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BookWorthy Chats with Sally Cressman


Valerie -Today we're talking with Sally Cressman. Sally is an award-winning writer who has written children's Sunday school curricula, devotionals, and articles. She's raised three children and served in children's ministry for over 30 years. Today we are talking about her debut children's book with Wren and Bear, The Dance of Easter. Welcome to Bookworthy Sally.


Sally- Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me, Valerie.


Valerie- It is my pleasure to have you here. Now, since you have an Easter book and we're in spring, what is your favorite season?


Sally -You know, when we first came to, so I've lived in three different places. I've lived third of my life in Wisconsin, third in Texas, and third in Tennessee here. And what I forgot about when we were in Houston, it's just summer, like all year pretty much, and you might have a week of winter. But when we came to Tennessee, honestly, the spring was so exciting for us. Just things were coming up in this, this gradual timing. And we're like, oh my gosh, you know, here come the daffodils and here come the, you know, the Bradford pears and all these different things. So, for, it was just when we moved here, spring was definitely, the highlight just to see everything coming to life. And, and we didn't know some of the things that were planted, honestly. So, it was just fun to see what was popping up there.


Valerie- So you've lived in Wisconsin, which is known for winter, and you've been in Texas. I lived in Houston for seven years, so I know Houston. And you've lived where there's summer most of the year, or humidity, if that's a season in itself. And then in Tennessee, where you do get some seasons. Now, are there more than four seasons in Tennessee?


Sally -Yeah, um, summer is maybe a little bit longer than I'm used to, um, than what we have like in Wisconsin, um, but it's, it's a good balance, I think. So we're, uh, we're recording this right now in, in fall or it's supposed to be fall, but it's still like, I think it's like eight, eighty degrees out there. So, yeah, but we have we do have the four seasons, we don't get much snow, um, which I would kind of like a little bit more, but we they just aren't prepared for it here. So it's probably a good thing.


Valerie- Yes, what is it? A couple of years ago in Texas, we had what? Two weeks of over two feet of snow. And yeah, Texas just shut down.


Sally- Oh my gosh. Yeah. I think there's one snowplow for the whole county or something, it's ridiculous.


Valerie- Yeah, it's pretty crazy. Well, Sally, tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.


Sally - Sure. Well, I mentioned I grew up in Wisconsin. So I became an avid Packer fan there. So I love the Green Bay Packers. So, the town I grew up in was very rural, with 343 people. So yeah, it was probably more cows than people. And then after college, I moved from there to Houston, a drastic change culturally, just everything from rural to metropolitan, from winter to summer. So, it was a big change for me, and I had to adjust a lot of different ways, but I met my husband there. We had our three kids there. They're all Texans. So, yeah, yeah. And then my husband's job brought me here to Nashville. And we're currently, my husband and I are in the emptiness stage of life. We're in this relaxing rhythm, even though we're both still working, and kind of like he's starting a new career. But anyway, my oldest daughter lives near Charlotte with her husband. My son lives here in East Nashville. And then my youngest daughter just quit her CPA job and has just moved to Indiana to go into counseling. So anyway, a lot is going on right now in our family, but it's an enjoyable season of life for us right now.


Valerie -It sounds that way and everybody's keeping busy. Now tell us a little bit about your book, The Dance of Easter.


Sally- Sure, it's being published by Wren and Bear Books, which is an imprint of Endgame Press. And it's an Easter picture book, and it's going to focus on the day of Easter. Nobody knows that he's risen yet. So, it's kind of starting a little somber, and then, but once everybody finds out, creation finds out that he's alive, it all comes to life. And the creation and all the creatures, celebrate the joy of the resurrection. I'm very excited about it, yeah.


Valerie- So fun. What was the inspiration for this book?


Sally -You know, I've been a Sunday school teacher for a long time. And when we first started teaching Sunday school, kids knew the stories, they just did. And they could answer the questions and they would finish the story for you. And I haven't taught in the last couple of years, I've retired from that, but I just do childcare now, I've noticed maybe in the last five, to eight years, that the kids don't know the story as well, the foundational stories even. So, there's this cultural kind of, I don't know, it's seeping in where they don't know the foundational stories. So I wanted to get that out and my desire is really for the book to reach beyond the walls of the church, and not just the church, but maybe those who come infrequently, and certainly for those who do go to church, but I'd also love to get people that are outside the walls of the church to read it to, and to just plant that seed of some truths of Jesus, yeah.


Valerie- Yeah, I love the idea that you know, you know, not just the disciples and the guards and the angels were involved, but creation itself knew something exciting was happening. And I, I'm a big animal lover. So, to kind of imagine, you know, how creation is waiting and groaning, you know, not just for that first coming, but it was continuing to wait and groan for his second coming too. And so, I know that's fun, and I can't wait to see the illustrations because animals are always so cute. So fun. You said that you wanted to not just communicate within the church but outside the church. How do you, when you're writing this, how did you want this book to bridge that gap between those who don't come to church very frequently and those who do?


Sally- Well, one of the, and I hope this is going to stay, but just the title itself, The Dance of Easter, it was, I had shown it to another agent and, and he had said, not my agent, but someone else I showed it to, and he had said that it wouldn't, it wouldn't go over because of the word dance. So, I wanted to leave it in because I thought maybe that would appeal to people outside the church. Just the idea and the idea of the animals, they're so cute and I think the illustrations, so to tell the story, but yet do it maybe through a little bit different viewpoint of how creation did. Then, I had a lot of fun looking up different dance moves or different, and trying to match them with the animals and maybe what would be natural for them to do. So anyway, it was kind of fun. And so anyway, I hope they see the fun in it and the joy. And so that's one way that I'm trying to maybe bridge that gap. So yeah.


Ballroom Dancing

Valerie -Sally, are you a dancer?


Sally- I am not. I tried to get my husband to do dance lessons, but we had four dance lessons, and he could only make two of them. So anyway, yeah, that didn't go over very well. Yeah. And that was a that was a while ago, so I haven't brought that up again. That's just one of the things you're like, all right, never mind. We've checked it off the list, we've tried it out, right?  I did have a sister who did ballroom dancing, and she was good at it. And I enjoyed watching her and I kept thinking I would love to do that. But my husband wasn't on the same page as me as that.


Valerie- Dancing is a two-person sport, right? Too fun. Now, Sally, did you always want to be an author?


Sally- You know, I did not. I never had a teacher who said, oh, Sally, you're a good writer. You're going to be a writer someday. The book that's coming out is in rhyme. And no one ever said like, oh, Sally, you're rhyming. You know, it's good. So, I never had any of that feedback. I was better at English than I was at math and science. I love to read. So that was always something. Then when I went to college, I was a business administration major. So, I didn't write much. I'd never had any professor marking up my papers or anything. I've always loved

Sally Cressman Quote

reading, but I think my love for picture books came when my kids were young and I saw their reaction to the books and just how they would laugh or they would like, you know, kind of predict what would happen on the next page. Like in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, they kind of knew what was coming. And then sometimes they would get a little weepy and sometimes they would just snort out loud if it was just hilarious. So, I just loved watching and how those books, picture books resonated with them. And then also my favorite children's book is You Are Special by Max Lucado. And that book just resonated with me. And then when I would read it because it doesn't mention God in there at all, I would read it in the public schools and the teachers in the back would be crying just because it resonated with them. So, and so I wanted to, it is something in me was like, man, I would love to write a book like that. You get that emotional reaction from not only the children but also the adults. And that one, of course, is just a master and is a genius. He's just a really good, amazing writer. But then you get some picture books and you're like, well, I could have written that, although you realize it is a lot harder than you think. So, I think that is kind of where maybe that seed to start writing, but that was a long time ago. So, it was a long process.


You are Special by Max Lucado Cover

Valerie- It is a long process, but when did your writing journey begin?


Sally- You know, actually when we moved to Nashville, I had a picture book that I took to some conferences, and I had a mentor, and I had a look at it, and I went to an actual one of the workshops and it was self-publishing.


And anyway, they were interested in it. And my husband and I talked about it. And so, we put the money upfront, and then the company folded. And we never got our money back. And it was, yeah, it was a kind of a tough time for me. And I like, I quit going to conferences. I quit writing picture books. I just put that book away and I wrote the children's curriculum. I didn't quit writing, but just the picture book thing was kind of like done for me. But then I kept getting these things in my head and just kept writing. And so, I went back to a conference, where they talked about the critique group Ward Weavers. And that helped me instead of me just trying to figure out all the time, like, you know, how to make this better. I had other people that were now kind of pouring in and saying, you need to do this, you need to do that. Or, and so then it kind of got geared up, geared up again. So that was probably six, seven years ago.


Valerie and Sally Interview

Valerie- Now the dance of Easter is written in rhyme. Did writing in rhyme come easy or was that a challenge?


Sally- You know, I thought I was good at it, but I was not. And so that was one of the things in the first book they kept saying, you know, you need to work on your rhythm and your meter. And during 2020 when everybody was home and we didn't go to conferences or things, I took this class by Renee LaTulippe called The Lyrical Language Lab. I learned a lot from it, like the foot and the meters and all these different things, the different types. Just, and so anyway, I learned a lot from that. And then I would go to conferences. I remember sitting with Jill Roman Lord. And she would say like, this line's good, this one is not, it's off. And she would show me what was off, and Michelle Medlock Adams was another one. So, there are several people that I just kept going to. I had to humble myself and ask for help until I could start figuring it out. But it's hard, it's hard to not only do in rhyme, but it's also harder to do in rhyme and then do a story arc with it, make it into a story. So, it looks easy, but to be good at it, it is hard. So yeah.


Valerie- It's one of those, you know, I think of the Venn diagrams where there's three different circles. It's like you have to have the rhyme and the story and the meter and they all have to match up perfectly to get your story in. It's like that is an amazing juggling act.

