Marion Stroud will be no stranger to her readers or to the booksellers who stock her books, most recently It’s Just You and me Lord and Dear God It’s Me and It’s Urgent (Monarch, October 2013: full details below) — but even they may not know that she is also the author of 3 children’s books and 26 adult non-fiction titles, including the Lion Gift of… series which were printed in 14 different languages and remained in print for 30 years.
As I’ve been preparing this post, Marion has been out and about on a tour of some of the UK’s Christian bookshops: so far that tour has taken in Unicorn Tree Books, Lincoln; Wesley Owen’s Barbican Bookshop, York — sadly now facing closure, a fact that is emphatically not related to Marion’s visit! — and The Word, Bedford: you can read all about those visits on her blog, What if…?
In this instalment of our occasional Meet the Author series, Marion reflects on one of her other visits…
Invited to speak to ‘ladies who lunch’ about my life as a writer, I put a large box of my books in the car and drove 50 miles to deliver my carefully crafted talk. My hostess put a cup into my hand and thrust me into the coffee-drinking throng, while she arranged the books on the top of her grand piano.
One of the guests, who must have thought that I looked a little lost, took pity on me and came over to chat. Having asked where I came from, she didn’t seem to think that it was at all strange that I should have travelled so far, but lowered her voice confidentially.“Do you know anything about this woman who’s speaking today?” she asked. “They say she’s written a lot of books, but I haven’t read any of them, have you?”
Struck dumb for a moment, I realised that there was no point in trying to hide, and croaked, “Actually I AM the speaker!”
She wasn’t one whit abashed. “Well!” she said, looking me up and down in a way that rivalled any makeover host’s most caustic assessment of their television victims. “To think that there is someone like you behind all those books over there!”
I never did find out what she had expected. A Barbara Cartland look-alike perhaps, all in pink, or an ‘earth mother’ type, since I’d written a lot about relationships? Whatever caused her disappointment, it merely confirmed my suspicions that for the most part, “A writer’s place is in the wrong”
So what do you think of…?
So what do you think of when you think about a writer – if you ever do think about the people who provide the ‘product’ that fills your shelves? There seem to be four groups of writers in the Christian market. The well known church leader or speaker, whose books are largely based on sermon series, the academics and then the people who write because they feel God has given them something to share, or who write for children.
There’s virtually no money in it for the latter two groups, so they will almost always be doing it after the ‘day-job’ is finished. They’re not likely to be encouraged by the leaders in their churches, who tend to rank being involved in the media as potentially much less fruitful than almost any other job you could do. When I was a young mum with three small children, I nervously declined the minister’s wife’s request to be ‘Secretary’ of the Young Wives Group, on the grounds that I was writing a book. She wasn’t pleased. “Do you honestly think that all this writing and speaking you’re involved in does any good?” she asked.
Those words lingered in my spirit for many years, rather like a word curse, and certainly reinforced Satan’s mocking whisper “hath God said?” I know that many who have a gift with words struggle with that temptation too: in the current climate of shrinking outlets and loss of the reading habit, it could seem as if writers and booksellers alike are wasting their time. So why do we do it?
So why do we do it?
I think the first answer is because we have to. Writing is like an itch that you cannot scratch and you can only relieve the itch by doing it. The second reason is that we know that words can be immensely powerful. Marx influenced millions with Das Capital. Mao spread his message among China’s millions more effectively with his Little Red Book, than with his Red Guard. A drop of ink really CAN make a million think, and even with the Internet and Social media, writers, publishers and booksellers are still ‘door keepers’ for one another.
So how can we help one another?
So how can we help one another? Booksellers can listen to their customers and notice where there appear to be gaps in the market. When the shop isn’t busy they can pull out a few titles and pray for the authors. Writers can get to know their local bookstore staff, let them know that they appreciate all that they do, support them by shopping there themselves and encourage others from their churches to do the same. Even in this digital age there’s nothing like ‘word of mouth.’
And remember, as the late Edward England frequently said to writers
It’s not enough to have written a book. It’s not enough to have had a book published. You have only reached your objective if your book is written, published, sold, and the content acted upon!
In this instance we truly ARE all in it together.
It’s just you and me, Lord
It’s Just You and me Lord
Everyday prayers for women
Monarch, October 2013
Dear God, it’s me and it’s urgent
Dear God It’s Me and It’s Urgent
Prayers for every season of a woman’s life
Monarch, October 2013
If you’re a bookseller who would like Marion to visit your shop, give her a shout on facebook; or if you’re a Christian author who would like to be featured in the Meet the Author series, please get in touch.