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Gimme Shelter

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I had the privilege last month of conducting a telephone interview with Kathy DiFiore, founder of Several Sources Shelters, and Ronald Krauss, director/producer of Gimme Shelter (a new motion picture starring Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, and James Earl Jones). I had hoped to provide you, my faithful readers, with a transcript of the interview, but my voice recording software didn’t play nice. What follows are my recollections of the conversation.

According to Ms. DiFiore, after going through a painful divorce, and after getting her life back on track she wanted to do something to give back. So she started a shelter for teen girls with unplanned pregnancies in her own home.

That is not a typo:

Ms. DiFiore opened her home to girls who, through circumstance, and happenstance had nowhere else to go. Where they had received rejection at the hands of family and friends, they were now to be received with open arms. The movie’s tagline is: “Sometimes you have to leave home to find your family.”

And that is what Kathy provided: a home. In that home, the girls found something more: grace. They were given, despite perhaps poor life choices, hard circumstances, difficult upbringings, countless rejections, a safe environment where they could feel loved, accepted, human.

Over the course of decades, Several Sources Shelters was born. It went from one home to many. It was while visiting family back east, that Mr. Krauss first heard of Several Sources, told that he should very much check into them. As a socially conscious filmmaker, it was something that he was very much prepared to do.

After some careful investigation, Mr. Krauss was convinced that Kathy DiFiore was the “real deal,” and he would make a documentary. It was as he got to know the girls (he lived in one of the shelters for a year as he wrote the screenplay) that the idea of a documentary morphed into a narrative.

He could reach more people with this amazing story through a motion picture.

And that is what Gimme Shelter is: the story of one girl, Agnes ‘Apple’ Bailey, who stands in for all of the real girls whom Ron got to know during his time in the shelter. I’m told that Miss Hudgens, in preparing for the role, also lived in one of the shelters for several weeks, getting know the girls.

According to both interviewees, making the film was a transformative experience for them. That is indeed what the film is all about: transformation. Taking lives which have been written off, and giving them a home.

A shelter.

And hope… for now, and for the future.

I hope you will see Gimme Shelter in theaters. It opens this Friday, January 24th.

Thank-you for reading!

If you have any questions for Ms. DiFiore, you may click the following Kathy DiFiore to contact her. To find out about and/or support Several Sources, go here: Several Sources

Hope to see you at the movies!

Author Interview with Chad Gibbs

Folks, it’s my privilege today to present an interview with author Chad Gibbs. He is the author of the bestselling God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC, and the recently released Love Thy Rival: What Sports’ Greatest Rivalries Teach Us About Loving Our Enemies. (Head here if you would like a signed copy).

 

1) When did you first know that writing was something you wanted to pursue? And who supported you early on in pursuit of your calling?

I didn’t really start reading until after college. I mean I knew how to, just never did it for leisure. I think a love of reading really turned me on to writing, and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was and is my biggest supporter (figuratively, not literally).

2) You are the (regional) bestselling author of God & Football. What kind of pressure did you put on yourself to follow that book up with something as strong (and as funny)? (And what does a typical Chad Gibbs work day look like?)

No pressure really. I mean I’d love for each book to be better than the last, and each one to outsell the last, but that’s not going to happen. In the end I just want to write stuff that makes my wife laugh. Not sure if there is a typical work day. Some days I write all day, some days I drive all day to talk to a church or group, some days I watch a lot of soccer.

3) Your wife is a doctor? What’s it like having a live-in patron? Ok, just kidding! How supportive is your wife of your work? How does she help keep you grounded?

Tricia could not be more supportive. It’s obviously a blessing to be able to pursue writing full-time, and not something I could do without her. All aspiring writers should hang around medical schools to look for potential mates.

4) Your second (published–we know all writers have trunks, and in them are manuscripts mouldering far from the light of day) book, Love Thy Rival, came out recently. How did the idea for that book come about? Is there really more sports in it? ;-)

More sports I’m afraid. With the first book I looked at how fans love their teams, and in this one I wanted to look at why sometimes they hate their rivals even more. To me it seemed a natural progression, although publishers didn’t think so, which is why I self-published it.

5) As a writer, who do you like to read? What kind of work nourishes your creative soul? Along those lines, would you agree, or disagree, with the following: Worship is whatever we attempt to derive life from? In your case, what is it about sports that so nourishes you?

