Sarah Cunningham is best known as Chief Servant to the Emperor (her 4-year old son) and his newly hired Chief of Staff (her 14-month old). When she’s not fetching sippy cups or picking Playdoh out of the carpet, she’s holed away in her room pecking at the keyboard and hoping someone slips some cookies under the door to keep her going.
In between pages of writing, she blogs about finding extraordinary friendship in a sometimes too ordinary world.
What inspires you to write?
So many things. Family, faith. The idea that a better world is possible.
Specifically, the children’s Christmas book, The Donkey in the Living Room, was inspired by a childhood family tradition where my parents would wrap up the Manger Scene figures. We would open one each night, on the nights leading up to Christmas, and then my dad would tell us the story from that character’s perspective. So he’d hold up the lamb, for example, and the lamb would talk about what it was like to be out in the field when the angels appeared and so on.
It’s such a sweet, meaningful, pull-your-family-together kind of tradition. I am so glad to share it with other families. I love to think about hundreds, even thousands of families, using the book to prompt this meaningful family time this Christmas.
I also wrote the Well Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide for Staying Sane While Doing Good. And the inspiration for that was that life wasn’t perfect. I was and am one of those people who believes a better world is possible. And so are most of my friends. We champion causes, do volunteer work, try to live with faith, but often we run into the reality that life is messy and the masses don’t always line up to support even your best efforts. So I wrote this field guide, it’s a collection of sticky insights from all different kinds of people, about things like setting healthy expectations and keeping a steady pace and recovering from setbacks.
A lot of the advice in the book was advice other people gave to me. And when they gave it to me, it was like a breath of fresh air. It was a life raft that helped me push through burnout, replenish myself, and keep going.
Tell us about your writing process.
I know some people believe in writing a certain number of minutes per day or in writing a certain number of words per day, but to me that always felt too pressured and uninspired. Too methodical. I want writing to feel natural, like it’s the process for capturing these words that are stirring inside of me and getting them out and onto the page. By the time I write, I am usually writing because I feel like I HAVE to. Like my soul will just burst open if I don’t find a way to bring an idea or story to expression. Because I wait for moments like this, and sit down and write in long chunks of time, I feel so inspired. I never have trouble motivating myself. If anything, I have trouble stopping to go do things I need to do–like, say, eat.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I think for the Donkey In the Living Room, which is sort of fiction based on a historical story, I definitely tried to get into the minds of the characters. What would it be like to be a whimsical donkey with a bright saddle, carrying the mother of Jesus to the manger in Bethlehem? Would he be tired? Excited? Frantic? Clumsy? I definitely spent way more time thinking about Nativity donkeys than most people.
What advice would you give other writers?
You have to start somewhere. Writing is like a ladder and to climb, you have to start on the first rung. Write a free article, start a low-cost blog, or start sharing your writing on Facebook or Google Plus. Move up to paid or more notable website articles. Build your audience. And then when you’ve accumulated enough credibility and platform, have your first book ready.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Every book is different. I’ve published four with traditional presses and one with a self-publishing platform. I usually weigh whether the book will fit neatly into a publisher’s existing titles or interests. If it does and I can convince them it is marketable, I go with a house. But some of the books I pitched are too different. They don’t fall in a clean-cut niche and they’re harder to get a publisher to take a risk on. That’s when I would turn to self-publishing.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I think the important thing to realize is that publishing is the first step. It seems like the last one since you’ve spent so much time writing, but it’s the first step in getting your book sold. Whether you go with a traditional house or self-publishing platform, you need to be prepared to work and work hard.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
We’re certainly witnessing a revolution of the industry, but whatever form it takes, publishing will always be around. As long as inspiration stirs in the souls of human beings, there will always be need to capture and share it.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
Personal Growth, Faith, Children’s
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print
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