Ann Voskamp is the author of the blockbuster bestseller, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. I caught up with Ann recently to talk with her about her book and how she became an author.
You’ll notice that Ann was a blogger long before she got a book publishing deal and became a bestselling author. She is one of many who share that same narrative. If you’re someone who wishes to begin a blog, I recommend BlueHost to get your started. You can choose your domain name from them and they will even set you up with WordPress for an incredibly low price. To find a domain name for your blog, click here and then click the “Sign Up Now” button when you get on the page. Click here to begin a new WordPress blog on BlueHost. I’ll give step-by-step instructions in my post on Friday. So stay tuned. But you can try it now using that link. As you will see, Ann’s story is so inspiring that I wanted to put legs on it for my readers.
Here’s my interview with Ann Voskamp. If you enjoy it, share it via the share buttons below.
Frank Viola: Ann, it’s incredibly difficult to get published these days by a bona-fide publisher. So tell us the story of how Zondervan chose to publish your book, One Thousand Gifts. How did they “discover” you, so to speak?
Ann Voskamp: I think God calls us to small things, to faithfulness right where we are, to just do the next thing. I was simply writing out our family stories in my online journal, scratching out what I want to remember, what I was wrestling out with God. Unbeknownst to me, two readers of the posts, both published authors, contacted their agent, Bill Jensen, within 24 hours of each other, encouraging him to drop me a line. Which he did. He shared his extensive publishing background with me, and prayerfully offered to work out a proposal and to see if God opened any publishing doors? I never get over the unexpected ways of God.
Frank Viola: How long did it take you to write the book and what were the biggest challenges or struggles during the writing process?
Ann Voskamp: The book took just over a year to write, on the fringe hours, early and late, around home educating 6 kids and farming and blogging. And I wonder if the greatest challenges was to keep pressing into it when I had never been here before. I felt like Abraham — being called to something that he didn’t know how to get to. Writing is this act of faith — a bit like driving in the fog: you can hardly see just in front of you. But you trust God’s leading you and you just write into the space you can see ahead of you.
Frank Viola: The book hit the New York Times Bestseller List, which is amazing in itself. But it’s even more amazing in that this was your first book by a major Christian publisher. Aside from word of mouth, what other factors do you attribute to the book hitting the bestseller list? For instance, did a major news outlet pick it up? Did you have a media appearance that made the sales spike, etc.?
Ann Voskamp: Really, I think it was simply word of mouth that made it a New York Timesbestseller for more than 60 weeks, over a year. People being moved and changed and transformed by the book and wanting to share that with hurting people all around them. And then, a year after One Thousand Gifts had released, Kathie Lee Gifford of the Today Show, named it one of her favorite things – the gift that will radically change your life. She shared the title with PEOPLE magazine as one of favorite books — quite astonishing for an evangelical Christian book. And then Kathie Lee invited me to come to New York for lunch with her — and surprised with an unexpected shout out again for One Thousand Gifts on the show and graciously asked a few questions on camera. Indebted to her and the people who read and looked for Jesus in the pages and shared the hope and joy of Him — right where they are.
Frank Viola: Tell us the history of your blog. When did you begin it, who are you mainly writing to/for, and what sort of things did/do you write about?
Ann Voskamp: I started blogging in 2004, light years ago on the Web. And I began because I have this handicap — I can’t figure out my life or see God clearly unless I untangle my life again with words. So my blog wasn’t about “platform” but really, it was everything you are not “supposed” to do in blogging. I didn’t (and still don’t) have comments. It’s about simply writing for an audience of One. Of asking nothing of the reader — but offering a still, quiet oasis in the cybersphere to go vertical with God. An island of stillness to know that He is God.
The blog is meant to be a bit of a side chapel — a place to slip into and still and encounter the glory of God — and come away again with a fresh sense that your life, right where you are, is a holy experience — that God dwells with you and in you, and where you are is holy ground, worthy of reverence and celebration and wonder. That little burning bush that is the signature of the blog — it echoes Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
I pray it is this gentle, astonishing waking up place?
Frank Viola: What’s the greatest compliment you’ve received on the book?
Ann Voskamp: The greatest compliment of the book? Maybe the Muslim man in Iraq who was given the book and came to a saving knowledge of Jesus, wanted to live his life in thanks to God? Maybe the woman who was handed the book by a friend the morning before she had an abortion scheduled — and read the book and realized that this pregnancy that she didn’t want — perhaps it too could be a gift from God? And then she said showed me the photo of this laughing 5 month old boy. Maybe the man who said that his doctor had pulled him off Prozac because One Thousand Gifts and taking the dare to write 1,000 gifts was healing deep places in him and leading him to *experience* joy.
Because really, the greatest compliments about a book are never about the book, or the author of the book, but about the reader and God and how the pages helped them connect at a deeper level. It’s the greatest compliment when the writer becomes invisible in the whole process.