I hit a publishing milestone this week. We celebrated it with drinks on the front porch last evening. Before I share the details, let me give a little bit of background…
I started working on my latest book A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth several years ago, but I had a hard time pitching it. So I just left a summary of it in the “Other Ideas” section of my other book proposals.
After literally weeping my way through a pitch for a book about finding Christian community in 2012, the editor contacted me a few weeks later. “The church book could work in the future, but we’re really interested in that Survival Guide book in your proposal.”
No pitch needed.
I started dreaming of the Survival Guide book in 2008 and 2009 as I spoke to one young adult after another about all of the issues and questions that made it hard to be a Christian. Some were really struggling to follow Jesus, while others were on their way out of the faith. They were people at book events, childhood friends, colleagues, and family members.
So many people felt stuck, often stymied by doubts or unsatisfying answers from their churches. I could relate. I had many of the same questions and struggles.
- Prayer wasn’t working.
- Hell, evil, and the genocide passages in the Bible were disturbing.
- The Bible was often used as a weapon against them.
- The Bible could have errors… and then what?
The list went on.
What if I wrote a book that explored the range of Christian responses to each issue?
I didn’t want to give pat answers. I just wanted to dive into these topics in short, conversational chapters that provided just enough information to help readers get their bearings and then encourage them to dig deeper.
There are heavy chapters about the problem of evil and lighter moments where I offer up parodies of biblical interpretation such as the Papyrus Driven Church—Paul’s definitive guide to church planting via letters. It’s the closest I could come to capturing a real life conversation on the typed page—at least, a real life conversation with me.
This makes the Survival Guide a strange book to pitch. “It’s about everything that threatens our faith AND it uses humor.”
Still, my wife who is no fan of Christian nonfiction encouraged me to keep at it. She always enjoyed the chapters, and if I can win her over, I like to think that I can win anyone over. My pastor said that the chapter on hell was one of the best treatments he’s read on the topic.
Even a few of my writer friends gave endorsements:
“With grace and humor, Ed Cyzewski provides tools and suggestions for surviving the dips and crises that are an inevitability of the Christian life. If you’re feeling stuck in your faith and aren’t sure how to proceed, Ed’s gentle challenges might be just what you need.”
– Addie Zierman, author of When We Were on Fire
Coming to the faith is just the beginning. We also have to survive it. The Christian Survival Guide book doesn’t try to dismiss life’s hardships or faith’s doubts, but it instead walks through them honestly, clinging to both God and authenticity the whole way.
What do you do with the Bible’s most disturbing stories? What about those nights that doubt eats away at your insides? Ed Cyzewski’s new Christian Survival Guide book bravely and honestly delves into questions that each of us face at some point in our faith journey, but may not have the courage to ask.
– Sarah Raymond Cunningham, author of The Well-Balanced World Changer
I also gave out some early copies at the Festival of Faith and Writing this past April, and Mary Beth Pavlik wrote an email a few days later about the Survival Guide:
“I am starting to think that perhaps you wrote it for me. I’m still in the early chapters but wanted to say thanks… I’ve been needing it.”
However, you can always dismiss the praise of your wife or your friends. They could be biased. It could still be a pretty terrible book, right? I was still waiting for the first critical review.
Then yesterday I learned that Publisher’s Weekly had reviewed A Christian Survival Guide. The review gave a nice summary of the book, praised it for covering so much ground in such a small space, and then praised the book quite a bit:
“Cyzewski approaches each topic with candor, sharing stories that make it easy to relate to the topic at hand. While many of the topics are complex, he provides a point of entry into each and raises thoughtful questions about how much importance Christians can assign to aspects of the discussion…. What emerges… is an accessible and thoughtful work that is well suited to those new to Christian faith and practice.”
The ellipsis you see is the reviewer’s one critique of my book. Why hide it?
The reviewer wrote that the one thing this book really needed was a list of “suggested books for further reading” at the end of each chapter. Here’s the thing, I provided exactly that, but the entire list is at the end of the book, sorted by chapter. The reading list was the last thing we added, so perhaps it was there in time for the review.
Reading list aside, it has been immensely gratifying to know that early readers and reviewers found the book so helpful. While the PW review focused on new Christians as the book’s primary audience, it was originally written for Christians who have unresolved questions or ongoing struggles with their faith. It just turns out that new Christians will relate to many of these questions and struggles, giving the book two very different audiences who are searching for many of the same answers.
You can learn more about the book, including a preview of the first chapter and table of contents at the Kregel Publishing website. You can also pre-order the book there or visit Amazon to pre-order. We expect it to release in late July.
How to Get a Review Copy
Do you review books on your blog?
You can receive a print copy this summer by signing up for blog tours at Kregel.com. (sign up by June 1st)
The blog tour is scheduled for August 18th.