I’m here today with Sally Meadows, a two-time Canadian national award-nominated inspirational singer/songwriter, author, and speaker. After three professional degrees and a diverse career path that included being an editor, children’s entertainer, and educator, Sally took the plunge to focus full-time on her music and writing ministry in 2013.
Her desire is to inspire others to explore the creative calls on their lives in the fullness God intended, no matter what their background, age, or personal challenges.
Who or what inspired you to write Beneath That Star?
In the fall of 2013, I was in the studio recording my Christmas CD Red & White, and while hearing a playback of my original song “Beneath That Star,” I began to think more and more about the back-story of the girl who voices the song: a fictional character who meets Jesus around the time He was born.
I felt the Lord nudging me to write a book to flesh out her story. Because I envisioned her as a young girl, I felt strongly that a children’s book was the way to go. Writing this book has given me the opportunity to share several important messages with children (and the adults who read to them) including this one: If God is calling you to a special purpose, don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it.
Did you pull any real-life experiences into your story, and if so, how did they help shape it?
The back-story really took on a life of its own as I started writing the book. I ended up bringing in elements of, and influences in, my own life that weren’t even on my radar when I wrote the song. Let me explain.
When I was growing up, my mother told my sister and me on numerous occasions we could do and be anything we wanted. It was a powerful statement that stayed with me throughout my life. I have constantly challenged myself over the years to do things that are outside of my comfort zone, leading me to some amazing careers and adventures. My prayer was to include this message in the book through the main character, Saray, who longed to be a shepherd, something unconventional for a young girl to do for that period of history. (I too bucked convention, choosing a career traditionally reserved for men.)
I remember my mother telling me several times over the years she longed to be a shepherdess. This was fulfilled in her life, but not how she imagined it. In fact, it came to be in a way that was much more significant—the Lord brought her to a church where she eventually took on an eldership role, and she became a shepherd of people. My vision of Saray’s life parallels that of my mother—that even as Saray longed to be a shepherd, a close encounter with the Messiah would lead her on a path to become a shepherd of people and a key supporter of Jesus’s ministry.
What feedback have you received from your book? Has there been any controversy, and how do you rise above that?
I have had authors, musicians, and ministry leaders across Canada publicly endorse my book through lovely reviews. And I am delighted to have included a number of endorsements on the first page of the book. An expanded list of endorsements is also included in my media package.
Once the book was released a few things happened that I WASN’T expecting.
I had given my illustrator free reign to draw the illustrations. I knew she had done her research and I trusted her judgment. I did not expect that the scarf Saray wears on her head throughout the story, which fully covered her hair, might be mistaken for a Muslim hijab. I have had to explain to people that the young girl is Jewish, not Muslim, and that this scarf and the way it was worn was traditional to the time of Jesus regardless of faith beliefs.
One potential reviewer refused to give a review of the book for political/sociological reasons (she didn’t like the depiction of Saray having a disability) as well as theological reasons (she didn’t believe that Jesus could heal). It was an eye-opening revelation that not everything I have written will be received by everyone in the spirit with which it is intended.
So how have I risen above these kinds of difficulties? There is wisdom in knowing when you can’t change something; I can’t change how Saray looks (i.e. throw out all my books and start the illustrations from scratch, and reprint the book), and won’t, simply because of some people’s mistaken perceptions. In fact, it was interesting to hear one Christian friend wonder if this book is an outreach to those of the Muslim faith. No, it wasn’t intended to be so, but if it can be used that way, praise God!
With regards to the criticism by the reviewer mentioned above, there are always naysayers. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to share my faith with this reviewer as we corresponded with each other back and forth. So if the book opens up the door to evangelize, then praise God that I have accomplished one of our key directives as Christians.
Many Christian authors find it difficult to get their faith-based books into mainstream stores and public libraries. What has been your experience with Beneath That Star, which has a distinctly Christian message?
As I co-marketed my two children’s books to libraries across Canada this year, I was surprised that many librarians were much more interested in my children’s book The Two Trees (a mainstream book about a boy on the autism spectrum) than Beneath That Star (a faith-based book about a Jewish girl who meets Jesus on the day He was born)—even without reading them! Even the libraries in my own province, which had embraced my two clearly Christian CDs, have not widely purchased this story. Surely libraries are aware that their clients include many Christians who would love to read a faith-based seasonal story to their children! I am still scratching my head about all this somewhat, but I do not feel discouraged. I still trust that the book will end up in the hands of those who need to hear the important messages of this book.
I feel assured that Beneath That Star will continue to find an audience, and so I keep on with a positive, expectant heart. It’s only been a year since the book was released, and since it is seasonal, marketing is limited to only a few months per year. I am hopeful Beneath That Star will get great traction this year, because it really is a lovely little story—a metaphor of each and every one of us making the decision to come to Christ. For that reason, I see it as a book that could be used in reaching out to the unsaved.
What advice or tips do you have for authors regarding cross marketing?
This is a loaded question that could take an entire blog to discuss! So instead of discussing here, I will refer you to an article I wrote on cross marketing on my publisher’s (Word Alive Press) blog.
Sally, thank you so much for being here today and sharing your experiences.
Sally has graciously offered to give away a copy of Beneath That Star and a copy of her Christmas CD Red & White. To enter the giveaway, visit her website and sign up for her newsletter. Everyone who signs up receives a digital PDF copy of an 8 1/2” by 11″ coloring sheet designed by award-winning, best-selling author Ann-Margret Hovsepian (Restore My Soul) to celebrate the release of Sally’s new single, “Holy Spirit,” now on the radio across Canada and into the US.
ABOUT BENEATH THAT STAR
Saray longs to be a shepherd just like her three older brothers. But when God speaks to her in a dream to look out for and follow the bright star, what she finds underneath it is of far greater value than anything she could ever have imagined.
Beneath That Star is an uplifting story for all ages about obedience, patience, trust, healing, and above all, God’s immeasurable love for each one of us.
Available to order in digital and hardcopy format at http://sallymeadows.com/store, Barnes & Noble, Indigo/Coles/Chapters, amazon.com, amazon.ca, and your favorite online or local bookstore.
Churches, Christian schools, and other organizations may purchase the book at wholesale prices to be used in fundraising or as giveaways. If you are interested, please email Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beneath That Star has its own Facebook page!