Oh I read all sorts of stuff. Enjoy Nick Hornby, Bill Bryson, AJ Jacobs, Malcolm Gladwell. Older stuff I enjoy is Hemingway; read Great Gatsby every year, and To Kill a Mockingbird is a favorite. I love reading about travel, and I love funny writers. Sometimes reading this stuff ‘nourishes my creative soul’, and sometimes, if it’s too good, it makes me want to give up. I’m not sure if sports nourishes me, but I enjoy the drama of it. I think that’s why I write about fans, and not really the games.

6) As intimated above, your books are funny. What pushed you in that direction? What, in your view, makes for good satire?

It’s the only way I know how to write really. I just put down my thoughts and observations, which I guess are oftentimes humorous. I get that from my mother, who sees the funny side in every situation.

7) I’m not so much a sports fan (a huge failing, I know); as such, what would I (or readers like me) get out of your books? What is there that’s applicable?

I think the two books are entertaining, even if you’re not a sports fan. Spiritually, they take a look at idolatry, something we all struggle with from time to time.

8) You’re currently engaged in a campaign to build a women and children’s clinic in Haiti. How did that come about?

After writing God & Football I started getting emails from fans who shared my struggles. I remember thinking, “great, a community of like-minded Christian sports fans. I just wish we could do something.” So I spoke to Samaritan’s Purse when wrapping up the new book and we came up with a giving campaign that would pit rival fans against each other with the goal of raising 40K to build the clinic in Haiti. We’re over 1/4 of the way there, but still have a ways to go, so if any of your readers are feeling generous you can send ‘em my way.

[Note: to learn more about the Samaritan's Purse campaign, and how you can help, please visit Chad's blog]

9) I’ve heard that you’re a rabid Star Wars fan? (I am, too). What do you like about Star Wars? Which one is the best (if you say Phantom Menace you’re never welcome back here again)?

Empire is the best film, and the best thing about Star Wars is Lando Calrissian.

10) What’s next for Chad Gibbs? I hear you’re working on a travel book for Zondervan–how’s that coming along? Any fiction in your future? Any questions you’re surprised you’re never asked that you would like to address? Speak now, or forever… Oh, never mind. ;-)

Yes, a travel book with Z that looks at Christianity around the world. Been to Brazil, Spain, England, Russia, Uganda, and Italy so far. India, Japan, The Netherlands, China, Australia, Israel and Turkey to come. No fiction for now, unless you count the parts of God & Football I made up. Oops.

About Chad Gibbs:

Chad Gibbs, former baby, is the best-selling (okay, regional best-selling) author of God & Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC and Love Thy Rival: What Sports’ Greatest Rivalries Teach us about Loving Our Enemies. He has written for The Washington Post, CNN.Com, RELEVANT, and has made multiple (okay, two) appearances on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. If you’d like to talk to Chad about his books, or about life, or about how to lose baby fat, he can be reached at emailchadgibbs@gmail.com or by raven.

Coming Up Monday

Hi! I’ve got two things to tell you today.

First: I know I haven’t been around much. Been working on a book for NaNoWriMo. It’s going well, but slowly. I don’t expect to finish by month’s end, but hope to have the first draft complete by year’s end.

I’m roughly 6,000 words in, and having a blast!

Second: author Chad Gibbs is coming by for an interview on Monday. Don’t miss it!

Peace out,

Chad

Interview with Author Rob Stennett

1) When did you first know when you wanted to be a writer?

I wrote this play called The Artist (in the late 90’s, long before the recent Best Picture Winner). I don’t even remember the exact plot, but it was something akin to four people painting all of their sins on a canvas, and then someone else came along, making those paintings beautiful. I know it sounds kind of serious and ham-fisted (which it was) but it had a lot of jokes in it.

2) Who first validated that desire in you?

The audience for that play. It got a standing ovation after it was over (it played at the youth event) and afterwards everyone talked about how great the writing was. I realized what I loved most was putting the story together.

3) What does a workday look like for Rob Stennett?

Everyday is a little different. I do a lot of writing and directing. But I always try to craft fiction in the morning. If I don’t the day quickly gets away from me.

4) What is your creative process?

