Kirsten Roggenkamp and Heather Blaire are both school teachers who became friends in their shared classroom at Mile High Academy in Denver, Colorado. Their writing partnership has focused on re-telling Bible stories for younger readers, and they talked with us about these projects.
Tell us about your journey to becoming authors.
After many years of reading books as parents and teachers, we thought it would be fun to try to write stories that captured the wonder of children. Neither of us knew anything about publishing but we figured we could learn. Our first draft to Pacific Press was rejected. So we made changes, added stories and waited until we had solidified the focus of our first book to submit the manuscript again.
What first sparked the idea of these books?
Kirsten: A friend challenged me to write a collection of Bible stories. When visiting Heather, she asked about my current project. When she heard I was writing Bible stories, her response was “I want to do that!” We chose stories, set deadlines and prayed together as we collaborated to create quality narratives. Working alone, neither one of would have finished the book. Working together, we encouraged each other to “Write on!”
These Bible stories have been told countless times before, what makes your retelling unique?
For a generation of children who are used to seeing stories acted out in movies and on TV, it was important us to present the Bible stories in a way that made them come alive. We wrote life-like dialogue, presented the feelings of the characters, and added details about the setting to make readers and listeners feel like they were a part of the drama. Sometimes we added a child to the story to help 21st-century children imagine how they would have felt if they had been there. We were careful that our narratives followed the Bible and books by Ellen White. Research on the geography and history of Biblical times and locations added accuracy.
What is your favourite Bible story or character?
Kirsten: Writing about Mary and the birth of Jesus helped me understand what she was willing to risk to follow God’s directions for her life and the part she played in the plan of salvation. Another amazing part was how God used Zacharias and Elizabeth to encourage her. I also love the story of Joseph and his brothers. All of us can learn much from this example of forgiveness and brotherly love. Reading it brings tears to my eyes.
Heather: My favourite story in Boldly Brave is about the Widow of Zarephath. She chose to trust God and feed Elijah first when she knew she only had enough for one more piece of bread for her son. It didn’t make sense, but God blessed her “boldly brave” faith and provided food for her family and Elijah throughout the famine. In Securely Strong the leper who came back to say “Thank you” to Jesus humbles me and reminds me to first say “Thank you” to God for all of the gifts He sends.
What more do you have planned for the series?
We’ve started to collect ideas and write stories for a book that focuses on the life of Jesus, the people He interacted with and the lessons He taught. We’re excited to see how God leads on this new writing adventure.
Each story includes activity suggestions and discussion questions. How do you anticipate that these books will be used?
Just like we worked to make the stories come alive, we hope the good news of God’s love will ignite in the heart of each person who reads or hears the stories. We intentionally designed the activities and questions to help readers practice being “boldly brave for Jesus” and living “securely strong in Jesus.” We’re hoping teachers, parents and other trusted adults will choose to partner with children as they claim the Bible lessons as part of their identity.
What is your overall message to communicate to readers?
We hope and pray that everyone who reads this book falls in love with the Bible stories and the God who shows His love through them.
Securely Strong and Boldly Brave are both available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online at adventistbookcentre.com.au.