Saturday, July 17, 2010

Interview with Sarah Cunningham, author of Picking Dandelions

Sarah Raymond Cunningham is a high school teacher, part-time college prof, and chief servant to the nine month emperor Justus. She is a popular church and conference speaker, the author of Dear Church, and a contributor to several books, including unChristian. Sarah, her husband, Chuck, and their son live with their manic Jack Russell terrier in Jackson, Michigan. They attend a church plant called Rivertree. Find out more at

How would you describe Picking Dandelions to people who haven't read any of your writing before?
Picking Dandelions is a collection of stories--a memoir really--about change. It follows my life, so there are stories from various stages--from working with the homeless, to leading a disaster relief trip to Ground Zero, to working with inner city kids. All of it is honest. Some of it is funny. Its a transparent look at the ups and downs of religion, of figuring out how to have and keep faith.

How do you hope the book will impact people?
I hope people will enjoy themselves as they read it. That they'll laugh. But mostly, I hope they'll relate. Every one of us faces what can feel like the monotony of adulthood. We clean the house or mow the lawn or clock into work again and again. Subconsciously it can send us a message: life has leveled off. This is all there is. But I don't think that's true. I think faith is a never ending journey that grows and stretches and breathes new energy into us, no matter where we are in life.
I think we can't afford the boredom and stagnation of unchanged living.

I love the idea from the book that we are all trying to recapture a little bit of Eden. Do you have a favourite way you have been discovering a little bit of Eden lately?
I'm a lover, by nature, so Eden hits me deepest when I'm spending time with people. I'm always so taken with people--whether it be the girl who cuts my hair or my coworkers or my family. Loving people stirs goodness--not just in us, but in most cases, in the people around us.

Someone once told me they felt like I fell in love every time I met a new person. And sometimes  I think they're right. Eden is reborn in every moment where my life touches another person's.

Who or what inspires you as a writer?
Real life is probably my steadiest inspiration. Concepts--spiritual truths, for example--sometimes hook onto me in ways that almost feel like they're begging me to write about them.

Picking Dandelions was influenced, in part, by writers like Anne Lamott who talk to their readers openly and aren't afraid to laugh at themselves. I could write something more academic. Part of me is a thinker and likes that sort of thing. But I'd rather write something accessible that a broader group of people want to read, you know?

Sarah also had a question for me. She wanted to know what books I recommend. I had a hard time narrowing it down to a few, but some new books I like are Jonathon Acuff- Stuff Christians Like, Anne Jackson- Permission to Speak Freely and Donald Miller- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.