Interview with Sarah Mankowski
October 11, 2012
This interview was compiled from questions asked by visitors to my store and by readers. In most cases the questions were formed from multiple questions.
Q: What inspires the designs in your store?
A: I design, or ask my son J.D. to design, things that interest me. I love butterflies, for example. Therefore, my store includes many items with butterfly designs.
For several years now I have added Christmas cards, these being the cards that I wished to send to family and friends. They include original poems. Since the cards remain in the store, we have accumulated quite an assortment. In this way I have cards to send each year. Items purchased are an added blessing. I am very grateful to our customers for shopping at our Christmas store.
Q: Christmas poems?
A: Yes. I’m not much of a poet, but I try to write poems connecting the birth of Christ to our present-day lives. The message of Christ is always for the present. This year’s theme is The Bethlehem Star. In the poem I attempted to convey the idea that like faith unseen, this star soul-seen, remains our guide through the frustrations of everyday life.
Q: Your store includes many products created using your photos. Tell me about your photography in relation to being legally blind.
A: I was born with cataracts in both eyes. When this happens the cataracts are usually removed while the child is still quite young, and then corrective glasses must be worn. My situation was complicated by detached retinas. This left me almost completely blind in the left eye. I can only see light. For this reason the doctors left the cataract in my right eye. My “good-eye” sight is 20/200.
When I take photos, I am only looking through the right eye. One reason I take so many photos is, by doing so, I can study distant objects more clearly on the computer screen. This is certainly true when observing butterflies.
Q: Living in Florida, and as you say fourth-generation Floridian, how does location influence your work?
A: Living in a climate where I can garden year round keeps me outdoors year round, and enjoying nature with all my senses. I do not know if I can express this correctly, but when you must examine things much closer, it makes your little space seem much larger. My garden seems like some vast world with all the plants and critters as inhabitants. I suppose this shapes perspective in some way.
Q: You have been quite open about your faith after being agnostic for much of your adult life. How has your faith changed the direction of your store and your writing?
A: Regarding the store, The Christmas Store for certain. Christmas meant very little to me before I found faith, or rather faith found me ready to pay attention.
Gratitude to God for showing me that even when I believed myself alone, He was always there. I do not believe I possess the ability to properly express my gratitude, yet I try with the designs.
In writing, I said what I wished to say about faith and science in my novel As The Dominoes Fall. I have no plans to write another work of fiction that deals so overtly with Christianity. If I felt the need to say something, it would more likely be expressed in nonfiction. I am not cleaver enough to write these things without sounding preachy, which I would rather not do in fiction.
This past year I have rewritten and lengthened my novel Echo’s Voice into a six-episode series for Kindle. This is a novel set in the future. Religion only plays a role in the novel insomuch as religion is practically illegal in this future time.
Q: Has becoming a Christian changed the way you write?
A: Becoming a Christian has changed me inside, has filled me with gratitude for our loving God. It has made me think about my actions, including my creative endeavors. My boundaries, as I hope to be true with real-world neighbors, I do not wish to needlessly offend. Yet my characters will be who they are; just as real-world friends will be who they are.
Q: How do you think your writing is influenced by being legally blind?
A. That is really hard to answer. Because I do not see well enough to note facial expressions I tend not to add many details. I probably convey more through dialog.
Q: How did you become interested in writing?
A: My mother read to my sisters and me from babyhood. From earliest memory I was making up adventures for the characters, from the books she read. Many were the Doctor Dolittle adventures I invented.
Q: What are you currently working on? Future plans?
A: For the store, I am currently working on Our Christmas Store.
Writing: I am writing the seventh episode of Echo’s Voice. (Kindle only)
I am also working on a book about gardening. At this time I’m not sure if it will be Kindle only, or Kindle and print.
Q: How do you feel about reviews?
A: I am always grateful for reviews. Of course people will have varying opinions. Nevertheless, I am always grateful for feedback.
|The oversized calendars display a different 11×17 poster each month.
Open, they are 17×22 inches!
|I wanted to do one with a sampling of John’s artwork, but since several of his posters are vertical I arranged them with great quotes about imagination.
From the Calendar link click View Calendar Pages to view the design for each month.
|I designed the Comfort/Thinking of You Calendar specifically for my mother and mother-in-law, but think others living in nursing homes or limited by illness will appreciate these pages. The calendar includes many of the 11×17 posters
from our Comfort and Caregiver page. Paired with photographs or John’s artwork you’ll find comforting Bible verses or poems.
