Episode 76: Interview with Robynne Miller, Part 2: Preparing Our Kids to Change the World

In this episode we continue the interview with Robynne Miller. We discuss some life-changing books that will help our kids be prepared to engage with people, respect others, and to go when God leads. 

We also discuss how you can make a difference in a writer’s world. 

Our Guest Today: Robynne Miller

Robynne Elizabeth Miller holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction and Fiction and a B.A. in English Literature. She is the author of ten books and countless articles, including Finding Common Ground: One Octogenarian’s Quest to Help our Nation Heal and The Three Faces of Nellie.

Along with speaking nationally, Robynne teaches writing via online and in-person events such as writers’ conferences, workshops, and retreats.

Robynne serves as the board president of Inspire as well as the Director of the Inspire Christian Writers Conference at Mount Hermon.

She’s a writing and publishing coach, editor, and mentor for both traditionally published and self-published authors. She’s passionate about helping writers bring their stories and messages into the world. Robynne is agented with Books & Such.

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Transcript with Links:

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. Today, we have our second part of our interview with Robynne Elizabeth Miller. Robynne holds a Master of Fine Arts and creative nonfiction and fiction and a BA in English literature. She is the author of 10 books and countless articles, including Finding Common Ground: One Octogenarian’s Quest to Help our Nation Heal. And The Three Faces of Nellie. Along with speaking nationally, Robynne teaches writing via online and in-person events such as writer’s conferences, workshops, and retreats. Robynne serves as the board president of Inspire as well as the director of the Inspire Christian Writers Conference at Mount Hermon. She’s a writing and publishing coach, editor, and mentor for both traditionally published and self-published authors. She’s passionate about helping writers bring their stories and messages into the world. Robynne is agented with Books and Such. Robynne, thank you for being with us again today. And let’s just continue right where we left off. Last time, we talked about everything Little House and about all the Little House books and how they influenced you. And then we talked about the books you’ve written about Laura’s world, including The Three Faces of Nellie. Today. I want to look at your other writing that you have done because you’ve got some very important projects that I think are really going to be influential for our world today. And let’s start by talking about the project you’re currently working on. You’re working on a book about multiculturalism in our world. Can you tell us about that?

Robynne:

Yes. I kind of had a little bit of a derail in the timeline of that book because another opportunity appeared, and I’ve just published in April a book called Finding Common Ground: One Octogenarian’s Quest to Help our Nation Heal. And it’s about a dear friend of mine who is in her eighties, and she just was tired of what was going on in the world and decided to see if really America felt that, you know, the way that it’s being portrayed in the media. And so she took many trips all around America to ask people one question: What can we do to help our nation heal? It’s heartwarming. It’s got practical advice for how we can all make a difference wherever we are. And I think it’s a little bit of a call to say, you know, if an 80-something year old woman can Crisscross the country, you know, talking to hundreds and hundreds of people to do something, then we certainly can wherever we are. It’s a great book for kids to be read to. We want to start forming the characters of our children to be a part of the world that God–and the ministry and the mission that God is, you know, placed us in wherever we are–for kids to know that they can do something. There are stories about a woman who is in her nineties doing something and a kid who was 10 doing something. So, it’s really encouraging, and that kind of derailed my project.

Robynne:

