I came across Shannon's site one afternoon and thought her stories were insightful and engaging. She writes from the heart and gives hopes to others with her writing. What struck me was that she's gone on a journey into pursuing her passions and found God in the mist of it all.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a hybrid—half scientist, half artist, trying to get the opposing sides of my brain to play nice. So, three days a week I work as a nurse practitioner, two days a week I study theology and art, and, on the fringes, I write.
I’ve always loved the magic of ink on a page and how it can build a world that teems with life and color. As an eleven-year-old, my favorite books (which could have prophesied my life trajectory) included an anatomy book, a Bible, and any novel that plunged me deeper into the world.
Currently, I write for Converge Magazine, run a blog called Faith and the Other Five Senses, and host a program for Hope Streams Radio. In my writing I explore what it means to follow Jesus in a complex world, geeking out regularly that we live in world where Tiramisu, the Les Misérables, and Penicillin all matter because God’s behind them all.
2. Why is it important to follow your dreams?
I spent most of my teens and twenties hedging future plans around the expectation I’d get married. I wanted the three M’s—marriage, medicine, and ministry (writing), but finding a spouse dominated the bunch. So, while I’d watch brain surgery for fun or stay awake till 3 am reading “just one more chapter,” I assumed that when I finished college, I’d get married, have kids and that would pretty much consume the rest of my life. When that didn’t happen, I pursued my medical interests, then writing, and while I’d still love to get married, I’m so thankful God kept me single long enough to convince me that medicine and writing are integral to who I am.
Our dreams are expressions of who we are and what God loves best about us. While we may not be able to read his mind on the fine details of futures, our passions are linked to how he wants to use us.
3. How long have you been running your blog?
I’m eighteen months into my blog, Faith and the Other Five Senses. Prior to that I dabbled periodically in another blog, but it was a haphazard affair and when I decided to get serious about writing, I knew I needed to start fresh.
4. What advice do you have to writers who are trying to pitch themselves to other magazines to write an article?
The advice I keep giving myself (and keep refusing to take) is pitch, pitch, and keep pitching. Writing articles is the fun part, so I’m always tempted to spend my time composing this great piece that I’m just sure some editor will want to run. Then, after investing all this time and emotion into it, I feel personally rejected when they send a “Thanks, but no thanks.” Pitching often and widely is a better use of time. Unfortunately, it’s also less fun.
5. Why do you think it's important to put God first in everything you do?
The easy answer: only the things we do for God will last. But…sometimes I get annoyed with overly spiritual answers that punt everything important over to the other side of the grave.
While it’s true that God will judge everything we do here, he’s also an artist weaving masterpieces from our lives and he knows his medium better than we do. So, putting him first means letting him call the shots and trusting that the master artist knows best.
I can get a high for a while out of pursuing success, basking in creative inspiration, and swimming in the endorphins of a hard day’s work, but life is about more than that. God sees what I can’t and he’s working on bigger plans than I can dream up for myself, pulling me and the people nearby into a life-changing relationship with him, not one that’s rigid and predictable as a corpse, but something more like salsa, vivid and robust enough for this incredible and complex world.
6. As a writer what is your ideal item to drink while writing? (coffee, tea, ect)
Coffee is a pre-requisite to any day, but when it comes to writing I tend to pair La Croix with articles and blogs and red wine with poetry and fiction.
7. What advice do you have for running a successful blog?
1) Know yourself. Initially I wanted to blog three times a week, a realistic goal for some writers—people who blog full time or can crank out a post per hour or function on five hours of sleep—but not me. I wanted my writing career to take off, but refused to sacrifice the rest of life for my blog, so I settled for once a week.
2) Make it happen. If you’re serious about writing, make time for it. For the last six months, I’ve written on Saturday evenings, the only hours I could scrounge up from my week. I’d drive to Starbucks at 5:00 pm, feeling like an antisocial loser until I reminded myself that I love writing and that all the best things in life require sacrifice.
3) Leave the success up to God. Let’s be honest, I want people—a lot of people—to think I'm a fabulous writer. So when I started my blog, every time a post went live, I’d check the stats like an alcoholic rummaging through the cupboards. When the traffic streamed in, I’d feel intoxicated. When the numbers were low, I’d spiral into self-doubt. It sucked my soul dry.
Now, I leave the numbers up to God. If my little corner of the internet and the things I say can help one person see him a bit more vividly, if after reading a post on what christians can learn from the culinary arts one reader sees Jesus reaching out to her through a plate of lasagna, that’s enough. But, checking the numbers compulsively makes me forget that.
8. Why do you love to write?
I love gathering up the thoughts billowing up in my brain, putting ink on them, and then whittling it down till something concrete and solid emerges. I love the challenge of taking abstract, theological concepts, like sacramental ontology or embodied sanctification, which would make most people’s eyes glaze over, translate them into color, movement, and texture until people start to care about them and see how integral they are to life.
1. If you were stuck on an island what five items would you have?
Year’s worth of fire starter. I can barely manage with a match and half a ream of paper, so hopefully that would bide me time until I learned.
Knife. I tried husking a coconut by hand once in Hawaii, and it was like peeling the trunk off an oak tree. Pretty sure a knife would increase my chances of survival.
Lifetime supply of ice cream and a way to keep it cold. Calcium, it’s important.
2. If Harry Potter and Jon Snow had to fight each other in wrestling who would win?
I think the real question you’re asking is whether Mr. Darcy, Mr. Nightly, or Gilbert Blithe would win my heart. And, that’s a tough one. Probably Gilbert.
3. Chocolate or vanilla?
About ten years ago I converted to vanilla. It caused some rifts in the family, but I’ve never looked back.
4. Do you think miniature golf should be a professional sport?
Yes, with competitors dressed like residents from the Capitol in the Hunger Games.
5. If you could meet five authors living or dead who would they be?
Alexander Dumas. Seriously, the plot from The Count of Monte Cristo…
Apostle Paul. See below.
Apostle John. Sometimes I stumble over what it means to be “a good Christian.” I get very Apostle Paul about it—intellectual and intense—and I forget we’re all wired different and that Paul’s not the ideal Christian, Jesus is. So, I think having John and Paul over for wine and Tiramisu would recalibrate my idea of who I’m supposed to be in a healthy way.
Anne Lamott. She’s a freaking riot. Her book Bird by Bird kept me from drowning in my own writing insecurities, particularly the dark humor and brutal honesty of “Shitty First Drafts.” Life-giving to the soul.