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1. What inspired you to write Wonderfully Made?
One of my kids’ favorite stories has always been the story of how God formed each of them in the womb, how they’re special and loved, and how anticipated their births were. They loved hearing about the day of their birth. I wanted moms in other families to be able to share that story with their children using science, Scripture, and beautiful illustrations.
2. What was your main goal in writing Wonderfully Made?
I want children to understand that they’re individually and purposefully created by a loving God, and that there is a second birth into the Kingdom of Heaven available to them. Each child is unique and special, and each is loved dearly not only by their parents, but also by their Father in Heaven.
I also want a new generation of children to grow up understanding the marvelous truth of what happens in the womb, and when it happens. I want them to know what Scripture says about life in the womb–both the creation of life and the existence of life.Both of those goals were heavy on my heart while writing Wonderfully Made, and I’m overjoyed to see the book available to families around the world.
3. Which part of researching Wonderfully Made was the most personally interesting to you?
Did you know that a baby’s heart starts beating at four weeks? That’s actually two weeks after conception. By eight weeks, six weeks after conception, all of the organs–other than the lungs–are working! And babies dream in the womb three months before they’re born. How amazing is that? Learning about the development of babies in the womb was so much fun for me. I also loved going through the Scripture that talks about life in the womb.
4. What are you reading right now? What authors (living or dead) have influenced you most?
Right now, I’m reading Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson, Pitchin’ A Fit by Israel and Brook Wayne, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, and the Gospels. Reading is definitely one of my favorite parts of my work–I read about a book a week for reviews, books with my boys, and bigger works on the side.
5. What was the book that most influenced your life — and why?
I was definitely a bookworm growing up, and I read everything I could get my hands on–some good, some not-so-good. This may sound cliche, but the book that has most influenced my life has been (and continues to be) the Bible. I’ve read it through many times, studied it, and it’s changed me. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s Word never returns void, that it accomplishes what He purposed it for. It has certainly changed me.
I also love reading biographies about Christians that have gone before us. I find it so encouraging to see how God has worked in and through their lives. I also find it really interesting to read their writings–it helps me get outside of my 21st century American bias when I’m thinking through issues with Christian living and theology.
6. Do you have a certain writing space, somewhere you go “just” to write your books? An office, a lake cabin, a hotel? What do you love about that space? How does it inspire you?
We have a library that I love to work in late at night, after everyone is asleep. It’s nice to be surrounded by biographies and great works while writing. Also, I just really love the room–it’s filled with artwork my kids have done, and we’ve stuffed little mementos into the open spaces on the bookshelves.
7. Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing a book?
I love writing. Research can sometimes be tedious or overwhelming, but it’s worthwhile to commit to researching well. I think it makes the story so much richer (and more accurate).
8. Did you always have a talent for writing, or is it something you wanted and needed to work harder to achieve?
I’ve always loved to write. That said, writing is a craft, and like any skill, it needs to be developed with practice, and through criticism and study. I’ve studied writing, I read widely, and I’ve had a lot of excellent input from some amazing editors and writers.
9. With all of the duties that you juggle, when do you fit in the time to write?
For me, finding time to write is the same as finding time to exercise, eat, or sleep. I consider it a necessity, so I work hard to make time for it. I’ve also sacrificed other activities to fit it in. I don’t watch television, I prioritize my time, and I often write when I might otherwise be sleeping.
10. Is your writing style different now than it was when you first began? In what ways have you grown in your writing?
I think it’s taken me time to find my voice and hone my skills, and I suspect that I will continue to improve as a writer–we always get better at the things we practice.
11. How did you get your start in writing/getting published?
I attended a writing conference for beginners at a local Christian college six and a half years ago. A children’s author graciously sat down with me and explained what I needed to do to write for children, and directed me to a local writer’s organization. I began attending conferences with Oregon Christian Writers four times a year, and writing for Christian children’s magazines. My first acceptance letter came three months after that first conference.
12. What do you recommend for others who are getting started?
It’s a good idea to find a local writer’s organization and learn about the business. I think writing for magazines is a clarifying process, which I highly recommend. Also, if you want to reach people for Christ, writing for magazines can really extend that reach.
13. What would you say to a young person who aspires to be a writer? What advice would you give? Also, what would you tell his/her parents in order to help them be supportive in their child’s efforts to pursue writing as a career?
The most important thing you can do is learn how to write. It’s also important to learn about the industry. Find writer’s conferences and workshops, attend, take notes, and really learn from the authors there. Don’t let rejection letters stop you–just keep working on your craft. I’d also suggest finding a mentor–someone who is already writing for publication–and humbly following their advice. Also, read widely. Read many genres, from different time periods. Practice writing, but as you do, think about what you’d like to say, and who you’d like to say it to.
14. Would your advice be any different for an adult who would like to break into the business? How?
My agent, Chip MacGregor, always says a successful writer should have great writing, a great idea, and a great platform (the people who read your work, or listen to you speak). It’s important to work on all three.
As far as platform goes, serve your readership. For my Christian friends, really work unto the Lord and glorify Him in all you do. He is sovereign over all things, and will open the doors He wants opened.
Really, writing professionally is a lot of work, but it’s also a great opportunity to communicate, to practice your craft, and to get to know some amazing people. I feel humbled and blessed to be writing professionally.
