Today we’re interviewing Rachel Marie Stone, author of The Unexpected Way, the newest volume in our Telling God’s Story series for children and their parents. (She’s also written about eating with joy, about the unjust treatment of female inmates, and about the surprising evolution of Queen Frostine). She lives in New Jersey with her husband Tim and their sons.
Tell us a bit about your children, please. How many you have, what ages, and something unique about each one.
We have two boys: Aidan, who’s eight, and Graeme, who is six. Both love to build LEGO for hours on end while listening to audiobooks. Aidan is tidy, precise, and serious. Graeme delights in being unpredictable and goofy. They are best friends.
What sorts of challenges have you and your husband faced in teaching your children about God, answering tough questions about God/Jesus/matters of life and death, etc?
Graeme, the goofier one, asks serious questions. He wept on the eve of his fourth birthday when it occurred to him that he would have, in his words, “birthday after birthday after birthday and then run out of breath and die.” Instilling hope in Jesus is hard when little ones feel that existential angst so deeply at such a young age. But mostly the grace and lovingkindness of God keeps us going.
You and your family have lived in multiple countries besides the U.S. How has that affected your outlook on parenting? On faith?
There’s no one right way to do things, which is not to say that I don’t have my own definite preferences. But the variety of experiences we’ve had as a family have helped me, I hope, to be a bit more gracious toward those who believe and act differently than I do in the realms of parenting and faith, too. I feel awkward dancing in church, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a valid and valuable way to worship.
I’ve always loved words and books. I have been writing all my life. Getting to do it as a job feels like a great privilege.
What were some of your favorite books growing up? What’s one of your current favorites?
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and everything by Beverly Cleary were books I read again and again until they literally began crumbling. I also loved and still love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My favorite living writer is Marilynne Robinson, both for her novels (especially Home) and her nonfiction essays.
You’ve written for both adults and children. What are some of the unique challenges of writing for each of those audiences?
I would say the challenge is pretty much the same: is this going to make sense, and is it going to seem true? In a way writing for kids is more challenging because if the emperor has no clothes, a kid is going to point it out way before an adult ever does. My kids ask “what does that mean?” much more often than any adult I’ve ever known.
As the only pastor’s kid I tagged along on various tasks: everything from visiting elderly people in the nursing home to picking up crumpled bulletins in the sanctuary after Sunday services. What has really stuck with me is that there is quiet joy and satisfaction in doing the humble and simple tasks that no one sees; that no one even knows goes on. I felt, and feel, that these are holy tasks.
What’s your workspace? Do you work at home, or at outside locations, or at an office, or all of the above? What tools/computers do you use?
For the first time in forever (Frozen reference there) I have an actual dedicated office on the top floor of our home. Previously I have worked at the kitchen table, the dining room table, a variety of coffee shops, the living room couch, and even my bed. (Spurgeon wrote his sermons in bed; Churchill wrote speeches there. Don’t knock it.) I take notes and write first drafts in longhand. Then I revise while typing the drafts on my MacBook.
Read a sample of her book for children, Telling God’s Story, Year 3: The Unexpected Way.