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TeensYour Friend with a Pen – Meet Cheri Hardaway…
Interview by Debbie Porter

FWM: Cheri, you’ve been at FaithWriters a relatively short time, since December last year, but you really have settled in and seem to be going from strength to strength. Have you always wanted to write?

CHERI: Deb, I feel like I was born with a pen in my hand. It has always been my nature to write everything down. I've kept a journal since I was a young girl. In school I was an avid note taker. There is some kind of security for me in getting the words down on paper.

B.C. – before children and before Christ in my life – I was a court reporter. That job helped to make me very grammar-conscious; those records I produced represented me. In the courtroom, I also saw some of the scrapes people can get into without God in their lives. God really does work everything together for good as He promises, doesn't He?

I love to read. I think this also helps a writer. It gives inspiration, as well as aspiration. And I'm never at a loss for words, obviously. When my kids were little, they'd ask a question and say, "Mommy, the short answer, please."

Reading and writing have always been part of who I am, but it wasn't until ten years ago that I began to understand it might be something God would like to use in my life. (I just thought I was quirky.) I shared the revelation with my husband, and he was supportive of the idea. The timing was not quite right, though, as our four children were ages three to fourteen at the time, and they needed me.

Last summer my husband and I were praying through a painful spot in our lives. I mentioned to him that I didn't want to see others making our same mistakes and hurting like we were. He told me he thought it might be God's timing to write now, to share the things we are learning. For Christmas he bought me a laptop and told me to get busy. The kids still need me, but it's in a different capacity now. So I joined FaithWriters, and here I am.

FWM: I have to admit that from time to time I have recognized more than a little of myself in your stories. There was a whole lot of me in your article, "The Missing Gene," http://www.faithwritersmagazine.com/July05/merry-featured-article-7-05.php which we featured in the July Issue of FaithWriters’ Magazine, and there’s quite a bit of me in your front page feature this month, "Practicing Deity Without a License." You are very honest with your writing – has there ever been a time where you’ve started to write something and then thought, "No, maybe not"?

CHERI: Absolutely. Sometimes I know God wants me to share something, and it is such a battle to get it out of my head and onto the page. Sometimes I have to deal with my own heart. Sometimes I need to ask permission of someone who will be part of the story; even though I change the names, they would recognize themselves in print. I don't always write non-fiction stuff, but it does seem to be my bent, that kind of personal testimonial sharing.

In fact, I scrapped "Practicing Deity" after Round One and started a whole other entry for my front page feature submission. I had the second entry halfway written, but God wouldn't let it go. You see Who won that battle!

FWM: I’m so glad He did! It’s a wonderfully honest, inspirational and encouraging piece.

Well, you’re the mother of four (and soon to be a Grandmother – congratulations) and you homeschool your three youngest. How do you find the time to write? Describe a "typical" day for Cheri Hardaway.

CHERI: Well, Deb, I now actually only homeschool my two youngest. My second son graduated from homeschooling this past May and is now in college. The transition is so new I keep thinking I am still schooling three, so I miswrote my own bio! The girls are in 9th and 11th grades, so the hands-on, labor intensive schooling has dissipated a bit for me. They basically get the job done and come to me when they need help – then we figure it out together. My main job is lesson planning and record keeping now, as opposed to a couple hours a day teaching. This leaves more time for writing.

Our typical day finds us intensely concentrating on our own little projects, unless we're running to 4-H, band, music lessons or P.E. – activities with the homeschool group we belong to. If we're on the run, my pad and pencil go everywhere I do. It's not uncommon for me to stop them mid-sentence to jot a quick idea down so I don't lose it. They're used to their quirky mom. If I didn't have my family, I'd have no experiences to write from, so they're as much a part of any ministry God might give me writing as I am.

FWM: Cheri, you jumped almost immediately into the weekly Writing Challenge after joining FaithWriters and have been diving in almost every week ever since. In fact, your Challenge entries make up virtually your entire writing portfolio at FaithWriters. Has being a regular Challenge entrant had an impact on your writing ... on your life for that matter?

CHERI: I know God put FaithWriters in my life to help me obey His call. The discipline of meeting a deadline helps turn good thoughtful intentions into actual written words.

The writing challenges have been beneficial in so many ways. My skill level has been sharpened. People on the site have encouraged me by pointing out my strengths and helping me to work on areas where I am weak. I have tried many different styles and types of writing, and I am learning what works best for me. The challenges stretch me by giving me a deadline and making me write on topics I might not otherwise attempt. I've also had to give myself permission to take a week off. It's easy to make the challenge an idol.

I am learning that I can impact others by doing something I love – what an incredible blessing!

FWM: You mentioned earlier that you are an avid reader and that you believe this is a help to any writer. I have to say that I couldn't agree more. It's not just the content of the piece, but also the style and technique. So what authors would you say have inspired you the most, and why?

CHERI: That's a difficult question for me, because I read so many different authors and genres. I have a lot of exposure to good literature with homeschooling -- academics, classics, Bible studies. I like to read James Dobson, Gary Smalley, Joyce Meyers, Florence Littauer, Tim LaHaye... But I would have to say that the authors that inspire and influence my writing the most are Christian fiction writers: Frank Peretti, Randy Alcorn, Jan Karon, Janette Oke, Lori Wick, Kristin Billerbeck... I like to read about true spiritual challenges in the lives of people I can identify with. While I don't find myself writing fictional pieces, I like to illustrate truth through a character's experience, often humorous, as opposed to a lecture-style format; I guess that would be called a non-fictional testimonial style of writing.

FWM: Like you, I use my family as my inspiration and have to say I laughed when you said that you have stopped them mid-sentence in the past to scribble down a quote. (Are you sure we aren't twins?) I know your husband is very supportive of your new step as a writer, but what about your children? Do they ever say, "MOM! You can't write that!"?

CHERI: Occasionally. On the whole, they are also very supportive of my endeavors. When there is a sensitive subject or issue, I seek their permission first, with a promise to let them see things that pertain to them before I let anyone else see them. I guess they don't feel too bad, because much of my writing pokes fun at myself, so they know it is a "share the wealth" kind of thing.

FWM: So Cheri, you've opened this door as a writer and have taken some fairly big steps through it. What's your dream for the future?

CHERI: It was ten years ago when we were living in the Dallas area that God planted the first seed in my spirit about my future "career" as a writer, and I must admit that I had many illusions of grandeur. I was going to change the world, write a best-seller -- blah, blah, blah... The confession shames me, but it really was all about me then. Today, it is all about Him, and we are all better off for it -- trust me! My dream is to fully realize what He wants me to do with the talent He has placed within me. I want to walk through the doors He opens and be obedient to share His love and faithfulness with others in whatever way He asks of me. Should that come in the form of a book, that would be awesome! It would be dishonest to say that I don't dream of writing a book one day. But He spent ten years getting me out of His way the first time; I don't want to go around that mountain again!

FWM: Cheri, thank you so much for sharing your life with us - both in this interview and through your writing. I wish you every success in the future!
You can read more of Cheri’s work by visiting her Member Page at FaithWriters: http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=10293
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