It is my privilege to introduce to you Mary Pierce. As a book reviewer I have had the chance to read many great books by excellent authors and if you asked who my favorite is, it would be tough choosing just one. However Mary’s name would be at or near the top of the list, partly because she was a favorite long before I started reviewing books but primarily because she is a fantastic writer.
Mary Pierce and I go way back, though she did not know that until recently. The humor in her books helped me survive my boys infant and toddler stages. Her honest approach to living a Christian life was a breath of fresh air, but most of all she taught me to laugh when things seemed to be falling down all around me.
Most days you will find her writing buried under mounds of Dove Dark Chocolate and frozen Sweet Freedom Fudge Bars, but I am so thankful the “laugh lady” has joined us here this month.
I am so excited to have you here on CWO, please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I’m honored to be here! When I introduce myself at a speaking event, I list all the things I’ve been and done. “Wife, mother, daughter, sister, grandmother… waitress, teacher, stockbroker… corporate trainer, radio host, caregiver…” It’s a long, long list (and I end it by saying, “I obviously can’t hold a job!”). Of course, everyone in the audience has a similar list. We have so much in common—the roles, the relationships and the struggles.
But the most important thing about me is that I am a woman in love—madly!—with Jesus. (And it’s the passion of my heart for others to know that Jesus loves them too!)
I grew up in the inner city of Minneapolis, MN, in a non-Christian home. (My father was an atheist and an alcoholic and my mother an agnostic. Atheist, Alcoholic, Agnostic… hmm, you could say I was raised by AAA.) I married my high school sweetheart during college. That ended sadly after thirteen years and three children. Then God, in His mercy, brought me the love of my life, my husband Terry, 24 years ago. We share a blended family of six adult children and seven grandchildren. We take care of my mom who is 94 and has dementia. She lives with us and our dog Izzy, the Fox Terrorist, in the woods of Wisconsin.
The titles for your three books, “When Did I Stop Being Barbie and Become Mrs. Potato Head?” “Confessions of a Prayer Wimp,” and your latest book is “When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister?” are interesting and fun. How do you come up with these great titles?
The first book title, (Barbie/Potato Head) was inspired as I watched a woman on a TV talk show lamenting the fact that she was, as she put it, “losing her looks.” She was 30 years old! Good grief, I thought. Where does this pressure come from? This beautiful girl felt like she was becoming unattractive! Then I realized that she was having that moment I think we all have, when we look in the mirror and think, Gosh, I’m getting older… Maybe it’s the “crow’s feet,” or the “laugh lines” or the “middle-age spread.” Something causes us to realize that time is marching on—and it’s marching on our face! We’re looking like our mothers. It hits some of us when we’re trying on swimsuits. We look in the mirror and realize we no longer relate (if we ever really did) to the image of Barbie. We relate to Mrs. Potato Head instead. The good news: God loves us anyway, just the way we are—cellulite and all!
The title for my second book (Prayer Wimp) came to me as I listened to Focus on the Family on the radio one morning. Dr. Dobson referred to a woman as “a real prayer warrior.” I thought, I am so not that. I’m the opposite of a prayer warrior. I’m a prayer WIMP! The thought became an article, which ran in Focus on the Family magazine, and then later it became the title of the book. In the process of writing the book, I came to see that prayer isn’t really so much about who we are (wimp or warrior) but about who God is. He is the “Omni” God – omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent – ready, able and WILLING to hear and answer our prayers, however feebly we might pray them. God is able to take us from whatever mess we’re in (even if we’re raised by “AAA”), transform our hearts and make something wonderful of our lives.
The third book title (Twister) was actually suggested by the marketing team at Zondervan. The game of Twister is just the perfect metaphor for the way life gets sometimes. We DO feel like somebody else is “calling the shots” (“Left foot red! Right hand blue!”) in life. We are trying to do our best, but are getting ourselves more and more twisted up and it’s all we can do to remain upright. But again, God is faithful to hold us up, comfort us and provide everything we need for this game we call life.
I loved reading the story behind each title!
You have held various positions throughout your life; what led you to decide to become an author?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the way words could be put together to enchant or inspire or touch me as a reader. I remember being read to before I even started school and that feeling of rapture as the words and pictures drew me into the story. (The first book I remember owning was a Christmas gift from my grandfather. Imagine a gruff grandfather giving a six-year-old a book about a poodle called Foo Foo Goes to Paris. Books have the power to bridge generation gaps.)
In grade school, I started writing poems and my own version of a Nancy Drew mystery. During a class social studies program in 4th grade, I read my poems (about rocks and Eskimos- well, you can just imagine) and the parents in the audience applauded. I’m sure it was polite applause, but something clicked. Writing was a way for this self-conscious, insecure child to connect. The writing provided a buffer of protection; I wasn’t so afraid when I could prepare ahead of time and know what I wanted to say.
Of course, “everybody knows” you can’t make a living as a writer, so I wrote for my own pleasure – journaling, poetry, letters—and got “real jobs.” I became a teacher and then got into financial services. God rekindled the writing spark when I was a forty years old (it’s never too late) and working as stockbroker. My husband was completing twenty years in the Air Force in California and we were planning to return to the Midwest. I felt the Lord saying that it was time to write and I told Him, “Okay, then I want to be a writer in the woods in Wisconsin.” And since 1990, that’s just where I’ve been.
It’s such a privilege when God uses my writing to touch someone – through the laughter or tears – and draw the reader closer to Himself.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?
When I moved to the woods and became a Real Writer, I thought success would immediately be mine. I thought editors and publishers would be clamoring for my next bits of wit and wisdom. NOT! It took a few years before anything was accepted for publication, and the pay was zero! It took twelve years for my first book deal. Yes, I’m a twelve-year overnight success. (Of course, it may happen much faster for someone more on the ball than I am!)
My advice? Every writer needs five things: (1) A library card and the Dewey section 808 in the library, where you’ll find books galore about writing. (2) A writer-friend who is farther along the writing path than you are, so you can learn from them. (3) A writer friend who is where you are on the path, so you can encourage one another. (4) A writer who is less experienced than you are, so you can start right away to “give back” what God is giving to you. (5) The willingness to give up something (time, money, energy that goes elsewhere now) to make time for writing and studying the craft.
Then, set a schedule and write, write, write. (One of my favorite quotes: “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.”) It’s in the process of actually writing that we learn how. And you will succeed—if you just don’t quit!
I love this advice, I can see this being applied to many areas of life!
When you are not writing you are also a motivational speaker. What type of groups typically have asked you to speak?
I’ve been speaking professionally since 1996 (which in itself is a miracle for this shy girl!). My speaking is about evenly divided between church events– women’s ministry events and retreats – and community and corporate audiences. Whether I’m speaking at a women’s health and wellness event, an employee event, or a church women’s gathering, my message is essentially the same—to enjoy life by reducing stress, embracing change, finding forgiveness and laughing at every opportunity. (I find that God makes His presence known, even when I can’t mention Him by name!)
Each of your books are filled with humor and have me laughing out loud, but not all the humor comes from good times in your life. Can you share how you found humor during your darkest days?
“A joyful heart is good medicine,” says Proverbs 17:22. Certainly there is much in life that is “no laughing matter.” We all have hard times and difficult challenges. Sometimes we can find moments of laughter in the middle of those things – usually laughing at the absurdity of it all. More often the laughter comes later, when we look back. But I figure, if I can say “A year from now I’ll laugh about this…why wait?”
My mother has always had a wonderful sense of humor. She’s survived one Great Depression, two World Wars and three husbands. (When someone comments, “Three husbands?” she says, “Well, I didn’t KILL any of them!”) She’s taught me, by her example, to look on the bright side, keep on laughing, and trust that tomorrow will be a better day. And when she gave her heart to Jesus at the age of 85, after all those years as an agnostic, she taught me the most important lesson of all: it’s NEVER too late to change your mind about God. She looked for 85 years in this world to fill the empty space in her heart (the one that only God can fill) and never found anything to fill it. Until she found Jesus. Her pastor asked her, after leading her to receive Christ, “How do you feel?” She said, “Like I never belonged before…and now I do.” What joy!
The bottom line is that we can find something to laugh about in just about any situation. But we can have JOY always, no matter what, in the certainty that our “Omni God” loves us and cares about everything in our lives.
This is something your books have taught me. Humor is the best medicine of all.
In your book “When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister?” you share your experiences being a caregiver to your Mother. What is the hardest thing about being a caregiver?
Becoming a caregiver is a difficult transition, for the care recipient and for the caregiver. I was surprised at how much the process of adjustment is a “grieving” process. The shock, denial, bargaining and anger all come before acceptance.
The “long goodbye” of dementia is truly that. The person you’ve known and loved is very slowly changing into a stranger. That’s very hard – losing the relationship you’ve had with your parent (or spouse). It’s a role reversal in many ways.
Being a caregiver is teaching me to be open to the blessings. God offers daily gifts in this season on our lives, if I will just open myself to receive them. My mother is still teaching me—teaching me to slow down, to appreciate every precious moment of life, to laugh, to accept what can’t be changed, and to accept the love and care of others with grace and humility.
One of the hardest things, which many women especially can relate to, is learning how to take care of myself. Caregivers need to be deliberate about “self care.” I try to make sure I have the rest, respite and resources I need to offer my mom the kind of care she deserves. And it’s always a privilege when I can speak at a caregiver event and encourage others to do the same.
Are there any projects in the works that you can tell us about?
My website is an ongoing project with the weekly blog updates and we have video and audio podcasts and CDs in the works. And I’m working with my agent on a couple of future book projects. I’m looking forward to offering my readers more inspiration, more laughter and more encouragement to draw closer to God.
Thank you so much for visiting us, is there any special bible verse the Lord has laid on your heart lately?
Thanks for inviting me! Two verses come to mind that bring me joy. The first is Hebrews 13:5, which says in part, “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you’.” The other is Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Wherever we’ve been, whatever we’ve done, whatever we are dealing with today—whatever the impermanence of this ever-changing life, God offers us the comfort of His never-changing love and the promise of his permanent presence in our lives. And for a girl raised by AAA, it just doesn’t get any better than that!
Mary Pierce can be found on her personal blog every Tuesday at www.laughlady.com
Each month she has book giveaway, but for our readers here at CWO she is giving away FIVE copies of her book “When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister.” GO SIGN UP HERE. You won’t be sorry!
©2008, Laurel Wreath