Meet the author: Andrée Seu

andreeseu.jpgA MindyWithrow.com exclusive! Andrée Seu is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine, instructor at the World Journalism Institute, and a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, where she manages the cafe. In May she published her first book, Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, a collection of 30 of her favorite WORLD columns. I reviewed it here. Her second collection, Normal Kingdom Business, released last month; watch for my forthcoming review. She is so gracious, she agreed without hesitation when I audaciously asked for an interview only a week before Christmas!

Where were you born, Andrée?
Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The “other side of the tracks” from Newport, RI, which is the only part of the state anyone has ever heard of.

How long have you been writing for publication?
8 years.

Have you always wanted to write, or was it an unexpected development in your life?
It was never my goal to be a writer. My debut in the writing world was a providential fluke (to coin a phrase God may only be half pleased with): One day I wrote a little essay for my own amusement and sent it to my brother. He sent it to WORLD and the Lord had mercy on this soon-to-be widow and gave me favor in the eyes of the editor. Easiest job I ever got.

What are your kids’ names? Do any of them enjoy writing too?
In order of birth: Hae linn, Jae, Calvin, Aimée. They all have language gifts (which is to say, nobody’s good in math). Their father was a writer and I write, so they’re wired that way, even without trying or particularly wanting to. The youngest, Aimée, is the one who pursues it with a passion. I don’t believe I could have picked out my son Jae’s penmanship in a lineup till he landed himself in prison. Now he writes rivers, and evinces an admirable no-nonsense style. I told him to keep a journal; he might need the money when he gets out. He declined.

Have you ever attended (as a student) a writing course or workshop?
No. Unless you count an informal “apprenticeship” under my neighbor Beth. She moved into the house next door about 15 years ago and dropped an exquisite poem in my mailbox on the occasion of Hae Linn’s lost baby tooth. That started a “box” tradition — furtive, midnight exchanges of poems, essays, and short stories across the driveway. She is today a many times over published author. Check it out: Beth Kephart.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Write the tightest essay you can possibly write, then slash it by another 50%. (That’s for magazine writing, of course.)

Where is your favorite place to write?
While driving alone on long trips, unfortunately. I have to repent of that.

Do you keep a journal?
No, but I want to start doing that. I think that since it seems my niche in the news magazine is resident thumb-sucker (as opposed to pavement-pounder), it would be beneficial to keep a running record of the things God is whispering to me. You think you will just remember something and then you don’t.

What resources refresh you and inspire your writing?
There is a place in Texas in the countryside that I like to think about when I need a taste of heaven to refresh me. The Bible is my main resource. My Christian friends are an endless source of inspiration: “As for the saints who are on the earth, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3). God always seems to send me the right people; I don’t know how he does that.

Do you have a favorite book?
My two favorite books are Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. I wish I could read them once a month.

What is your favorite comfort food?
The food question is an interesting one. My life was dominated by food for many years, but God delivered me in the last few years. Now I no longer think much about eating, so when I do eat it’s always a pleasant surprise and I enjoy it more. I like all kinds of ethnic foods. Sometimes I worry that I married my Asian husband because I liked Korean food.

If you were delayed at the airport and your only choices of reading material were The New York Times or an Anne Tyler novel, which would you read?
That would depend on whether at the moment I was caught up in an idolatrous desire to look educated, or just wanted to do something for pleasure. Although even that is too simplistic an answer. I go back and forth in my mind with the question of how much I am duty-bound to know about “the news.”

Have you ever written fiction?
Never crossed my mind.

What is the most “exotic” place you’ve ever lectured? What was the topic of your lecture?
I taught writing in the basement of the Empire State Building. King’s College has a branch there. It was awesome thinking about all that concrete over my head.

Have you been surprised in any way by the reception of your writing?
I have been surprised that people would read it, and grateful to God that some are occasionally encouraged by it. I should be dead, and instead he is using me, not treating me as my sins deserve.

Do you have any disappointments with the writing life?
One is that I wish I had more to write about. The other is a fresh wound: this week my editor changed two crucial words in an essay I wrote for publication this week, and it altered the intent of my thesis by 180 degrees.

What projects are you working on currently? What excites you about them?
I have a fair bit of correspondence with prison inmates in various states. I would like the world to see the untapped treasures of faith and writing gifts there. I don’t know how to go about that yet.

Thanks for the dialogue, Andrée, and merry Christmas!

If you appreciate Andrée’s essays, please leave a comment. You can read her most recent WORLD column here.


UPDATE, Feb. 28, 2008: 
I’m honored to announce that I’ve had the privilege of writing the Foreword to the paperback edition of Andrée’s Normal Kingdom Business (to release in April).  Learn more here!

