Edits, Sick Kids, a Great Book, and Believing the Brave Parts of You - Sarah Mae
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Edits, Sick Kids, a Great Book, and Believing the Brave Parts of You

I am so sorry for not being as consistent as I’d like to be with 31 Days to Clean. HELLO LIFE. You all understand. Back at it soon because KEEPIN’ ON! But today…

My kids are sick and I am up to my eye-balls in edits for my new book. So, I offer you a guest post that is long overdue from my friend Shawn Smucker. I ADORE him and his family, and I am so excited to be able to share his good words today on listening to the brave voices when the scared voices want you to quit. Also, he has written a GREAT book (that I am half-way through and LOVING) called, The Day the Angels Fell.

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Welcome, Shawn…

There are a lot of voices in my head.

Don’t look at me that way. I know you have your own voices. My voices tend to ask leading questions, things like “Don’t you think writing stories is kind of a waste of time?” or “Why would anyone read what you write?”

My voices are mostly a bunch of jerks.

* * * * *

In the spring of 2013, I managed to plug my ears and pound out a children’s novel. It’s a book about a tough subject, death, but as Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” It was a difficult book, so I guess there should be no surprise that it ended up being a book for children.

My kids gave me some ideas as we sat around our large dining room table one spring night, brainstorming. Outside the house, everything was green and coming alive. But inside of me spring felt far away. I had gone through a tough spell, one that began after writing a memoir for a dying man in Istanbul. I had developed a fear of death that became a nagging presence in the back of my mind.

By the end of the summer I finished the first draft of The Day the Angels Fell, and that’s when the voices amplified. They told me I was too busy to take the book any further, that no publisher would want it, and even if one did, no human being would enjoy it. It grew dusty the way unopened computer files can.

Then two high school friends died, young men in their mid-30s. Cancer took one; a car crash took the other. I knew I had to finish this book about the boy named Sam, a boy determined to find the Tree of Life so that he could bring his mother back to life. I had to finish it because I had to work my way through the feelings I was having about death, and I didn’t know where else to head but back into that story.

* * * * *

When I couldn’t get any firm publisher interest, I decided to do a Kickstarter campaign. By now the voices were at a fever pitch. They were intense, not making any sense, like your great-aunt Bertha at Thanksgiving, pinching your cheeks, complaining about dinner not being ready yet, calling you by your cousin’s name.

“You’ll never raise the money you need in order to publish the book!” the voices screamed over and over again. “Now you’re failure will be public! Everyone will watch your downfall!”

I hit my Kickstarter goal in two days.

I sold over 500 copies of the book in the first month. It’s not a New York Times bestseller by any means. But for me? It was perfect, because it defied the voices. Even more importantly, it led me on a journey during which I began to come to terms with my mortality.

I get messages every week now from people whose children are loving the story (and from adults who are enjoying it just as much). One woman told me she couldn’t get her daughter to do her holiday reading time until she picked up my book, The Day the Angels Fell – after that she couldn’t get her to go to bed because she wants to stay up all night reading. Another woman told me she was reading the book to her four kids and her daughter started using her Playmobil set to recreate scenes from the book.

I have to be honest – those messages nearly bring me to tears with relief and happiness. But mostly relief, because it feels really good when you prove those voices wrong.

Listen, I don’t care what your voices are saying. They know your weak spots; they know how to push your buttons. Because, well, they are you, a part of you, the part that is a little scared, a little lonely, a little insecure. But there are brave parts of you as well, confident parts (trust me). These parts know what has to be done. (TWEET THIS)

You know the work you’ve been created to do.

So, start doing it.

Description of The Day the Angels Fell:

When a summer thunderstorm drives 12-year-old Samuel Chambers into a local antique shop, he finds himself watching through a crack in the door as three old fortune tellers from a visiting fair scratch a message onto the surface of a table: “Find the Tree of Life.” Tragedy strikes his family less than 24 hours later, and as those words echo in his mind he realizes that Finding the Tree of Life is his only hope. His quest to defeat death entangles him and his best friend Abra in an ancient conflict, and a series of strange events leads them closer to the Tree, closer to reversing the tragedy that took place. Can death be defeated? But as his own personal quest unfolds, Samuel comes face to face with a deeper, more difficult question: Could it be possible that death is a gift?

I am telling you, GO get your copy of The Day the Angels Fell and curl up and ENJOY. It’s for adults as well. 🙂

Love, SM

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  • SaraR

    Thanks for sharing. This looks like a really good book and I can’t wait to read it. (The rest of the post was also very good.) I had noticed you mention Shawn somewhere not too long ago. It stuck out to me because we attended the same college. I think he was a year ahead of me. He wouldn’t know me but I think he knew a couple of my business major roomates. Not too long before that I had seen that Peter Greer is leading Hope Intl. It was just really neat to see how these guys who would otherwise just be in my memory banks as cute college soccer players (and one for his aunt’s yummy creation) have turned into Godly men making an impact for Christ.

    • shawnsmucker

      That’s funny, Sara – I’m having breakfast with Peter on Wednesday. Thank you for your encouragement and your kind words.

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