Friday, November 29, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature-Sherri Langton

Today I welcome 
Sherri Langton,
associate editor for Bible Advocate. 

She has a Thanksgiving story to tell!

And to show appreciation for you, oh reader who has worked tirelessly over Thanksgiving dishes and shopping, I am having a book giveaway. The winning commenter will be able to choose one book from a selection of five from my stack of great author books.

     Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.

I am honored to have Sherri Langton as my guest. She probably doesn't remember the first time we met, but I sure do. I attended the Write to Publish Conference one year and requested one of my teen articles to be crit. Sherri Langton crit that article. She wrote such supportive words AND sought me out to encourage me more. I've never forgotten her kindness. 

This past year, Sherri has experienced some difficulties with her health. Knowing her love for God, I asked Sherri to tell us how God led her on her writing journey. Here is what she said:

God Assures Me

I’ve always been one of those writers who can’t not write. You know, “I write because I have to.” As far back as grade school, I’ve been compelled to record my thoughts on paper and share them with others. It’s in my DNA.

That compulsion to write progressed through public school, college, and the workforce. Several months after being mercifully laid off a banking job, I landed an editorial position at the Bible Advocate magazine. Bingo! God led a word lover to a word lover’s job!

At the same time, I was freelancing in the Christian market and attending Christian writer’s conferences, both as a conferee and an editor. Like a sponge, I soaked up the knowledge shared by professional writers and editors.

What a journey with God! With His guidance, I wrote about all kinds of experiences: the layoff, office conflicts at my previous employer, my difficult step-grandfather, and other subjects.

Over the years as I matured in my writing, God led me to record the darker stuff of life: my sister’s depression, a Columbine mother trying to make sense of her son’s slaughter, another mother finding lessons in her adult daughter’s murder.

These dark topics inspired me to make my articles and stories accurately reflect the reality of pain. A chapter titled “The Literature of Personal Disaster,” in Nancy Mairs’ book Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, especially helped me. Mairs observed that too much of what’s written about tragedy is mediocre. Her challenge: Don’t just record horrific events, but make those events real through description. Make them redemptive by showing how people changed through their suffering.

This approach to writing the dark paid off. Doors providentially swung open to major magazine markets, such as Decision, Focus on the Family, In Touch, and Discipleship Journal. I marveled at God’s ability to create good out of people’s heartache and touch readers through the printed page.

But in late 2012, I hit a wall. On October 31 a doctor removed a growth that had wrapped around my thyroid. The pre-surgery biopsy showed atypical cells, but the post-surgery biopsy showed lymphoma. “It’s treatable with chemo,” the doctor said. He made it sound as uneventful as having a cavity filled.

It wasn’t. The diagnosis upended my life. Most of November was given to tests, visiting the oncologist, and dealing with shock. It was all so frightening, so . . . dark. Like so many of the suffering people I’d written about, I cried. I sank into depression. I spewed my anger.

Once chemo started in December, the one who can’t not write couldn’t write at all. Treatments required six five-day hospital stays, three weeks apart. While working to save my life, this regimen also distanced me from writing. I didn’t even feel like a writer. I was a patient banished to a foreign country called Oncology, where every creative cell was being destroyed along with cancer cells.

Following each treatment, I spent days fighting fatigue. “Give into it,” people urged me, and I did. Resting worked toward my healing but moved me even farther from writing. I looked longingly at boxes of contributor’s copies that contained my stories and articles from years past. Those were the days, I lamented.

In her book The Story Within Laura Oliver quotes Octavia Butler: “I have this theory that anything that happens to you that leaves you alive and intact can be used somewhere in your writing.” I believe that. Thanks to God’s gentle nudges, I have tiptoed into my dark place and produced articles and a devotional. Editors have readily received them, affirming that God is bringing good from my bad situation (Romans 8:28).

However, even today, eight months removed from treatments and enjoying good health again, I avoid writing in depth about my journey. I’m “alive and intact” all right, but to make good literature out of my disaster, I must be real. I must unpack memories placed in mothballs, explore emotions, and express lessons learned. I don’t know all of them yet. It’s too soon, too fresh.

Exploring the deep things of darkness — the unknowns of disease, the unfairness of life upside down — will have to wait. I need time and a cooling distance to gain perspective from something so personally painful.

But that’s OK. God waits patiently and assures me that when I revisit the dark, I will not do it alone. His “ever present help” (Psalm 46:1) stands ready to work His good in yet another way.

Sherri Langton, associate editor of the Bible Advocate magazine  and of Now What? e-zine, has worked over 20 years in Christian publishing. She is an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in Focus on the Family, In Touch, Upper Room, Today’s Christian Woman, Marriage Partnership, and other publications. Sherri also has contributed her writing to Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Parenthood, My Turn to Care, Teatime Stories for Women, Becoming a Godly Man, Faces of Faith, and Hurray God! In addition, she teaches worrkshops at several Christian writers conferences. Sherri lives in Denver, Colorado, where she enjoys playing drums and percussion at her church.

To enter the contest for Mary's book give away
from a stack of great author books
leave a comment (and email address)
and become a follower of this site if you aren't already.

Sorry  US  only

Winner announced on my facebook page.

Thank you, Sherri, for Joining us This Weekend!


Anonymous said...

Sherri I am so sorry you had to suffer through this ordeal. The hated BIG C. I am so glad you are healthy again. And I'm sure GOD will continue to lead you to the place He wants you to be. GOD bless you now and always. Mary thanks for this give-away. I am a follower already and would love to win one of your books. MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

Mary Vee Writer said...

Good morning, Maxie!
So nice to see you this morning. I hope you've had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
Thank you for sharing your wishes with Sherri. God's blessings on you and yours.
Looking forward to your next visit.

nancy said...

One of the many things I love about Sherri is her honesty. She doesn’t candy-coat her months of illness and treatments . . . Her pain was real, her struggle real, the ups and downs of her journey through the dark places, real . . . because Sherri is real. But most of all, Sherri knows her God is real and it shows in every beautiful word she writes.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Beautiful words, Nancy. So nice to chat with you today.
Looking forward to your next visit.

Connie said...

I know Sherri through writers' conferences. I've shared her struggle somewhat through FB this past year. As I read her words about her struggles and how it impacted her writing, I resonated with her pain. The last couple of years for me has involved a great deal of loss including my own health struggles this past year. I was asked by someone at a recent conference, "What have you been writing?" And I simply answered, "Nothing." My life has been filled with grief that literally sucks the breath and energy right out of me. And yet I cling to that hope that God still sees and cares and has a plan and purpose for me. Thanks, Sherri, for your honest portrayal of the struggles of life.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I too walked a path like this. The trials have been immense. It wasn't the last where I learned to record the hurt, the immense emotions involved, my cries, etc. Since then I have been able to use some of these rich descriptions for my stories. It adds the life needed. So, if you can, take a journal and write down what you are feeling, what you are wanting to say and do, what you are not saying and doing. Keep it in a safe place. Some day you will see the treasure God has given you with the rich words you record.

Blessings on you, sister.