Writer’s Desk with Jennifer Marshall Bleakley
Jennifer Marshall Bleakley is the author of Joey, the Pawverbs devotional series, Project Solomon, and Finding Grace. Jen has a master’s degree in counseling and worked as a grief counselor for several years before staying home with her children. Somewhere in between countless loads of laundry, library story time, petting zoos, and the blessed hours of nap time, Jen discovered a way to combine her lifelong love of animals and her longing to encourage others with her passion for writing. Jen often says that animals have much to teach us about ourselves, about each other, and about God, but in order to learn from them we must paws and pay attention. (She also really loves a good pun!) Jen lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, Darrell, their two children, Andrew and Ella, and a menagerie of pets, including a rescue cat, a sloth-like bearded dragon, and a very needy golden retriever.
More about Pawverbs for Kids
In the style of Jennifer Bleakley’s bestselling books, Pawverbs: 100 Inspirations to Delight an Animal Lover’s Heart, Pawverbs for a Dog Lover’s Heart, and Pawverbs for a Cat Lover’s Heart, we’re expanding the series to include inspiring devotionals written specifically for children.
Kids love animals! Pawverbs for Kids is jam-packed with 30 true-to-life short stories or pawverbs. Each of these charming stories features kids and animals―and what a variety of animals there are: dogs, cats, frogs, birds, horses . . . even a bearded dragon and a grasshopper! Each story illustrates a biblical principle or lesson found in the Bible book of Proverbs. This book presents biblical truth in a whimsical way and invites kids to explore deep spiritual truth alongside extremely loveable pets!
Each pawverb includes:
- A Bible verse from Proverbs
- A short and engaging story
- Reflection questions
- A child-friendly prayer
God has given us animals, ultimately to point us to himself―to the one who is always there and who loves us unconditionally. In this book, children will not only find inspiring and heartwarming animal tales, but spiritual truths to touch their hearts and remind them of God’s unfailing love, wisdom, and grace.
Q&A with Jennifer Marshall Bleakley
TG: Everyone always asks for an interesting fact, we’re going to flip the question. What is one boring fact about yourself?
JMB: I have the same thing for breakfast every single day: Panda Puffs cereal and coffee with caramel-flavored creamer.
TG: Why did you write Pawverbs for Kids?
JMB: Even though I had two loving and awesome parents, I was a painfully shy child and found it difficult to talk to others. But I had an outdoor cat named Sugar that I could talk to. She became my confidant, my friend, and ultimately, her faithful presence in my life, pointed my young heart to God. My experience with Sugar planted seeds in my heart that God grew into the Pawverbs devotional series which explores the many ways animals can point people’s hearts to God. After writing the original book and books for dog lovers and cat lovers, I really wanted to write one specifically for kids. Pawverbs for Kids is the book I wish I had had as a child!
TG: Did you have any surprises or learning moments while writing this title?!
JMB: I always worry that I won’t have enough stories for these books, but God always provides—and this book was no exception. While writing Pawverbs for Kids, I seemed to come across stories involving kids and animals everywhere—even in my own backyard! Several of the stories in the book literally took place in my own backyard, including the very first story about an orphaned squirrel!
TG: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
JMB: I hope that as families read the book together it will foster spiritual conversations and help parents discuss big topics like anxiety, loneliness, and grief in gentle and fun ways by focusing on the animals and inviting children to see themselves in the stories. I pray that as children read the book, they will become more curious about God and start to see the evidence of his presence all around them.
TG: Do you have any habits or rituals as a writer?
JMB: I usually write with my dog, Gracie, lying beside me, and my cat, Foxy, sprawled out by my computer. They are my muses, my buddies, and I think they’ve appointed themselves my writing support animals!
TG: What habits would you encourage others to take up to be a more productive writer?
JMB: Write something every day to build your writing muscles. Writing really is as much about discipline as it is about art. And while there is definitely a creative aspect to it—which means that sometimes you’re just not feeling it and the words won’t come, you can build writing muscles and habits by writing a little bit every day. Write a short story, or a blog post; write in your journal or write a card to a friend; work on a new story idea or dive into a current project. But whatever you do, just keep writing!
TG: What do you snack on or drink while writing?
JMB: I am obsessed with the flavored water drink, Hint, and drink at least three bottles a day when I’m working on a deadline.
TG: How do you overcome writer’s block?
JMB: For me, the best way to push through writer’s block is to do something active—or mentally engaging—to keep me from thinking too much about my writing project. I’ll either take my dog for a long walk or try out a new recipe. Sometimes the best way to start the flow back is to do something entirely different.
TG: Are you an “edit-as-you-go” writer or do you wait until the very end before you do any editing?
JMB: I tend to focus more on getting the story out first and then go back through and edit later.
TG: What would you say is the most common mistake new writers make?
JMB: Not finishing! Almost everyone has a book idea, but very few see it all the way through. There is such a feeling of accomplishment and joy in finishing a project—even if you’re the only one who ever reads it. Finishing something takes a huge amount of discipline, and really builds those writing muscles.
TG: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
JMB: To let your subtitle act as your writing filter. If what you’re writing supports your subtitle then keep it, but if it doesn’t, channel your inner Elsa, and let it go!
TG: What book(s) are you currently reading?
JMB: Indigo Isle by TI Lowe and Losing our Religion by Russell Moore
TG: What is your favorite place on earth?
JMB: My sofa—cuddled up with my family and dog, watching a movie.
TG: Cats or dogs?
JMB: Oxygen or water? 😉 I choose both!
TG: What is one thing you can’t live without?
JMB: I’ll be difficult give three: Jesus, family, and Panda Puffs cereal!
TG: What is the best song to blast when you need to be pumped up?
JMB: Grew Up on That by High Valley
TG: If you could time travel to any point in history when would it be, and who would you be hanging out with?
JMB: The creation of the world, and I would be hanging out with Adam and Eve keeping them far away from that tree!
TG: If you weren’t a writer, what job would you have?
JMB: A dolphin trainer
TG: Who is your dream co-author?
JMB: Francine Rivers
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