Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family. Their father wrote engineering textbooks and magazine articles; their mother, Betsy Byars, was a distinguished children’s author.
The sisters grew up in Morgantown, WV, and after careers in medical fields, began writing. They have published more than thirty-five children’s novels, both individually and together. Their first collaborative efforts were with their mother. After she retired, the two formed The Writing Sisters.
When you were growing up, in your pre-teens or teens, would your family have predicted that you would be writing together?
They might have predicted that we would both write but probably not together!
We are daughters of two writers, our mother wrote children’s books and our father wrote text books and also for flying magazines. We grew up writing. We also grew close to each other. We are only eighteen months a part in age and shared a lot of friends and activities growing up.
What has been the best, and most difficult, part of working with each other?
The best part of writing together is having someone to share the joys and sorrows of writing and publishing. Writing can be a lonely business and with two of us we are not alone in it.
The difficult part comes from our differences. Laurie is a plotter. Betsy is a seat-of-the-pants writer. This was a source of tension for us when we first began to write together. In the beginning Laurie would come to our weekly meeting with spreadsheets. Betsy wanted to let the book take shape as we went along. The process of working together required our surrender of the work to God. When we both let go of the control of the book we begin to work together and appreciate the skills and the wiring that God gave each of us. The difficult part became a strength.
Let’s talk about The Shepherd’s Song: A Story of Second Chances (Howard Books, March 2014). Please tell us about it.
The Shepherd’s Song is the story of a woman who, like a lot of us, wonders if her life has mattered. She writes out Psalm 23 for her son and is in a car accident later that day. As she is rushed to the hospital she prays, “Let my life count.” Her copy of the psalm then begins a journey around the world changing the lives of twelve different people.
Why did you choose Psalms 23 as the central theme for the story?
Psalm 23 is such a well-known scripture—you know it’s the most tattooed Bible passage. Known by Christians and non-Christians alike. It has spoken to people across the ages. It’s such a beautiful picture of a shepherd’s role and therefore God’s role in our lives. In fact Ps 23 is known as “The Shepherd’s Song;” that’s where we got the title.
Of course the challenge for us was to look at such a well-known passage in fresh ways—imagine how God could work in a person’s life through each phrase.
During the writing of the book, we were both blessed with our first grandchildren as our “cups ran over.” We both had struggles with illnesses in family members and we “walked through valleys.” We found encouragement in comfort in the words that we were writing.
In the book Kate witnesses unexpected ways in which people’s lives are changed. Have you ever experienced an unexpected “divine detour” that changed your life for the better?
We had been writing children’s books together for years for the general market when we decided to write for God. We had prayed for our writing to be used for His glory and our first project together was a trilogy of God’s story in the world from children. The first book made it through several cuts at a large publisher and was then rejected. We were both so sure of the calling to write for God that the rejection confused us and hit us hard. We questioned whether we should continue. It was in the aftermath of that rejection that we were open to write a book for adults. Without that rejection we would never have changed course. When God closes one door He opens another.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
We live about two hours a part so we write together one day a week in a coffee shop that is halfway between our houses. They have a beautiful pastry case. Scones, cinnamon buns, cakes, pies. When things go wrong, like the time we were rejected by an agent and the email came to us at the coffee shop, our eyes turn to the pastry case! We also signed our contract for The Shepherd’s Song in the coffee shop. Then we eyed the pastry case for a celebration. The scones are our downfall.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
We love to sing loudly with enthusiasm but not necessarily with talent!
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
We love a good quartet, barbershop or gospel. It’s the harmonies that get us. The challenge of working together is staying in harmony with each other and we do that when we both stay in tune with God. Of course we are a duet more than a quartet, but we love the idea that God blends our voices to make something beautiful that we could not make alone. And there’s always room for more voices to join in the song.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Remember Lucy and Ethel working in the candy assembly line? In the story of our writing life that pretty well sums it up. Fun, joy and laughter combined with a serious effort and desire to do it right. It’s nice to have someone along to share the journey and all that life can bring!
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
Growing up we always had dogs, many dogs. Our first collaborative books were about dogs, My Dog My Hero and The Dog Diaries. Laurie’s dog Samson is often a guest on our blog bringing writing tips. Betsy is between dogs now after having just lost her fifteen year old dog, Arlo.
Thank you, Betsy and Laurie! It’s nice to have you as a guests at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Betsy and Laurie, visit their website.
To purchase The Shepherd’s Song, logon to: