I am excited to share my interview with Kelly Boyer Sagert.
Kelly Boyer Sagert is a fulltime freelance writer with 27 years of professional writing experience. She has traditionally published 14 books so far, including Everything to God in Prayer: A Writer’s Weekly Devotional, and has been commissioned to write four full-length plays. One of these plays was used as the basis for the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary, Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story, with Kelly receiving the writing/researching credits. Another play, Freedom’s Light: A Stop Along the Underground Railroad, was nominated for the Ohio Governor’s award.
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She has taught writing online with Writer’s Digest continually since February 2000 and speaks at writer’s conferences in the Midwest. She was a speaker at the American Society of Journalists and Authors in New York City in 2012; at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum; and at the Cleveland Indians media room. She also appeared in the ESPN documentary about baseball’s Black Sox Scandal.
Kelly is a founder of the Northeast Ohio Christian Writer’s Conference, a conference held annually since 2013, and she has offered monthly spiritual writing workshops to her community, beginning in 2014.
Learn more about Kelly at her web site.
Now on to the interview.
Tell us a little bit about what you do. You seem to do many interesting things.
I’m fortunate enough to work fulltime as a freelance writer, so I get to spend my time researching fascinating topics and talking to intriguing people. I absolutely love what I do, including the diversity of my projects. I write books, pen plays, ghostwrite for dozens of companies and more. My writing is a mixture of client work and published work, some print, some online – with my client work being a mixture of B2B and B2C in a wide range of industries. Diversity gives me energy and keeps me always looking forward to what tomorrow might bring.
You have written at least 11 books. Which one(s) are you most proud of and why?
I think I’ve published 14 – and which one is my favorite depends upon how that’s defined. My newest book, no matter what that might be, is a favorite because it’s fresh and new. At the moment, “newest” means Hidden History of Lorain County, set to be released by History Press on August 6, 2018. Even though I’ve lived in Lorain County since I was three months old – and even though I have a passion for history – I learned plenty through this research.
My first book was titled About Boomerangs: America’s Silent Sport, and it focused on boomerangs as history, as art, as science, a sport, a cultural phenomenon and more. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that book, largely because of the brilliantly offbeat people that I met and befriended. And, my biography of Shoeless Joe Jackson is another favorite. I love baseball history and, because of this book, I got to speak at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown and appear in an ESPN documentary.
I noticed you have an online course on the Contemplative Light site titled, “How to Write a Devotional”. Tell us a little bit about this course.
I have two courses there – one on writing devotionals and another about writing as a spiritual practice. After I wrote Everything to God in Prayer: A Writer’s Weekly Devotional for a small press, I began teaching an in-person workshop on devotional writing and then I created an online version for Contemplative Light. For the past four years, I’ve been offering monthly spiritual writing classes for free for my community and, again, for Contemplative Light, I created an online version.
What is prayer? How do you pray?
Prayer, for me, is a way to connect with God. It can range from conversational moments, where I think – So, God, can you please help me to understand [whatever it is I am struggling to understand] to times when I try to be silent and just breathe. Once, after I’d done the latter for about three weeks, I thought – God, what exactly is it that you want me to do with my life? – and, clear as a bell, I heard the word “reconciler” in my head. I’m still sorting out how to put that concept into practice. I’m trying to meet people where they are, to understand their positions, even when I don’t necessarily agree, to not see certain perspectives as right/wrong.
I noticed the following in a blog post on your site. “Like most things in life, there is a fine line between not networking enough as a writer – and focusing on networking at the expense of your actual writing time.” Why is this important and how does one balance this?
I hope this comes across the right way. This thought came to me after, in a short period of time,multiple people said to me that he/she wanted to live the life I did, as far as being a freelance writer. But, I noticed that, when I would describe what a typical day of mine is like – lots of reading, lots of writing, lots of changing what I wrote, and not always on a subject that I chose (rather, a client or publisher wanted a specific piece of writing) – eyes often glazed over. I realized then that a significant portion of people who think they might want to write for a living really enjoy talking about writing and/or being with other writers.
There is nothing wrong with that, but I have urged people to think about if they really want to commit to writing as a profession or if they mostly enjoy the networking. Neither is right or wrong, good or bad, but it’s important to know the difference and to know where you really fall on the spectrum. And, if you do decide to write as your source of income, you must be protective of your time, because the networking can be so tantalizing. You need a lot of self-discipline to write for a living. As a writer friend of mine once said, “Deadline or the breadline, baby!”
Tell us a little bit about any upcoming projects you have.
A big one is a documentary about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president in the United States (1872). She was intensely passionate – and incredibly controversial. We’re still in the fundraising stage for this documentary, although we already have the funding for me to write a storytelling program and a one-act play about her life. We’ll use those to gain attention for the documentary, which we plan to release in 2020 to coincide with the 100th year of women in the United States having the right to vote. I’ll be working with the same people that I did when we created Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story. That documentary was nominated for an Emmy and appears on PBS, and shares the story of the first woman to solo-through-hike the Appalachian Trail, doing so at the age of 67.
What is (are) the best place for people to find you to learn more about you and your work?
Kelly, thank you for taking the time to let us learn more about you and your work!
Courses by Kelly:
Writing as a Spiritual Practice: This course helps you to access the rich spiritual stories that lie deeply within you. Words are powerful. The words that you write can be used to:
- help you understand yourself better – and therefore divine God’s purpose in your life
- facilitate healing of spiritual wounds
- minister to others more effectively
- share your testimonies of how God has worked in your life
If you read devotionals, you already know how they can be a true blessing. A devotional can uplift you when you’re feeling discouraged, sad or lonely. And, if you are feeling called to write devotionals, know that you have a unique opportunity to bless others and make a genuine difference in their lives. This course takes you step by step through the process, and then guides you towards publishing, if that is your goal.
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