Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the joy of interviewing one of our newer CAN members, Donna Arlynn Frisinger, whose children’s books have won the AWSA Golden Scroll Award among other awards.
Welcome, Donna! Please tell us about your book, Bye-Bye Earthsuit–Hello Heavensuit.
How do you explain death to a child? Hettie and Teddy are heartbroken after Papa dies, but Nana offers them a tender, touching, and teachable object lesson to help them understand death and feel better. Based on the Promises of God, the story reminds us that Earth is not our forever home.
What a lovely concept. What inspired you to write this book?
Barry and I have never had children of our own, although we’ve taught thousands of kids throughout our married life which we claim as our own. But we’ve been close to my kid sister’s children and now her grandchildren–our adorable grand-nephews. As a result, those three little boys think my Barry is the next best thing to a strawberry ice cream cone. They adore him.
One day the oldest boy, six at the time, began asking, “Barry, are you going to die?” He worried because they’re “Best Buddies,” attached at the hip and their souls. So, I started looking up children’s books about death to get him one and found very few out there, let alone any written from a Christian worldview. As a result, Bye-Bye Earthsuit was born.
What is the primary focus of your book?
The focus of Bye-Bye Earthsuit is to alleviate children’s fear of death—and adults, for that matter—while introducing them to the Promises of Heaven if they love Jesus. Backed up by Scripture verses featured on each page, I do this through a simple visual object lesson when Nana takes her twin grandkids to the park for the first time after Papa has died.
How has being a writer impacted your relationship with Christ?
Writing is like praying out loud. I don’t know exactly what I will say until I start, and then I let my creative thoughts pour out of me. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I want my words to reflect my love affair with the Creator of the universe. Nothing phony, highfalutin’, or religious. No “Christianize Talk!” Just real—like the Velveteen Rabbit, who went through a lot of rejection and personal pain on the way to becoming real. When I finish something, I often look up to Heaven and say,” Do you like that, Lord?” I smile as I feel his response, and say, “Yeah, I like it, too.”
With responses like that, I can see why you like writing. Any other reasons?
God is the Creator. He made us to be creators too.And that can take many forms. I often go to craft fairs to sell my booksand am constantly amazed at the ingenuity I see in people’s wares: how they create beautiful, ingenious things from the scraps of life. Mechanics, engineers, hairdressers, homemakers, policemen, doctors, factory workers, business-people . . . We are all creating in one way or another. That’s why I love writing. I feel I am an extension of God’s imagination for He has “given me the mind of Christ!” I love that Scripture verse.
When did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?
After going through a traumatic, hurtful time in my life, I was at the end of my rope—a time when God was saying, “Okay, Donna. It’s time to close the door on what you’ve been doing for the past 40 years and turn the page.”
At that time my friend and church secretary asked me to go to a writing conference with her—Blueridge Christian Writers Conference. I won first place in poetry and was invited by two magazine editors to submit my work to them. I felt God’s hug as he said, “This is what I want you doing now, Donna.”
Another reason to adore writers conferences! Tell us about your most touching moment with a reader.
There is a little girl I go to church with who thinks my books are totally amazing and that I’m a Christian rock star! Many Sundays she’ll come up to me for a hug to talk about my books. “You need to write a Thanksgiving book, Donna,” was her latest suggestion. When I look into her big brown eyes, I am thrilled at her perception of me and humbled at the same time. She makes my heart sing and do a happy-dance every time I see her. And she makes sure that I see her . . . a lot.
How very sweet! With so many books in print, do you still have an unfulfilled dream?
Yes. I want to see my books turned into animated movies. At times I think it will never happen, and other days I know that I serve a big God.
What talents do you have aside from storytelling?
Besides being creative, I am a motivator of excellence. I have directed many award-winning dance teams throughout my life—everything from the choreography to designing the costumes and shows. It changed my life when I auditioned for and was selected to my high school dance team. I went on to become captain of both my high school and college teams to then directing my own groups to help transform shy, unsure wilting wallflowers into confident, bright-eyed leaders in the game of life. I’ve also used my talent to direct many Broadway-style musical outreach programs at my church.
So, what’s next for you? Please tell us about your upcoming projects.
I’m working on two nonfiction gift books—Heaven’s Kiss: Hugs for the Twenty-Five Days of Christmas and One Chance–One Dance: Don’t Miss the Moments of Your Life. In addition to my essays, stories, and poetry, these two books will include contributions from several well-known Christian Authors.