Little Known Facts About Peanut Butter

One of my goals for 2021 is to mark the release of my first book, Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings: A Mother’s Search for Grace. Telling you a few things you don’t know about it should be easy. I haven’t told you much.

1. The author is frequently unavailable for comment.

For a long time, I didn’t discuss my book because I don’t share my unfinished work with people. I don’t even let my family glance over my shoulder while I’m typing; it sets my teeth on edge. This distrust has bled over into the rest of the Zooks. I recently observed one of my kids getting all defensive when someone peeked at his unfinished Yahtzee scoresheet. I thought that was taking it a little too far. I would never be that way. Not at all.

I spent many hours like this, in the quiet of my room: blanket, candle, hot drink, laptop.

These days, with my work nearly completed, I am still shy. I think there will be lovers and haters of this release. And when one has wanted something for a long time and it comes, one runs the real risk of becoming a tiresome salesperson (given my personality, not likely) or a self-absorbed fathead (more probable). Pretty sure there are a few of you who will be more than happy to nip those tendencies in the bud. Thank you in advance.


2. I am really excited.

It’s the best and worst writing I’ve done. That is to say, containing the most layers of Shari – humor and pain and thought and sarcasm. It has my best ideas in it, and my worst poetry. (Does anyone remember The Year I Had Bronchitis and He Had Pneumonia? Yeah. Coming soon to own – so much to look forward to.)

Perhaps because it is my first book, or perhaps because it is about motherhood over a thirteen-year swatch of my life, it contains a surprisingly large portion of my history. I asked permissions from a lot of people. But honestly I think everyone I’ve ever really loved is tucked in those pages somewhere, and perhaps only they will recognize themselves. Perhaps not even then.

My porch was another favorite writing spot. Or a park. Music was essential.

3. I didn’t seek this opportunity. But I rejoiced (and panicked) when it came.

Two years ago, an acquisitions editor from Herald Press reached out to me to ask if I had any book ideas I’d like to share with her. Wow. That was a dream come true, and it lit up my brain in the middle of the worst December of my life (2018 – think, losing three children), but it also intimidated the tar out of me.

We batted around a few of my ideas, and she liked one and said – “Write me a proposal. I can’t guarantee that my team will take it, but we’d like to take a look.” She sent me a link to walk me through the process.

I don’t like this picture because it makes me look fatter than I am, so I’m not sure why I am sharing it with you. Outdoors at my parents’ shack. Iced coffee from my mom. Hard work.

A book proposal is a comprehensive pre-layout of a book. It took me a year to write it, and by then I had a large chunk of the book going on. First times are stretching, and I wanted to have something worth turning in. It took forever just to find the voice I wanted to use.

By the time I reached out to Herald Press, the editor who had contacted me no longer worked for them, but before realizing that fact I spent an anxious week or two waiting to hear back from her. That was kinda silly-crazy. Then I did a little Googling and reached out to a current editor, who responded immediately to acknowledge receipt. I still wore an aura of interest because I came through one of their own, even if she wasn’t there anymore. I feel super grateful to her – thanks, Valerie.

My parents have a hideaway shack in their woods. Sometimes I spent a Saturday there.

4. I wrote through each of the chapters three times or more.

This probably sounds like overkill, but one of the ways I talked myself through committing to the process was by calling it “rough drafting” of the chapters. Just getting the stories down. It was truly rough work, but it gave me time to develop my style and content, without fine-tuning anything I would later have to go back and rework substantially. The second time through, I wrote the content – the ideas and takeaways and spiritual journey and thoughts – tucked into the stories, which I also reworked. The third time, I polished and smoothed and made sure everything fit together. Then I turned it in.

5. The act of writing was cathartic and faith-building for me, in a difficult year.

When I got my acceptance letter from HP in February of 2020 (rush of emotion) and signed my book contract with them in early March, I imagined that I was sailing into smoother waters, a good place to write from. We were healing from fostering losses, our son was on his home stretch at boys’ camp, and life was looking up.

