by "get this many sections/chapters done."

Once the first draft is done, I have a trusted group of writer friends who critique and make suggestions. I go through it myself as well.

After I've gone through that editing, I send it to my publisher, and we begin the process with their editorial staff.

7. What does your typical day or week look like for our mind, body and spiritual development? Do you try and keep to a specific regime or schedule?

Routines are golden in my life, but as I have young kids, I've learned (and relearn every single week) that I have to allow a lot of flexibility.

I like to get up way earlier than the rest of the family and pray, do some spiritual reading, take my shower, drink a pot of coffee, and ease into the day.

Through the week, there's at least one kid to get ready for school and onto a bus or into a carpool. After we settle down from that, I'll sometimes get some work done before the toddler's first nap (unless he's having a day where he takes only one long nap--he's transitioning, oh joy). I usually try to run my errands before his nap, if I can, but it doesn't always work that way.

I try to do the bulk of my work--especially anything that requires concentration or distraction-free time--during his naptime (unless I can't, or unless there's something else going on). That might be writing or parish work (bulletin layout, ministry scheduling, website maintenance).

Insert lunchtime, the feeding of children and myself, various and sundry needs being met.

In the afternoons, I will sometimes catch up around the house or do other less intensive projects. (What's defined as "intensive" may vary by day.)

From the time my oldest gets off the bus until my kids go to bed, I'm hit-or-miss with being online. After dinner ideally, and after the kids are in bed for sure, I try to be offline so that I can read. This is my only guaranteed time for reading--two or three hours max.

I tuck in early--I'm an early bird, not a night owl, so if I'm up late it's the exception.

8. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I have an Ave Maria playlist that is my fallback inspirational playlist. It's like praying as I write.

I also have a playlist of various favorite songs, or I'll sometimes turn on Pandora.

Sometimes, I just want silence (or I need to keep an ear out for the kids).

9. You contribute to a number of blogs as well as your own, how do you find the time to work on books outside of those commitments?

I guess I can't just reply, "I'm crazy," can I?

I think the perception that I do "a lot" stems from the load we each carry, which is different and highly personalized. I know women whose husbands travel or are gone for days or weeks or even months at a time. I don't know how THEY do it. I could give you a number of other examples: for every person who tells me they don't know how I find time, I can respond that I can't imagine THEIR life in some specific aspect.

I guess that's a long way of saying I don't know.

Blog posts are less intensive for me. I tend to think in 300-500 word chunks, so it's not as hard to contribute to those. Book projects are definitely more intense.

To find time, I usually have to make time. This has included, in the past, humbling myself and accepting help from others, reducing myself to using programs like "Write or Die" and tweeting my word counts, and holding myself accountable to a writing partner, my husband, and whoever else is unfortunate enough to be in my path.

10. Which books or authors had the greatest impact on your work?

St. Therese of Lisieux has had a tremendous impact on me, as has Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I didn't realize how much until someone wrote in a review of my Lent book (Welcome Risen Jesus) recently that it was very "Therese-like" in its writing and sacrifices.

John Paul II, and especially Theology of the Body, have also impacted me tremendously.

On a practical level, I've referenced, again and again, Stephen King's On Writing, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and William Zinsser's On Writing, and all of them before I ever considered myself a writer.

I have also been inspired by the books and online writings of Danielle Bean, Elizabeth Foss, Jennifer Fulwiler, Lisa Hendey, and many others. It's been an honor to get to know these ladies and be impacted on a personal level, as well.

11. What advice would you give to teens today, to your readers, what gems of knowledge have you gleaned in life that you would pass on?

This quote from St. Francis de Sales sums it up for me: "Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew."
- St. Francis de Sales

12. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well-rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

I'm coming up blank, so I'm going to respectfully pass on this one.

Here's why:
a. Gotta know who it is.
b. Don't feel like I have read enough to be able to recommend wholeheartedly in this area.

Of course, I'd include the Catechism, Church documents, the Bible, and writings of the saints, writings of the current popes.

But I'd hate to leave out good, classic fiction and good, awesome current writing. That's where I feel like, though I can recommend books, I can't say "this is the list of ten you MUST READ."

13. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

Learning how to think critically is what I got out of my college education, both times I attended. I went to learn a trade, I think, but I've come to realize, in the ten years since I graduated from grad school, that I went for the wrong reason, even if I did pick up the "learning how to think" (sort of, anyway) skill a bit.

14. What are your favorite books to read with your children?

Angel in the Waters, by Regina Doman
Anything my seven-year-old (a jumping-in-the-water getting-really-good-at-it reader) will read to me.
Whatever they bring me, especially if it makes us curl up together on the couch and it's a good story.

Sorry if this isn't a good answer. I'm pulling a blank on being able to list specific books here. We are rolling over in picture books, and if I start to name one or two, I'll want to name them all and you will never get the answers.

15. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

Judy Blume
C.S. Lewis
J.R.R. Tolkien
Stephen King
Ayn Rand (discovered at the very end of my teen years, but she definitely shaped and influenced me)

16. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

Fiction authors:
Michael O'Brien
Regina Doman (though I realize she writes for a YA audience, I do so love her stuff!)
Michelle Buckman
Karina Fabian

Nonfiction authors:
Lisa Hendey
Danielle Bean
Elizabeth Foss
Pope Benedict XVI
G.K. Chesterton

My list of favorite books will take all day to compile. I'm terrible at this sort of's probably why I avoid those memes online too! :)

17. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read?

Pope Benedict XVI, definitely, though I'm a bit of a slacker when it comes to his work. I also love reading Mark Shea, Christopher West, and the folks who write at Patheos,, and in many Catholic blogs.

18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

The Bible
The Catechism
Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales
Complete works of Chesterton in one volume (hey! I'm dreaming here!)
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings books, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Harry Potter series

(OK, that's more than ten books. I'll need a bookshelf on my island, please!)

19. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

Pray first. Discern. Get spiritual direction, especially if you feel called to use your talent/gift in a public way. Frequent the sacraments. And make your coffee strong and hot. :)

Thank you Sarah for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer some questions for our readers here at Book Reviews and More. Sarah can be found writing many places around the web, including her own blog The Snoring Scholar and also at:
Catholic Writers Guild blog
Catholic Foodie - Mary in the Kitchen Column
Amazing Catechists
Integrated Catholic Life
New Evangelizers

So check out her writings online or on the web.

Books by Sarah A. Reinhard:
Welcome Baby Jesus
Welcome Risen Jesus
A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy
Catholic Family Fun
Word by Word
Do I Really Have to Give Something Up for Lent?

Author Profile and interview  with Sarah A. Reinhard


Ginny said...

It's so great to read this interview with one of my favorite bloggers! :) I love getting a window into the routine/craft/inspiration of fellow writers. Thanks!

Simple Faith and Life said...

I so enjoyed reading this! :)