Thanks to the great suggestions! I have added some pillows and keepsake boxes to the Comfort & Caregivers section of the store. Also some little things like ornaments and magnets. Just for my MIL I added a few things with the “When” prayer. Almost every day when we talk she mentions how much she loves it. Of course, every time she reads something it’s like reading it for the first time…
Not knowing what may come up in coming weeks I decided I must devote some time to Our Christmas Store.
This store is really expanding. You’ll find new cards and expanded gift sections. Would you believe we now offer over 100 gifts in our Gifts Under $5 section?
We are still completing work on the CDs of my mother-in-law’s restored music. There will be two CDs, one of classic hymns and one of Christmas music. My MIL has one of the most incredible voices I’ve ever heard, so this was a project we really wanted to complete, although we only had a bag of old badly recorded cassette tapes. John has worked wonders on the restoration. I’m not sure how long it will take for the CDs to be added, but I wished to get the rest of the store ready as soon as possible.
I also hope to add some of her recordings here. In time.
I had already planned to go to Chicago and Santa Fe in early December, but depending on how things develop I may need to go to Chicago sooner. My mother-in-law is recovering quite well from her hip surgery, but with Alzheimer’s she can’t be left alone. I’m not sure what will happen so am trying to catch up on as much as possible as quickly as possible.
Along with the Christmas Store I added a section of cards and posters called Comfort and Caregivers. Thinking about my mother and mother-in-law along with my sister and sister-in-law who sacrifice so much to care for them, I often feel there’s not much I can do from so far away. But we can let the caregivers and those requiring long-term care know they are not alone and certainly not forgotten. This was on my mind when I added this section.
I have wanted to review this book for months but find it nearly impossible to organize my thoughts into a coherent review. Don’t get me wrong. I love this book and wholeheartedly applaud Andrew Marin’s bridge-building work between Christian and gay communities.
I first became aware of the book from a review at Internetmonk.com. After reading Love Is An Orientation I immediately bought five additional copies to give away. So, you see, while I struggle to write a review it has nothing to do with the content.
My problem, I find it difficult to write about this topic without my own emotions churning out of control.
I can’t discuss this book without my thoughts turning to a young family friend who practically lived at out house his senior year of high school. I didn’t know what was going on in his family, and didn’t pry. His only comment was that our house was quiet.
Years later this young man and his roommates were moving to a new apartment. I was helping them get the old place cleaned out. While the others took a load of furniture to the new apartment, he and I stayed behind to clean out the refrigerator. In the stillness of that empty apartment he told me everything. At 16 his parents found out that he was gay. They thought they could beat him into going straight.
He told me the whole story and the pain in my heart was unbearable. The next day, back home, I spent the entire day crying. How could parents do this to their own! Why?
Before that day, I would have said this really wasn’t my issue. After that day, after I cried until my eyes ached, I really didn’t have a choice. This cruelty must stop. We are also culpable by our silence. Do you know what compassion is, the compassion that Christ taught? It begins by looking at people as HUMAN! None of us are merely our sexuality.
Too often we look for one identifiable trait to label each person we encounter: The fat girl. The computer geek. The drunk. The great singer. The girl with a criminal record. The woman with the funny accent. That guy obsessed with politics. The boy with the really cool car. The annoying Christian. The man in the wheelchair. The gay guy. Once labeled it becomes so easy to file away in mental boxes marked Good and Bad or Desirable and Undesirable. Now, no longer diverse individuals with successes and failures, a past a future, emotions, aspirations, impulses and fragilities, we needn’t consider how much we may have in common. Once condemned or elevated by our labels, we may trample underfoot or place high up on pedestals. The labels make them, thems – maybe worse than us or better than us, but no way could they be us. And this, my friends, leaves no room for compassion.
Just as I suspected, I veered pretty far from the book I intended to review. But since some of you have also read Andrew Marin’s book, perhaps you will have more to say.
This is a close as I can get to a review:
If you are a parent and your son or daughter have just come out to you, or if you are a pastor and a member of your congregation wants to talk about same-sex attractions. If you are a teacher, friend, sibling, co-worker, neighbor, I beg you to read this book before you walk away and slam the door on this treasured individual.