Q&A With Glenys Nellist, Author of Love Letters from God… and a Giveaway!

lovelettersfromGod

I love the internet!  One amazing connection that happened via the internet is a connection to children’s book author, Glenys Nellist. Glenys connected with my author page on Facebook and pointed out that we share a common interest in children’s spirituality. I took a look at her book Love Letters from God (Zondervon: 2014), and I was intrigued. I wrote to Glenys and asked if we might exchange books. She agreed and when I received her book in the mail, I fell in love with it. I put it high up on a shelf so it would be a “special book” that the boys and I could read together.  I’ve been reading one letter per night to my boys. Samuel calls it the “Baby Jesus loves you” book. I adore it. I’m beyond excited to not only review it but to give a copy away.

The book highlights 18 beautifully illustrated Bible stories, each with a personal letter from God to your child. The letters are love letters. It’s exactly the kind of message and Bible story book I want my sons to internalize. Here’s an excerpt on the letter about Adam and Eve in the garden “You are my precious child, and nothing you can do will ever stop me from loving you.” Letter after letter, love after love. This book is beautiful, and I will buy it for baptisms, recommend it at workshops, and share it with the world. I’m excited for you to read this Q&A with the author and have a chance to win a copy! So let’s get started!

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, Glenys! Let’s get the formal introduction out of the way. What does the bio on the back of your book say about you? 

My bio reads: Glenys Nellist was born and raised in a little village in northern England. Her stories and poems have been published in children’s magazines where her writing reflects a deep passion for bringing the Bible to life for young children. Glenys lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, David.
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Ok, now for two interesting and quirky facts about you that is NOT on the back of the book… 
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 Well first of all, when I was a little girl I had a pet gerbil called Coochy. We were not allowed to have pets at home so I had to hide her from my mum. Coochy lived happily and quietly in a little sewing basket in the top of my wardrobe. I taught her to jump on my head. Secondly, now that I am all grown up, I have no pets, but I do I have four sons and three grandsons, so if and when we have a girl added to our family, she will be thoroughly spoiled!
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I love that you had a gerbil living in a sewing basket in your house. Hilarious! We had gerbils growing up, too. I fear this post could take a weird turn if I start talking about it though, so let’s get to the reason you’re stopping by the blog in the first place, your amazing book. I love the idea of children getting “mail from God!” It’s the sweetest and so full of whimsy and fun. How did you come up with the idea for the book? 
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When my four sons were little, a wonderful book was published in England, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, called The Jolly Postman. It was written in rhythm and rhyme and told the story of a postman who rode his bike to deliver letters to Nursery Rhyme characters. The ingenious and innovative part of the book was that the pages were actual envelopes that contained the letters. My sons loved to cuddle on my lap as we shared this book together. I can still see my youngest son reaching his chubby little fingers into the envelopes to take the letters out. And I still have my battered 1986 copy. That little book, which is still in bookstores today, became the inspiration for Love Letters from God. When I first had the idea to write a children’s Bible, I knew that I had to come up with something unique. I felt that God brought that little book back to the forefront of my mind, and whispered: use the idea of letters, from ME!  And so that is what I did!
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I loved the book before you told that story. Now I love it even more. The book is beautifully illustrated and designed as well. Can you talk a little about the collaboration with the illustrator and book designers? What was that process like? 
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Well as a first time author, it was all very new and exciting to me. Initially, I was disappointed to learn that my editorial team at Zondervan had decided to use a lift- the-flap letter from God, rather than actual envelopes to contain each letter. However, in retrospect, this was really a great idea. Using a lift-the-flap version after each Bible story ensured that none of the letters would be lost, and what child doesn’t love to lift-the-flap, especially when they discover their very own name underneath? Regarding the illustrations, my editor asked me what illustration style I had envisioned, and then approached the amazing Sophie Allsopp, who had done some work for Zondervan in the past. Although she is British too, we have never met, but I hope to one day! It was my editor’s idea to give the book a ‘scrapbook’ feel, using the stamps, along with other whimsical qualities, and Sophie totally embraced the idea.
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In my opinion, it was a huge success. This book is gorgeous.  (See for yourself!) In terms of the writing, is there a particular letter you’re most proud of? 
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It is a humbling and daunting experience to pen a letter on God’s behalf! Each letter was accompanied by a great deal of

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Another reason to love author Glenys Nellist. When I asked for her photo she said “This isn’t as professional as my author photo, but I love it because it has my 3 cute grandsons” Yes!

