Jessie Seneca felt God calling her into a speaking ministry for women in 1996 at a “Women of Faith” event she attended. Through battling Cushing’s Syndrome, a life-threatening disease, she knew there was more to “just” surviving, that God was going to use her story to encourage women. At the time of her illness, it was hard to understand God’s will in it all, and even when she felt God’s call, she didn’t know what it would look like. But through years of preparation, and many encouraging individuals, today, she is enjoying the fruit of her obedience to God through full-time ministry. She is a national speaker, author, leadership trainer, and founder of More Of Him Ministries, SHE Leads Leadership and The Real Mom Conference. Her ministry helps women grow in God’s Word and experience His touch on their lives which challenges them to make God a priority and inspires them to move into a “wholehearted” lifestyle, one devoted fully to God.
Jessie has shared with women in the U.S. and Canada. She also works with LifeWay as one of their You Lead trainers. God uses Jessie’s passion and wisdom to speak into the lives of her listeners and readers through her Bible studies and books. She lives in Bethlehem, PA with her husband, John. They have two daughters and two wonderful sons-in-law. She is also enjoying her role as Mimi. Most days, you can find Jessie walking her two furry friends, Murphy and Baxter, or playing with her grandsons. Visit Jessie at www.moreofhimministries.org
Author Spotlight Q&A
- What triggered your desire to write? Well, I can say writing was truly a God-thing—A God-size assignment. I never set out to write until I felt God speak through His Word that He would do a new thing in my life. At first, I thought I would write a memoir about my battle with a life-threatening disease, Cushing’s Syndrome, but God had a different plan, and I wrote a Bible study on the book of Colossians, The Secret is Out; Road Trip came second. And, thankfully through the years, God has used other women in my life to influence themes for some of the books I have written.
- Describe a time when your writing was derailed and what you did about it. Like it or not, derailing is part of the writing process. Derailing isn’t easy but necessary to bring about a better product. I remember going to one of my first critique groups, and the leader read the first chapter and asked where my testimony was? My answer, “the third chapter.” Her response, “It needs to be in the first chapter; that’s why readers are picking up this book.” Ugh. I felt like I got kicked in the stomach. Back to the drawing board—more late nights rewriting the first few chapters. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. I always try to remind myself that critiques, editors, and the whole publishing process are for my good and produce the best book possible. Will it bring some tears? Yes, it might. I try my best to not think of the editing process as a personal attack but an act of love for a better outcome. Your publisher is for you, not against you.
- How do you handle the naysayers? Honestly, the naysayers motivate me to go beyond myself. It took me a while to realize I only had to please an audience of one—God. But once I kept my focus on Jesus and not others, I could move ahead with what God called me to do. I have learned to not put a lot of weight on those that don’t help move you forward. With God all things are possible if He is at the center of what you are doing.
- Does writing energize you or exhaust you? This is a loaded question…writing does energize me. I feel close to God when I am writing. I often say, “I don’t know what happens when I sit down to write, but the Holy Spirit comes over me and pours His creativity into my fingers as I type.” When God gives me the idea for a book, it is pretty much all I can think about until I start writing. However, at times it is exhausting because there are a lot of late nights and early mornings working on the manuscript. There are long hours of deep soul searching to formulate the thoughts I want to relay to my readers. But in the end, it’s all worth it, and I can’t allow exhaustion to paralyze me and stop the work He planned ahead of time. So I dig down deep and let Him carry me through.
- Do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want or need? My prayer is whatever the Lord puts on my heart is what I write, and hopefully, each book will benefit those who read it. So I guess my answer is I try to be original. However, I have held a leadership conference for women for eleven years, it drove me to write Abound, A Call to Purposeful Servant Leadership. I wanted to put into words what I was teaching and help women’s teams far and wide. My desire was for them to walk away from the conference with a piece of the day and dig deeper into Biblical servant leadership.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? Each book I have written is a standalone book, from a memoir, self-help, inspirational to Bible studies. However, a thread runs through each book that will point others to the importance of being in God’s Word because that’s what changed my life—the reading of daily scripture.
