Bill Giovannetti teaches at AW Tozer Theological Seminary and is the senior pastor of the 2,500 member Neighborhood Church of Redding. He enjoys life with his awesome wife and two great kids surrounded by the snow-capped peaks and pristine lakes of northern California. With humor and grace, Bill writes to touch the heart while informing the mind. His third book, based on the life of Joseph in the Bible, just came out from Bethany House Publishers, called Secrets to a Happy Life.
ADG: Tell me a bit about yourself, how long you’ve been writing, what types of writing you do, etc.
In sixth grade, my teacher sent me to the principal’s office. The last time I’d been sent to the office, it was for purposefully walking in mud, and I got in trouble. This time, it wasn’t a punishment. My teacher was so impressed with an essay I’d written, she wanted me to read it to my principal. Really? I thought. What I write is good enough for a special trip to the principal? Wow!
That was the first time I was recognized for my writing; my teacher planted a seed that day. Thank God for the short, sweet, roundish Chicago public school teacher named Ms. Helen Rubenstein! I was already a bit of a bookish nerd, hooked on reading (mysteries, science fiction, and mythology). Writing just came naturally.
I have this thing about words, and I dig grammar. (Eek, don’t judge me.) The best thing I ever did to learn English was to study Latin. By the time you toss in some Greek and Hebrew, you’re begging to appreciate the past-perfect tense and the insidious dangers of a split infinitive.
I feel a need right now to buck up my man card, so: I love Chicago sports teams. Go Bears! Hey, Cubs fans, this is our year. And what a season for the Black Hawks! And the Bulls. And, okay, the White Sox too.
ADG: Why did you decide to become a writer?
Throw in one part addiction, two parts love, and a bunch of parts sense of mission and it all adds up to passion. I believe biblical Christianity to be the most beautiful, coherent, life-giving message the world has ever known; the story of Jesus needs to be retold to every generation. I do that partly in writing.
I also feel a deep compassion for hurting people all around us. Broken families, a depressed economy, a lousy job-market, a corrupt government, a culture increasingly labeling Christians as buggy-riding Amish relics, and the wholesale abandonment of even the idea of objective truth — all these woes have conspired to create a spiritual crisis in the land: a frantic but futile search for happiness. People need what only Christ can give. It’s an unspeakable privilege to write into that spiritual void.
By the time readers finish my books, I hope they’ve had a few laughs, gotten a little choked up, and discovered a God who is bigger and more gracious than they thought he was. Nothing compares with the charge I get from an email saying your words changed my life.
ADG: What is the one piece of writing advice you wish you’d had at the beginning of your career.
I think Dorothy Parker summed it up nicely: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second-greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first-greatest, of course, is to shoot them now while they’re still happy.”
Everybody wants to be a writer, fantasizing of the fast-paced, A-list, millionaire lifestyle of Richard Castle. The reality is more like a visit to a dentist whose fingers smell like cigarettes. To keep your butt in the chair and your fingers moving across the keyboard, and to hammer out words of beauty and truth, can suck the life out of you. But, there are golden moments, when the sentences sizzle and the paragraphs march like soldiers on parade, and the truth of God sparkles — those moments eradicate the lonely tedium of writing. Here’s my advice to beginning writers: accept the pain of writing:
Everyone can write; only a few will write to completion. And of those, only a tiny minority will swallow their pride enough study the craft, learn from the masters, shut their pie-holes, embrace correction, rewrite their masterpieces, and create a polished, life-giving, meaningful work of art. Be warned, however, that the moment you write The End, the voices in your head will condemn your finest work as a steaming pile of manure. Welcome to the writing world.
ADG: What are you currently working on? Any special projects?
I’ve always got three or four books in progress. I’m 70,000 words into a fiction project, but don’t tell anybody.
My third book just came out. Secrets to a Happy Life chronicles the roller-coaster life of Joseph and gleans abiding principles for contentment and joy. Joseph found a happiness money can’t buy and bankers can’t possess. He proves that God knows how to deliver happiness behind prison bars. Not even a royally messed up family can quench the joy of the Lord. (Find out more about the book at http://www.secretstoahappylife.org)
I’m happy to announce I’m writing my fourth book on a topic that makes my heart skip a beat: GRACE. The working title is GRACE INTERVENTION. Legalism has been the church’s death of a thousand cuts for two thousand years, and it didn’t go away when Christians started dancing and drinking microbrews. I can’t say too much yet, but this book is slated for release in time for Christmas, 2014.
ADG: How can my readers find out more about you and your work?
I’d love to be friends with your readers on Facebook and Twitter, and you can find all the links and other resources for your spiritual journey at www.BillGiovannetti.com
Love the answer to the first question. Teacher’s hold so much power to encourage or to discourage. I take that responsibility seriously in my classroom, and hope my fellow teachers do as well. Never underestimate the power of a kind word.
The sentiment is echoed in Bill’s second answer. “Nothing compares with the charge I get from an email saying your words changed my life.” The power of encouragement lives on. Authors are used to hearing harsh critiques of their work. While I’ve never received and e-mail proclaiming my words have changed anyone’s life, a simple, “Loved your book,” goes a long way. More so, a positive review on Amazon (hint hint).
“But, there are golden moments, when the sentences sizzle and the paragraphs march like soldiers on parade, and the truth of God sparkles — those moments eradicate the lonely tedium of writing.” Well said, Bill. Raymond Carver used to put quotes about writing—both advice and encouragement—on 3×5 cards and post them near his desk. I’ll be posting this next to mine.