But the next project that is back center stage is–the working title’s called Tasting the Bread of a Thousand Lands: Helping to Build Multicultural Kids. What the purpose of the book is, is I kind of got thrown into a multi-cultural situation marrying somebody from another country. And even though it’s not like Zimbabwe, it’s surprising how different the cultures are between two English speaking nations. I realize that in my lifetime computers have happened and the internet has happened, and instant communication has happened all over the world. My kids are inheriting both a lot of problems that we’re giving them, but also a much smaller world. When my best friend’s daughters who’s been serving in Ethiopia, in an orphanage there, And she got sick and flew home from Ethiopia. It took 24 hours, but she was able to do that, that journey, you know, just 20, 30, 40 years ago, would’ve been days long. Our kids are inheriting a world where other nations–not just in a multicultural society–but other nations and the ability to work in another country, the ability to travel and other people traveling to our nation to be in our communities. We’re going to see a level of the world shrinking and having to be in contact with an understanding of different backgrounds and culture, and community. And I wanted my kids to be raised, ready to go if God called them to do mission work–they’d be ready for it. If God called them to be a CEO of a company that needs to have an office in Hong Kong, they’d be okay with going. Well, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to travel with our kids. They’re not getting an inheritance, because we’ve traveled with our kids. My youngest one has been in like 20 countries, but when we were living in England, that was a lot easier and cheaper to do than from where we are. But that mindset of the world being open is important to me to leave my kids with that knowledge, that they need to learn how to interact with the world in a respectful, honoring way. And so this book really is kind of just talking about how we can do that, how we can do that when we don’t necessarily get to travel, how we can do that, just right where we are in talking about what’s going on in our country and in the world and broadening palates. When living in England, a lot of our friends, their kids would eat like four foods. My spice cupboard has about 200 different things in it. I don’t have enough room for all my spices because that’s one way to bring another country and a culture to your home. So I want to equip my kids with the ability to go somewhere and eat their food, to know how to interact, how to be respectful and kind and open to whatever another culture or, you know, background might be able to teach them–to be able to be a light wherever they go. I think that that’s the heart of this book. It’s just to give an encouragement to moms and dads, that this is really the world that our kids are inheriting. And to give some practical ways of bringing the outside world into their home, wherever they are and whatever, you know, circumstance they find themselves in–just to give their kids that understanding that they are part of a larger world than their current neighborhood and city and state. That’s kind of the purpose of Tasting the Bread of a Thousand Lands.

Terrie:

Let me know when it comes out because I definitely want to promote that book. I am very excited to read it. You know my heart and my family. Right now, we’re all just grieving with what’s happening where–my daughter was teaching English in Myanmar when COVID hit. She got the last flight out to come back to the States because she lost her job and her visa with COVID, and then the coup happened. And so now she has lost so many friends since that time, either to COVID or to the political situation. And actually, it’s a combination of both in some situations because of what’s going on there. But the way that she was able to influence that little country, that place where she was, I am so proud of her and so thrilled that she was salt and light to the people there. And she ministered to the homeless people on the streets and just so many things that she was able to do because of how we raised our children. It made a mama proud.

Robynne:

I bet. And that’s what we want. Isn’t it? We want, I mean, they’re our kids, but they’re not our kids. We’re tasked with equipping them, and that’s exactly what you have done–equipped your children to serve in the way God’s going to call them–to the people that God needs to be helped or addressed or just loved. So that’s wonderful. It breaks my heart what’s happened, but you know that God’s not going to waste it and squander it. She’s not done yet on his behalf. So I’m excited to see what she’s going to do too.

Terrie:

You mentioned Common Ground book. I read that book. I loved that book so much. Again, the same type of thing, helping our kids to be able to have conversations with people and to not be afraid to open those doors. How can we help our children not be afraid to talk to someone who’s very different than they are, or out of curiosity, culturally, to find out more about another person’s culture? What would be your advice for young parents and talking with their children?

Robynne:

