Saturday, June 22, 2013

On Writing The Girl God

Your children, and especially your daughter, Helani Claire, were clearly your motivation for writing The Girl God. What drew you to the divine feminine, and inspired you to reveal Her essence to your children in this beautiful book?

Yes, she was. There is no end to how much I adore my daughter. I raised her very specifically to be strong and most of all, to be completely herself. That was really important to me because I don’t think we have raised girls in previous generations like that. I was raised in the church to be submissive. That really hurt me in so many ways throughout my life. Not that I didn’t have great, well-meaning parents – I did. However, I think that one little thing would have made an enormous difference.

When Helani turned 5, I really began to see the way the outside world was also affecting her. And it was not good. I had a son that was 3 years older, but the expectations placed on him were completely different. I began to see that many people could not tolerate my daughter being herself. That was my wake up call.

Being a full-on, inspiring mom is a lot of work. Even then, you are competing with an outside world that has an entirely different message for your kids. I wanted to write something that would be a tool for women and girls; that could stand up to TV, movies and social media with an alternate vision of the worth of women.

Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing the book, from your first inspiration through publication?

The story came to me all at once – of course as an author yourself you know that also includes a lot of revisions. I was trying to talk to my daughter about God and she just could not relate until I spoke of “The Girl God”. That’s the scene I tried to capture in the book, where her face just lit up and she really grasped it.

I had envisioned exactly what kind of art I wanted in the book but didn’t know anyone who painted like that. Months later, I saw Elisabeth’s art pop up on Facebook and I instantly sent her a message asking her if she would be willing to illustrate the book. She asked to read the story and then agreed.

As for the quotes, I have been collecting meaningful quotes and poetry for over 10 years. I started a compilation journal for myself during a particularly rough period in my life. It really sustained me through other difficult periods.

About 5 years ago, I noticed many of my friends’ kids were also struggling in various capacities, so I began making them their own journals. I would just take an empty journal, add 10-15 poems that I thought they would find meaningful and/or helpful and post them in there. I’d also write a note about how the journal had helped me and my wish that they would add to it over the years.

My journal is my most valuable possession. If my house caught on fire, I would grab that and my kids.

So when I put this book together, I always had the idea of adding quotes and poems to it. As a kid, I was always memorizing Bible verses – many of which I still know. My hope for kids with The Girl God is that they will also learn these quotes and they will sustain them throughout their teen years and into their adulthood.

The Girl God contains some absolutely wonderful quotations—some of them were familiar to me, but you introduced me to some beautiful work I hadn’t encountered, including the words of Patricia Lynn Reilly. How did you choose the quotations for the book?

Choosing the quotations was hard. I had very specific things in mind, and also wanted to honor as many of the world religions as possible. There was also a balancing act with the art and the storyline. So some quotes from the beginning were completely different than what we published. I work with Patricia through Imagine a Woman International so her words were a given as one of my biggest sources of inspiration. I just came across Dale Allen and Sue Monk Kidd as we were about to go to press – so those were very last minute but absolutely necessary additions. I tried to balance strength with nurturing and to also show the Divine Feminine in various faith traditions.

You mention in your acknowledgements that you had envisioned Elisabeth Slettnes as the illustrator for the book from the beginning. How and when did you first encounter her work? Why did you know she would be the perfect illustrator for your book?

It’s hard to explain. I just knew. I found her several months after I wrote out the story. My husband had encouraged me to go for it and really make it into a book. Elisabeth was a friend of an artist friend of his and happened to be in Norway where he lives. So when I went to see him in Bergen, we made the trek out to Lilehammer and met with her in her studio. I knew right away I could work really well with her.

Excerpt from my interview with Elizabeth Hall Magill

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