I love when we get to hear from authors in this space! Today I want to introduce you to Michelle DeRusha and her latest book True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created which came out on January 1st. I had the privilege of being on her launch team for the book and she lives in my home state, so I’m rather biased in thinking she’s pretty cool. I hope you enjoy hearing from Michelle! And check out the end of the post for a GIVEAWAY!!
Michelle, thanks so much for being with us today! Please introduce yourself to the Velvet Ashes community.
I was born and raised in Massachusetts and grew up Catholic, but by the time I was in my late teens, the church and I went our separate ways, and I ended up taking what I call a 20-year hiatus from faith and religion. I came back to faith very slowly over a period of years after my husband and I moved to Nebraska in 2001. Plucked out of my familiar environment, 1,500 miles from my family, wandering vocationally and professionally, I realized I had questions about God and about faith and spirituality that had gone unexplored for a long time. Allowing myself to ask those questions and begin the process of living into the answers was the beginning of my turn back to faith.
I became a writer at the same time I was stumbling my way back into relationship with God. The two – writing and faith – are entwined for me. Sometimes I say God brought me back to him through writing; writing was a way I wrestled through and processed some of the questions that were bubbling their way to the surface. And writing was also the way I began to understand the mystery of faith – the fact that not all questions have answers, at least in the here and now.
Can you share the process of writing True You? What inspired you?
The idea for True You actually came a few years ago, on a trip to the Pacific Northwest with my family. On our last day in Portland, Oregon, we visited the Portland Japanese Garden, where our tour guide explained a particular Japanese gardening technique called “open center pruning.” As I mulled over what she had told us about the process of pruning away extraneous leaves and branches to reveal a tree’s true essence, I began to see it as a spiritual metaphor of sorts. I began to understand that the process of moving toward smaller and less – cutting back in order to open up, so to speak – is a way for us, through God, to uncover who we are at the very center of our God-created selves.
The process of writing the book was quite slow. In fact, when I look back through my journals and notes, I can see that this book was gestating for years before the words actually made it onto the screen in book form. The fun part for me was researching Japanese gardening practices and discovering how well the metaphor held up and could be carried through the whole book.
That’s the funny thing about writing: you can know next to nothing about something like gardening, and yet find yourself writing a book in which the central metaphor is pruning!
Who did you write this book for? What do you hope they come away with in the end?
I wrote this book for those of us who struggle to know and embrace our true selves – the person God created, rather than the person we have become after years of ingesting society’s messages. We are bombarded with messages insisting that bigger, better, louder, faster and “more” are the only ways we will find satisfaction and fulfillment in this world, but the truth is, that is a false message. Heeding that message and pursuing those things in the end only creates a false sense of security.
As I write in the book, the process of pruning open is the antithesis of contemporary western culture. It is the path toward smaller rather than larger; toward quiet, rather than loud; toward slow, rather than fast; toward dismantling rather than building; toward less rather than more. And it is only in letting go of our false selves that we discover our true self, the person uniquely created by God.
How did God use the process of writing this book in your own life?
God used the writing of this book very personally in my own life to help me see, ironically, that my true self does not align well with my vocation as a traditionally published writer. Turns out, the culture of publishing is not a place I thrive. I can’t separate my self – my whole, true self — from the platform-building, from the push to attract and attain more followers and subscribers, from the Amazon ranks. I can’t separate myself from what often feels like a relentless drive toward bigger, better and more.
I have long struggled with a desire for success and recognition, and it’s become clear to me in recent months that a “public” profession as a writer is not the best place for me. It feeds my false self. And so, as a result of this realization, I’ve decided to step out of traditional book publishing. It’s been a difficult decision, but in some ways, it’s also been extraordinarily liberating as I await whatever it is that God has next for me.
We love getting new ideas here in Book Club! What’s your all-time favorite book? What are you currently reading?
Oh gosh, my all-time favorite book…it’s impossible to say! Reading is my absolute favorite pastime, so it’s so hard to choose just one book. For a classic, I would probably pick Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. It’s a challenging read, but she was a visionary and had such astute insights into human relationships. Every time I read that book I come away with a new revelation. I also love memoir. Two of my all-time favorite memoirs are Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck and Girl Meets God, by Lauren Winner.
I just finished reading Alia Joy’s Glorious Weakness, which I loved. She tells her story with such raw honesty and candor, and her writing is luminous. I also recently finished listening to Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River on audio. I’d read this novel ten years ago but sadly, I remember little about it (my retention as a reader is terrible!), so I figured it was time for a reread. Listening to it brought the story to life in a new way. Peace Like a River is beautifully written, captivating and poignant – destined to become an American classic (in my opinion!).
Those sound like awesome books to add to my reading list! Michelle, thanks for sharing honestly and graciously with us!
What questions do you have for Michelle? What stuck out to from what she shared?
Comment on this post with your thoughts or a question, and be entered to win a copy of True You! We’ll draw for 2 winners on Sunday, May 12th at 8:00 pm EST so make sure you add your comment before then!