Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am pleased to have author Laurie Stroup Smith as my guest. I really enjoyed this interview. Laurie has a way of drawing you in with every question to the point that I found myself emotionally involved in a story about giving an interview. I imagine her books can do the same thing! I love that she inspires people to serve – you guys know me and know that kind of thing is always on my heart. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. Read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of her latest release!
Tell us a little about yourself. I grew up in an eastern suburb of Cincinnati and currently live about twenty minutes from my hometown with my husband Travis and our 14 and 15-year-old daughters. After earning my bachelor’s degrees in both athletic training and exercise science, I later obtained my master’s degree in health promotion and education. I worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer, practicing in a physical therapy clinic while also providing medical coverage during high school and professional athletic events. When I became a mom, I had the opportunity to stay at home. I love scrapbooking and anything crafty, being outdoors, and spending time with loved ones. For a week or two each summer, we enjoy discovering new adventures along the western coast of Michigan.
I made writing a priority in my life over four years ago. My tagline is “Inspiring Service Through Story.” Serving others brings me great joy, and I’ve woven service projects into each manuscript I’ve written with the hope that readers will be inspired to get involved in their own communities.
Tell us about your current release. Pockets of Promise, Book #1 in The Pocket Quilt Series, is my debut, and it was released on April 30, 2020. This is the story about Mariah Mast, a young woman who travels to the Amish snowbird community of Pinecraft, where she receives wisdom and guidance through secrets notes tucked in the pockets of a special quilt. While in Florida, she spends time with a new group of friends, and she faces a decision that will have lasting consequences for those she loves. Will she find fulfillment in Florida? Or does her heart belong in Holmes County?
Pockets of Purpose, the second book in the series, will be released on June 30, 2021. Mariah’s friend Dixie Yoder travels from Pinecraft to Holmes County, with hopes of a future with Gideon Petersheim. Surgical complications leave the auctioneer searching for purpose as Dixie yearns for his love.
What is the first major news headline that you can remember and what do you remember? The Challenger explosion. I was in fourth grade, and it was my friend April’s birthday. Mrs. Zwayer was my homeroom teacher, but we had switched classes, and I was sitting in Mrs. Monroe’s language arts class. She was an older woman with short curls who often wore long skirts and comfortable shoes. A large tube television had been rolled to the front of the classroom on a media cart, and we were excited to watch the space shuttle launch. Not only would the takeoff be cool to see, but this also gave us a break from vocabulary words and grammar lessons.
In class, we had learned about Christa McAuliffe, the high school teacher selected to be the first civilian to go into space. I remember admiring her bravery—I didn’t have a strong desire to study anything that existed beyond the earth’s atmosphere, much less travel there, and wondered why someone would. That being said, I respected the work ethic and dedication she and her fellow astronauts demonstrated. Leading up to January 28, 1986, I thought about her children and how they felt about the mission—I didn’t want my mom to leave us for a long weekend much less be launched into space.
I can still picture the explosion appearing on the screen—the unexpected fireball followed by fingers of smoke, stretching through the sky. Mrs. Monroe hurried to turn off the television and then rushed into the hallway as we whispered about what we’d witnessed.
Later that afternoon and during the days and weeks that followed, I sat beside my parents on the couch and listened to the news—interviews and investigations. I recall the jokes about the tragedy, which made me even more heartbroken for her children and students, but I learned that people often turn to humor to deal with circumstances that are difficult to understand.
Each year on January 28, I remember my friend April and what we witnessed on her 10th birthday.
What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? Around the age of nine, I remember telling my parents I wanted to be an author, but my interests later led me to become a Certified Athletic Trainer. Writing has always been important to me. One of my college professors requested a copy of my master’s thesis to keep as an example for other students, and the manager of the physical therapy clinic where I worked asked me to help write new versions of our treatment protocols. While serving for six years as a Girl Scout Troop Leader, I started a blog called Kapers, Cookies, and Campfires as a resource for other leaders. During this time, I wrote a story for our daughters who were grieving the loss of two grandparents. I shared it with an author friend who then encouraged me to pursue writing. It was then that I remembered my childhood dream.
What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write? The pandemic presented unique challenges that proved to be a huge roadblock for me while I was writing Pockets of Purpose, the second book in The Pocket Quilt Series. In addition to my dad being in Hospice, our daughters switched to remote learning, and my husband enjoyed a four-month furlough. The once-quiet house was full of laughter, which was a wonderful blessing that I will forever cherish, but it was difficult to work through the distractions. When I hit a roadblock and didn’t know in which direction to go, Travis and our girls came to the rescue. They talked through the plot points with me and offered suggestions, many of which I explored.
