THE WINNER OF THE DEVOTIONAL BOOK, MORNINGS WITH JESUS IS KAREN K.
THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED.
I am giving away Mornings with Jesus 2013. This a book with 365 devotionals written by ten different women writers. One of those is Dianne Neal Matthews, who is my guest today. If you want to read more about this book go to: Mornings with Jesus 2013.
How did you begin writing devotionals?
When I attended my first conference in 1999 (Write-to-Publish in the Chicago area), I’d never thought of writing devotionals. I had no idea what type of writing to pursue. But I set up an appointment with the editor from Warner Press after she spoke on a panel. I showed her a one-page piece I’d written about a lesson from my cat; she said I might be a natural devotional writer. So I applied and was accepted as a Master Writer for the company, and got to submit ten devotionals each year for use on the back of church bulletins. Later, I wrote devotionals for a quarterly periodical and an occasional Sunday School take-home paper. It took me a few years to start thinking in terms of devotional books.
You have published four devotional books, each including devotionals for 365 days. The one we are giving away today, Mornings with Jesus 2013 (Guideposts Books), is a compilation, so you are one of ten writers contributing. What are the dynamics of a compilation versus a devotional where you are the only writer?
I didn’t have any contact with the other writers during the project, but I felt a strong kinship with them. Now I’ve gotten in touch with a couple of the authors through Facebook and hope to meet more of them in person at conferences. The greatest thing about being involved in a compilation book was that I had to come up with only 40 ideas instead of 365! I also think readers will enjoy the variety that results from having ten different authors share their own unique perspectives, writing styles, and life experiences.
I looked ahead and have been reading your devotionals in Mornings with Jesus 2013. I love the way you weave an experience you have had to relate to the reader. For instance on February 17 you shared your fear of water, which I also have and I immediately related. How do you keep experiences fresh as a reference for future devotionals?
So far I’ve mostly relied on my memory for personal experiences that I use in devotions. With an overactive imagination, I can usually go back and almost relive them. But I’m sure the details would be more accurate if I had written them down. I’m now starting to do that, especially with things that my grandchildren say and do that would make perfect illustrations. I used several of those in Mornings with Jesus and each time I get to visit Lacey and Roman (who live too far away), I get new material. J
How do you keep yourself in tune with God so he can work through you and your writing to touch the reader?
Lots and lots of prayer! I struggle with being consistent in a daily quiet time, but whenever I’m working on a project I’m fully aware how much I rely on God’s help. I often ask Him to lead me to the perfect verse or illustration for a spiritual principle. There’s no way I could have completed these four books without supernatural help.
Besides prayer, I think transparency is a must for truly effective devotional writing. I’m naturally as transparent as Glad Wrap anyway, but occasionally God asks me to go deeper—sometimes so deep it hurts. For example, when I had to come up with 365 ideas for The One Year Women of the Bible, I decided to write about the foolish woman in Proverbs 14:1. Immediately, I remembered what is probably the most stupid thing I’ve ever done in my life—and the perfect illustration for that verse. I stopped and said, “God, surely you don’t want me to share that, do you?” He did. So I did. And I decided that sparing myself from being embarrassed is not as important as writing words that share God’s truth. (If you own the book, that particular devotion is in late September.)
Do you hear from readers when a specific devotional touched them?
Yes, and those notes are what keep me writing. They’ve come from people of different ages and from as far away as Australia. I’ve often had a card show up in my mailbox or a message come through my website just when I’m thinking how nice a job at the mall would be. The most recent example happened a few weeks ago. A young woman wrote that she had been going through a “rough patch” in her spiritual walk, but one of my books was helping her. She had skipped two days of reading and then read two devotionals at once. She was excited to see that both entries “spoke exactly to [her] struggle”. Comments like that remind me what a privilege this is.
What is your greatest challenge as a devotional writer?
Combining all the devotionals in my four books with those I’ve written for other outlets, I’ve now published more than 1500 devotionals. Sometimes I wonder if I have anything left to say! But God’s Word is so fresh and relevant, and there are so many ways to illustrate Scripture, that He continually sends me new ideas. Another thing I struggle with is feeling like a hypocrite. I’ve written all these devotionals about the Word and about Christian living, yet so often I stumble in my own walk. But hopefully, the fact that I’m so imperfect allows the grace of God to stand out in my writing all the more.
Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible (Tyndale House) and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books). She also writes regularly for websites and blogs (such as CBN.com and FindingGodDaily.com), contributes to compilations, and enjoys speaking and teaching at writers' conferences. Dianne is a 2006 CLASS graduate and a member of Advanced Writers & Speakers, Christian Authors Network, and Toastmasters International. She and her husband, Richard, currently live in Salt Lake City, which is too far away from their three grown children and two adorable grandchildren. To learn more, visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com or connect with Dianne through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.