My most recent book from Discovery House Publishers is called The Roller Coaster of Unemployment: Trusting God for the Ride. The current recession in the United States has placed unparalleled numbers of persons in the unemployed or underemployed categories. While there are plenty of books and websites out there that tell a person how to write a resume, how to apply for work, and where the most current jobs might be, there was very little in the marketplace about surviving the ups and downs of unemployment and about how God could be a trusted resource to get someone through this tough time. So, by traveling through the thirty-one short inspirational chapters in this book a reader will find help, encouragement, and even a bit of laughter as they ride this roller coaster of unemployment.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’ve always been a storyteller. To keep my 2-year-old brother amused while supper cooked, Mom would put him in a playpen and say to 4-year-old me, “Tell your brother a story!” An hour later, supper would be ready, but no one was crying because I would still be going strong, playacting out story after story.
While writing is nothing but telling a story on paper, I’m still one of those persons who fell into the craft through the back door. When my husband was laid off from work in the 1990’s, I found myself thrust into the hallways of high school substitute teaching as a way to make ends meet. In the classroom I was given students who wanted nothing to do with English grammar, so I had to find a way to make 9th grade boys enjoy nouns and pronouns. We did it through creative writing. As I taught them to write, God stirred the latent storytelling germ in my heart and head, too. I began writing filler pieces for devotional books, advertising copy, compilation works, and technical writing pieces for Christian publishers. It seems I have a knack for it. So since that time I’ve written extended greeting cards, devotional books, and children’s books, too.
What inspired you to write this book?
A conversation around our kitchen table! We were sharing an inexpensive supper with some unemployed friends back in 2000. The topic of looking for work was always on our minds, but one friend commented that there was nothing encouraging for an unemployed person out there in the Christian bookstore. I suggested she write one. While this friend is a talented artist and her husband a gifted musician, neither felt qualified to write such a book, so the idea lay dormant for several years until I lost my job and my husband also lost his—both within a few months of each other. Since wise people out there say you should write about what you know, I know unemployment—my whole family has been unemployed more than a dozen times in the last three decades. God brought this 2000 kitchen conversation back to mind during our latest stint of unemployment, and the rest, as they say, is history.
How did you publish this book?
A friend came to Nashville—our current hometown—for a conference in 2009 and happened to mention that a publisher in Michigan was looking at the unemployment situation. She asked me if I had ever done anything with my unemployment book. And, strange that it came up, but God had prompted me to pick up my ideas for The Roller Coaster of Unemployment a few weeks earlier. The book outline and its “hook” were finished; the first chapter was almost complete, too. A query letter to the publisher followed, and the publisher was indeed interested. So the manuscript sold. God is good—all the time!
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
The hardest part of writing for me is the ending. Some folks struggle with opening sentences; others have trouble keeping the middle from sagging. But for me, finding the last sentence is a bugger. I’m even having trouble right now…how do I end this thing…what words should I say to communicate my frustration at ending things…how should I say it…I think you get the point!
How do you do research for your books?
Since most of the books I’ve written have dealt with a Christian topic, most of my manuscripts come from personal journals that I’ve kept over the years and from an extensive Biblical archive in my office. The Bible is a tremendous source of comfort in hard times, a marvelous insight giver into personal relationships, and a treasure trove of lessons for living. Without God’s hand in the midst of my stories, the words wouldn’t flow half as well.
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
I firmly believe there is a lesson in everything we encounter; the lesson I learned from writing this book is a lesson on thankfulness. Let me see if I can explain.
The Bible tells us that God is always present with His children, but when you’re unemployed you sometimes feel all alone against the world. Yet John Donne once said, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” When you raise your eyes above yourself and look around to see all the things and people and places and events that shape your life—for good or bad—you realize his words are correct. You are not alone in your situation.
Yet when you pair that thought with the promises in the Bible—God is always with you…nothing will come into your life that is outside His plan for your life…God loves you more than you realize…God wants to bless you…God is in the business of brining His children through tough times, etc.—then the appropriate response is gratefulness and thanksgiving. Thanks for simple things like trees, rain, sun, and birds. Thanks for simple abilities like sight, taste, touch, and hearing. And thanks for simple blessings like a roof over my head, a meal on the table, and a 17-year old car that still starts every morning. I find myself so thankful for this latest roller coaster of unemployment, because it has brought me closer to friends, family, neighbors, and God Himself than I ever could have imagined.
What are you reading now?
I’m always reading something…Kay Arthur’s Living with Discernment in the End Times; Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith; Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey literary and Potato Peel Society.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Of course I’m working on another book! Writers write! It’s just that publishers don’t always publish! The current book in my laptop is a children’s book for Christmas. There is also a companion piece for The Roller Coaster of Unemployment, that deals with what to do when a new job entails a move to a new town. And there is a quirky little book for quilters buried under several outlines and a mystery story for bunny lovers. All sorts of creative ideas—but who knows when they’ll see black ink on white pages.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
This is a common question among every aspiring journalist, yet a hard one to answer in one short paragraph. But I’ll give it a go. If you want to write and publish you have to write and keep writing. First, you will be most successful if you write what you know. But, second, you must understand that someone will want to tweak your copy. What you put down on paper will change. Your words are not sacrosanct. If you cannot handle criticism like someone telling you your sentence structure stinks, your grammar is poor, or your verbiage is tired and overworked, you’re probably not ready to publish.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
Discovery House has a wonderful public relations department that has made terrific contacts for me in radio and print media. The Roller Coaster of Unemployment has also been offered in RBC Ministries magazine “Our Daily Bread.” And the book has been offered as a radio promotion on several of RBC Ministries broadcasts.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
The Roller Coaster of Unemployment: Trusting God for the Ride is available on www.dhp.org (at a discount) or wherever Christian books are sold.
For additional information that didn’t make it into the book I’d invite you to slide over to my blog: www.sarahhupp.blogspot.com.