As I consider this question, I’m also reminded of a workshop I attended during the 2019 ACFW Conference. Robert Dugoni was the featured speaker. At one point in his presentation, he explained that when one of his characters needs to respond in a situation, he never chooses the first idea that pops to mind (Option A). Instead, he jots down a list of believable alternatives. Option B might be good, but he pushes it to the side as well. While Option C could work, Option D would be even better. He goes with it, knowing the reader would never expect that twist. His process has proven to be helpful when roadblocks stand in the way of my progress.
If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Great question! And yes I would. I started on this journey because I felt called to write a story to help our daughters through their grief after losing two grandparents. I continued writing because God has opened doors for me by crossing my path with the right people at the right time, often when I start to doubt the direction in which I’m headed. He sparks an idea in my heart, and I do my best to get the story on the page, trusting that He will get the book into the hands of those who need to read it. Eventually.
The waiting is hard. The rejection is tough. The Parable of the Lost Sheep shows that each one of us is precious to God, and He will pursue those who have wandered away and those who are lost. He has used others to reach me at various points along my spiritual journey, and I have promised to follow where he leads me despite the challenges I may face along the way. Though I’m not always patient, I continue to pursue publication, trusting that God will continue to work through me, whether His word reaches one or many.
What is one thing that I never saw myself doing and either do it now or have done? Around the release of Pockets of Promise, I scheduled an on-camera interview with a digital magazine, and I accepted invitations to be a guest on two different podcasts. I usually experience the normal jitters whenever I speak to groups in public, but the butterflies settle once I begin talking as long as I’m prepared. For two of those three engagements, I was given questions I could expect during our time together. But the host of the third interview explained that she likes to let the Holy Spirit guide the conversation. I never expected to find myself agreeing to do an interview that I could not prepare for in advance. And I almost allowed fear to keep me from showing up for that appointment.
Quick backstory: my dad was given two days to live in early July 2019, but he rallied only to be given “days to live” again in mid-February of this year. By the grace of God and the power of prayer, he is still with us as I answer these questions for Hallee. But on the Tuesday before my scheduled chat with Doris Swift for her Fierce Calling podcast back in June, my dad’s condition began to decline. I didn’t want to postpone the interview, but after all we had experienced with him over the past year, I was not about to pretend what the week would look like for us.
By Friday morning, there had been no significant developments with my dad, but I was having serious doubts about this podcast. Between my dad’s declining health, the pandemic, and the rising tensions across our country, I was holding onto a lot of grief, anger, resentment, and judgment of others. I was in the midst of a storm—an emotional wreck. Who was I to talk to anyone about faith? Especially when I had no idea what questions might be asked of me. Knowing my concerns, my husband strongly suggested I not cancel, but I wrote the host an email anyway, but then followed a nudge to sit on it for a couple of hours.
While revising the email later that afternoon, I felt like God was encouraging me through the lies and doubts that were pushing me to cancel. The world was in pain, and maybe I could share the ways God has fought for me and loved me. Maybe a listener would hear a nugget of truth that could be applied in his or her life. God had led me to Doris in a unique way, so I believed He would use her podcast to deliver my story to those who needed to hear the message.
Never did I ever believe I’d agree to an interview for which I could not prepare. But I did! You can listen to that podcast here (Episode 34).
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Write the story you feel called to tell, and invite God to come alongside you throughout the process.
Continue to write despite rejections or bad reviews. Attend workshops and conferences and read books on the craft of writing. Be bold—introduce yourself to other authors and industry professionals. Reach out to those with more experience and then share what you’ve learned with those who come to you with questions and doubts.
Create a website and/or start a blog. When I made writing a priority in my life, a friend encouraged me to blog about my experiences. I didn’t have an agent yet, but I trusted her advice. I created a website and started blogging about my current WIP, which at the time happened to be a middle grade book. I wrote about our family service projects, summer reading, writing exercises for kids, preparing for a conference, and finding critique partners. My blog posts changed as my journey toward publication progressed, but I found that readers supported me and celebrated the release of that first book because they had rooted for me through the years.
Here is where you can find Laurie online:
Laurie is giving away an ebook copy of Pockets of Promise to a reader! See below how to enter to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway