Episode 55 – Interview with Writer Marci Seither

In this episode I interview author Marci Seither. We discuss parenting and schooling, grandparenting and passing on the legacy of faith, and some great books you’ll want to check out.

Our Guest: Marci Seither

Marci Seither’s writing career began after her humor article was published in the small-town newspaper. Since then she has authored several books and hundreds of articles for local papers as well as contributing to national publications such as Guideposts, Light & Life, and Focus On The Family.

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. We’re so glad today we have a special guest Marci Seither, who is an author and a grandmother, and we’re going to share some ideas and wonderful books with you today. Thank you for joining us, Marci.

Marci:

Thank you so much for having me, and I am so happy that I’m a special guest. I am a mom and a grandma–mom of six, grandma of six.

Terrie:

Oh wow! Your six kids–did you homeschool them part of the time or all of the time?

Marci:

I tell people we’re pro education. So what works for one kid might not work for all of them. What works for one season might actually not work for all the seasons. So for me, that was just a good approach to not alienate myself from the possibility that they might go into a private school or go into a charter school, but we homeschooled all the kids until they were in second grade for sure. The reason being, we wanted to, me personally, I wanted to make sure that I knew how they learned and then also have them have a good understanding of math and reading. I wanted them reading and understand that. But basically how they learn, because if you can help them to know how they learn, then that will overcome a lot of obstacles, and you could actually be a better advocate for them later on.

Marci:

Then there were times that we had homeschooled. And then when we moved back from Minnesota to California, our kids were in a charter school and they had three days a week, a gal rented out part of an old school and it was three days a week for half a day that they would have their instruction with all the other kids. And then they would have their corrections and they could do additional classes. And then there was a time where our oldest son, he was in junior high and we’d put them into school. We were in Minnesota at the time and he just was struggling. And he said, you know, I really need to come back home. And I thought, well, I’ll find a home for you. Like, I don’t know if I can, handle that, being pregnant now with a toddler, but I’m so thankful we did. And at the time Minnesota had dual enrollment, so they said, okay, great. Well, he can still come in for computer keyboarding, band, and wrestling. He could still be on the wrestling team. So we did a dual enrollment with him. That was great because he needed some extra math help. And it was nice to be able to just have him be able to catch up on what he needed to know,

Terrie:

I love that approach though. That’s great understanding how they learn and then being able to advocate for them more effectively when they’re older. That’s phenomenal. Okay. Well, we want to talk about your books. You have some pretty amazing books. I want to start with The Adventures of Pearley Monroe. That one they, from what I understand, use in the California schools in fourth grade, because they talk about California history, at least some schools do, but can you tell us a little bit about the story behind that book?

Marci:

I grew up not too far from where gold was discovered. I grew up on the pony express route. And then when we moved, we lived up where the transcontinental train contract was signed. You know, so I’ve always been a big history person, love going to cemeteries, loved going to museums. So I had taken our kids on a field trip to Coloma, which is where gold was discovered. And then when I was there, I found, you know, how you take the walking tour and you get the brochures. Sometimes it explains what the exhibit is. They had this tri-fold, I still have it. It’s like a marigold color. And it was “Black Pioneers of California.” And it has this picture of this couple in front of a farmstead. So I read about this couple and they had the Pearley Monroe house there, the blacksmith’s shop. And it was about Peter and Nancy.

Marci:

And they had been brought to California in 1849 as slaves to work in the mining industry for their owner. So their owner brought them from Missouri to California to work in the mining industry with him or for him after he sold their three-year-old son probably to pay for the transportation. And then the following year, California was admitted as a freed state. So they were freed, but their baby was still a slave till after the Civil War. And so much stuff was going on right then because California had just signed the treaty nine days before gold was discovered. And it wasn’t even discovered on Sutter’s property. It was on what was really a ranchero. Like it would have been Mexico’s property. And so it was like so much crazy movement right then.

Marci:

So here you have the slave couple who now is free. Their baby is still a slave until after the Civil War. And so Ms. Nancy began to earn money to buy her baby back. It just reminded me of the Joseph story, what man meant for evil God meant for good. And so here they were able to do for themselves what they had had to do as slaves, and 21 years later, that family was reunited. She was able to send for that three-year-old who is now a full-grown man with a wife with a three-year-old named Pearley, 18-month old named Grant. And she was able to send for them. And they lived in Coloma. I mean, Pearley lived until the 1960s, and they lived in, they’re all buried in Coloma. They all lived there. And so I went home and I time-lined Ms. Nancy’s story, and I’m time-lined our family’s history. And I timeline US history and California history because without the gold, the south probably would have won.

Marci:

So I mean, slavery wouldn’t have ended when it did. You just have so much happening. And the kids were able to say, wow, so big grandma, that they remembered, would have known the son of a slave. I’m like, yes, it’s not that old. So the following year, when I went back, I said, Hey, I would love to get more information about Nancy. She is an American hero. And the curator of the museum pulls out the same tri-fold brochure I had gotten the year before. And she said, well, we have this, and I’m like, are you kidding me? Like, “That’s it? You have the Pearley Monroe house. And all you have is a tri-fold brochure?” I said, “This is the most beautiful story of a mother’s love for her child, and human perseverance, despite adversity. She is not a victim. She is a survivor.” She is a hero. And this man, he was dressed as a miner. He said, “I agree. Somebody should write that.” And at the time I wrote for the newspaper, I said, “Well, you’re right. Somebody should write that. I’m a writer, but I’m not that kind of a writer. So best of luck.” And I walked out, and he followed me out to the car. He’s like, “Look, I’m the docent for the Pearley Monroe house. There are no living survivors. And if you would consider helping to preserve this family’s legacy, I will get you into the archives.” That started a seven-year journey for me because I was not a fiction writer. I was an article girl. And so there’s a huge difference between writing fiction for middle graders to writing an article about how to small-space garden. So it was a big journey, but I loved it. I still love it. I’m getting ready to do a round of edits, even though it’s out. There’s some typos in there that I found. So I’m like, I’m going to just tighten it up a little bit and then have it redone as an audio book.

Terrie:

Oh nice, wonderful. You made it a fictionalized version. Was that just because you don’t have enough information to–

Marci:

Oh yeah, no you don’t. And then the other thing is as much as I loved Nancy’s story, I just thought like we have four boys. They’re not going to read about Patty Reed’s Doll ever. And so that was the only historical book about California history at the time. And so I thought, you know, Miss Nancy’s story is so beautiful, but who needs to know about California history? Fourth graders. Who would my kids love to identify with? It would be Pearley. Pearley as a ten-year-old and him weaving in Ms. Nancy’s stories. Cause I had homeschooled our kids too, what do you teach in fourth grade? What are the key elements for fourth graders? So I picked, you know, the Chinese immigration for building the railroad, mining, outlaws, and bandits. I had grizzly bears. I had the indigenous people. And so each of those elements of California history were woven into each chapter. It’s parts of California history through Pearley. So I took as much information as I had about that family. And then as much like the Donner party, I just thought, how would that have affected somebody who had been on the rescue party to the Donner party? I think of how it affects people with, they’ve been maybe one of the first responders to 9-11 or to a dramatic rescue. How would that have affected one of those people who finally made it to the Donner party? I went to Rescue Junior High, which is where the rescue party came from. I researched like who was on that party and there was a man named Charles Stone. So Charles Stone is in the book. I don’t know if Charles Stone ever met Pearley, but I do know that he was part of the rescue party. And I know that Edward Markham who ended up becoming a famous poet was also Pearley Monroe’s teacher in Coloma.

Marci:

And so just trying to tie those characters together. And when Pearley asks his teacher, Edwin Markham who had such a sympathy for the undertrod, Pearley asks him, “Why does Charles Stone sit across the street and watch us during recess?” Because there was all these ghost stories about him and everything. Edward Markham says it’s to get rid of the nightmares that still wake him up from what he saw when he went to rescue the Donner party. That’s why he loves to hear the sound of children playing because of what he saw. And he says, “You know, it’s important, Pearley, to not judge somebody by the stories you hear.” So I didn’t have to talk about the Donner party, but sometimes if you just ask a deeper, “what if” sometimes that lends itself to great storytelling.

Terrie:

So cool. I love it. Let’s go onto your next book, this is the one I’m reading right now, is your book Empty Nest. I love what I’ve read so far, but I’m just kind of living this book right now. Well, first of all, tell us about the book and then tell us your best advice for parents who are soon to be facing their own empty nests.

Marci:

It’s kind of funny that book and Pearley got to my house three weeks apart because it just happened that way. Pearley was self-published, and I had done a Kickstarter for it. The Empty Nest was a traditionally published book, which I’ve since bought my rights back. The Empty Nest book was a result of my own struggles and wishing that I had had something when our oldest left. There’s a big difference between our oldest and our youngest. There was so many books like once your children are gone, turn that into a nice reading room or what to do with your spare time. I’m like, I need something to help me right now. Not when the nest is empty, I need something for the emptying nest. So that’s why I wrote the Empty Nest book. And I did interview a lot of people, and I just tried to think of people. Like there’s my single mom friend who helped me to understand her stress a little bit more. And so just trying to tie in some of those elements of the nest being emptied. And then I was on Focus on the Family with the Empty Nest book, and it was kind of at the end. So you said, you know, what advice would you give–at the end of the interview, you know, everything is very timed. You know, they’re looking at their stuff. They’re talking to you, they’re talking to the person in the booth. And then at the very end, they’re like, “Okay, that’s a wrap.” And I’m like, actually, I said, “You know, I paid for my own ticket out here to visit with you. And I do have just one more thing to say. It doesn’t matter if this is on-air or not. I would be negligent to not say this to you.” And because I knew that he had kids at home. And so I said, “You know, here’s the deal with the empty nest and the emptying nest. We feel as parents that the Lord has given us these children to raise–that these are ours that we’re going to take care of, and we’re going to raise to the best of our ability. And first of all, there’s a huge difference between ownership and stewardship. We are called to be stewards of our kids, not owners. And so that’s a whole other topic. I said, you know, just as the Lord has us raising our kids so that we can grow them up. He is sometimes putting those kids in our lives because he’s still growing us up. And just as easy, it is in the very last chapter. “It’s Me, the Lord, and a Container of Caterpillars, which was kind of an add-on because I wrote all these chapters like “Siblings Matter,” “College Bound,” “Military Minded,” these two word or three word chapters. And then at the end, it’s like “Me, the Lord, and a Container of Caterpillars.” But I just felt like I wasn’t done writing the message to the moms and to the parents. And that was the illustration of watching some caterpillars that we had turned into the chrysalis, and then watching those chrysalises. You see some of the shimmery wings, you see some of the stuff from underneath starting to evolve and to change. And then pretty soon there’s a split. And then these fat little grubs come out with these wrinkled wings, and they start flapping those. And then pretty soon they’re able to fly off. Well, there was one when I was watching this, and it was struggling, it was struggling really hard to get out. Its wing was kind of crumbled, and you just kind of want to like help it. Like you kind of want to just get in there and be like, “Come on, little guy. I’m there to help you do this.” But if I were to do that, it would have harmed that caterpillar to the point where it would have never been able to fly like it’s intended to. And I think sometimes it’s so hard to have our kids struggle, but that’s their chrysalis moment. They have to struggle in order for survival. And so sometimes it’s easy to want to go in and pull back the chrysalis, you know, like rub out their wings so that they’re all nice and flat, but really that hard work, as hard as it is, and trust me, I understand that part full well, watching your kids struggle is so difficult. It’s gotta be one of the most difficult, painful things of like. I’ll take labor over that any day. But watching them struggle is very hard. And I just think about the fact that that’s what the Lord does for us. Like we want him to swoop in like help me out of this situation, help me do this. But sometimes he’s there encouraging us or bringing other people to encourage us because he knows that it’s in the struggle that is equipping us for survival. I just think that sometimes we feel like our parenting is all about us, but sometimes it’s really not.

Terrie:

Now, as a grandparent at “Books that Spark,” we talk a lot about discipleship and that’s really our main focus–is using those moments we have with our kids and the books that we read to jump off into important conversations with our kids. And you said, you’re the grandparent of six. How do you, as a grandparent, help your kids disciple their kids or help disciple your grandkids.

