Sunday, December 11, 2011

"I Love To Tell The Story" by Susan Barnett Braun

I met Susan Braun at the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, IL in June 2011. We are writers more or less in the same place in our careers: struggling, trying to find an agent or publisher for a completed book, unsure of our place in the market. At that time I had already made the move into e-self-publishing (though still hoping for commercial publishing for other works), and Susan was not far behind me.

She has now published her memoir, I Love To Tell The Story: Growing Up Blessed and Baptist in Small Town Indiana. It is available as an e-book and as a paperback at

But let's let Susan tell us something about the book.

AATTA: Give us a one sentence summary of what your book is about.

SBB: It's possible to grow up in a Baptist church and emerge unscathed (and actually blessed) by the experience.

AATTA: Why did you decide to publish your memoirs rather than just writing them down for your kids?

SBB: I enjoy reading memoirs. However, I noticed a pattern in so many memoirs where the protagonist has a terrible childhood, full of abuse or events that she later construes as very negative. Looking back at my childhood, I have wonderful memories. I wondered why no one was telling the positive stories, and I decided to publish mine as a way for those of us who've had happy childhoods to celebrate our heritage. A pleasant childhood, by the way, doesn't necessarily mean a childhood with no conflict. A happy childhood can also be pretty darn humorous.

AATTA: The title of the book, and of each chapter, comes from a hymn. How does music play into your memoir?

SBB: Growing up Baptist, we sang a lot of hymns. They didn't mean a lot to me at the time: they were just a fact of life. But now that I've grown up and go to a church that has largely given up on hymns for "praise and worship" music, I've come to realize just how meaningful hymns were and still are in my life. Their lyrics and melodies are so rich, and many of the words sustain me to this day. Each chapter in the book is titled for a hymn that ties in with the theme of that chapter -- it just seemed appropriate.

AATTA: I notice lots of references to things you remember from the 1970s -- TV shows, music, etc. What was it like to relive those years?

SBB: It was cool and groovy, to be sure! As I immersed myself in my childhood again, I mentally lived for months with The Love Boat, The Flintstones, bell-bottom pants, President Nixon, and baloney with the red strip along the edge ... it was nostalgic, and also made me think about how much has changed in our culture.

AATTA: Groovy? I guess that's an expression that's coming back. Many of the memories you document are pretty specific. Do you really remember those things in such detail?

SBB: Actually, I do remember my childhood in more detail than many others do, perhaps ... I've spoken to folks who say they have no memory whatsoever of who their second grade teacher was, for instance. This floors me, because I most certainly remember Mrs. Gebhart :) Seriously, though, I'm not sure why I remember childhood details so well. Part of it is probably that I kept diaries for a decade or more during childhood, and I still have those. Also, I'll admit to a bit of creative license: perhaps I moved an event that happened when I was 12 to age 10, just so the story flowed better.

AATTA: What do you hope a reader will take away from your memoir?

SBB:I hope he will come away feeling good about life! I hope she will have memories that return from her own childhood, and that there will be many "Oh yes -- I'd forgotten about that!" moments. I hope that any reader would see the book as a pleasant escape to a time that was simpler in many ways, and that, really, it's okay to have had a happy childhood!



Gary said...

Many of the hymns from the Victorian era are pretty dreadful sounding for the modern ear. Well, at least my ear. However, some hymns expound theology so well that a subsequent sermon guilds the lily. Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley - who predated the Victorians - could write. The modern stuff we caterwaul is mostly emotion-evoking fizz. It might aid introspection, but it's shallow stuff.

David A. Todd said...

I enjoy Charles Wesley's hymns, and the few of Watts I know. Yes, the old hymns had a lot of theology in them, while the modern hymns tend to be praise and worship without the theology. I must admit that sometimes I just like to lose myself in worship, and save the theology for the sermon and my personal study.

Susan said...

Thanks, David - I really appreciate the publicity, and this was fun! Now Gary -- I suppose it's true that music is a really subjective thing. To me, most of the modern "praise and worship" music is dreadful sounding, so it must all be in one's likings ;)

David A. Todd said...

Hi Susan. Glad to help a bit. I agree that some of the modern worship choruses are shallow. Many of them, if not sung in a church context, you wouldn't even know were about God. It seems to be more for pumping people up than to align our hearts with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But I maintain that doctrine through songs isn't absolutely necessary if you receive doctrine through sermons, organized teaching, and individual study.

And those songs from old eras that don't appeal to us moderns can have new music to the old words, if the words are indeed meaningful.

Elaine said...

Susan is my niece, and I'm so proud of her. Thanks for interviewing her.

Rebekah said...

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Gal. 5:16 This verse says that songs should teach and admonish us, which I believe hymns do better than most praise songs. Some modern hymns fit the bill though. Wonderful interview!

David A. Todd said...


I'm glad to do it, and hope she has great success with this book and her other writing endeavors.

David A. Todd said...


Yes, no doubt song lyrics can and should help teach and admonish, as the verse you quote from Colossians 3:16 says. I'm not sure, however, that's the only things the words we sing in worship should do. Praise, simple praise to God, whom we serve, will, I believe, also be pleasing to Him.

REbekah said...

Oops, my mistake! Obviously, this is not about the fruits of the Spirit.

Hopewell said...

Nice interview--May I link to it? I've promoted Susan's book on my blog.

David A. Todd said...


Glad you liked the interview. By all means, link to it.

Gary said...

New music to old lyrics. Yes, to that. I've heard a new version of Amazing Grace (with a chorus added) that freshens the over-exposed old melody.

Rosezilla said...

I cannot wait to read this book! I grew up around the same time in a family where our life centered around the Christian church and I can't think of a better upbringing. And just to weigh in, the old hymns stick to the soul like meat sticks to the bones! They encourage, admonish, remind, guide - they put the theology to music in a way you can remember easily the rest of your life. And most are full of praise as well! Scriptural praise is definitely worship.

David A. Todd said...

Rosezilla: I hope Susan's book is everything you want in a book.