Yes, "Hollow" narratively shares my testimony of a nearly three-decades-long battle with disordered eating and body image distrubance, and tells the story of how I came to trust in God's power and faithfulness to bring me out of that darkness, one step at a time. I'm grateful to Moody Press for taking on a project so honest in its telling. They knew from the outset that the book offers no "happy ending", but is instead a slice-of-life glimpse into a very real spiritual and psychological battle, shared by nearly eleven million Americans today.
My own battle began at age three and continues to be something of a thorn in my side... but I am learning that, by being vulnerable and telling my story as honestly and unflinchingly as I have chosen to tell it, others are able to see themselves in my story and feel less alone in their own struggles. I have had both men and women alike tell me that, even though they did not have an eating disorder themselves, the story was completely relateable to them. Which goes to show that this human condition of imperfection and fragility is one we all share in our own ways.
What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?
My goal in telling my story was to communicate a realistic message of hope regarding eating disorders. Too many ED stories have been told which either painted a picture of hopelessness and chronicity or of an unrealistic, too-tidy happy ending. Recovery is not so much a destination as it is a journey, as cliche as that may sound. It is a process, and my hope is that people will read my story -- people struggling with eating disorders or with any other unhealthy, self-destructive habits -- and realize that life can be chosen, one day at a time. God's mercies are new every morning, and anyone who struggles with an addiction or behavioral disorder will find comfort in that discovery.
Are you working on other projects, and what are they?
I am. As I work on the editorial process for Hollow, I am also at work on a devotional book for women recovering from eating disorders, as well as on a one-act Christmas play. Once those two projects are completed, I am eager to try my hand at contemporary fiction. I have an outline done for a story about a husband-and-wife team of marriage counselors whose own marital alliance is threatened by infidelity and sexual sin, and the conflict they face in their work because of their personal struggles. The story has already begun to take on momentum in my imagination and if I can't get to work on it soon, I'll begin writing it in my dreams...
What is the best writing advice you have ever been given? The worst?
The best came from Anne Lamott's amazing book on writing, "Bird by Bird." In it, she encourages writers to allow themselves to write a horrible first draft. She uses another choice expletive other than 'horrible', but you get the idea. I needed to hear that, as I was in the thick of writing the first draft of "Hollow." The writing process must be allowed to be messy, which does not come easy for a perfectionist like myself. Creativity is not pristine the first time around, and usually, pristine is boring, anyway.
As for the worst writing advice I've ever been given... I read an article once that said to always begin with a writing exercise, like a prompt, before you begin working on the project at hand, sort of like a warm-up. I don't agree with this practice... If I am eager to get to work on a story that has already taken on a life of its own inside my head, why postpone that creativity?
What would you like to take advantage of this opportunity to say?
Thanks for asking! I'd like to take this chance to say God has been amazingly merciful and kind and good to me, in life and in the process of writing "Hollow" and finding a publishing home for it. His hand has been on this project from the beginning, and I give all glory to Him (and "props" to my incredibly hard-working agent, Diana) for any success the book enjoys. There was a time, a few years back, when I wasn't sure I wanted to live anymore. I am endlessly grateful to God for not giving me my wish at that time, but for gently and patiently leading me out of that place and further along on my adventure with Him, to a place where I can tell my story and bring others along with me on narrow path.
What a privilege He has allowed me!
Thank you Jena for joining us here. I look forward to your titles release May 2010. I believe many lives will be saved as a result of God using your book and life testimony.
From my heart to yours,