Date Published: March 11, 2020
STUMBLING TOWARD GOD traces a woman’s spiritual search with an unusual twist – from an “atheist who prays” to unorthodox membership in two contrasting churches: Unitarian and Episcopal. In the second edition of her forthright memoir, McGee shares new adventures on her spiritual quest, culminating in personal encounters with a God of love. An honest, satisfying read for anyone questioning or seeking a spiritual path. First Place for Nonfiction Book in the PNWA Literary Competition. Includes Reading Group Guide.
"An offbeat, engagingly written, appealingly uncertain spiritual memoir." – Publishers Weekly
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Quieting the perfectionist in my head so I can write what Anne Lamott called the “sh**ty first draft.” Until I have a first draft, I got nothin’, and nothin’ can be scary. The whole enterprise starts to feel impossible, way beyond me, bigger than God and everything. This is a delusional state! It helps to bring it all down to earth. Sitting at my desk, I might imagine that I’m in a coffee shop, sharing a pastry with a friend. My friend asks what I’m writing, and I just start typing the answer. “Let me tell you a story…” or “Here’s the idea…” In my mind’s eye, I’m looking right at my friend, and she’s smiling back at me. That gets the ball rolling. Pretty soon I’ve got myself a sh**ty first draft. Hurray! Now let’s make this work!
What songs are most played on your Ipod?
I love gardening and stitching to music. My latest find: Yola, and her album Walk Through Fire. Great original songs, and a fabulous cover of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
I’m coming up on 70 years of age, so my taste in music has been formed over decades. These days I like to shuffle through a big playlist of artists I’ve loved over the years, with genres ranging over gospel, classical, Gregorian chant, rock, blues, & country: Anonymous 4, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, Patsy Cline, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris, Tina Turner, Roy Orbison, Tom Waits, Waylon Jennings… and on and on.
Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
Yes, absolutely. For my latest release, the second edition of Stumbling Toward God, I received great feedback from sharp-eyed and insightful women in my parish book group, as well as response from author and editor friends who were generous enough to give me their time. I definitely need another eye on my work and have usually worked with a writer’s group. I’m not in a regular writer’s group right now, but will to find or form one as my next project develops.
What book are you reading now?
Wish I could say I’m reading something deep and meaningful, but the truth is I’m sweeping through John Sandford’s great Prey series of crime novels – again. (I read crime books over and over.) Currently I’m eating up Twisted Prey.
Oh, wait – I do have a deep and meaningful book going as well! My women’s book group at church is reading The Wisdom of the Native Americans, edited by Kent Nerburn. It’s sparking good discussion around cultural approaches to the spiritual life and lost opportunities in my country’s history.
How did you start your writing career?
I’ve been a writer ever since I could read. In my 20’s and 30’s I tried writing fiction and published a few short stories, but could not find a publisher for my novels (which I now think was probably a good thing). I finally decided to write for a living however I could. Ended up a technical writer in the software industry and made a good living at it for years. When I left that field in my mid-40’s, I found myself writing about a big change in my own spiritual life. In part, I wrote to figure out what the heck was happening to me. I now have three published books in the nonfiction spiritual/religious market and am thinking about the fourth.
An effective way to rebuild a damaged community is to build something together for the common good. We’ve fallen into a great divide in our politics, and now we’re physically separated for our own health and well-being. The pandemic is the great scourge of our time, but it’s also helping us rediscover our common humanity, neighbor to neighbor. That’s a good thing. How we come out of this, whether we fall back into old patterns of self-righteous demonization, or build together for the common good, will set a trajectory for the lives of generations to come. It starts in the local community. I want to write about that.
About the Author
Margaret D. McGee writes books about being alive in the cosmos, paying attention, and making connections. Her parents were both preacher’s kids, and her father pursued a successful career in public education. These two themes—applied faith and applied intellect—returned in her middle years when she joined the Episcopal parish and Unitarian Universalist fellowship in her small town. She says, “Going back and forth, week on, week off, between the “prayer-book” Episcopalians and the free-thinking
Unitarians provided an essential bridge in my spiritual path—a bridge that led me to a new place.” McGee has had a varied career, including a time at the Microsoft Corporation, where she was employed as a master writer. She now lives in the Olympic Peninsula with her husband, David. In addition to Stumbling Toward God, her books include Sacred Attention and Haiku – The Sacred Art, both published by Skylight Paths Publishing. Her liturgical prayers and skits have been used by faith communities across the United States, and can be found at her website, InTheCourtyard.com.