Today we are welcoming Leslie Verner to Book Club! She is no stranger to Velvet Ashes, as you’ll find out below, and I’ve had the fun opportunity of meeting Leslie in person! She’ll be sharing about her book Invited: The Power of Hospitality in An Age of Loneliness. Make sure you stay tuned at the end of the post for a giveaway!
Leslie, it is so fun to have you here in Book Club! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi! I published my first article online with Velvet Ashes several years ago and I wrote one of my first blog posts just so I could link up with the Grove (and Sarah Hilkemann was the first to comment!), so it’s fun to share here about my book.
I lived in China from 2005 to 2010 and I wish I had known about VA while I was living overseas. I taught English for the first three years I lived in China, then studied Mandarin full-time the last two years I lived there. I thought I’d live in China forever, but God had other plans. I started writing because I needed to work out all the kinks in my soul surrounding re-entry and ended up writing 31 Days of Re-entry on my blog. I experienced tremendous healing through writing out my thoughts and feelings surrounding leaving China and returning to “normal” life in the U.S. Writing is like therapy for me, but cheaper.
After China, I married an actor who is a professional audio book narrator and I returned to teaching middle school in Chicago until I had three kids in four years. We moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2015. (Just answering this question helps me understand why my head is still spinning from so many transitions in such a short amount of time.)
Can you share a little bit about the process of writing Invited? What inspired you to write on the topic of hospitality?
Writing this book was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. That sounds dramatic, but writing felt like it demanded every ounce of creative and emotional energy from me. I didn’t have much left for a long time after I finished. That said, it was also one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.
When we moved from Chicago to Colorado, we struggled to find community. In the process, I kept thinking about the hospitality I experienced in China and the way non-Western cultures organically practice hospitality, usually favoring community and relationships over independence and individualism. I wondered what it would be like if we in the West began adopting some of the same habits of hospitality. An editor from Herald Press contacted me and asked me if I was working on a book proposal. I wasn’t, but soon realized I had book-length thoughts about culture and community, not just blog-length ones.
Who did you write this book for and what do you hope people will come away with after reading it?
Although I would love for many Velvet Ashes readers to pick it up and I think you’d be able to identify with many of my stories, I wrote this for those living in the West who may not have had the same exposure to how other cultures value hospitality, community, and relationships. Western churches, communities, and neighborhoods would transform if we loved people the way Jesus did.
How has God used the process of writing Invited in your own life?
Writing this book stretched me as a writer to take risks, learn more about the craft of writing, and to develop a discipline of writing. I also struggled with all The Voices in my head telling me I couldn’t, I had no right, I didn’t have what it took, no one would read it and if they did, they’d probably hate it. Imposter syndrome attacks on every bend of the writing journey.
But God (and my husband) helped squelch the voices and remind me that God led me to write the book, it would reach someone—perhaps many people, and was worth the emotional, physical, and financial toll it took on me and on our family. For a long time, the book is part of you. Then you (miraculously) finish and it drifts off into the world and becomes an entity apart from you that God can use whether you know about it or not. As a follower of Jesus, it helps to remember my identity is not wrapped up in my book. Our belovedness is never altered by our successes or failures. We are loved before, during, and after we do the thing God leads us to do.
We love getting and sharing book recommendations in book club. What’s your all-time favorite book? What are you currently reading that you would recommend?
That’s easy. Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. I wouldn’t have had the gall to begin writing publicly if it weren’t for that book. And I recently finished The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith and This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a non-fiction book of essays by Ann Patchett, and would highly recommend both books, especially for writers.
Thanks, Leslie, for sharing about your book Invited!
And now, for a giveaway! You can win a copy of Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness by sharing in the comments. What is hospitality like where you are living? What have been the challenges or gifts? What questions do you have for Leslie?
Comment by Sunday, October 6th to be entered in the giveaway!
Make sure you grab a copy of our next Book Club book Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack by Alia Joy. We’ll be starting next week with the first section! Here’s the schedule for reading the book:
October 8: Forward, Intro and Chapter 1
October 15: Chapters 2 & 3
October 22: Chapter 4
October 29: Chapter 5
November 5: Chapters 6 & 7
November 12: Chapter 8
November 19: Chapter 9
November 26: Chapters 10 & 11