Before I ever sit down to write I think about the story. Getting ready in the morning, in the car, I try to really think about the scene that day. It helps me so the writing kind of explodes out of me by the time I sit down. Normally, I’ll have somewhat of an outline–but then I’ll get this great idea and I have to change a bunch of stuff in earlier chapters. When the story is FINALLY finished I revisit all the chapters and rewrite them. Then when I feel done I send them to my editor who tells me there is a lot more rewriting to do. Sorry. This suddenly doesn’t feel very creative. [Ed. note: no, but it sounds very real]

5) You are on staff at a church, right?

Yes, New Life Church in Colorado Springs. It’s a really great group of people and I’m happy to be a part. I’m the Creative Director: I direct productions, oversee video and graphic content, and whatever else needs to be done.

6) How do you balance your multiple careers? Family Life?

That’s the hardest part. I love all of it. I guess lately the key is really to schedule my time well. I work a lot during lunch. Sometimes I put on a cup of coffee at night and work more. I don’t know if I’m a very balanced person. But I’m a happy person. I love my family and love what I do.

7) Your work includes a lot of pop culture references, social commentary, and satire. What drew you as a creative person to those avenues?

Pop culture is what I love. I grew up on Star Wars,Beastie Boys, and whatever else you see in my books; it’s something fun to talk about. Some earlier seasons of the Simpsons had these really great episodes about faith and religion but used satire to tell their stories. I always thought “That’s something I want to do.” I want to write about faith, but put a satirical slant on it.

8) Your first novel is The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher. Can you tell us where the genesis of the idea behind that book originated?

When I was living in LA my wife and I went around looking for churches. I guess that’s when I realized what a strange place church was. I’d grown up in it, I knew how it worked, I knew all of the code words, but I still found it strange. I thought what would someone who never went to church before think of this place. What if he had to go for some reason? Or what if some guy who had no idea how a church worked tried to start one of his own? It was an entertaining thought. Felt like it would make a good story.

9) Who are some writers you admire, and why?

I love Tim O’Brien because I want to be able to write like him. The way he crafts paragraphs is a thing of beauty.

Kurt Vonnegut was one of the author’s that changed how I viewed writing. He was so funny and human and simple when I first read his books I thought, I didn’t know you could do that.

Stephen King creates these really simple everyman characters and puts them in just amazing situations. When people talk about getting Lost In a Book his stories are the first that come to mind.

Anne Lamott because she talks about faith in a way that makes it feel fresh and real again.

There are so many more, but that’s all I’m going to give you for now.

10) Can you tell us about your weekly podcast, 9 Thumbs?

It’s one of the highlights of my week. It’s three guys (unless there is a girl) talking about three things that we like. It’s fun to learn about new blogs, books, bands (among other things), and just talk about why we admire them. Internet culture can also be such a cynical place that’s it’s fun to just heap praise on things.

11) Any questions you’re never asked that you’d like to address?

Normally yes, but these questions were so good I have nothing to add. Thanks for having me.

Thanks, Rob, for coming by! Appreciate you taking the time!

Do you have any questions for Rob? Ask away!

Folks, you can find Rob on the Internet on his (infrequently updated) website: Rob Stennett, follow him on Twitter @robstennett, see his Amazon page here, and catch up with his podcast at 9Thumbs. By the way, Rob recently published a short story, entitled Chicken, about certain events pertaining to a certain chicken chain which occurred on certain day this past summer. Whew! That was mouthful. You can pick Chicken up here for $.99.

Update! Comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Rob’s first novel, The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher.

Interview with Author Clay Morgan

UNDEAD Trailer from Clay Morgan on Vimeo.

1) When did you know that you were interested in writing, and was there anyone that stands out in your memory who encouraged you to pursue it?

I was a late bloomer, always a decent writer but never passionate about it until college which is probably when I first realized how therapeutic writing was for me. My great teacher Ron Forsythe changed everything though during the college years. He was brilliant and taught me technique with a lot of passion mixed in.

2) You recently published your first book, Undead: Revived, Resuscitate, Reborn. What was the genesis of the idea behind the book?

I wasn’t even thinking about writing a book. Then one night I was debating whether or not I should read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith or another book about Jesus by Max Lucado. Then it occurred to me that dead people did come back to life in the Bible. I was surprised to learn that there were six such individuals. I was off and running from there.

3) Who would you count as your creative influences? Who do you like to read?

I wish I could say that I read C.S. Lewis as a young man and then moved onto some of the classics. Instead I started with Garfield and moved onto Dave Barry. I listen to a LOT of audio books. I’m a fan of memoirs, biographies, and more. Stephen King’s often been in front of me and recently I’ve enjoyed Matt Mikalatos, especially Imaginary Jesus.

