Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Our Christmas tree is up and the decorations are finding their way from boxes to shelves. Since we’re expecting our first grandchild in a matter of weeks, I thoroughly enjoyed today’s interview with Julie Lavender, a former teacher and Navy wife, and currently an author with a special focus on children.
Welcome, Julie! Please tell us about your book, Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime.
Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime features 52 best-loved children’s Bible stories filled with dreamy illustrations and timeless faith messages. Each story ends with simple reflections and a prayer. Children learn about the many ways God loves them and watches over them from morning until night, and even while they sleep!
Just today my daughter-in-law asked what I was looking forward to most when the baby comes. My answer—reading to him! So how did this particular book come about?
Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime actually came about as a work-for-hire assignment from a Penguin Random House imprint. I found out about the project through an editor I’ve worked with before, who was just passing along the info to children’s writers that he knew. When I read the description of the book Penguin Random House wanted, Bible stories for children to read at bedtime, I fell in love with the project! I absolutely loved reading Bible stories to my children when they were little, and we read stories each day as part of our homeschooling curriculum. I love children’s Bible story books so much that I have a collection of more than two dozen books of God’s Word for children!
I applied for the assignment as soon as I found out about it. The form was quite lengthy and required info about my writing background and social media presence. I also had to include a sample story, written to their specifications. It felt like forever, but because the project had a quick turnaround, I found out fairly quickly that I’d been chosen to complete the project.
I was thrilled! A dream project for me!
Soon, I was totally immersed in God’s Word, working day and night to meet the short deadline. And, the whole time I was working, I thought about my two-year-old grandson. My focus became – What do I want Benaiah to know about God? How can I write this story to teach my grandson about God’s big, huge, never-ending love?
It’s one of the most fun and rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on, and it warms my heart to see my now almost-four year old grandson holding “Grandmommy’s book” in his sweet little hands!
That is so precious! What is the primary focus of your book?
Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime features stories from both the Old and New Testaments to help children connect with God before falling asleep. Reading God’s Word just before bedtime reminds children that God is always with them – from morning until night, and while they sleep, too!
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
My hope for the book is that children who read or hear the stories will fall in love with God’s Word at a young age and have a hunger to know God even more. I hope each treasured story will encourage children to build a personal relationship with the Heavenly Father and help them realize God loves them with a never-ending love.
With that most important of all lessons to impart, what was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
As with most work-for-hire projects, the turnaround for the manuscript was quick. I had a short deadline to get the manuscript back to the editor. That meant I wrote long hours each day and night. However, I loved this project so much, it was a joy each day to spend time in God’s Word and translate those words into children’s language. In fact, it never felt like work at all. It was truly a heart-project for me, and I felt like I was the one blessed to take part in this project.
What would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?
My ideal writing place would be located in the mountains with a view of a babbling brook. I’d love to have a comfy rocking recliner on a deck facing the mountain stream, so that I could listen to it gurgling its way downhill as I wrote.
However, my actual writing place is that same comfy rocking recliner in my den. Sometimes I write in a quiet house, but often I have the television turned on. And, according to the project I’m working on, I might have a Christian music station playing, a Hallmark movie playing, or perhaps a children’s animated show playing
Why do you love writing?
Well, besides the obvious reason of being able to talk about God through my writing, I love that my writing journey is never boring! I love the variety of writing opportunities that God has given me! I’ve written articles for magazines, newspapers, and websites. I’ve contributed children’s curriculum to more than two dozen books. I’ve authored my own books, written work-for-hire books, and contributed stories to compilations with many other authors. I’ve penned devotions, advent calendars, fiction and non-fiction pieces, and work for children and adults.
God’s blessed me with such a variety of writing opportunities over the years, and I’ve loved every project! It’s never boring, and I’m so grateful to Him for my writing journey.
With a rich and varied experience like yours, is there anything about writing that you wish non-writers knew?
I think the biggest thing I’d like to share with non-writers is how long it takes (for most of us) to actually get published. It’s been a long, but rewarding, journey for me. It took me a long time of building writing credits for magazines and curriculum opportunities before an editor actually said yes to a book project. It’s harder to be a writer than Hallmark movies lead you to believe, haha!
No kidding! So, what do you read for pleasure? What are you reading right now?
When I want to read for pleasure and “escape” from the world a bit, I just love reading middle grade children’s books! One of my favorite series is written by author Sheila Turnage, the Mo and Dale Mysteries. Now I’m reading the first book of her next series, Island of Spies.
What are your hobbies or activities or passions outside of writing?
I’m super-passionate about my family! My greatest titles include wife, mommy, grandmommy, and then writer. And aside from those titles and passions, I love to bake and cook. Even though most of my now-adult kiddos have moved away, I still enjoy cooking for my family whenever the opportunities arise.
I also enjoy traveling. Most of my trips these days involve going to see one of the kids in another city or state, and I’m especially partial to spending time with my sweet grandson. My hubby and I love every minute we spend with our kids and grandson. Those are moments and memories that we treasure, and we celebrate each opportunity to be with our family!
That sounds delightful! So what are you working on now? Can you tell us about your next project?
Though I can’t share much about my next project as per my publisher, I’m super excited about what’s coming next. My very first writing dream, over thirty years ago while teaching elementary school children, was to publish a children’s picture book for the general market. God led me down a different path, a journey I’ve loved, but now I feel like I’m coming full circle, because my very first children’s picture book will release in the fall of 2024. My lesson in all of this? God gives us the desires of our heart, in His way and His timing! Never give up on your dreams!