How have I seen God work in my writing journey? For me, this question is huge, in so many ways. Because, you see, it is because of my writing journey that I became a Christian. And it is because I am a Christian, and associate with other Christian writers, that my writing journey is where it is today. So, here I go. 🙂
You see, I was raised Jewish in Southern California. I knew very little about Christianity – and what I did know was either secular or negative, for the most part. I studied to be an English teacher in California, then realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I went to writing, married a native Michigander, and moved to the Mitten State, where eventually I got a job as freelance reporter for the Grand Rapids Press.
To be blunt, there aren’t many Jews in West Michigan. In fact, I was the only one who worked for the paper – so the religion editor asked me to cover an event at the local synagogue. I agreed, and he started sending me on religion assignments.
My “Jewish stories” ended quickly (as they were precious few), and, one day in September, he assigned me to cover a Christian woman’s conference. I went in skeptical, and came out questioning how thousands of women could seem so happy and connected – and why I suddenly felt a peace that left me when I walked out the venue door.
I had to know what they had – what I had had. And I wanted it back. I started by investigating my own religion, reading through the entire Old Testament in two weeks, and typing up two dozen single spaced pages of notes on my thoughts. My questions were many.
I moved into the New Testament, which I finished in another week, along with another ten pages of notes. (I’m a writer for sure – can’t you tell?) And my reading and note taking gave me many answers.
But it wasn’t until I started reading through the Bible again, and got to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, that I realized that Jesus Christ, the Name some members of my family used as a curse word, was the Messiah my people had been looking for for years – that most were STILL looking for. That February day fifteen years ago, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior – and several months later, one year to the day from that conference that “started it all,” I was baptized by immersion in my own backyard pond – and the religion editor came to watch.
Fast forward a decade or so. My kids are in school, and I’ve begun writing short Christian fiction, and experimented with writing a biblical fiction novel. I’m a member of both FaithWriters and ACFW, but I am struggling with my craft, audience, and the stuff most writers struggle with at some point. I feel like I may be on the wrong track – but I don’t know what the right one is.
Insert two dear friends – one from FaithWriters and one from ACFW – who offer to basically PAY MY WAY to a Christian writers conference, which there was no way I could have afforded to attend, save a miracle, otherwise.
After much searching and praying, I decide on the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference just this last May. It is a wonderful, inspiring, and God-filled experience, and it makes me realize EXACTLY where God wants me in my writing journey.
I am to write books for children – picture books, to be more specific. Which is what I have been focusing on, with great joy, since November of 2013. I’m still pre-published (for goodness sake – I’ve only been doing this for FOUR MONTHS – what do you expect? ;)), but I LOVE what I do. I’m learning SO much, and I’m getting opportunities to share the love of Christ with writers who don’t know Him. And even if I don’t ever get published, I know that I’m where God wants me.
God found ME through writing, and I found my writing direction from Him. How cool is that?
And, if I may, I’d like to share one of my new “most favoritest” quotes – from legendary children’s author Jane Yolen. I hope it inspires and encourages you.
“If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens.”
Joanne Sher is a Jew by birth, a Christian by rebirth, and a children’s writer by gift. A native Southern Californian, she now lives happily in West Michigan with her husband and two school-aged children. In addition to writing, she is also a freelance editor, the blogger at the FaithWriters blog, and posts monthly at Jewels of Encouragement, The Barn Door, and Internet Cafe Devotions. Visit her at www.joannesher.com. You can also connect with her on twitter and her Facebook author page.