Laptop. Binder. Park. Check check check. The wild rose was an unexpected gift.

I had no idea that within weeks, my husband would share the disclosures that rocked our world, leading to months of painful healing. I had no idea that Covid was about to smite the earth, nor that I was about to become a homeschool mom. I would NEVER have picked this timing. I considered asking for time from my publisher, perhaps a year’s delay instead of “first draft due in October.” But I knew that having committed, the task would hang over my head until completion. I didn’t want that.

Honestly, as I look back I’m grateful. First, our intentional break this year from foster parenting (to welcome our son home and reestablish his belonging and stability), and our simultaneous break from pastoring (as a result of my husband’s confessions), created a great deal of time and quiet.

Sometimes my daughter found me, and we snuggled.

Second, I needed to be reminded of God’s goodness in the past, and his faithfulness through all of our journey so far. It was a meaning-making and truth-seeking kind of writing, wrestling and penniless and productive. I badly needed this currency. Third…

6. If you summed up the theme of my book in one word, you might call it CRACKING.

How can you write a book about cracking from a place of strength? The inadequacy and grief of the past year shaped the tone of the book, my desperate need of Jesus, and my complete inability to patch nice platitudes and smiley faces over our history.

Nope. I would never have picked this timing, but I look back and am grateful.

You might laugh, but I cut one particularly uncooperative chapter into sections, and rearranged their order in various configurations on my living room carpet. I have often wanted to do that with other people’s chapters. Just kidding…

7. When I saw my book cover for the first time, I screamed for joy.

I didn’t know Herald Press’s current style of covers. I was secretly hoping for bright and contemporary, but I had not told anyone that. (A cover is one of the few things the publisher owns complete discretion in.) And the idea of combining the two images had never crossed my mind. I don’t want to be sacrilegious, but it was like seeing the face of my baby for the first time. I don’t know the name of the man who designed it [Update: Reuben Graham], but I bet he went home from work that day feeling proud of himself. I love it.

I’ve seen two versions of the peanut butter wings, one neat and one messy, and I’m not sure yet which is going to win the day. Stay tuned!

8. Each chapter shares one of twelve “surprisingly uncomfortable ways” to reach for grace.

All of the content is framed around motherhood, but the theme includes more than that. I talk about the help of medication, the cost of owning no, the saving grace of girlfriends, the gift of physicality, and more stuff like that. If you’ve been reading here on Confessions for long, you will recognize the stories. But you’ll hear more careful and comprehensive versions there. (Consider yourself warned.)

Compiling a list of additional resource books for the end of PB&DW.

I just finished two rounds with the most delightful content editor known to mankind, Margot Starbuck. I now love her so much, and working with her was straight-up gift. She blew my ideas about editors to shreds: every word in that book is still my own. Now we are on to copyediting, design, reviewers, and final stages! Still due for release July 6.

My favorite: sunlight and soup in the silence.

9. I think you will like it.

Fingers crossed. Available now for preorder on Amazon.

10. And I feel like I should add another point just to make it ten.

The end.

I like experimenting with the effects of different writing locations and other variables. Some days what I wrote felt like junk copy, and I rewrote it all the next time… other days, the words chose to play nice. I liked those days a lot better.

If you like to write – stories, journals, letters – where and how do you do it?

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Mom Coblentz
2 years ago

I. can’t. wait. to see it in full print!!!

A Reader
2 years ago

Just wow! I cant wait to read it! There is so much to learn from your search for grace.

Completely off topic: I’m grateful that you snuggle with your daughter. I remember being held only once by my mom. Glad your daughter will have better memories!

Beth Russo
2 years ago

I’m so excited for you for this HUGE accomplishment, and I’m excited for all of us that get to read it when it comes out. Congratulations from the bottom of my heart, I’m so so happy for you! XOXO

2 years ago

I’m so excited that your dream is coming true. Put me down for a “pre-order.” ????

2 years ago

I am really excited for you! And I love the cover. I’ll be buying a copy, for sure!

