Interview with Publisher’s Weekly

 

by JANA RIESS
published February 25, 2002

PW: In Great with Child: Reflections on Faith, Fullness, and Becoming a Mother, you chronicle your experiences during your third pregnancy. How did the book emerge from that pregnancy?

DR: When we finally decided to try to have a third baby, I decided that this time I I would pay even closer attention to everything about the experience. I knew it would be an exhilarating, exhausting time. Writing was my way to pay attention.

PW: How in the world did you find time to write a book while you were pregnant and caring for two small children?

DR: The truth is, I don’t remember all of the details of how this book got written. Sleep deprivation tends to erode the memory. I do remember nights after the kids were in bed, I would sit at the computer for 15 minutes or an hour and just write. This allowed the first drafts to be very raw. I didn’t have any editorial defenses up. I did revisions when I could find hours or days to work, like during the summer. I was amazed that it really is possible to accumulate enough pieces over time to generate a whole book. You just have to keep at it.

PW: So why this book? How does it fit with other books on pregnancy?

DR: The unique thing about it is that it integrates the many different dimensions of pregnancy and motherhood. A lot of books out there deal with the physical changes, and others address emotional and psychological issues. Some devotional books are aimed at mothers. But I found none that combine all of those aspects, or that consider a mother’s intellectual life. I wanted to deal with all of those dimensions at once, and write about the interactions among them.

PW: What does the book have to say about spirituality?

DR: Pregnancy is a time of intense body consciousness as well as a crucible for spiritual growth. I wanted to do spiritual writing that remained conscious of the body. A lot of spiritual writing doesn’t pay attention to the body, or if it does then it’s about illness. But as a mother, I experienced God in and through my body. I wanted to explore that.

PW: Where do you think Great with Child fits among other books in the category of spiritual writing?

DR: Much about the spiritual life is common to both men and women, but I also think it’s valid to imagine that women writers will contribute something different to the larger body of spiritual wisdom. The uniquely feminine experience of pregnancy and birth is a very ancient metaphor, of course. What is still rare is the voice of mothers themselves claiming the wisdom of that embodied experience.

PW: The advance buzz is exciting. How do you feel about being compared to Anne Lamott?

DR: Well, who wouldn’t want to be compared to Anne Lamott? I think she’s funnier and quirkier than I am. I’m more ordinary. But I hope readers will enjoy that, too. I think I focus on the spirituality of motherhood more persistently than she does.

PW: Any other books on the horizon?

DR: My next book is going to be Who Moved My Socks?: Coping with Family Life. Or Further Behind: A Day in the Life of a Mother. No, seriously, I don’t know. I’d like to do some more poetry. Since I teach nearly full- time, projects come along slowly. I plan to keep writing and see what emerges.

I have published books on motherhood, Christian spirituality, and language in worship. I write regularly about all sorts of topics for The Twelve, and I teach literature and writing at Calvin College, where I have served on the faculty since 1996.

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