Meet the author: Andrée Seu
A 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?
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!