2 years ago

I’m so happy for you! It must be so rewarding to have the end of so much effort in sight!

2 years ago

Just tell us how to pre-order already! 🙂

2 years ago

Oh, what a gratifying reward for years of work. I’m happy for you. I’ve never preordered a book but I will this time.

Priscilla F.
2 years ago

Such a cool looking cover – I eagerly look forward to reading that book! I’m thinking the additional resource book list at the end would make it a worthwhile read all its own… 🙂

Dawn Harshbarger
2 years ago

Congratulations! Can’t wait to read your book!

2 years ago

This is so exciting! A new book and by someone whose writing I so enjoy reading! Congratulations!!! Can’t wait to get a copy.

2 years ago

Shari, this is so exciting. I cannot wait. Congratulations!

2 years ago

This is one time I will buy a new book without my fingers crossed. I can’t wait!

2 years ago


2 years ago

I’m blessed at how you found grace even in the process. I love the cover, how the peanut butter looks like you could lick it off the page. I, too, enjoy writing and do it in all sorts of places. I, too, am shy about rough drafts.

2 years ago

Your writing, here on your blog, is the best sales pitch I can think of for a book. How do you do it? I rarely crack a smile over funny movies, funny books, or funny anything…. I think I’m inhibited by a residual childhood fear of expressing too much emotion. Anyway. Most times as I read a new post on your blog, a smile (and sometimes even a chuckle) breaks out. I just can’t help it. That winning combination of warmth, honesty and humour makes your writing special.

2 years ago

Cheering. Cheering. Cheering.

I really like the messy peanut butter textured look and hope they go with it!!!

Gina Martin
2 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing your writing process. (Now I know that I’m not the only one who has used a printer and sissors to make words and paragraphs cooperate.)

Let us know when we can order a signed copy!

2 years ago

So so excited! And I love the cover!

2 years ago

AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! screamed Dorcas gleefully.

2 years ago

Whoop! So So exciting!

2 years ago

This is such good news! I hardly ever buy new books, but this one I will! Especially after hearing your description of the content and process. Ways of finding grace, from someone in a messy and vulnerable place? Yes please- I want to read that right now.

Donella F Wadel
2 years ago

We still quote “The year I had bronchitis, and he had pneumone.” I enjoy your blog very much, and am looking forward to a paper version I can read just before falling asleep.???? Congratulations on getting close!

2 years ago

I hope they choose the messy peanut butter wings. And I don’t have words to tell you how proud I am of you! ❤️

2 years ago

Eagerly waiting this book!

2 years ago

I, for one, am not laughing at your cutting an uncooperative chapter into sections, and rearranging the pieces in various configurations. That methodology was a lifesaver a number of times when I was a student and paper deadlines were looming. In theory I thought I should have been able to rearrange sections of a draft by cutting and pasting on the computer screen, but in practice I think the results were always better when I printed what I had and cut the pages into pieces of varying sizes and tried various arrangements. I would also cross out old irrelevant transitions and hand-write new transitions on small pieces of scrap paper so the whole new draft could be seen in its correct order before it was taken back to the keyboard. I wonder how many others fix their most stubborn writing problems this way.

Laura Showalter
2 years ago

When I did a writing challenge this summer, I did lots of voice memos on my phone while driving and unscrambled them later. I was also working on a picture book (still untitled – did you actually say at one point that titles are your favorite part?! Are you for hire?) and would walk around mumbling rhyming words under my breath. More than once, when I was in a faraway place, my daughter would ask what I was thinking about, only to answer herself, ‘oh, I know. It’s your book.’ A lot of my writing happens in my mind before it makes it onto paper, and a lot more stays in than ever makes it out. 🙂
I rejoice with you! Your book looks like a major accomplishment of physical, mental and emotional energy. Cheers!

2 years ago

This is great news. I had already ordered the book before I got past the first paragraph.
God bless you for the way you use the gifts He has given you. A signed copy would be wonderful.

[…] so gifted with writing, honest. You can’t help but love her. Here she writes about her book that will be coming out […]

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