Here’s the thing in reading Marilyn’s notes and her experiences–What I realized is the nation is hungry to be heard. We’ve kind of lapsed into this nation of people who think it’s okay to just yell at each other and not wait for a response and not enter into a conversation. Yet, when Marilyn went, you know, she talked to again, hundreds and hundreds of people and not one person told her to go, you know, jump off a bridge. Every single person when she said, this is my one question, and the one question is “What is one thing you think we can do to help our nation heal?”–that’s all she asked, and she just listened. She didn’t say, “Oh yeah. You know, I feel kind of strongly about that. Let me tell you my opinion.” She’s just listened. The outpouring. She went to all places. She went to churches and she went to parks and diners, a mosque. I mean, she went everywhere and was listening to everybody. And people are hungry to be heard. We have just evolved into this instead of saying, I believe in candidate X because…, Or I believe in this law because…, Or I like, you know, apple strudel because… We’re just yelling at somebody who believes something different or likes something different without really sharing our own opinion. And I think that that art has been completely lost at least on our political levels and our media levels. But when you listen to somebody, and there’s a story in the book when she went to a mosque and she was talking with first, some women there and then a man came over and was talking with her. And he said something along the lines of what we’re talking about. But he said, you know, I can’t remember the details, but it was like my son plays soccer. My daughter’s getting ready to go to college. And my wife is a nurse or something. Now don’t you feel better just knowing that about me instead of the label. Marilyn said, “Well, yes I do.” When you start realizing that humans have far more in common than we do in opposition to each other, it’s a lot easier to accept the differences when we recognize the similarities. I think that that for me, bringing that message really home to my own family and my own kids, I want my children to be able to see that even if somebody has a different opinion about something, that underneath they want the same things that you do–to be respected, to be heard, to be valued, to have some contribution, to make you to feel safe in your community, and all the things. And if you can concentrate on that, if you can concentrate on what we have in common, then the things that are different about us really fade.

Robynne:

One other thing that really similar to that, that I learned kind of as I was writing this book was no matter how different–let’s just take a political idea. Let’s just take red and blue. No matter how different you are, if you’re staunch Republican or staunch Democrat, when you get down underneath, you know, all the hatred that’s flying about these days, most of the time, the reason that people would vote one way or the other is for the same reason, you know, moms all want safe communities. They want opportunities for their children. They want financial security. They want physical safety. They want to live in community, all those things. They just think that they’re gonna achieve it in a different way. And when you can get past the different ways that people want to achieve it and realize, wait a minute, we all want the same thing, we really do want mostly the same thing. And we are very similar, and we can teach our children that, you know, at a fundamental level. Not that there aren’t differences, but that in comparison to the similarities, those are really minor things. And we can respect somebody far more easily for their differences if we understand that. Probably the reason for those differences is kind of the same as our reasons for believing what we believe. If we can do that and give that to our children, then, oh my gosh, a lot of what’s going on right now would just fade into nothingness. And as Christians, I kind of believe that that’s part of what God wants us to be, you know, salt and light in the world. If we can demonstrate that posture of listening and connecting on the levels that we can connect on. I think that that could have a ripple effect throughout our nation, certainly because of America’s kind of position on the world stage, I think it could have an effect globally.

Terrie:

One of the saddest parts of that book was when she visited Westboro and the group across the street from there. She couldn’t even talk to anyone because they had shut down on both sides of the issue so much that she couldn’t even have a conversation. I was so glad that was in the book because the contrast was so powerful to see. The difference between just being able to have a conversation with someone and bridge something, you know, with someone. And then the complete shutdown when we become so dogmatic in our stand that we won’t even treat someone else with respect–how that just shut down everything. That was powerful. It’s an excellent book. I think everyone should be reading it.

Terrie:

I always ask everyone who comes on my podcast: What is your favorite read-aloud book that you either read to your children when they were young or that you had read to you when you were young or that you have decided to read to your adult children, other than Common Ground, what, what would be that book?

Robynne:

That’s kind of interesting because my children range in ages. There’s 11 years from the oldest to the youngest. We kind of cycled through books that were on all levels. So I have my three, I was a Goodnight Moon, mama. I absolutely loved Goodnight Moon. I loved the cadence of it. I loved the–I just, I thought it was rich and beautiful. It was a great way to get two of my kids asleep. I’d almost pull out the book and they would be asleep. The kind of middle ground was The Velveteen Rabbit, huge Velveteen Rabbit fan. I feel like it was the book that we could talk about. That was my starting point for literature. The Little House on the Prairie series, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and My Side of the Mountain. We kind of–because there’s eight books in the Little House on the Prairie series– So we kind of rotated through them. And they all, as they aged and had different perspectives on the world, all of them were good conversation starters as well. That’s kind of what I looked for in a book. When I got older, my kids, we still, in fact, I just went on a trip with my 14 year old down to California. We chose our books on, I say book on tape cause I’m a hundred years old–audio book. Thank you very much. Because it was just a given that we were gonna listen to a book going down. I’ve instilled that love for reading in my kids thankfully. We’re listening to To Kill a Mockingbird, which of course I’ve read a million times, but my 14-year-old son had yet to read it. That has a lot of talking points in it. We always built that in. My husband, because he is British, he has just a gorgeous reading voice. We would do a lot of family reading when the kids were growing up, but we never just let it be “Okay, we’ve read a chapter. Everybody go to bed. We always left it open. Does anybody have a question? And it could be what is a model T Ford, you know, just an informational question. And it could be, “Could Atticus be the Mockingbird? Could To–, you know. So it could be any kind of question, but we always left that open, and sometimes there weren’t any, but I think that that idea that good literature is meant to be interacted with and can spur that curiosity that I was talking about at the beginning–we’re supposed to engage with those words and let them maybe spark something in us. So we always had that question time too, but those are some of my absolute favorites. And now I want to go read Velveteen Rabbit because I haven’t read it in about two years. So thank you very much, Terrie. I’ve got other things to do, and now I’m gonna go find my copy of the Velveteen Rabbit.

Terrie:

Well, that’s what I’m here for. Tell us what’s going on with Inspire Christian Writers.

Robynne:

Oh my gosh. I’m super excited about this. Well, Inspire Christian Writers is an organization that I’m just the second president of. The founder started with a critique group, a writing group, that kind of just grew and developed into an organization many years ago. She stepped down, and I was on the board of directors. Then after about a year and a half of a board-led model, I got slotted into president. The organization’s whole remit is to encourage and equip writers. So everything that we do is with that in mind, we do have, if you’re a member (and it’s only $50 a year, so it’s not an expensive organization and it hasn’t gone up since it started for that) you get discounts on everything from some conferences, resources for writers, editors, and format and all sorts of things. That’s usually well more than the $50 annual fee. And we have free critique groups, which really critique groups for me are one of the best things about Inspire. We have a lot of resources, and we’ve been named one of the top 10 Christian writing resources in the world, which is awesome. And I’m very proud of our award-winning blog and all of that. But really writing is such a solitary journey and to have a community of writers who can give you feedback, and you can give feedback to them. And I personally learn more when I do a critique than ever when I get a critique. So I’m a big fan of that whole model. That’s one of the best ways to learn: to hear how other people are reading your words. It’s just so invaluable. So we’ve got a lot of different things. Inspirewriters.com is our website. And you can check out all the different things that we do. We have free quarterly workshops on a variety of subjects–everything from, you know, marketing to publishing options to craft. We bring in a lot of great speakers. So we have a lot of different offerings that we as an organization do. This year, Mount Herman, which is outside of Santa Cruz, California in Felton, California is Mount Hermon Christian Conference is a Christian conference kind of camp that for 50 years ran its own Christian writing conference. And it happened always the week before Easter. And it’s the grandfather of writing conferences. It brought people from other countries even –phenomenal opportunity to meet agents, to meet publishers, to get world-class teaching–all the things. The COVID monster came in, and they made that horribly difficult and sad decision to end the conference.

