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Interview with Sarah Mankowski

October 11, 2012
This interview was compiled from questions asked by visitors to my store and by readers. In most cases the questions were formed from multiple questions.

Q: What inspires the designs in your store?

A: I design, or ask my son J.D. to design, things that interest me. I love butterflies, for example. Therefore, my store includes many items with butterfly designs.

For several years now I have added Christmas cards, these being the cards that I wished to send to family and friends. They include original poems. Since the cards remain in the store, we have accumulated quite an assortment. In this way I have cards to send each year. Items purchased are an added blessing. I am very grateful to our customers for shopping at our Christmas store.

Q: Christmas poems?

A: Yes. I’m not much of a poet, but I try to write poems connecting the birth of Christ to our present-day lives. The message of Christ is always for the present. This year’s theme is The Bethlehem Star. In the poem I attempted to convey the idea that like faith unseen, this star soul-seen, remains our guide through the frustrations of everyday life.

Q: Your store includes many products created using your photos. Tell me about your photography in relation to being legally blind.

A: I was born with cataracts in both eyes. When this happens the cataracts are usually removed while the child is still quite young, and then corrective glasses must be worn. My situation was complicated by detached retinas. This left me almost completely blind in the left eye. I can only see light. For this reason the doctors left the cataract in my right eye. My “good-eye” sight is 20/200.

When I take photos, I am only looking through the right eye. One reason I take so many photos is, by doing so, I can study distant objects more clearly on the computer screen. This is certainly true when observing butterflies.

Butterfly photo taken by Sarah

Q: Living in Florida, and as you say fourth-generation Floridian, how does location influence your work?

A: Living in a climate where I can garden year round keeps me outdoors year round, and enjoying nature with all my senses. I do not know if I can express this correctly, but when you must examine things much closer, it makes your little space seem much larger. My garden seems like some vast world with all the plants and critters as inhabitants. I suppose this shapes perspective in some way.

Q: You have been quite open about your faith after being agnostic for much of your adult life. How has your faith changed the direction of your store and your writing?

A: Regarding the store, The Christmas Store for certain. Christmas meant very little to me before I found faith, or rather faith found me ready to pay attention.

Gratitude to God for showing me that even when I believed myself alone, He was always there. I do not believe I possess the ability to properly express my gratitude, yet I try with the designs.

In writing, I said what I wished to say about faith and science in my novel As The Dominoes Fall. I have no plans to write another work of fiction that deals so overtly with Christianity. If I felt the need to say something, it would more likely be expressed in nonfiction. I am not cleaver enough to write these things without sounding preachy, which I would rather not do in fiction.

This past year I have rewritten and lengthened my novel Echo’s Voice into a six-episode series for Kindle. This is a novel set in the future. Religion only plays a role in the novel insomuch as religion is practically illegal in this future time.

Q: Has becoming a Christian changed the way you write?

A. Becoming a Christian has changed me inside, has filled me with gratitude for our loving God. It has made me think about my actions, including my creative endeavors. My boundaries, as I hope to be true with real-world neighbors, I do not wish to needlessly offend. Yet my characters will be who they are; just as real-world friends will be who they are.

Q: How do you think your writing is influenced by being legally blind?

A. That is really hard to answer. Because I do not see well enough to note facial expressions I tend not to add many details. I probably convey more through dialog.

Q: How did you become interested in writing?

A: My mother read to my sisters and me from babyhood. From earliest memory I was making up adventures for the characters, from the books she read. Many were the Doctor Dolittle adventures I invented.

Q: What are you currently working on? Future plans?

A: For the store, I am currently working on Our Christmas Store.

Writing: I am writing the seventh episode of Echo’s Voice. (Kindle only)

I am also working on a book about gardening. At this time I’m not sure if it will be Kindle only, or Kindle and print.

Q: How do you feel about reviews?

A: I am always grateful for reviews. Of course people will have varying opinions. Nevertheless, I am always grateful for feedback.

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