- If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be? Dear younger me, follow your dream of writing a book. Don’t become discouraged but keep at it. I started my memoir nine years before being published. I just kept “throwing up” on paper what was in my heart, and in God’s time, He opened the door. Also, writing can be a lonely place; there are many days spent by yourself. This is why it’s important to schedule time to walk away from the project to regain needed energy and strength. Be sure to have others reading your work as you write. This will help your creativity and give you a fresh perspective when needed. Finally, don’t be easily hurt by the critique; it’s all about bringing forth the best book you can.
- What was the best money you have ever spent as a writer? Finding Fruitbearer Publishing. Candy and her team are amazing, and I am thankful for good editors. I remember when I started writing, one of the editors said, “you’re very creative with your punctuation.” It was just a nice way of saying; I needed a lot of help … Ha! But, seriously, I am genuinely thankful for the many eyes that edit each book. It takes many sets of eyes to produce a good book.
- What have you found are the most important books or magazines for writers to read? I have found reading other authors’ books similar to what you are writing helpful. For example, while writing my memoir, Road Trip, a friend encouraged me to read as many autobiographies as possible. It was helpful to see the flow and the creativity of their writing, which helped me lay out my thoughts. In addition to reading others’ books, my Bible is the most important book for me to read. Reading my Bible is the inspiration for most of my work as I incorporate scripture into each project.
- How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? I do not have any unfinished or half-finished books at this point. I guess it’s the OCD in me to finish what I have started. For me, when I finish writing one book, I don’t usually have the next book ready to go. It takes time for me to hear from God what the next project is.
- Let me share how my newest book, High, Low, Buffalo; The Power of God-Centered Perspective, came to fruition. I really wasn’t looking to write another book, but when I looked at the monthly blogs I wrote through the 18 months of COVID, I saw a thread of perspective in each blog. God was writing my next book before my fingers hit the keys. That’s how He works at times. So, you have to be watchful for what is happening around you and be still enough to hear His still small voice.
- What does literary success look like to you? There are many facets of literary success for me:
(1) Completing a manuscript and hitting send is always a huge accomplishment.
(2) Opening a box of newly printed books for the first time is like Christmas morning every single time. It never gets old.
(3) Receiving a call, text, or an email from someone who has read one of my books and hearing how it has impacted their life is probably the greatest highlight of writing. To sum up literary success, it’s making a difference in someone’s life through a book I have written. It makes all the long hours worth every stroke of the pen and every keyboard tap.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? My research varies depending on the book. When writing a Bible study, I will read and reread the passages over and over. I will study many commentaries and work through other Bible studies on the topic or book of the Bible I am writing on. I do this before writing and continue researching throughout the writing process. Other books I write don’t have as an intense research process.
- I always have a pen and pad nearby to write down thoughts and insights. God reveals concepts and direction to me through books I read, a Bible passage related to my writing, and inspired quotes to enhance my writings.
- What has been the best tip you ever learned about writing? The best tip another author friend gave me was to always start with the chapters that come the easiest for you and work your way to the more challenging or less creative chapters. This was huge for me, especially with my latest book. It helped me leap over writer’s block, and when I got to the harder chapters, I realized why God saved these chapters for the end. He needed me to experience the topic more personally prior to writing the chapters. God’s timing is always perfect!
- Who gave you the best advice about writing? One of my favorite people, Verna Bowman, a true author and great friend. She never stopped checking in on me and encouraging me. She also brought me to her critique group with Marlene Bagnull, who so kindly read my manuscript and gave me great advice. That advice caused me to go home and rewrite the first chapter, and not hit the bed till the wee hours of the morning.
- Describe your favorite place to write. I love to write at the end of my dining room table with a cup of tea in hand where I have met with God for over twenty-five years. It is in the comforts of this space where I sense God’s leading. But, of course, the tea becomes cold, and I have to get up and keep warming it up. Ha. But that’s actually good because I would have no problem sitting for hours on end without moving. And here’s my last tip for you: You need to move! You will need to make a conscious effort to step away from your work, stretch, and move.