Robynne:

So the Inspire Christian Writers Conference at Mount Hermon will be next March 25th through 29th. It’s being run in a different way than when Mount Hermon ran it in that they had the whole campus dedicated to this event. We however are going to be one of three different groups on campus. And we have a limit of people. And because of that, we will certainly have registration probably go up to about a week before the conference starts. But that’s only if there’s rooms. We’ve already had some room types sell out. If you want to go, you probably ought to look into it. We do have a payment plan for people who need to spread it out a little bit. And we’ve got absolutely fantastic, fantastic faculty. Because Inspire’s a nonprofit, I’m running it with the same idea. I’ve been able to lower the cost of the actual conference. I’ve raised the remuneration for all the faculty. And I’ve brought people from the East Coast, which is more expensive because of flights and things, to make sure that this is absolutely the best conference that has ever been on that campus. We have a rockstar faculty, lots of agents from different agencies and lots of publishers and editors. If you’re in a stage where you want to learn, we’re going to have incredible teaching faculty. If you’re ready to pitch, this is a great opportunity. And if you’re ready to soak up what it means to be in a writing community, this is the place. It’s just an anointed, fantastic facility. So we’re super excited. So technical answer to your question is that we will until the very last minute, probably about a week before, have registration open, but I’m not saying that we’re going to have registration slots available at that time. So that’s kind of where we’re at.

Terrie:

Okay. Well, I’m excited that that’s something that’s going to happen again. And I always ask everyone who’s on our program one more question, and that is how can we best support you in your work and your ministry?

Robynne:

That is a great question. The first is obviously prayer. The writer’s life is a very interesting life. I’m very blessed in that. I’m also a writing coach, a writing and publishing coach and an editor. So I have an income stream that is not just based around my books, but I am fortunate enough that I’ve been able to write enough books that I’m now at a place where I also have that income stream, but writers do have a lot of trouble figuring out what’s next. I have so many things that I want to do and am doing. And sometimes your timelines get a little bit juggled. I would love prayer that I would be open to and seeing in all the busyness and in all the kind of things that you have to do to kind of juggle this career, that I would see what God wants next. I would’ve never, ever expected where being the world expert on Nellie Olson–the mean girl in the Little House on the Prairie would take me, but it’s taken me to ministry opportunities I could never have imagined. And so I want to be open to what God wants me to do and where he wants me to be. So prayer for my career and my decisions and wisdom is first. Opportunity, you know, all those things that writers would love is definitely on the prayer list.

Robynne:

But second, in a very practical way, if you love a book (and I’m not just talking about me), obviously, if you’ve read and love my books, I would deeply appreciate a review on Amazon or Good Reads or wherever. That affects our ability to get whatever we write seen, the better our reviews are and the more reviews we have. So that’s a big deal. So if you love a book, take the few minutes, whether it’s mine or someone else’s, to review it and then share it. If you have Facebook or you have Twitter or Instagram, it is the best thing that you can do for a writer to say, “this book made me laugh,” or “this book made me think,” or “this book really gave me some great help with my kids,” or whatever it is. Doesn’t have to be long, but just share it because word of mouth from people that you trust and you love means a lot, that kind of thing. If you’re not getting the, you know, the sales that you had hoped for, or you are, I mean, some of my books I have great sales for, but I don’t know any of the people who are buying them. So I feel disconnected from my audience. So that’s just a wonderful way. Tag the writer, hashtag the writer, make sure that they’re connected to the post. And if you do that, you’re sending love. You’re sending those little– while we’re in the depths of our research or our writing or our, you know, our different drafts. If we get hash tagged on to somebody’s post about our book, that can really be a huge encouragement to keep going. So prayer first and then review and share is probably the most practical thing that you can do for any writer, me included.

Terrie:

That’s great. Thank you so much, Robynne, for sharing with me today.

Robynne:

You are welcome and thank you for having me. Always lovely to talk to you, Terrie.

Terrie:

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 follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to connect with Robynne, you can find her robynnemiller.com. And if you would like to connect with me, you can find me at TerrieHellardBrown.com. If you enjoyed this podcast, please download it. Each download helps the podcast become more visible for other people to find it as well. And feel free to share with your friends about this podcast or any of the links that we have shared with you in the show notes and help others to find great books to read with their children and to enhance their lives.

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.

Inspire Christian Writers Conference at Mount Hermon

March 25th-29th, 2022
Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center
Felton, CA (not far from Santa Cruz)

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