Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books. She also writes regularly for websites and blogs (such as CBN.com and FindingGodDaily.com), contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ 2013 Mornings with Jesus), and enjoys speaking and teaching at writers' conferences. Dianne is a 2006 CLASS graduate and a member of Advanced Writers & Speakers, Christian Authors Network, and Toastmasters International. She and her husband, Richard, currently live in
Salt Lake City, which is
too far away from their three grown children and two adorable grandchildren.
How long have you been writing professionally and how did you get started?
I have been writing professionally since 1999, when I attended my first writers’ conference (Write-to-Publish,
Chicago area). As a little girl, I loved to make up stories and share them with the rest
of the class. Writing assignments were always my favorite part of school. But
as an adult, I didn’t have the confidence or courage to pursue creative
writing. It was just something I fantasized about—a
In my mid-forties I began writing occasional articles for my church’s newsletter. My pastor urged me to attend a writers’ conference and think about pursuing publication. So I set off, asking God to show me if writing was His will for me or my own self-centered dream. At that time, I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing world and had no idea what to expect.
I didn’t have any articles or book proposals to show editors, but I did bring along a short piece about a spiritual lesson I’d learned from my cat. When I showed it to an editor from Warner Press, she told me, “I think you might be a natural devotion writer”—something I’d never thought of. So I got my start writing devotions for the backs of church bulletins, occasionally a Sunday School take-home paper, and the quarterly magazine The Quiet Hour. Now, my fourth one-year devotional book has just released. And I’m so glad I showed that story about my cat to that particular editor!
What was the first book you wrote?
The One Year On This Day was published by Tyndale House in 2005. (Currently, it’s available only in eBook format.) The daily devotions are based on origins of holidays—including some you’ve likely never heard of before, anniversaries of historical events, pop culture trivia, or anything related to a specific day of the year. These are used to illustrate spiritual principles and biblical truths. Each devotion includes a practical application and a related Bible verse.
Since then, you’ve published three more daily devotional books. What do you find most rewarding about writing devotions?
I absolutely love finding creative ways to illustrate a Bible verse or spiritual principle, whether using elements of nature, historical events, pop culture trivia, news events, my own personal experiences, or any other source. I love drawing out practical application that demonstrates how relevant the Bible is to our lives today. I also enjoy trying to find a way to end with a statement that helps the content stick in the reader’s mind (especially when I come up with a pun). And feedback from readers motivates me to keep writing devotionals. It's such a blessing when someone tells me that a devotional has spoken to their specific situation, or says that one of my books is a part of their regular quiet time.
Is it hard to come up with 365 different topics or ideas for illustrations?
It’s definitely a challenge. For my first book, I wouldn’t want to know how many hours I spent on research trying to find something interesting related to every day of the year. When I wrote The One Year Women of the Bible, I had to get creative since there aren’t nearly as many women as men in the Bible. My third devotional, Drawing Closer to God: 365Meditations on Questions from Scripture, was easier because there are way more questions than that in the Bible. But many of them are similar so that project took a lot of digging, too. As for opening illustrations, once I settle on a particular verse or spiritual truth, it’s usually not long before a related personal experience or some other idea pops in my head. Then there are times when the illustration comes first, and the rest follows through study and research.
Tell us a little about your newest devotional book.
Designed for Devotion: A 365 Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation provides an overview of the entire Bible. It explains the background and factual information for each book, including the author, theme, purpose for writing, and historical setting. The book highlights the key stories and characters in the OT and gospels, and explores the basic teachings of the NT writers. In the part of the book that covers the Old Testament, I sprinkled occasional “Jesus Sightings” (in keeping with the theme of a trip or journey). These devotions focus on how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. I also included devotions about the 400-year period between the Testaments, the concept of “theophany”, the distinction between the Major and Minor Prophets, and other topics. Throughout the book, each day’s devotion ends with a practical application that encourages readers to apply that day’s spiritual lesson to their own journey with God.
What can readers hope to gain from reading Designed for Devotion?
This book presented my biggest challenge ever! I don’t make any pretense of being a Bible scholar; I often felt burdened by the weight of such a serious responsibility. But I think that will be a plus for most readers since the book is not “academic”. Readers will gain the factual and historical information needed to understand the context of each book and how it fits in with the rest of the Bible. At the same time, they will be able to see how each story and teaching relates to their everyday lives. Designed for Devotion will help those new to Bible study grow in their understanding of God and His Word; long-time Bible students will enjoy the review. Hopefully, anyone who reads the book will go deeper in their relationship with God and in their devotion to Him. A trip through the Bible can be a life-changing journey!
What is God teaching you right now?
That’s easy to answer: To trust Him implicitly and totally submit to His plans even when I don’t understand or like what is happening in my life.
What life experience, education, or training helped you become an author?
I have a Liberal Arts degree in psychology and English, and a Master’s in guidance and counseling. But I consider my greatest training to be growing up out in the country with three brothers and no neighbor kids close by. In the summers, I learned to use my imagination to entertain myself while working in the cotton fields or while playing in the woods at the edge of our little family farm.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Spend time with family and friends, participate in church-related activities and Bible studies, get out and enjoy nature, read for pleasure, and of course, think about writing.
What projects are you working on now?Although I’ve focused on nonfiction so far, I’m looking into trying my hand at fiction. I would love to research and write a historical novel. In the meantime, I write devotionals and articles for periodicals and websites, and sometimes contribute to compilation books. For example, this year I was honored to be one of ten writers who contributed to Mornings with Jesus 2013: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul published by Guideposts.
Thank you, Dianne, for sharing this book with us. I'm sure many of my readers are looking for a new devotional book to use in 2013. This one would be excellent.
You can connect with Dianne through her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation - print copy
Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation - Kindle
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