17. December 2006 by Mindy
Categories: Author interviews | 41 comments

Comments (41)

  1. Wow! How did you get to interview one of my favorite writers? Did you really just ASK? I’m impressed and enjoying your blog, Mindy. I often receive encouragement and food for thought from Ms. Seu’s essays in WORLD.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Mindy. What a nice surprise! If you search my blog, you’ll find several references to Andree Seu. I’m always disappointed when I get the latest issue of WORLD and find it doesn’t include one of her essays; dare I say she’s the only reason I read it at all?

    My husband is one of six pastors on staff at our church. They routinely flag Ms. Seu’s page in the magazine and pass it around the office. That’s how I came to know and greatly appreciate her writing. We have her first collection and are looking forward to owning the second. When I grow up I want to be just like Andree Seu!!

  3. Sherry, I buy a sandwich from Andree nearly every day, so I just asked while she was handing me my change! Our regular dialogue at the lunch counter about my children’s series was certainly an encouragement as I wrote.

    I bet my parents would agree with you, Joye. My dad rolls up the latest issue and tucks it in his back pocket to read while he’s waiting at work, and all the back issues in their house are creased down the middle at Andree’s column!

  4. Good interview. Thank you for the initiative.

    I have a question I’m a little embarrassed to ask. How do you pronounce Andree’s name? Is it an-dree (short a, long e)? Is it aun-dray (round a, long a for ee)? What is it?

  5. I should have asked her how many different ways she’s heard it pronounced! It’s short a, long a, as in Ahn’-dray (sounds but not spelled like the tennis player).

  6. Thank you very much. That was my default pronunciation, but I have been waffling lately.

  7. Andree Seu has lifted my spirit many times through her writing. I have her first book and am looking forward to the next. Blessings on you for sharing this encouraging information.

  8. Thank you so much. I have long wondered how she pronounced her name. That answers half my question. Now, how is her last name pronounced?

  9. Thanks for taking the initiative with this interview! Andree is a favorite with my family as well, both for her inspiring editorials and her insight into the craft of writing.

  10. I’m always good for a half-answer, Richard! Last name is pronounced “Soo.”

    And thanks, Linda and Ariel, for your kind comments. I hope you’ll visit again.

  11. Andree’s column is my favorite part of WORLD magazine. I love her subtle allusions to (and direct quotations from) the Bible.

    I recently purchased both of her books, thinking I might give one or both to a relative as a gift. This person is a nominal Christian who appreciates good writing. Does anyone have an opinion about whether I should do this? The book (or books) would be one of several Christmas presents.

  12. Lou, I think one of Andree’s strengths is that she writes from a Christian worldview, but because of her humility and vulnerability, she doesn’t come across as preachy. The reader is encouraged, convicted, etc. along with Andree as she applies the everyday lessons God teaches her to her own situation. So I think her books would be among the more relevant options to give a religious family member.

    Has anyone else given or plan to give her books as gifts?

  13. If I could write like that, from the heart and head simultaneously, I would rejoice.

    Great interview–clicking this blog link was like finding something extra in my stocking. :-)

  14. Thanks for the interview…and for your new blog site. I will miss our conversations in the Westminster Cafe over Andree’s tuna cranberry wraps!

  15. Pingback: Sacred Journey » Blog Archive » MilePosts 9

  16. Pingback: Semicolon

  17. Pingback: Andree Seu « juxtaposition

  18. Mindy, I was first introduced to you by Janie at Seasonal Soundings. I am another of the hordes of Andrée Seu’s fans. I’ve clipped her articles since she first started her column. I bought five books, kept one and gave the others away. I, too, am happy to know how to pronounce her name.

    Her writing is without pretense; she is vulnerable within appropriate boundaries, direct, honest, and
    articulate. Her voice is clear.

    I’ll be back to read your archives. (That is my favorite activity when my male-dominated household watches movies not to my tastes.)

    Blessings,

    Carol

  19. Beth and Carol, welcome! Enjoy browsing the archives.

    And welcome back, Diana. We’ll just have to get Andree’s “tunashish” salad recipe and keep the tradition alive.

  20. I’m enjoying the site very much, esp. the Flannery quote (about the colleges not discouraging enough writers); I’d forgotten that one. :-)

  21. Pingback: Mindy Withrow.com » Blog Archive » Normal Kingdom Business

  22. i also really enjoyed the interview.
    i used to really enjoy her columns in world as well.
    don’t get the mag anymore though.
    i was disappointed that the link you had linked to a place at world where you had to pay to read her article in full.
    is there somewhere online to read one of her articles without having to pay?
    just curious.
    would like to enlighten others.
    blessings,
    julie cochran

  23. Welcome, Julie. To my knowledge, Andree writes only for World magazine, so I don’t believe you can access her essays anywhere other than the magazine (print and online) or the books (also published by World). Maybe a nearby Christian college or church library would have copies of the magazine.

