Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California, where the rain is falling lightly and wildflowers are blooming brightly! Only a short drive away from me lives today’s guest—and one of my closest friends—multi-published author Jeanette Hanscome. Jeanette and I met at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and now we both have the honor of serving on faculty at that conference as well as serving on the board for the West Coast Christian Writers Conference. Jeanette has an incredible heart for new writers or for anyone who feels uncomfortable or out of place—and isn’t that all of us at one time? Her heart for others shines in her writing, as does her amazing sense of humor.
Jeanette, please tell us about your book, Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise.
Suddenly Single Mom is a devotional that reads like a memoir of persevering through what feels impossible. It uses my story of rebuilding my life as a single mom, who had the added challenge of being visually impaired and unable to drive, to equip women for their own difficult situations.
Why did you write this book?
I remember the day I realized that it had been a year since my husband left me and our two sons to fend for ourselves. It had been the hardest, darkest year of my life, and the saga wasn’t over. But we were doing surprisingly well. God had surrounded me with support through our church and I’d learned to lean on Him like never before. I thought, “I made it through one year, so maybe I can do another one.” Something about hitting that one-year mark struck me.
At the same time, I found myself paying attention to what helped me get through such a difficult time and gain the confidence to step out in independence and even move away from my support system. I knew I needed to pass what I’d learned on to others. Suddenly Single Mom was my way of telling another overwhelmed, heartbroken woman “You can do this. And this is how I know. It will be hard, but if you cling to Jesus, you’ll be okay.” I also wanted to those who have single moms in their lives to understand our experience so they would know how to help.
And I love seeing what God has done in your life and your writing through those hard times. What surprised you the most during the research or writing of your book?
I’d been warned that writing about such a painful experience as abandonment, divorce, losing my home, and having to completely restart my life would be cathartic but extremely emotional. Those people were right. It brought everything back. But at least I was prepared for that. What I didn’t expect was that a book I wrote for others would also become such a part of my healing process. It felt like a form of private therapy between me and God. I used to say I grieved and got angry all over again, but I think I actually grieved and got angry over some things for the first time. I also had opportunities to marvel over God’s goodness and how faithful He’d been. No matter what happens with this book in the future, I will treasure it as part of my journey.
What a great attitude! What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope that, no matter what they are going through, they will recognize that we all have something that causes us to think, “I can’t handle this.” For me, it was low vision (“I can’t be a single mom. I can’t even drive!”). But with God’s help, we can. I also want them to have hope that life can be good again. In fact, it might even be better. God has a beautiful way of bringing out our strength through what feels too big for us, and not only getting us to the other side alive and whole, but stronger than before.
What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
Besides reliving the events that inspired it, my biggest challenge was finding the space to write it. I had a very tight deadline of six months, so I didn’t have time to procrastinate, which was a good thing. But my youngest son and I live with my parents, and I needed privacy. I had to just lock myself in my room and let the memories and what I wanted to say flow. Every once in a while, I got the gift of an empty house right when I was writing a difficult chapter. That freed me to let the emotions flow with the stories if I needed to, or pace around the house for a while, or call a friend. I told myself that when I sent the manuscript I could crash. And I did, for two months.
How has being a writer impacted your relationship with Christ?
Most of my writing flows from personal experience, so it keeps me in constant touch with His lessons, grace, and faithfulness. It keeps me paying attention, journaling, and reading His Word. I am sensitive by nature anyway, but I feel like writing has made me even more sensitive to His presence, His voice, and what He is teaching me.
What would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?
Last year, I took my first writing retreat with a friend. We rented an Air B ‘n B in a beach town. That or a mountain cabin is my ideal writing space. My actual writing space is my bedroom. I’ve made it very cozy and writerly, but it can be a little confining at times. As often as possible, I take my laptop to a coffee shop to write, just to get “out of my hole” as I put it. I can’t drive, but my friends know this and are good about helping me come up with ways to get out of the house at least every other week for writing time.
That’s wonderful! Sometimes we all need a change in scenery. Why do you love writing?
There are many things I love about it. Writing has become an outlet for my constant overthinking and allows me to draw people in through a story or lesson I learned. It has taught me to see life as potential material, so nothing is wasted, especially the hard things. I love the incredible people I’ve met and formed friendships with through writing. They are smart, creative, quirky, deep thinkers. Most of us grew up feeling weird and sometimes still have a hard time fitting in. We live in our heads and look at life differently. But we share this exciting gift of storytelling and communicating our experience in ways that others can benefit from. I can’t image doing anything else. Well, I can, but I don’t think I would enjoy it as much.
Tell us about your most touching moment with a reader.
A few weeks ago, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a couple years. She’d read Suddenly Single Mom when it first came out and told me she’d just bought it for a friend. What touched me was why she bought it—because she’d heard that her friend had gone through a divorce and didn’t know what to say or how to help. “But I remembered your book.” This conversation came at a time when I needed a reminder that the success of Suddenly Single Mom was not about the numbers. It was about the women I wrote it for and trusting God to place it in their hands. Usually, that happens through a friend or someone else who cares about them. One hope that I had was that women would receive the book at the exact moment they needed it. That was exactly what happened.
I love that! What do you read for pleasure? What are you reading right now?
I read just about everything. I must have at least one children’s or YA novel fix per year. I also love memoirs and well-written women’s or historical fiction. Right now, I’m reading Preparing for Easter, which is a collection of C.S. Lewis’s writing for Lent, Almost Everything by Anne Lamott (I know she uses bad words, but I love her writing), and She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel. A friend just gave me a novel called Caroline, which is a fictionalized story of Caroline Ingalls, so that’s next on my list. My to-be-read stack never stops growing. I’ve stopped trying to keep them on the shelf. They are part of my room décor.
The best décor. What are your hobbies or activities or passions outside of writing?
I learned that I’m at my best when I have as many creative outlets as possible. I love to knit and crochet and make homemade gifts like body butter. A year or so ago, I started practicing calligraphy and creative lettering, so that allows me to add special touches to gifts. One of my favorite hobbies is singing. I sing at church and with a local chorus, which is so fun! This week, some of us from the Blackhawk Chorus got to sing with the California Symphony. I’m still savoring that amazing experience. Of course, I wrote about it.
You definitely have a lot of talent in a lot of areas! Please tell us about your next project.
Coming up with a next project has been difficult. Right now, I am doing a lot of writing about my experiences living with low vision and have been surprised by how many people tell me they can relate to the stories for different reasons. I have a feeling my next book will flow from that.
I’m looking forward to that! Thank you for sharing with us today.
To learn more about Jeanette and her books, please visit Jeanette’s website and blog.
Writing for Him,