Tricia — you have accomplished so much as a woman through your writing (books, articles, website, and blogs just to name a few!). How did you get started?
Great question! I first became interested in writing when I was a young mom. As I chatted with a friend in the church nursery she mentioned she was working on a book. I grew up loving to read but I never thought of become a writer. I soon started reading books on writing, and in 1994 I attend my first Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. When I attended I was 22-years-old and I was pregnant with my third baby. (Not your typical wanna-be writer.) Yet everyone was so helpful and encouraging. It took a couple of years of writing during nap time but I soon started writing regularly for magazines such as HomeLife and Christian Parenting Today. I often got advice and wrote about the challenges in my own home.
Then in 1999 I got my first book contract with Focus on the Family. I co-write Mealtime Moments (now republished as Whit’s End Mealtime Devotions). That one book has turned into 40+! In 2000, a research trip to Europe led me down the path to writing my first novel From Dust and Ashes, inspired by the true story of the liberation of Mauthausen Concentration Camp during World War II. Around the same time, as a Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) coordinator, I also got a contract to write Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Teen Mom. Since that time I’ve continued to juggle writing fiction, non-fiction, articles … and now blogs! I love to write, and I tell people it’s a nice break from chasing kids (we have six!).
Writing is hard work and requires lots of creativity, energy, and commitment. What has been the key for you as you continue to grow your writing platform?
I actually have two keys (1) Passion and (2) Holy Spirit nudges. One of my all-time favorite resources is Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. It may seem like I write all over the board (I sort of do!) but I’m basically following my heart and following God’s stirring within.
For example, I had three novels published last year, and it was only as I was working on that marketing for them that I realized every one of my main characters was either adopted or grew up in foster care! At the time we were in the process of adopting two children from foster care and my passion for orphans made its way into my fiction. My passion can’t help but make it onto the page.
Also, I never thought I’d write Amish fiction (I’m far from Amish!), but a friendship with a couple, through my daughter, led me to their true story of finding a true relationship with God after losing two daughters in a horse-and-buggy and semi-truck accident. I enjoy the Amish (maybe because I group up as a Little House on the Prairie fan!), but I’m passionate about exploring the topic of law verses grace.
What does God require of us to be His followers? Do we need to dress a certain way for His approval? Can we forge friendships with people different than us? I explored all of these questions in my Big Sky and series with B&H!
I’ve also explored it as I’ve written my friends’ true story: Plain Faith: A True Story of Tragedy, Loss, and Leaving the Amish.
If I would have plotted my writing career I wouldn’t have picked such a varied path, yet I don’t worry about plotting or planning. In quiet moments with God I’ve learned to listen to the whispers of the Spirit.
There are moments when I feel either a burden or an excitement about a topic that I have to get on paper. Sometimes that takes the form of a book, other times a blog or even a Facebook post. I’m learning that those Holy Spirit nudges happen for a reason, and I’m thankful for amazing publishing houses who get as excited about these projects as I do!
Women struggle with “getting it all done” and balancing all the roles in their lives. How have you done that?
Finding balancing has been a process! As a former teen mom I felt as if I had to prove myself to others—to prove I hadn’t completely messed up my life by having kids at such a young age. I worked seeking the approval of others—and trying to earn God’s favor—and I was exhausted!
It was my husband who stopped me and helped me to weigh each commitment and consider my motives.
“Is this something God is asking you to do?” he’d ask me. “Or is it something you feel you ‘should’ be doing to earn approval?”
Together we set a few priorities: family dinners, reading together at bedtime, serving as a family, and limited travel. (I was getting a lot of speaking requests that I really had to cut back on.) It’s amazing how many “good” activities we cut out because we chose the “best” activities. Not only have we see our family benefit, there is peace in our home despite all my writing projects and our changes!
In the last four years we’ve had one child get married, had one child move to Europe as a missionary, moved across country with our third oldest, and adopted three young children, yet the foundation of our lives hasn’t changed much. We still have family dinners, we still read together at bedtime, we still serve together as a family, and I only travel 4-5 times a year as a speaker. Balance for us has been setting up boundaries, while also opening our hearts to God’s work.
I am so excited about your new website, Not Quite Amish. What motived you to launch this?
When I started writing Amish novels I found myself being inspired by their simple ways. They have clung to a few old-fashioned eyes that we’ve left behind in our technology-filled, busy lives. Things like cooking, gardening, and spending time with neighbors.
Writing about the Amish, I’ve personally been inspired. I can fill every moment with kids and work, but writing about quilting circles and barn raisings reminded me the importance of spending time in my community. This looks different for me. I don’t quilt, but I do hang out many times a week, chatting with the other moms on our cul-de-sac, as we watch our kids play.
On the site NotQuiteAmishLiving.com, I asked some of my like-minded writer friends to help me in sharing simple wisdom for today’s busy families. We don’t want to be Amish (that’s the “Not Quite” part), but we can look at these “old-fashioned” ways and incorporate some of their wisdom in our everyday lives.
What are you doing today that is most exciting for you?
I’m so glad you asked! I’m most excited about the novelization that I wrote for the movie Moms’ Night Out! I first heard of the movie when I was attending a blogger conference last October. From the preview, the movie looked like something I could enjoy (and relate to!). When I was asked to write the novelization I jumped at the chance.
Moms’ Night Out takes a peek into the hearts of us moms. We have such grand idea of the type of mom we’d like to be, but the dailiness of it is exhausting! Though the movie—and the novel—moms will walk away with a fresh breath of inspiration for their role … and maybe a side ache from all the laughter, too! It’s a perfect movie to watch with a group of couples. My husband enjoyed the movie just as much as I did!
If you had one message to give women today, what would that be?
Oh! My passion is for moms to understand that God has given them heart-dreams for a purpose. If He is calling you to follow Him in exploring your talents, your ministry, or even your local outreach, it’s for a purpose. It’s to benefit you AND your kids!
For many years I felt guilty when my kids had to quietly play as I wrote. The messages we often hear is that we have to continually entertain our kids or involve them in activities to enrich them. What I discovered instead is they grew up watching me model what serving God, loving people, and taking faith-steps looked like. They saw me depending on God and being stretched out of my comfort zone, and they saw God show up again and again and again.
If God is asking you to take a faith-step, do it. He knows your role as mom, but He also knows the model you’ll be for your kids. We tell our kids,“Follow God’s dreams for you!” but they we shrink back from the dreams He has for us. If God is asking you to step out He already has your kids figured out in that equation, too. I promise.
Tricia, thank you for being you. You are a blessing to so many.
Thank you, Selma! I enjoy you and I’ve appreciated your work for a very long time! God is good!