Meet My Friend Michelle
[Note from Sheila: Everyone should have at least one friend like Michelle. She’s kind and smart and witty and talented and humble and her heart is drop-dead gorgeous. (I think the rest of her is, too, but I digress.) She is also about to become an overnight sensation after writing for, oh, a lifetime or so. Her Spiritual Misfit released last spring, and today, her incredibly-well-researched-but-never-dry-or-boring collection of introductions to 50 Heroines of the Faith releases today. That’s right, today! Michelle and I chatted a few weeks ago. Read on to learn more about this gifted woman and her latest project. So. Here is our interview. Enjoy.
PS: I think she’s hosting a giveaway on her blog today. I recommend you check it out here]:
This is a fascinating topic. What gave you the idea?
I have to be totally honest: it wasn’t my idea. A few years ago Warren Wiersbe wrote a book published by Baker Books entitled 50 People Every Christian Should Know. A great book…except it featured 48 men and two women. I think Baker realized there was an untapped material still there, so they approached my agent, Rachelle Gardner, looking for a writer. I just so happened to be twiddling my thumbs at the time – my memoir, Spiritual Misfit, hadn’t yet sold to a publisher, and I was in need of a writing project. So I wrote a sample chapter (Anne Hutchinson was the woman I chose), and they deemed it good enough for me to get the job. The rest, as they say, is history.
Among these 50 women, which one’s story surprised you most? Why?
I think I’d say Dorothy Day’s story surprised me the most. Dorothy (I’m on a first-name basis with all 50 women now) was a socialist (some accuse her of being a communist) who founded The Catholic Worker in 1933, which began as a radical social justice newspaper and grew into a hospitality movement, with homes for the poor nationwide. Born to atheist parents, she was a skeptic for a long time before converting to Roman Catholicism in 1927.
I was raised Roman Catholic (although I have since become a practicing Lutheran), yet I’d never heard of or learned about Dorothy Day in all my years as a Catholic. Maybe she was a bit too radical to be embraced by the Church, but it seems to me that she would have made a powerful role model for many, had we had the opportunity to learn about her. Dorothy Day’s unwavering commitment to the least of these is nothing short of amazing.
Which one inspired the most awe? Why?
I’d say Faye Edgerton inspired the most awe for me. I’d never heard of Faye until her name popped up in an online search when I was compiling the list of 50 women to be included in this book. She dedicated her entire life to working with the Navajo people. She taught herself the Navajo language, and then spent ten years translating the New Testament into Navajo. When it was published in 1956, it was the first-ever translation of the New Testament into Navajo – an amazing accomplishment. The first edition sold out in five months, and by 1967 the book had been reprinted seven times.
You’d think Faye would have rested on her laurels after that, but no – she went on to translate the first-ever Apache New Testament (another ten-year project) and, at the age of 77, worked with a team in Alaska on the Inupiat New Testament. A year before her death she served as a consultant for the Hopi New Testament, and just one month before she died, Faye was still working on a new revision of the Navajo New Testament. Can you even imagine the dedication and perseverance of this woman?
One of the most incredible aspects of her story is that when she was in high school, Faye Edgerton was deemed the person “least likely to serve as a missionary.” Her story illustrates that God chooses exactly who he wants for exactly what he wants.
How did you go about finding and selecting these 50?
I did a lot of research, mainly online, but I’m also lucky to live in a university town with a great library. There are already some good compilations of Christian biographies out there – 100 Christian Women Who Changed the 20th Century is one – so I pored over those. The difference with 50 Women is that all of the women included in this book are no longer living, so there are some amazing Christian leaders that were not included, simply because they are still alive.
I also wanted to ensure that the book represented a diverse population, so I made a point to research Christian women of color. I’m so glad I did, because I discovered some amazing stories and some incredible women I hadn’t ever heard of – like preacher Jarena Lee and missionary Pandita Ramabai – in addition to the more familiar names like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. I think readers’ knowledge of Christian history will be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of these women’s stories. They may not be the most famous, but they are heroines of the faith in every sense.
What’s it like having two books launch within just a few months of each other?
Insane. Is a one-word answer enough?
Truthfully, though, it’s an incredible blessing. It took close to six years, when all was said and done, for my memoir to come to fruition, and then to have 50 Women follow right on its heels? It feels like it’s raining God’s blessings, and I could not be happier or more grateful.
What’s next for you?
Good question, Sheila! I do have another book idea in the works, and it’s a topic that I’m very passionate about. But I can’t say much more than that about it because it hasn’t sold to a publisher yet, and we know how this business goes. Nothing is certain until you have a signed contract in your hand, so we’ll see . . . .
[Me again: If you haven’t already, jump on over and order Michelle’s books! Do it now! You won’t be sorry!]