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Interview with Chawna Schroeder


Chawna Schroeder grew up listening to her dad tell bedtime stories and vowing to write them down. Now she tells her own stories through her writing—but she still goes to her dad for help when she finds herself stuck with a plot point. Today, learn more about her writing process and what it means to live life “unboxed.”

You talk about living life “unboxed.” What does that look like and how did you came up with that theme?

Remember studying cubes in geometry? That’s how most of us live. Trapped inside a three-dimensional box. Now the box may be small. Or the box may be large. But regardless of the size, it doesn’t change the reality that we live confined by those six interconnected squares.

The problem with living in box is that we live within a limited space. And since our space is limited, we are forced to limit everything else, too. Someone might be an artist or maybe an engineer, but an engineering artist or an artistic engineer? Impossible! Or that church pianist—what could he or she possibly know about teaching Sunday school? And there’s no way you who enjoy coloring and watching whimsical kids’ films would ever engage in a deep theological discussion. Such are the strictures we are obliged to apply when living inside a box.

In addition, when we live inside a box, an infinite, multidimensional, multifaceted God isn’t possible either. There’s simply no room for Him! At best, we must confine Him to a handful of traits through which we must interpret all His actions, leading to a skewed view of His character.

Yet there is so much more to God than one or two traits! His facets are infinite and His dimensions endless. There’s so much to explore and discover about Him.

Perhaps even more breathtaking, it is in the image of this infinite, multifaceted God that we were created. Now since we are only an image, we are finite, of course. But why can’t we also be multifaceted? Indeed, doesn’t it makes sense that He would give each person a unique set of facets in order to reflect His many dimensions?

Only when we begin to live fully beyond the confines of a box do we begin to glimpse His fullness.

This doesn’t mean we are free to do whatever we want, however we want. There are boundaries, which God has made explicitly clear in the Bible. So while God doesn’t desire us to live in a box, He doesn’t completely demolish the box either. He merely unfolds our cube into a cross—the cross of Jesus Christ.

We still must learn to live within the boundaries of those six squares formed by the Cross’s foundation, but now we have freedom and room to grow into everything God created us to be. Moreover, this now cross-shaped open box reflects our God, who took on the finite form of man and yet remains forever vastly infinite—after all there’s no limit on the third dimension with this shape!

For me, living unboxed is simply learning to serve an infinite God with our whole self within the boundaries He has proscribed.

What biblical languages do you study and do you incorporate them into your writing?

I read Hebrew and Greek. Not surprisingly, this knowledge comes in handier with my nonfiction work, such as in my word-by-word dissection of Philippians 4:8 for my discernment curriculum. But for my fiction, I often implement words (usually names) that allude to real words in Greek and Hebrew. For example, one of the kingdoms in Beast is called Ahavel, which plays off the Hebrew for “Love of God.”

I understand your dad told you stories when you were young. What kinds of stories? How did that impact your writing?

Dad always asked each listener for one object or character and then he would make up a story on the spot using those elements. So his stories ranged from fairytales to animal stories to contemporary tales. But whatever the genre, the tales were often adventurous and a bit zany and always a lot of fun.

The result of his storytelling was twofold. First, those stories birthed in me the desire to write: one of my grand goals at age six was to write his stories down. Second, hearing all those stories—along with all the books Mom read to me—taught me the rhythm of story and the cadence of language. Indeed, I’ve come to realize that I hear the stories I write more than I see them.

What do you do when you’re not writing fiction?

I’m writing nonfiction. Lol.

Seriously, writing, both fiction and nonfiction, plus all the related activities (reading, marketing, etc.) does take up the majority of my time. But when I set all that aside, I enjoy fiberarts (such as weaving and crochet), playing piano, studying Greek & Hebrew, camping, and hiking.

What inspires you when you’re stuck?

That partially depends on why I’m stuck. Walking, whether outside or just around the house, often frees my mind to work around a small block. Also, inserting something completely random and incongruous into the story—like an elephant stampede—will often trigger creative ideas for solving my problem.

For the times I hit a wall, I have several techniques I try:

  • If I’ve been working on a project single-mindedly for a while, I switch to a completely different activity.
  • If the direction I’m going in a story doesn’t seem to be working, I’ll try a free write, randomly writing about the story in general—what it is about, where I’ve been, possibilities of where it might be going.
  • If I’m stumped with how to get from one point to another, I brainstorm with my dad, who along with being a storyteller is an engineer. So he provides both zany ideas that will get my juices flowing again as well as insights into the inner mechanics that I often miss.
  • If I’m just feeling empty, I’ll often return to emotional touchstones—that which triggers similar emotions of what I’m writing, such as playing music or re-reading a favorite book.
  • And if all else fails, I’ll do something I hate doing. It’s amazing how fast inspiration can strike when you don’t like the alternative!

How did you get the idea for Beast?

This story sprang out of an emotionally down time, when I was feeling especially unlovable. I knew God loved me and loved me unconditionally, but I couldn’t understand why or how.

So God gave me the image of Him standing with His arm outstretched, ready to catch me. But for Him to catch me, I had to let go. I had to let go of my need to understand or explain. I had to let go of my view of myself to see me as He did. I had to accept His love simply was.

Then as I mulled further the difference between how I saw myself versus how God saw me, I developed the first line and the last lines of the story. And from those things Beast grew.

What are you working on next?

Another adult mixed-genre fantasy set in a world mirroring the WWII time period. It’s about a young girl who gets herself intentionally arrested in order to escape from a prison camp reputed to be inescapable.

Parting words?

Always remember that the truest thing about you is what God says about you!


Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family and the unexpected turns of life at

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