3) You’re a teacher at several colleges in the Pittsburgh area, maintain a successful blog, and now have a book out–how do you balance it all? How did you maintain the pace? How did the daily obligations impact your “creative time?” Is sleep overrated?

Man, as I answer this I don’t feel like I’m handling it well! I left my old blog to shrivel while finishing the book. The pace wasn’t sustainable but it didn’t have to be. I made it to the finish line then rebooted this summer. Although now that I’m in the post-release reality I’m wondering why I didn’t write a second book in recent months.

I need sleep though, that’s for sure. I’m the worst at mornings ever. I’ve never been a writer who has my best creativity early in the day. That’s my stupid time. I’m lucky if I can handle emailing and driving, although not at the same time. My brain ignites at night, and much of my best stuff comes after normal people go to bed.

4) In reading your blog, I see that you’re very into pop culture and history. What, in your mind, is the intersection of the two? What is it about pop culture that you love? Who are some of your favorite historical influences? Pop culture influences?

The culture of one era becomes historical record. Shakespeare was Hollywood a few centuries ago. Now he’s studied by academics. Current pop culture is a window to who we are in part and will, believe it or not, become part of our historical record. God help us when archaeologists sift through our ashes and make determinations about us based on Jersey Shore. But they will.

I’m a product of Gen X and always loved TV shows, movies, and video games over books while growing up. I can’t do a math problem to save my life but I can quote fictional characters of the screen from the past three decades. Go figure. When I need to give or take advice, movie plots and song lyrics resonate with me. I’m just wired that way.

As for historical influences, I like guys like Alexander Hamilton and Abe Lincoln. Too many to count really. And I love the world that the Bible was set in. Too many churches miss the rich settings and characters in exchange for dull discussions on theological systems and word studies.

5) In Undead, you reference the current pop culture craze with zombies and tie it into the search for a meaningful life. What is it about such stories that speak to the deeper places in us?

Whether we admit it or not we are preoccupied with death, at least inasmuch as that’s the doorway to eternity. Solomon said that eternity has been set in our hearts by God. We’re obsessed with what happens beyond the grave. Humans have always been that way. So when we see the living dead we can actually relate to them in a strange way. Sure their flesh is decaying and they want to eat brains all the time, but they do that while still wearing Dockers and curlers. It reminds us how close we are to the other side you know? And since we’re compelled by beings that can’t be stopped by death, what then do we make of Jesus of Nazareth and the claims made by his followers?

6) You are a Christian. What can Christians specifically learn from scary stories? Would you generally agree with the following statement: most horror stories are morality tales, crucibles that expose to us what’s in our hearts, i.e. “what if” scenarios that ask us, through identifying the characters, what we would do in similar situations? A sort of “What Would You Do?” with not John Quinones, but Stephen King?

Christian Director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) opened my eyes in this regard when he said that the horror genre is perfect for Christianity. With such an emphasis on the supernatural why don’t we appreciate that realm in pop culture? Sure, horror movies might have gratuitous sex or violence but they don’t always have to. And as Derrickson pointed out, Christians admire someone like C. S. Lewis who wrote The Screwtape Letters which is a conversation between demons!

Think of all the people who grew up without any church affiliation or religious encounters. Where have they been exposed to ideas of the supernatural? In cinemas and on TV and through novels is where. We can complain about how evil all that stuff is or we can get in there to offer some thoughtful perspectives. I’ve had a number of meaningful conversations about God with people because of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Many of those folks I chat with aren’t interested in American churches, so culture creates opportunities to connect with people where they are.

7) Are there any questions you’re surprised that you think folks would ask, but don’t?

I never know what interviewers will bring up first. I’ve gone into most of those with no expectations on what might be the favored topic, so I haven’t been too surprised yet. Although I am still waiting for someone to ask me how they should go about supplying their nationwide network of college students with copies of Undead. Kidding. Sort of.

8) What’s in store for Clay Morgan in the future? Will you turn your hand to fiction? Are you working on another book now? If so, can you share anything about it?

Interesting you ask that. I’ve got two projects underway, one only in development. And yup, one of them is fiction which is more terrifying than a zombie squirrel. We’ll see if I can pull it off. But no, unfortunately it’s all top secret at this point.

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