Rhyme Vinn Diagram

Sally- Yeah, it's just so much. I do have my things edited. And the editor that I use, the freelance editor, knows rhyme well. So, I just sent her one not too long ago and I just like, you think you have it. And then someone else looks at it and they're like, oh, this is off, this is off. And I mean, I just want to like, so, but she was right on a lot of it. So anyway, it is, it's hard. And so I'm, I'm honestly, I'm still learning to do it well.


Valerie -But there's something powerful about rhyme and rhythm and picture books that help a story resonate with young kids. It just kind of hits all the high notes and makes a story kind of stick a little more with young minds and hearts. So that's the power of rhyme, I suppose.


Sally- Yeah, so my dad always read Twas the Night Before Christmas, Christmas Eve. So that rhythm of Twas the Night Before Christmas and all through the house. So I always hear that in my head. And so I think like just that one, how it just flows so easily and you don't think about the rhyming. You're just into the story. You're into the rhythm of the story. And so, yeah, when it's done well, they're really good, yeah.


Valerie- Sally, what's been the most impactful book in your life?

Sally- Um, well, I have to say the Bible and, um, so there was a, um, a book called, um, Believing God by Beth Moore. And she also did a Bible study, and the Bible study might've been before that. So I did both. And it was a point, it was the point when we just moved to Nashville and I didn't know it, but I felt like God was like really saying, I want you to step

Believing God by Beth Moore Cover

forward. I want you to believe me in this writing thing. So, I believe he brought me here for a reason. But I think it was that Bible study and that book that was saying, I, you need to believe me so come on, let's move forward. Let's stop living in fear. Let's just do this thing. All right. And so that one. It was just so powerful for me. And I still remember the five statements of faith, like God, is who he says he is, God can do what he says he can do, I am who God says I am, I can do all things through Christ, and God's word is living and active in me. And those five things, I usually put up my hand and I must do them to remind myself of, you know, that this is not me, but this is God working through me. So yeah, that was a powerful book to kind of push me out of my comfort zone and to start pursuing this writing career.


Valerie- That's a little bit of my journey too. I know it's one of those not believing. I wasn't believing in myself, but more importantly, I wasn't believing God was strong enough to work through me and work in me. And it's, it's a hard hurdle to come over no matter what you're doing, whether it's motherhood or it's writing or any job out there and just to believe that God can use you is kind of just that hard thing to grasp onto and claim is your identity in all things.


Sally- Yeah, I mean, and once you get the writing, kind of you feel good about it. Well, then all of a sudden now you're doing podcasts. Then you have to step forward again. And so it's all these different things that you have to keep learning and keep putting yourself out there. So it just doesn't stop.


Valerie- I know, right?  My goal is obedience. God's in charge of impact, right? So fine. Well, what can we expect next from you, Sally?


Sally- Well, I have another book under contract too. So that was supposed to come out. It's also with Wren and Bear, which is the imprint under End Game Press. I don't know if I mentioned that upfront. So that one was supposed to come out in March 2024, but when they


moved the Easter book up, it's been pushed back, and I don't have a date for it yet. But that one is nonfiction. It's also in rhyme and it's for the general market. And it's celebrating birthdays around the world. And it will look at 10 different countries and how children celebrate birthdays in those 10 different countries. And honestly, that one was a lot of fun to research and just to talk to people who have lived in those countries. And so it was a lot of fun to do. So I wish I had a date for that, but I don't have a date for it yet. But that is coming.


Valerie- That sounds amazing. I look forward to hearing more about that as you get a firm date and all those things. Where can people find out more about you and your book, Sally?


Sally- I have a website, Sally Cressman, just my name, And so, you can find me there. There's a contact on there if you want to contact me. If you sign up for my email on there, I have lots of different giveaways. And so, when this comes out, there'll be a giveaway of eight different Easter devotions for the family, family devotions. And so that if you sign up for the email and then obviously once you do, you'll have up-to-date information about the next book coming out and other things happening with the Easter book. I'm also on Facebook, and Instagram, those two are active. I'm also on Twitter, but not quite as active as LinkedIn. So, yeah, just those platforms and yeah, I'd love to connect with any of your listeners. So that would be, that'd be great.


Valerie- Well, I hope they do reach out and join your email list for those Easter devotions as well as just the great books that you have coming down the line. I'm looking forward to seeing them all. Thank you for joining me today, Sally.


Sally- Well, thank you for having me, Valerie.


Valerie- My pleasure. And thank you for joining Sally and me on this episode of the Bookworthy Podcast. Check the show notes for any books or links that we discussed and let us know in the comments, what's your favorite season? Then hit the like and subscribe button to help us discover more great books together.

Happy reading.

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Five Fun Facts about Sally Cressman

  • Tea drinker in a sea of coffee drinkers

  • Part-owner of the Green Bay Packers

  • Better at growing plastic plants than real ones

  • Learned to swim in her 50's

  • Played bassoon in high school band

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