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The Jesse Tree Anthology – Interview and Giveaway

Christmas is coming, everyone!

It’s that time of year again. Everything gets to be a huge great rush, and we long for something to help us slow down and take hold of moments, particularly through Advent. There are many Advent devotional books that help readers reflect on the waiting time with expectancy for the miracle of the Incarnation (including my own Advent Treasure, published a few years ago). I like to find a new book each year to help me slow down and find time to be thankful and hopeful, and this year I’ve seen some great Advent books being published – Christmas Voices by Claire Musters, Christ Illuminated by Joy Margetts, and The Jesse Tree Anthology by Rachel Yarworth. This latter is a project close to my heart, because I have been a part of its creation, contributing a reflection and editing and designing the book.

The thing I really love about this particular Advent anthology is all the voices that have contributed – 25 different authors have given a reflection, all helping us understand how scripture was always pointing to Jesus. I love the diversity of these voices and the perspectives they bring, and love the vision of the main author and compiler, Rachel Yarworth, who brought us all together and made this project happen. I’m so delighted to welcome Rachel to the blog today – and thrilled to say that I can give away a copy of The Jesse Tree Anthology – see the end of this post for details on how to enter!

Hi Rachel! Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in north Worcestershire with my husband, three sons and our dog. I home educate the younger two boys, and that forms the biggest part of my daily life. In my spare time I like to write.  For over ten years I have written in blogs etc, but it was only last year that I wrote my first published book, Friend of God – a memoir about my relationship with God that started in childhood.  The simple act of writing feels like second nature to me, but everything else about publishing books has been a steep learning curve. 

Can you tell us what a Jesse Tree is, and where you got the inspiration for this book?

The Jesse Tree is an ancient tradition that explores the family tree of Jesus.  It’s based on the Bible verse in Isaiah 11:1 that talks about the new branch (Jesus) growing from the stump of Jesse (King David’s father), and tracks through the Bible from Creation up to the birth of Jesus, looking at the lives of many of His ancestors and fore-runners along the way.

My family and I have followed Jesse Tree readings every Advent since the boys were little – it’s a great way of reminding us all of the old stories – but I have never been able to find a resource that showed specifically how each Old Testament story pointed to Jesus. So this year, after my first book was published, I just thought ‘if nobody else has written one, maybe I should do something about that’.  And being able to have the different stories told by multiple voices seemed an even more powerful way to present it.

Tell us a bit about the process of writing the book – what was it like, getting a bunch of 24 authors to contribute – was it like herding cats? 🙂
Finding people willing to contribute was surprisingly easy: I put out some feelers to see if anyone would be interested – asking people among my personal contacts and in the Facebook group for the Association of Christian Writers – and within a few days most of the slots were full.  That reassured me that it wasn’t a bad idea.  So I opened a separate private Facebook group for everyone working on it, where I could set clear deadlines, share the brief etc and generally keep everyone up to date. 
Then in practical terms the amount to manage with each of the multiple writers was rather daunting: who was interested; who was committed; what chapter were they writing for (including what scriptures they had been given); had they sent in their first submission; had I replied with edits; had I received the final version, and so on.  The only way I could keep track of it all was via a large spreadsheet.  Once that was set up, it really did the work for me as long as I was scrupulous in updating it after every communication.  I think without the Facebook group and especially the spreadsheet, it would have been overwhelming chaos!

What’s your vision for this book – who do you think will benefit from it?
As with all my writing, I am passionate about it being accessible to as many people as possible.  The language is clear enough for children or those with no religious background to be able to understand, while the simply-expressed concepts are deep enough for mature Christians to benefit. The entries are short enough for busy people to be able to take just a few minutes reading each day, and the supplementary questions, prayers, and pictures to colour in can take as little or as long as the reader likes.  The whole book has really been designed to adapt to being used however each reader finds most useful.  It is my hope that people will not only read it and discover a new way of looking at the Old Testament stories through Jesus’ eyes, but that they will actually grow closer to Jesus for themselves as they take a little time each day through Advent to focus on Him.

Do you have any ideas for your next book/project?
Too many ideas!  I am in the middle of writing a follow-up to Friend of God, that addresses some of the questions readers had after they finished it.  Questions like ‘Can I be friends with God too?’, ‘How can I learn to hear His voice like you do?’ and ‘It sounds dodgy: is it even Biblical?’  So I’m really enjoying writing that – again with the desire to make it clear and accessible to everyone.
But I also have a Lent devotional that I really want to write, and a collection of other peoples ‘friendship with God’ stories, as well as an idea for some fiction – so I think I’m going to be busy for quite a while!  Watch this space…

Thanks, Rachel, it’s been great to learn more about the book and about you!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of this lovely Advent anthology, all you need to do is join my mailing list (or if you’re already on it, drop a comment here on the blog). I will only use your email address for this list and only send a few emails a year with updates on my writing news and reflections for you.

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