15. What else do you want readers to know? Consider your likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to relax — whatever comes to mind.
I love to play board games with my kids, hike, paint (I majored in art), garden, and cook. I love my family, and I feel so blessed to be able to spend time with them. I homeschool my younger two, and that’s just a gift. Teaching children about the Bible, theology, and Christian history is my passion–I hope to be a lifelong student, and a lifelong teacher.
Danika Cooley is a married mother of four, a grandmother, a blogger, a curriculum developer, and a writer. She homeschools her two youngest children in Oregon. Danika’s three year Scripture survey for preschool to high school, Bible Road Trip, is used across the globe. Website: ThinkingKids
Connect with Danika here:
Watching Her Fly
These past few months, I’ve been helping my daughter prep for her final SAT’s, getting colleges lined up, discovering I’m not ready and worrying she wasn’t either. To be honest, I’ve been carrying the stress of doing this with me for years. Have I done enough? Did I drop the ball anywhere (oh yes, I know I did!)? Could we really trust God with this person He’d gifted to us for a time?
Yesterday we visited her first college choice. It’s here in town–but nonetheless momentous. As my husband and I dropped her off, I didn’t feel any of the hesitation I expected to feel with this huge step. Maybe it was due to her bright sparkly eyes, or her anticipation of doing something with a group (this highly motivates my extrovert), or watching her excitement of being on her own and stretching her adult legs. It wasn’t half an hour after dropping her off that she texted me. The school chef came out to speak to her personally in line about her food allergies upon hearing her concerns and provided her with safe, tasty food. Then about her dorm room. Then about the fun she was having. And the next day a photo list of all the classes she was going to attend.
We didn’t coach her in these things. We dropped her off thinking she’d have a fun social time, hang out with people she knew who were already attending there, and get the feel of campus. But my daughter went into it with the idea that she would push her limits and get that full college feel–that up late, up early, cram-every-second of classes into your day kind of push. We had no idea she’d do that. In addition to packing her day with classes, she attended three open houses and interviewed department representatives. She got an idea of what each program offered and the scholarships available. She gathered deadlines and contacts.
We met with her adviser and she represented herself, asked good questions, and was professional and outgoing about her passions and goals. My husband and I just sat back seeing this person we’d encouraged to finish projects, hounded to clean her room, and urged to keep deadlines in a new light. We were watching her fly.
As we left, she said, “I’m going to love college.” And she will. She sees it as an opportunity and the keys to opening a door and doing something she’ll love for the rest of her life, not a burden to be carried out. Our hope of homeschooling to create a desire for life-long learning suddenly came to fruition. All the pushing, the nagging, the encouraging had come down to handing the responsibility over to her and her guiding Lord.
So, please excuse this post of joy. I’m not bragging by any means. I’m grateful. So thankful that we held onto the promise that through prayer and teaching and apologizing for mistakes made, this person is ready to go to college. But more than that, this person is ready for adulthood. Ready to fly.
And we’re just standing in appreciation and awe, watching her stretch her wings–watching her fly.
I might have mentioned once or twice that we homeschool. There are many reasons we’ve chosen to do so, and I won’t take the time to list them now. But I have to say, the evidence we saw last week solidified our certainty in our choice even more so.
We’ve had doubters in our lives. People that thought we were nuts to take on the job of teaching the kids. And more so, people that were worried about how they were being socialized. For some reason, folks outside the homeschooling environment have the idea that the best way to socialize kids is to throw them into a room with forty students, one teacher and an aid, and hope all will work out for the best. Coming from that environment, I can say that didn’t work out so well for me.
Back to last week: My children were invited to a friend’s birthday party. In attendance were a number of homeschooled children, ages sixteen down to nine (I’m not including the nineteen year old in this, because, legally he’s not a child, and he’s a college student now-you know who you are and you can thank me later). We were at a family-fun center, playing mini-golf, video games, laser tag and the like. In the package, they had the choice of a virtual ride or go-karts. Of course, they all rushed to the go-karts and got in line.
The two youngest (one being my son) were tall enough to ride in the go-karts, but unbeknownst to us, if they were under a certain age, they couldn’t ride alone, and that the other person had to be an adult. The adults didn’t have tickets. So, out of the line came two teary-eyed kids, leaving the rest behind. We walked away, deciding to try and look on the brighter side and comfort those who were left out of the fun.
Here’s the neat part: Quite suddenly all the rest of the kids (six of them) showed up around us. They’d, as a group, decided it wasn’t fair that they went on the go-karts when the younger two couldn’t go and instead opted for the virtual ride where they could all take part. Now, let me be clear—those six WANTED to go on the go-karts. Those six were mostly teens. And no adults tried to encourage them in any way, shape or form. In fact, we adults were heading inside with the younger ones.
I can’t tell you how good that made my son feel. His friends (one of them, his sister) had sacrificed their fun time out of a sense of fair-play and togetherness. They said, “It wouldn’t be right us getting to go and them feeling badly at a party.”
I can honestly say it’s been NEVER since I’d seen a mixed peer group give up something they wanted to do just so two little kids wouldn’t feel badly. I don’t know about you, but my heart warmed at the selflessness of those older ones. Yes, it was just a ride, and they went on to have fun on another ride—but it’s those little things that solidify relationships, reveal kindness and build us up. I was so glad to witness it.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (Full text here.)