From Blogs to Books
This year alone, 10 of the 25 Her.meneutics writers are releasing books. And that is impressive.
Her.meneutics is called CT's women's blog, but that doesn't restrict the topics—or audience. "I've heard over and over again from publishers and from those in the Christian media that mostly women read and buy books. I've also heard that evangelical men in general don't read women writers," says contributor Marlena Graves. "However, it seems that Her.meneutics is an exception to that evangelical rule. And from the feedback I've received, so is my book. For that I am deeply grateful. My audience is both women and men."
Contributor Jen Michel praised Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Katelyn Beaty (who wrote the foreword to her book, Teach Us to Want) for starting Her.meneutics in the first place. "They've given women a place to write something that's substantive and theological," says Michel. Although there are other places where this is possible, "there's so many Her.meneutics writers who have written books. What does that mean? It means that we've been able to develop skills and a readership for our books at Her.meneutics."
The women work to craft their arguments and ideas; besides trying to garner the respect and attention from readers, they need to make sure their writing can withstand the scrutiny of the editors and their fellow writers.
"Writing for Her.meneutics is hard!" says Graves. "They are the most exacting editors I've had. And that is a compliment. I think it's what makes Her.meneutics such a quality site. The editors don't let us get away with sloppy thinking or sloppy writing."
Contributor Jennifer Grant agrees. "I know I'm not alone among those of us who write for Her.mi when I say I spend much more time researching and crafting a post than I do for other blogs/websites for which I write."
But it's worth it. "Writing about challenging issues for Her.meneutics gave me new boldness to write about some hard stuff with an added measure of courage in my book," says contributor Michelle Van Loon. "The excellent editing I've received from Katelyn Beaty and Kate Shellnutt has been a gift to me as a writer as well. Their feedback has become a part of my own internal 'editor' as I refine my work."
And the editors are impressed with the writers. "The regular Her.meneutics writers really set the tone for the site, and they're the ones who come up with new topics and new angles for us to cover each week," says Shellnutt, editor of Her.meneutics. "They are strong writers and strong thinkers, all eager to grow as writers and as Christians through their work. They have pushed me as an editor and as a believer, and I am grateful for each of them."
Regular Her.meneutics contributors belong to a private Facebook group where they can discuss ideas and offer feedback, but it works in other ways as well. As contributor Amy Julia Becker says, "The group has also become a place to share 'blessings and woes' from our personal lives."
Graves's husband refers to it as her "virtual small group." She communicates with most of the writers on a daily basis. "They're like family, like my sisters. They know me really well," she says. "One of the things I most appreciate about the community is that we love each other deeply even if we disagree on certain political and theological issues."
In addition to sharing ideas and feedback on writing for Her.meneutics, the contributors assist each other by promoting and endorsing others' work. Grant features several Her.meneutics writers in Disquiet Time, one of her two new books.
The Her.meneutics community also helped with various titles. Graves and Becker had fellow writers read early drafts of their books. The acknowledgements page of Van Loon's book, If Only: Letting Go Of Regret, notes: "My fellow contributors at Christianity Today's Her.meneutics blog … offered me cheerleading, prayer, and a few 'ah ha!' moments. Each of these women has encouraged me by example to reach beyond what is comfortable in my reading and thinking. They've been used by God to shape my soul as well as my words."
With so many of the Her.meneutics contributors writing books, it seemed like perhaps the site would suffer. But that was far from the case. Guest writers are always welcome, and regular writers took time to work on their projects as needed. Grant, for instance, did not undertake as many posts for Her.meneutics while writing her two books. "But I was able to jump in from time to time and respond to items in the news that concerned or affected me. And I was supported by my fellow Her.mi writers during that time."
"It's a blessing and a curse to try to blog and write books simultaneously," says Becker. "Blogging keeps my writing fresh and immediate, and it keeps readers aware of me as a writer. But it can also lead to me forgetting how to write full chapters! I try to prioritize the book writing and let the blogging come after whatever book writing goal I have set for the week has been accomplished."
Whether through blogs or books, the women of Her.meneutics have offered much to the kingdom. "I am hoping that readers will find that If Only sparks new conversations in the church—and beyond—about a topic we don't always know how to talk about," says Van Loon. "And isn't that, in a smaller way, what happens at Her.meneutics each day?"
Here is the list of books, listed by author:
Amy Julia Becker Small Talk: Learning from My Children about What Matters Most (Zondervan)
Jennifer Grant Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels (Hachette/Jericho Books)
Jennifer Grant Wholehearted Living: Five-Minutes Reflections for Modern Moms (Loyola Press)
Marlena Graves A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness (Brazos Press)
Jen Michel Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith (InterVarsity Press)
Karen Swallow Prior Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson)
Caryn Rivadeneira Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed about God's Abundance (InterVarsity Press)
Halee Gray Scott Dare Mighty Things: Mapping the Challenges of Leadership for Christian Women (Zondervan)
Amy Simpson Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry (InterVarsity Press)
Rachel Marie Stone The Unexpected Way (Peace Hill Press)
Michelle Van Loon If Only: Letting Go of Regret (Beacon Hill Press)
Elissa Cooper is assistant editor of Christianity Today magazine.