Marci:

First of all, our grandkids know that as much as grandma loves them and plays with them and laughs with them, if their mom and dad say no, grandma says no, no. So don’t come and ask me because the answer is not just going to be no; it’s going to be no, no. That gives comfort to our kids as well. For the raising of our kids, the best books I could recommend. I had the honor of meeting the authors. They, oh gosh, I think they wrote these books like 30 years ago. And I just bought some it’s Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance and Tales of the Restoration. It’s from David and Karen Mains. Those are legacy books. Like it changed the shape of our family to read those books over and over. There’s one chapter about Princess Amanda and the dragon eggs and how she harbors a dragon egg that she’s supposed to destroy. And it hatches. And then the dragon is about ready to devour her. And caretaker says, “Only you can kill that dragon. You’re the one who let the egg hatch, you cared for a forbidden thing.” And so even when our kids would grow up, it was like, “Is this a dragon egg in your life? You know, for me, it’s not very deep compared to theirs. The other ones that aren’t very deep, but I wanted to have books for our kids and grandkids that I wrote for them. So I had gone to Hawaii with our youngest son. So then for Christmas I wrote a book called Flip, Flip Splish because I thought when they turn 18, they’re not going to remember what hot wheels said or whatever I got them, but they’ll remember that I wrote books for them. So I wrote Flip, Flip Splish for them.

Marci:

Then I wrote, Grandma Goes to Ireland, and then I changed it from Grandma Goes to Ireland to Miss Marci Goes to Ireland. But for those six books, it says, Grandma Goes to Ireland. That’s what I gave them for Christmas. And then I illustrated it Eric Carle style with construction paper. So I want to encourage grandparents. If you have a story that you love sharing with your grandkids, please write it out because you can just submit it to Peek-a-Boo or Snapfish. It doesn’t have to be a book publisher. You actually can just do it through Costco photo books. You know, they have two photo books for, I think they’re $15 each. And that’s exactly what I did. I just did 8 1/2 by 8 1/2 books for our grandkids. And I just did it as photo books. Sometimes people think I have a story I’d love to tell our grandchildren, but I don’t know anything about publishing books. I’m like, yeah, but if you could do a photo album, you could do a book. You know, my grandmother wrote all of us kids a small book. It’s called “My Story” by Esther Miller. And she starts from when she was born, and her mom died when she was a young girl and just growing up on in Kansas and what it took to survive. She talked about the dust storms and what that was and moving to Salinas to work in the packing sheds because they’d had to sell the farm, and then having to have gas rations to get there. I mean, I just think that if we don’t write these stories down, how times were hard and Jesus showed up, if we can’t share our testimony with the next generation, then don’t bother leaving them anything because that’s what’s going to sustain them. And I feel so passionate about that now that I’m a grandma. Like very passionate about the fact that we need to write these down for our kids and our grandkids, because things are going to be tough. We see how things are going, and we cannot leave the narrative to somebody who doesn’t actually know the story. And if we don’t share that with our own grandchildren and our children who is going to tell them the story,

Terrie:

Then you leave such a legacy for your kids. And like you said, such a testimony of the faith of our ancestors. I think that’s amazing

Marci:

If as grandparents, we could do one thing, I would have to say it’s to share those stories with our kids and our grandkids so that when things are tough, it’s like, you know, grandma had tough times and this is how she got through it. Grandpa had tough times. He was, you know, he did this, this is how they got through it because, you know, without that, we’re not connected to each other.

Terrie:

I want to have you tell us just a little bit about Miss Marci Goes to Ireland.

Marci:

This book was because I got to go to Ireland as the photographer. And I also took up drone flying to go to Ireland. And then I have a scone recipe in the back. It’s really funny. I’ve got a sheep photo bombing and I cut out all the paper, you know, and glued them onto paper and scanned it in. It’s a book about my trip to Ireland that I shared with our kids and our grandkids, and it’s rhyming. So it’s cute. Miss Marci Goes to Ireland. This last year I went to Lake Nebagamon. So I’m doing Miss Marci goes to Lake Nebagamon one next,

Terrie:

Oh, fun. That’s awesome! Will these be picture books available to the public?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I will have these on my website, MarciSeither.com.

Terrie:

How can we support you in your ministry and your work that you do?

Marci:

Just sign up for my newsletter. That would be great because I am getting ready to, like, we just moved from California to Tennessee. I do have a fun video that I put up there. I love doing photos and video and drone footage. And so I have my last blog post was on barns of middle Tennessee and us moving here, but I’m going to be ramping up what the Lord has for me next. And so if you would love to support me, I would have to say, just go to my newsletter; sign up. And that way I can be in contact with people, and they can see what I’m doing.

Terrie:

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I appreciate it so much and really appreciate the advice and wisdom you’ve shared. Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them to follow Christ with their whole heart.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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