Good morning, dear reader. Welcome to another edition of Women of Faith and Fiction with Dee Dee Chumley. Former high school English teacher and tennis coach, Dee Dee is the author of Some Form of Grace. Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway!
Good morning, Dee Dee. Tell us a little about yourself.
Originally a Texas girl, my husband and I moved to Oklahoma in 1978, so I feel I now qualify as a “jen-u-wine” Okie, a status I’m proud of. I taught high school English for twenty-three years and coached girls tennis for eleven of those. I spend a lot of my time these days traveling back and forth across the country to visit family. My mother lives with my sister and her husband on the Oregon coast, and my daughter and her family live in Nashville. Why they couldn’t have found more centralized locations, I don’t know, but at least they live in places that are fun to visit. And visiting Nashville is even more fun now that I have two adorable grandsons there!
Where did you get the idea for your latest WIP or your current release? And what inspired you to choose the setting of your story?
Through my church, I volunteer with a prisoner re-entry ministry, which is part of the Criminal Justice and Mercies Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Among other ways, this ministry helps recently released prisoners assimilate back into society by offering a rent-free apartment until they can gain financial stability. The apartment complex in Oklahoma City is called Exodus House, and a few years ago, our church agreed to update, maintain, and furnish two apartments there. When I retired, I became involved in this program and started learning some amazing and inspiring stories from the people whose lives have been transformed through their faith and their stay at Exodus House. These stories provided the seed for a book, but not until my minister began a series of sermons on the concept of grace did the idea for the plot, theme, and title fully develop. As to the setting, I used the actual location, although I changed the name of the complex to Transformation Place and changed other names and altered stories in order to protect people’s privacy.
Thank you for sharing that, Dee Dee. It sounds like an amazing ministry. Tell me, what is your favorite thing to do when not writing.
When I’m not writing or traveling, I stay busy reading, exercising, and volunteering at church. A friend of mine recently described retirement as “funemployment,” and I totally agree!
I like that definition. Okay, here’s a fun idea. Share a writing quirk—a ‘must have’ or a ‘must do’ to get words down on paper.
My writing group, the Inklings, provide 90% of the motivation and discipline for my writing. We gather once a month, and I always try very hard to have something, even it’s just the beginning of a poem or a blog post. Often, those little pieces go on to be something bigger like a contest entry, a magazine submission … or a novel! I’ve heard pros and cons on being a part of a writing group, but I can say positively that without the amazing Inklings, I would’ve never pursued writing as long or passionately as I have.
I agree with you. I don’t know what I’d do without my critique group. They are an amazing group!
This year’s theme is First Things First. Setting our priorities is a must if we’re to be about our Father’s business. What advice would you offer someone struggling to spend time with Him? And, how has spending time with Him changed your life?
This is an excellent theme, and it’s something I need to be reminded of. In Some Form of Grace, the protagonist Gracene longs for the peace that can come from a relationship with God but feels she will never be worthy because of a dark secret in her past. A friend advises her to “… start with baby steps. Take a few minutes each day to read some scripture or maybe a devotional.” I think this is also good advice for Christians who struggle to prioritize their time with God. I’ve found two ways to help me with this. One is that as soon as I open my eyes, I express thanks—for a good night’s sleep, for a warm bed, for another day of life …. The other is that I subscribe to an online devotional site. Most days, it’s one of the first emails I receive on my phone, and I read it either before I get out of bed or shortly thereafter. It always includes a Bible passage, an insight from the author, and a prayer. So many times I’ve been amazed that the devotional for the day was the exact thing I needed to hear! After spending time—sometimes just a brief time—with God, I never fail to experience peace and assurance.
I think that’s perfect advice, Dee Dee. Thank you for joining us today on Women of Faith and Fiction!
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Some Form of Grace
Angry loner Gracene has just stepped out of the prison gates and already she’s pulling another con job: She’s moving to Transformation Place. The apartment complex offers free rent and a re-entry program for ex-offenders. But there’s a catch. The apartments and the program are for Christians, something Gracene knows she can never be. A dark secret has convinced her she is beyond forgiveness.
Faking her faith works for a while. She finds a good job with an understanding boss, and for the first time in her twenty-eight years, she has true friends. Even romance seems a possibility. At long last her life is headed in the right direction. But when a creeper from the past slithers back into her life, can Gracene’s pretend faith save her from a U-turn?
Dee Dee Chumley has received numerous awards for her short stories, essays, and poems, and in 2012 her debut novel Beyond the Farthest Star won Best Juvenile Book from the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling across the US with her husband Bill to visit friends and family, volunteering at her church, or relaxing on her front porch in Oklahoma. She is a member of OWFI and ACFW. Please connect with her at www.deedeechumley.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/deedeechumley, or on Twitter @dee_chumley.