Welcome back to another in my cuppa with series! I have my tea in hand and am ready to get to know another amazingly creative lady (whose new book I actually won and reviewed on behalf of Eden.co.uk!) ….
1. Introduce yourself to us in one sentence ….
Hi, I’m Johanna, I’m 33, I have two beautiful children and a very lovely husband, and I’m trying my best to listen to and live out God’s callings for my life.
2. What do you do at the moment and how did “A Really Incredible Feast” come about?
At the moment I am a full time mum to John (3 and a half) and Sophie (20 months). I also lead a Roots Group along with my husband Andy as part of our church, have recently joined the team that plans and organises our church’s annual women’s conference (Winter Glory) and will be helping out with the daytime Alpha Course starting at our church in September.
My book of rhyming Bible stories for children, “A Really Incredible Feast” was published by Scripture Union in July this year. I wrote the first two stories over four years ago now, after struggling to find what I was looking for when I wanted to buy a baptism present for the baby of friends who aren’t really believers themselves. There were lots of great Bible story books out there, which I knew that parents who knew Jesus would be keen to read with their children, but I was concerned that any Bible or Bible stories I might give to my friends might just get put on a shelf and forgotten. The children I knew were really into fun, rhyming books like Julia Donaldson’s “The Gruffalo” or “Stick Man” and I wanted something that would grab children’s attention in a similar way, with fun rhymes and rhythms, and great illustrations to engage them in the stories.
Before becoming a mum, I was a children’s speech and language therapist, so I know that hearing and reading rhyme is really good for children’s development of speech, language and literacy, and is a powerful way to help make things memorable. Having been unable to find what I was looking for, I decided to have a go myself. I wrote the first two stories, and sent them off to one publisher, but received a reply to say they weren’t interested. By this stage I was part-way through my first pregnancy, pretty tired and pretty busy, and the project got put to one side for a while.
When my son was 1 year old, we went to Spring Harvest, which was the first real time out I’d had to reflect and listen to God in a while. In one seminar we were encouraged to write down our ‘dreams from God’ and to think about steps he was calling us to take towards those things. One of my dreams was the rhyming Bible stories idea. Back at home afterwards, I shared this with my church Roots Group, read them the two stories I had written, and they were all really enthusiastic and encouraging. Spurred on by these things, I sent the stories to Scripture Union, and after a long wait, heard that they wanted to use them, but wanted four more stories to create a collection of six.
By this stage my son was 2 years old and I also had a 7 month old baby who was not sleeping at all well! Finding time to write was definitely a challenge, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing each story, and it was really fun to do something that was me ‘being me’ as well as the all consuming sleep deprived mum role! From there, SU found the amazing Hannah Wheeler to do the illustrations, and in July this year it was published! A very surreal feeling for me, seeing my name on the front of a book, but it really is a dream (from God!) come true.
3. Do you have any more books planned for the future?
I’m just starting to have some regular time to sit down and think about/write some more stories. My cousin’s children have requested some stories from the Old Testament next, so I will see what I can come up with! I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to writing some more, as it is such a fun process when it flows well. I’m really hoping that “A Really Incredible Feast” will be popular enough that SU will want to publish some more!
4. How do you include your faith into your work and writing?
I may have answered this in Question 2… but the whole thing has been very much inspired by my love of God, and my desire to be able to help children to enjoy reading about him in order to get to know him better, and to understand how amazing and exciting he is. Each story in “A Really Incredible Feast” is about a miracle that Jesus did, so before starting each one, I spent time reading all of the gospel accounts of the story, thinking carefully about the interesting details, and the ideas and messages I wanted to communicate to the readers, and praying that God would inspire my writing.
5. Do you have any inspiration or encouragement for us?
When I first started thinking about writing the stories, the idea of actually seeing them published felt like a really improbable thing to the rational part of me, and that first rejection was really discouraging, but God kept nudging me and prompting me, and although it felt like a very long process, his timing has been perfect, and it has been so exciting to see this dream come to fruition. I am sure there are many other people out there who could have written these stories just as well, if not better, than me, but nobody had, so I listened to God’s quiet prompting and gave it a try. So I’d like to encourage others to persevere and keep trusting God when things that you believe he is calling you to do take a long time to happen. And also if you see a gap that needs filling, and no-one else is doing it, and you have the skills and can make the time, then give it a go!
6. Please share a photo of your favourite mug!
Thanks Johanna for sharing that amazing journey of writing your book with us! You can follow Johanna on twitter @johannarbaldwin , read my review of “A Really Incredible Feast” here or grab your own copy for only £5.99 at Eden.co.uk .