My guest today is Renae Brumbaugh, who is promoting her new devotional book, Morning Coffee with James. It’s fitting that we talk about this Bible study and devotional book during National Bible Week.
I reviewed Morning Coffee with James in an earlier post.
I don’t remember how I found Renae’s blog, but I’ve been an avid reader for her devotions for some time.
Lillie: Welcome to A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye, Renae. Your road to publication sounds almost like a fairy tale, but you and I know it’s a God thing. Tell us how you went from being a beginning writer to published and multi-contracted author in a couple of years.
Renae: In 2007, I attended a writers’ conference. There I was told that every writer should have a blog. I didn’t even know what a blog was! So I went home and typed, “What is a blog?” into my search engine. Blogger.com came up, and before I knew it, I had my very own blog. I named it Morning Coffee.
I had no idea what to write on my blog. I mean, my life just isn’t that interesting! I couldn’t see writing about my piles of laundry or my less-than-thrilling weekly menu. After giving it a little thought, I decided to write devotionals.
But that was too hard. There are simply too many great passages to choose from! Every day I spent more time deciding which passage to write about than I spent actually writing. Finally I said, “Enough. I’m going to make this easy.”
I opened my Bible to my favorite book: James. I started with chapter one, verse one, and began blogging my way through the book.
Lillie: How did you learn to write devotionals and Bible studies? Have you had theological training or does this come from your own spiritual journey?
Renae: Pretty much from my own journey. But I’ve been married to a pastor for nearly 20 years, and he lets me use his commentaries if I flutter my eyelashes and say please.
Lillie: Obviously what you did worked. Your blog led to a book deal. How did that come about?
Renae: Before long, I started getting encouraging comments and e-mails. “This is great! You should turn this into a book!”
Yeah, right, I thought. But little did I know, God had plans for my little blog.
I wrote up a query and sent it to every publisher that accepted devotional books. Every single one. Within a few weeks, I had interest from three publishers. I sent them each a full proposal. It was rejected by two of them. It was accepted by one: Chalice Press. And it only takes one!
Lillie: That’s really amazing, Renae. I know excellent writers who have been trying to get published in the Christian market for years without success. To what do you attribute your quick success?
Renae: Well, I’ve actually been writing – and teaching writing – for decades. In the early 90’s, I sent a couple of things off for publication, but they were rejected. Publication wasn’t really a driving desire of mine at that time, so I just kept writing and stored it all in a box in my garage. I figured my kids and grandkids might get a kick out of reading it all someday.
The first article I sold, at that first writer’s conference in ‘07, came from that box. I’d written it more than a dozen years earlier. So even though I wasn’t actively trying to get published during those years, I will still writing and honing my skills.
Lillie: That’s usually the case with overnight successes. They’ve been working hard for years before their sudden success. Your first published book, Morning Coffee with James, is a combination devotional and Bible study. I guess that debunks the conventional wisdom that you need to write books like those that have already been published to find a traditional publisher. Tell us about your book and what makes it different.
Renae: Well, each devotional study is set around a coffee theme. There’s the First Cup – a verse and a short commentary. Then there’s the Cream and Sugar – a thoughtful question and a prayer. Next comes the Second Cup – study through cross-reference. Finally, there’s the Last Drop – a related quote from literature or scripture. Fun coffee facts and recipes are scattered throughout the book.
But I guess what makes this study unique is that it is a verse-by-verse study; most devotionals are topical in nature, but Morning Coffee with James is expository. If you want to see what the book is all about, you can check the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com.
Lillie: How did you decide to write about James?
Renae: I’m fascinated with James’ relationship with Jesus. As His younger brother, He was too close to Jesus to see Him as special. After all, this was they guy he shared a room with, the guy he had played brotherly pranks on! It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death and resurrection that James accepted Jesus as God’s Son. He spent the remainder of his life building the church.
Lillie: I have been inspired and educated by the devotionals on your blog. You’ve done several studies since James. What other books of the Bible have you written about?
Renae: After I completed James, I wanted to keep going! The Word of God really is addictive. The more time you spend in it, the more time you want to spend. Next, I blogged through 1 – 3 John, then Ruth, Ephesians, Esther, Philippians . . . and then, with some help from some fellow bloggers, I tackled the life of Christ! That one is called Morning Coffee with Jesus. I’m currently having coffee with Jonah.
Lillie: As if being a talented devotional writer isn’t enough, you’re also a successful children’s book author.
Renae: Yes! I wrote four books for Barbour’s upcoming Camp Club Girls’ series. It’s a fun, exciting series for girls, ages 8 – 12. The first book, Mystery at Discovery Lake, will be released on January 1, 2010.
Lillie: Writing for children seems incredibly difficult to me. Did that come easy for you or did you have to learn a completely different set of skills?
Renae: Oh, it’s fun for me! I’m a public school teacher, so I work with kids all the time. I guess I’m familiar with their language, and the way they think. Having two kids at home probably helps, too.
Lillie: Tell us about your family and what they think of your writing.
Renae: My parents are as proud as peacocks! Of course, I’m blessed to have parents who have always made me feel loved and special. My husband just kind of grins. My daughter thinks it’s cool that her name is listed in the bio. As for my seven-year-old son, he’s not that impressed. I’m just “Mom” to him.
Lillie: You’re a real inspiration to aspiring writers because you were published in much less time than most. What advice would you give those trying to accomplish what you have done?
Renae: Be humble. Take advice from the pros. They really do know what they’re talking about. Attend writers’ conferences, read books about writing and publishing, join a writer’s group. Follow the advice you’re given.
And write a lot! The more you write, the better writer you will become. If it is in your heart to write, then write! God will bless your efforts. You never know who will benefit from the words God lays on your heart. It may be published, or it may stay in a box in your garage for decades, only to give a blessing to your grandchildren. Either way, wow! What a legacy.
Lillie: Where can readers learn more about you and your books?
Lillie: Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your encouraging story and your advice with readers, who probably have more questions for you. Will you check in during the day to respond to comments and answer questions?
Renae: Absolutely! Thanks so much for inviting me. I’ve been a faithful reader of your blog, if not always a faithful commenter. I feel honored to be a guest here.
Lillie: Renae is giving away an autographed copy of Morning Coffee with James to a lucky commenter. Be sure to leave a comment before the end of the week to be included in the drawing for the book.
UPDATED 12/3/09: The winner of a copy of Renae’s book is Cath Lawson. Congratulations, Cath.
Renae Brumbaugh is an author, syndicated columnist, and freelance writer, with more than two hundred articles in print. She lives in Texas, where she juggles being a mom to Charis and Foster, and teaching seventh grade Language Arts at the local junior high. Check out her latest article in November’s In Touch Magazine, or learn more about her at RenaeBrumbaugh.com.
Disclosure: I received an electronic advance reading copy of the manuscript from the author, and I will be receiving a copy of the published book. I have not accepted any compensation for my review or interview and made no commitment to give a favorable review. The links to Amazon.com are affiliate links.