prayer. But I truly felt, as I wrote those letters, that God’s Holy Spirit took up the pen and wrote through me. If I had to pick one out, I might choose the letter that accompanies the story of David’s anointing, which I entitled ‘David’s Day’. The story is found in 1 Samuel 16, where David, the young shepherd boy, and the most unlikely candidate, is chosen to be king above his seven, older brothers. The letter reminds children that God is not concerned with how athletic they are, or how thin they are, or how intelligent they are. What matters to God is their heart. In this modern world in which we live, with its emphasis on competition, comparison, and a culture that places so much unhealthy emphasis on outward appearance, I truly felt that God wants young children to know this… As you grow up, do not worry about how tall you are. or how strong you are, or how smart you are. Just remember that I have chosen you- just like I chose David. And even though you may never be a king or queen, you will be something just as wonderful and very, very special to me.

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Yes, Glenys! We are kindred spirits! I love everything about that. Amen. Many of my readers are looking for ways to incorporate faith practices into their daily lives and one of the things I love most about Love Letters from God is how each letter is focused around the theme of God’s love for God’s children. Can you talk a little about how you raised your children to know and feel the love of God in their lives from a young age? What wisdom can you share? 
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God was an integral part of our daily lives. As pastor’s children, my sons came to know God’s great love for them through being immersed in church, worship, wonderful godly role models, bedtime and mealtime prayers and sharing Bible stories together. As a family, we also spent a lot of time outdoors- walking, biking and picnicking. I think there was always a sense of God’s great love surrounding our family as we enjoyed all the beauty and creativity of the world God made for us.
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I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this before, but I think that Love Letters from God could be adapted into a board book for the littlest children. Are there plans to release the book in that format or any other sequels in the works? My boys want a follow up! 
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I’m so glad you asked! Yes! In fact, the board book edition, entitledLittle Love Letters from God will be released on December 29th this year! I took just eight of the original stories, and rewrote them in simple rhyming text for little ones. This padded version includes small lift-the-flap letters, perfect for little hands, which I simplified from the original text. Also, I’m excited to announce that Christmas Love Letters from God will be released in the fall of 2016! I took the Christmas narrative and wrote it in the form of seven stories, beginning with the prophecy in Isaiah, and ending with the visit of the wise men. As in the original book, each of the seven stories is followed by a lift-the-flap letter from God. I am so blessed to have been able to use my gifts in this way, and thank God for the opportunity to touch the lives of children through the pages of these books. [Traci note: that seriously looks like a staged question, but I *promise* i didn’t know the board book was in the works when I asked that question. I was kind of hoping that she was going to say “you’re a genius! Never thought of it. Ha!]
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Thank you so much for stopping by! How can readers connect with you more and keep up on the book and future projects? (pssst… don’t forget to enter the giveaway before you go!)
I love to connect with readers via any of the following:
Also, check out the beautiful promo video. 
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Finally, what you’ve all been waiting for:   Win a Copy of Love Letters from God
  • Thanks for sharing! This looks like a beautiful book, and perfect for kids. The format is something they will love!

  • Glenys Nellist

    Thank you Traci, for the wonderful review and for the opportunity to participate in a Q&A….my first one!

  • Glenys Nellist

    Reblogged this on Glenys Nellist and commented:
    What a joy to be interviewed about Love Letters from God by Traci Smith, author of Seamless Faith, Presbyterian pastor and busy mum to two little boys….

  • Jennifer

    Glenys, your book looks fabulous! Traci, thank you for shining your light on Glenys!!

  • revkarla

    Great interview! Thanks for doing this.

  • Emily

    Love the concept of this book! We do a backpack blessing every fall for those returning to school. Each year there is some sort of giveaway for each child. This year I made luggage tags out of duct tape and wrote a message from God on each one – “I am with you. – God.” The tags could be attached to backpacks. It was the most popular backpack blessing item yet, because it included a message from God.

  • I’m so excited about this–thanks for sharing a great interview. 🙂

  • Looks like a perfect addition to my Lucy’s library!

  • This looks like a beautiful book. What a great idea!

  • This looks truly terrific! Would love to share it with the children at our church.

  • Wow, this book does seem to be a beautiful gift to the world. Thank you for sharing about it so we can all benefit from her writing (and Coochy!).

  • Bethany

    thabks! This book looks amazing

  • Thanks so much for sharing about such a great book!

  • Wendy Janzen

    Lovely book concept. Thanks for sharing.

  • Looks like a great book. The Christmas Love Letters from God sounds like it will be a great book as well.

  • melissa d

    I can’t wait to check out this book. Thanks!

  • Sarah

    This looks like a wonderful book! Thank you for introducing us to it and the author!