  24. Delighted to learn more about this marvelous writer, whom I first read just a week before Christmas, after a close friend gave me “Won’t Let You Go Until You Bless Me.” I have since given that volume, as well as “Normal Kingdom Business,” to several friends. When my daughter, age 15, recently announced that she aspires to become a university writing professor, I handed her “Won’t Let You Go. . .” and said, “Then you must read the person who is better at it than anyone I’ve ever read.” I meant every word of that. I’m a writer myself, I’ve grown up with writers, been taught in college by renowned writers, read the greatest writers, yet I’ve never read anyone with a gift like Andree Seu’s. Praise be to God in Christ Jesus.

  25. I have only recently been introduced to Andree Seu and found your article as I tried to learn more about her. A friend (and fellow fledging writer) gave me a copy of “Won’t Let You Go…”, after reading the first essay entitled “An Hour At Evening”. She saw me in that essay as I have just recently become a young widow with 2 young children. My husband died unexpectedly on Thanksgiving Day.
    I have been given an entire library on “grief”, but Seu’s words reasonated with me like no other.

  26. I just finished reading Dependence Day outloud to my husband and he suggested that I check to see if Andree had a blog. Yours was the first one I clicked and really enjoyed the interview. Thanks! The first commentary I read of hers was the one she wrote about her husband right after he died. (It included a picture of him.) I felt immediately drawn to her through her grief and have cried with her,laughed with her and been encouraged by her ever since. I began tearing her writings out of the magazine and filing them. I have both books and waiting on the next. Thanks again, Mindy!

  27. Welcome, Vivian, Suzanne, and Debra! So glad you have discovered Andree’s column and books.

  28. Pingback: the blog of brandon withrow » Mindy in World Mag

  29. Mindy, your interview is a treasure. I’m a long-time reader of World and Andree Seu, and was just today searching to see if she had a blog. No such luck, but finding your interview made my day. I’m a family therapist and a beginning blogger. I hope it’s ok that I mentioned your interview, and linked to it. Many of Andree’s columns speak right to my heart. I’m always disappointed if I turn to the back of World Magazine and she’s not there.

  30. Glad to meet another “friend of Andree,” Deborah! Thanks for the link.

  31. I love Andree Seu’s articles in World Magazine. She is a wonderful testimony of God’s grace. She is so open about herself. I find myself identifying with her many times–and then encouraged as she sees God’s mercy in His dealing with her. I think we do learn so much from someone who has been blessed to see so clearly.

  32. My wife and I are always challenged by Andree Seu. I was just wondering what her educational background was and your interview gave me the answer. As a biblical counselor I read a lot of books by Tripp, Powelison, Adams, etc and I have often thought that Andree was very adept at addressing heart issues. Now I see why. Thanks for your efforts Mindy.

  33. I read World Magazine from the back to the front. Andree Seu is the reason why.

  34. Al I can say is that I had my first opportunity to hear Andree speak and ….WOW!

    She is straight from the heart and as down to earth and they come !

    What a great joy and encouragement to see and hear how the Lord uses her through her daily experiences to encourage other women to be faithful to the Lord and his calling.

  35. Marki, David, Frank, and Susan–thanks for adding to these appreciative comments for Andree!

  36. Mindy,
    I was just rereading an essay by Andree that I keep in the back of my planner (A Little Kindness Please). I decided to search the web to see what I could find out about her. Like all of the others above, she is absolutely my favorite columnist in the World magazine. She challenges me, makes me laugh, makes me cry and due to my deporable public school education, makes me look up words in the dictionary.
    Thank you for your initiative. I truly enjoy her writing and am most grateful to know how to say her name. I have always said it two ways – rather like Deborah Kerr (Carr).

  37. I cannot put into words how inspired I feel after reading the brilliant interview with Andree Seu! I am an ardent reader of hers and actually came across your blog in a frantic search for a blog of her own! Thank you so much for posting… you’ve a really wonderful blog by the way.
    Cheers!
    – Jo
    http://followtheroadlesstraveled.blogspot.com

  38. Jodi and Jo, thanks for visiting! Maybe all of your online searches about Andree will influence her to set up a website! :)

  39. I enjoyed Andree’s writing for the first time today after reading a reference to her on my pastor’s blog. Does Andree speak to women’s conferences? I would love to hear her.

  40. Enjoyed your article on Soon Ok Lee – Raising her head. My question is, Did the four Christians who saved Soon make it out of that horrible tank? You did not mention if they are alive also.

    Thank you.

  41. Suzanne, I think you meant this question for Andree, not for me. You might try reaching her by leaving a comment on one of her articles posted at http://online.worldmag.com/. Thanks!