I have admired Michelle DeRusha from afar for a long time. Once I met her in person this spring, my admiration only grew. She lives life intentionally.
(Note: the picture is a courtesy photo and used with permission. 🙂 )
Recently I completed her first published memoir, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith in which she ponders her move from spiritual doubt to belief. For me, as a basically lifelong God follower, her title was eye opening for me as to how I have possibly put off non-believers and newer believers with my spiritual language or seemingly carefree faith. I would highly recommend this read to anyone, no matter where you are on the faith spectrum.
Her 2nd book is entitled Fifty Christian Women That Everyone Should Know. All of the women have completed their life journeys over the past 1,000 years. Michelle and I had an interesting conversation on that. She pointed out that writing a biography on someone still living is challenging since when a story is still being written, the ending can change.
Interestingly enough this title led to her 3rd book which you can pre-order in anticipation of her winter 2017 release. How could anyone connected to faith not be intrigued by this title? Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Radical Monk. This is on my must-read list.
Michelle graciously agreed to let me interview her via e-mail. My questions are italicized with her unedited answers below. I am thankful she is willing to share her own life story.
- Which came first: the blog or the book? The book actually came first, which is a bit backwards in this day and age. I wrote the book as I was walking in my faith journey back to God – it was a write-while-converting kind of process. When I realized that my story might be applicable to others who have wrestled with doubt and unbelief, I decided to pursue a literary agent, which then led to the launch of my blog (because an author typically has to have a “platform,” a way to reach potential readers, before publishing a book – I didn’t know that until I dove into this process.). However, Spiritual Misfit wasn’t published until about six years after I wrote it – nothing happens fast in the publishing industry! I’ve been blogging now for eight years (I think), and I love it.
- Did you always plan on being a writer? No, I definitely didn’t always aspire to be a writer. I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English, so literature and writing have always been a part of my educational background, but I never imagined I would delve into creative writing of any sort. I was a business writer for most of my career – I worked for magazines, corporations and non-profits, writing articles, annual reports and the like. So pursuing a creative project like a memoir was as much a shock to me as to anyone.
- What do you like best about writing? I like how writing allows me to “live” an experience twice. Sometimes I skirt through everyday life too fast – I don’t notice or pay attention as much as I would like. But when I sit down to write, I find that I begin to look more closely at my everyday experiences, and often, they are more meaningful and more poignant than I first imagined. Writing also helps me see how God is working in the everyday, ordinary details of my life. If I didn’t sit down to write, I might miss a lot of what he is doing in my life.
- What part of writing is a struggle? Sometimes I forget that I have to refill the well in order to keep producing good writing. If I keep pushing and producing, without living life and experiencing new things and new people, I will ultimately end up with nothing to write about. I have a Type A personality, so my inclination is to work, work, work, but with writing (and this would be true for any creative endeavor and for a lot of jobs in general), you have to refill the well or you’ll end up in a creative drought…which is not fun!
- What has been an unexpected surprise about living in Nebraska?
Well, I admit, I wasn’t super excited to move here, and it was a bit of a transition, coming from New England. The landscape overwhelmed me – it was so flat, and the sky seemed so big. But over time I have come to see so much beauty here – in the song of the Meadowlark, in the wide open plains and the dramatic sky, in the grasses rolling like waves in the sea, in the people who have welcomed me as their neighbor and accepted and embraced me with all my quirks. I think Nebraska’s beauty is more subtle than in other places, but if you look, you will see it and experience it.
Note from Gretchen: Michelle discusses Nebraska further in her Spiritual Misfit book – as a lifelong Nebraskan, I was amused by her impressions.
- Anything else that you would like readers to know?
Hmmm…well, just that I love to connect with my readers. Nothing makes me happier than getting an email from a reader who resonated with Spiritual Misfit or 50 Women. I love to hear people’s stories, especially about their personal faith journeys. It reminds me that we are not alone, and that our experiences are often universal.