I am excited to share my second interview with Kelly Boyer Sagert. If you want to to take a peek back at the first one you can find it here.
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.
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!
Why are you attracted to freelance writing? For those who wish to pursue this path what advice would you provide?
I absolutely love freelance writing! I have a passion for research, for learning, for taking material and shaping it in a way that will help readers in some way. I love the variety of projects I take on, which keeps me engaged in my work and eager to take on the next project. When I started, there was no internet for the average person; today, people can access plenty of material about how to have a freelance writing career. I suggest that they also attend writer’s conferences and network with other people with the same goals. To find a writer’s conference in your area, check with libraries, bookstores, and other writerly places. You can also search on writing.shawguides.com. As another tip, it can help to have a mentor.
Be persistent in your quest and be flexible in how you get there. For example, if you think you just want to write for company blogs, but an opportunity arises to write for a magazine—or vice versa—seriously consider it. Early on, you’ll want to build your resume and make connections.
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I see you have a course, Writing as a Spiritual Practice: Focusing on God’s Purpose for Your Life. How can writing as a spiritual practice help you?
Spiritual writing can help you to access the rich spiritual stories that lie deeply within us. Words are powerful. The words that you write through the practice of spiritual writing can be used to help you understand yourself better – and therefore divine God’s purpose in your life. In turn, that knowledge can help you to minister to others more effectively. If you decide to share what you’ve written with others, this gives you an opportunity to share your testimony of how God has worked in your life. It can help other people recognize they aren’t alone in feeling or experiencing what you have. And, if you participate in this practice with others and then share what you’ve written, then you can give one another one of the greatest gifts of all – to genuinely listen to and celebrate each other’s sacred stories.
For those new to writing as a spiritual practice, what initial suggestions would you offer to help create a sustainable and long-term practice?
Make a commitment to the practice but do so without having expectations about the outcome or putting pressure on yourself to perform. Set aside quiet time and get comfortable. And, it may help to create a ritual to transition you into the right space, spiritually. For one person, this process could include lighting a candle or incense. For another, it could mean praying or meditating first. For some people, it can help to write at a certain time of day or night when they are most receptive to the Spirit. Give yourself permission to let go, to do a deep dive, knowing that you have the right to keep whatever comes through your pen completely private if you so choose. It really can be between you and God. It’s also important to not feel forced to write something “churchy.” God is everywhere, and so, if you’ve experienced something that doesn’t fit the stereotypically spiritual experience, it can still be explored spiritually.
I noticed you have a course, How to Write a Devotional: Plus How to Get Them Published. What attracts you to writing devotionals?
Devotionals can help us to connect what we read in the Bible or other sacred texts with everyday life as we know it, and therefore help us to put the material in context. Although there are numerous ways to write a devotional, a standard method is to take a sacred verse, write an anecdote that ties in with that verse in some way—and then connect the verse with the story you’ve told. These devotionals often end with a brief prayer that relates to the text. So, in devotionals with that structure, the reader can apply Biblical/other spiritual lessons to situations that he or she may well encounter.
How is writing a devotional different from writing as a spiritual practice?
Spiritual writing is a process, with an undetermined result. By going through it, you may simply benefit from the actual experience. Or, you may end up with notes that you understand, but no one else likely would. Or, let’s face it, through the process of spiritual writing, you may write down impressions that don’t yet make sense to you, either. A devotional, on the other hand, is a product, usually one that the writer wants to have value for other people, as well. The spiritual writing process may be the inspiration for a devotional, but then the conscious brain will likely need to work on the text to organize it and give it structure and meaning.
What upcoming projects do you wish to share?
Right now, I’ve plunged into writing a Civil War biography, one that may take me years to complete! I don’t have a publisher yet, and don’t intend to seek one for a while. Instead, I’m going to let this story unfold, however it does. At this point, I’m researching while awake, and then inviting my dream brain to help me, too.
I’m happy to announce that I’ve just released my first-ever poetry chapbook. Titled Speak the Name, these poems are loosely connected along the theme of the importance of naming, of giving voice to a name, and of honoring those who didn’t or don’t have the opportunity to speak up. If they did speak, they weren’t necessarily heard.
Thanks for the great questions!
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
How to Write a Devotional: Plus How to Get Them Published – 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. It can allow you to feel a keen sense of fellowship with another Christian, even if the two of you never actually meet. 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.