Interview with must-read author Shauna Niequist

Interview with must-read author Shauna Niequist
In her debut book, author Shauna Niequist shares insights for women everywhere in Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life. It is a unique book, each chapter a separate essay sharing a story from an ordinary moment in Niequist's life.

While reading her words, I found myself saying, "me too!" over and over. From topics on the difficulty of forgiving, to comparing myself to others and dealing with my insecurities, Niequist offers, for women everywhere, fellowship and validation that perhaps, in our fears and trying to hide our biggest monsters, we're not quite so alone, after all. This is definitely a book you want to discover.

Read on to hear more from Shauna yourself.

Q: Your writing is very honest and transparent, have you ever struggled with being real with your shortcomings and feelings? What would you say to other women who struggle with this?

Shauna: On one hand, I always struggle with that - I would love for people to believe that I'm sailing through life without neuroses and missteps. But on the other hand, what draws me to people is their honesty, the cracks in their armor, the tiny vulnerabilities that we reveal when we tell each other the truth about our lives.

Q: Describe the turning point for you, when you decided to start appreciating the 'Cold Tangerine' moments in life? How has this perspective changed you?

Shauna:I feel like I hit this same turning point about three times a week. I catch myself waiting so often - waiting for things to settle down, waiting to feel more capable, waiting for things to get easy. So on a very regular basis, I return to the cold tangerines and the pennies and the red tree, literally and figuratively, and I decide once again that today is enough, that God is enough. I decide that what life is offering to me in this exact moment is enough, and is worth celebrating and investing in.

Q: You are a wife, a mom and a writer. How do you juggle all of the demands of life and how did you find time to write a book?

Shauna: Juggling is a good word for it, I think. It feels like juggling: mostly out of balance, verging on disaster, and occasionally quite fantastic, just for a moment.

I actually made a Things I Don't Do List, and that really helped me get clear on the Things I Do List. Things I Do: I read, write, cook, and spend time with a few close friends and family members. Those are the things that matter most to me these days, so a lot of the other things go undone.

I also think that especially for mothers, it's important to think about life in terms of seasons. There is a way of living that works for this season, and we'll figure it out anew when Henry goes to preschool, or when I have another baby. We're constantly re-evaluating.

Q: Was it a difficult process getting your book noticed and published? How would you encourage other authors hoping to get established?

Shauna: I was unbelievably lucky, because an editor came to me at a time when that publishing house was looking for young women writers. What I am learning, though, is that getting published and then getting the book noticed are two really different things.

In terms of finding a publisher, an agent really helps, but there are also some festivals and conferences at which publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. As every agent, publicist, and marketing team will tell you, books don't sell books, people sell books. So the moment you finish your precious book, and are exhausted and ready for a vacation for like a year, guess what?

Now you need to go to every bookstore and college class and festival you can, because that's how people connect to books. The great part of that, though, is that you get to talk to actual people who love to read, instead of another day at home in your pajamas.

Q: This is a women's literature site, so any good reads you'd like to recommend that you've enjoyed?

Shauna: First and always, I'm a huge Anne Lamott fan. Her book Traveling Mercies was absolutely fundamental for me, as a writer and as a Christian. I also think her Bird by Bird is totally necessary for any writer.Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way has been really important for me, as have a few of her others, particularly Walking in the World.

I've been on a Ruth Reichl kick recently - her writing is in that wonderful place where food and memoir converge, and I love her style. Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples are both just lovely.

I adore fiction, and a few of my favorites recently have been Kiana Davenport's Song of the Exile, Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children, and Lionel Shriver's Post-Birthday World.

Q: You articulate your faith and thoughts really well, but a lot of our culture compartmentalizes Christianity more. Have you encountered any friction to your views?

Shauna: To borrow a phrase, I don’t really care about preaching to the choir. They've got lots of good preaching coming at them already. I really really care about women like me, like my friends and students who can't find themselves in a really traditional religious environment, even though they love God or at least want to understand more about him. So being called, essentially, "not-Christian-enough" doesn't really bother me.

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