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An Interview with Mary Harwell Sayler

21 Oct

My Take

DiVoran Lites

Mary Sayler at FL BeachI met Mary Harwell Sayler at a writer’s conference where she was the teacher and I was the student. Mary didn’t have a watch and couldn’t tell when it was time to end the lesson. She is an excellent writer and teacher and we all wanted to hear as much as we could, so we didn’t care If she didn’t end on time.

Mary was staying at the conference center of the church I attended, but it wasn’t easy for her to get away, so the next day I took an inexpensive watch and gave it to her. She received it graciously and from there we became not only student and teacher, but the best of friends.

I took her poetry writing course and she helped with my first novel. I drove to her hometown once a month and we learned about each other’s families. Mary was endlessly creative and constantly encouraging of my efforts to learn how to write poetry. She has never stopped being a role-model for me and a supporter. Check out her links, get to know her. You will be glad Mary Harwell Sayler has come into your life.

     Mary, your newest book is Christian Writer’s Guide. Can you tell us how this book is different from other writer’s guides that are available?

Great writing book

Click to view on Amazon

Definitely! The most noticeable difference occurs in the opening pages of the e-book, which begins with prayer, discusses the importance of a biblical foundation for writing in any genre or readership, then helps Christian writers discern a gift or calling in the writing ministry. Also, such sections as “Listen for The Voice in your voice” address God’s leading. Since I wanted to offer as much practical information as possible and keep the price low, the last part of the e-book includes an extensive Glossary to help writers learn the unique terminology and techniques associated with writing.

     You have written many books, you are a teacher of writing poetry, you have written novels, and you write reference books. Would you tell us if any of these would stand out as a favorite subject and the reason for it?

As a child, I began to read the Bible regularly and write poems, so those “first loves” have not changed. Instead of getting a regular job, I earned a small income by instructing through critiques and correspondence courses on various aspects of writing, and frankly, I learned a lot from my students! In recent years, I heavily researched and wrote a couple of life-health Living in the The Nature poemencyclopedias because I needed to know more about those particular subjects for my own health. That work also put a new roof on our 100+-year-old house! My biggest thrill as a writer, however, came when I placed my first book of poetry, Living in the Nature Poem, with an environmental publisher. Those poems take a realistic, rather than a romantic, approach to nature but hopefully help readers to see the intricacies of creation and the loving God who created such a spectacular variety.

     Have you always wanted to be a writer, or did it come to you in a sudden revelation?


From about junior high school on, I thought I’d be a writer, librarian, or artist. When I took my first art course in college though, the instructor graded us on a curve with the only top grades going to students who had studied art and worked as commercial artists. Getting a C in the class upset and mystified me, ending any thoughts of an art career.

     What kind of books do you like to read?
Since I have little time to read, I focus on my all-time favorites: The Bible in almost any English translation, countless volumes of poetry, and award-winning books for children.

     Did you have a mentor or someone who inspired you when you first began to write?

My parents encouraged each of my siblings and me in the creative arts. Teachers encouraged me too, and I’m especially blessed to have a supportive husband who believes in me.

   How did you break into publishing.

I began freelancing as a stay-at-home mom during my children’s naptimes then school hours. After placing articles with parenting magazines our church distributed, I wrote to the denominational headquarters to ask about writing poems and stories for children’s take-home papers. Later I wrote curriculum and Bible stories on assignment for denominational and nondenominational publishers. Since the kids and I often visited our local library, I got to know the kinds of stories children like to read, so I wrote a few children’s books and inspirational romance novels. The second year I taught at a Christian writers’ conference, one of the editors and I enjoyed chatting over lunch, and not long after that, she called to ask if I’d think about writing a series of devotional books. I said I’d pray about it, and immediately the idea came for a 7-book series of devotionals. Some time after this, our pastor asked my husband and me to plan an in-house church retreat, and from that came the book What A Body! on developing ministry gifts. Later, a writer-friend asked if I’d ever consider writing encyclopedias – right at a time I needed to know more about the skeletal system in order to make informed decisions about my own spinal woes! I researched enough information to put together a book proposal and received a contract shortly thereafter. Since that book did well, other health-related writing opportunities arose.

     What writing projects do you plan to work on next?

I’d love to do almost anything related to the Bible. For example, I recently realized I have enough “Bible people” poems for a book. Also, I’ve been researching and talking about favorite topics, such as prayer, for years, so I finally began putting together book proposals for those.

     Tell us about your Facebook group Christian Poets & Writers.

Most of my life, I’ve lived in small towns and now in rural Florida where few opportunities exist for me to get together with other Christians who write. I’ve pretty much had to learn the hard way what works and what doesn’t in writing, which can make a lonely job even lonelier! With the advent of social networking, however, all that changed. I joined various online communities for Christians and/or for writers, but Christian poets consistently got left out! Since I wanted to encourage Christians in all kinds of writing ministries, a group on Facebook seemed like an ideal way to do this and offer tips occasionally too. Poets and writers from almost every denomination have now joined us from all over the world, so we’ve become a highly eclectic and ecumenical group, who can learn much from one another. With my own ecumenical background and strong conviction that we, as the church, can make a huge difference in the world, I especially want to encourage other Christians to use their ministry gifts to up-build the Body of Christ.

     Sounds like a lot of work! What’s your favorite way to relax?

With woods, water, and wildlife all around us, I like to meander down the unpaved road in front of our house or take a bike ride or just sit on the deck and do nothing except try to remember the names of birds flitting between the evergreens or tiptoeing by the cattails along the margins of our little lake.

     Is there a scripture verse that has special meaning for you?

My personal favorite since childhood has been David’s prayer in Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

I also like to use Bible verses as themes for novels, and Romans 8:28 is the one I’ve used most often: “For we know all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

     Mary, I have thoroughly enjoyed this interview and the opportunity to share your talents and wisdom with everyone. Where may our readers find out more about you, your editing services and purchase your books?
I have a website – Mary Sayler.com and Amazon provides an Author Page for anyone who has books or e-books listed on their site –  . Also, Poets & Writers magazine hosts a website with an online Directory of Poets whose work has been traditionally published. P&W offers this for published writers, too, but if I understood correctly, you have to choose one, so my bio and poetry credits went into the poet’s directory –

 Thank you to Mary for agreeing to this interview. She has a detailed bio page on Poets & Writers. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and of course  Facebook where she moderates the popular and helpful page, Christian Poets and Writers.

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4 Responses to “An Interview with Mary Harwell Sayler”

  1. Joan Zugelder October 21, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    I LIKE HER IDEA OF RELAXING AND GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL. SAME AS MINE! J

    Like

  2. DiVoran Lites October 21, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    There’s our Mary right there on Oldthingsrnew. I never get tired of reading her work or reading about her,

    Like

  3. Bob Nailor October 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    A wise woman indeed. You are lucky to be friends with ehr. Nice post.

    Like

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  1. New books | Cool lady blog - February 7, 2014

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