Our students Olivia King and Spencer Jenkins recently wrote biographical features of author Mary Yerkes which received acclaim from the author, their teacher, and others.
Your students, at least the ones who wrote the two articles you sent, write better than the professionals I work with in the corporate world. No exaggeration!!! – Mary Yerkes
Way to go, students! We’re showing off their work below.
Living Beyond Limitations
By Olivia King
Mary Yerkes has a story to tell. Despite living with an often-debilitating chronic illness, Mary Yerkes is a well-published writer, who contributes to many Christian publications such as Focus on the Family and Discipleship Journal. Through her writing, she encourages others with chronic illnesses to seek-out and trust in God’s plans for their lives, and gives practical advice on living life abundantly.
According to Mary, her chronic illness has greatly affected her family and their daily lives. Fortunately, even though statistics show that approximately 75% of marriages faced with a chronic illness diagnostic end in divorce, Mary and her husband have found ways to weather the storms of life which would otherwise make them drift apart. They do this by loving “beyond the natural”. Some days, due to her rheumatoid arthritis, Mary can’t walk well or even carry a laundry basket and so has to rely on her husband and friends to help her out. Through all that, Mary continually gives credit to God and, through her trials, says she has gained a deeper understanding of his faithfulness.
Trying to juggle a busy writing and speaking career along with balancing the needs and responsibilities of family life requires nothing less than “constant prayer and recalibration”. She says that it is important to keep in mind what is important to her, because “what works for one season, does not [always work for another season].” When her job, with its many deadlines, extra hours, travel, and stress affects her family life, her solution is to make family a priority. She simply won’t take on any extra writing assignments and she focuses on the ones she does have, so she can get that finished and be able to spend time with her family.
When her life feels like “a little tornado” from the busyness, Mary has a prayer partner she meets with to pray with her. This enables her to get her life back in line. Taking a sabbatical, cancelling appointments, and cutting back on speaking events also helps her keep the stress down. Keeping the focus on “a few close friends, and the Lord, allows God to quicken in my heart the things in this next season,” says Mary. Putting God first allows her focus to remain on what He has planned for her.
Mary is at peace with knowing that not all people appreciate her work. In fact, her own family quite often provides little support or appreciation for all Mary’s efforts. That’s okay with Mary, though. She feels she is not writing for the approval of others. She writes because God called her to write and He gave her a “writer’s heart”. She says that her Christian family members recognize it as a calling and they see God’s hand on it. They still encourage her to be faithful to her calling, even if “they may not appreciate it.”
Life with chronic illness has allowed Mary Yerkes and her family to grow and live beyond the physical limitations by learning to depend on one another, love unconditionally, and follow a life God intended to be spent relying more on Him and less on ourselves.
“What to write?” “How do I research such a topic?” These are two of the most difficult aspects of writing for aspiring authors; however, author Mary Yerkes has it down to a science. As a testament to her expertise on these subjects, Yerkes not only works under a demanding schedule of writing articles for various magazines and websites, but she also suffers from chronic illness; therefore, she must be efficient with her time. To accomplish this, she has the process of choosing and researching a topic down to a science. When asked how she comes up with ideas for her work, Mary Yerkes smiled as only those who have successfully gone through this challenging process can. She explained that there are two ways she goes about this task. The first method involves a little personal research. Yerkes will go to the library or bookstore and peruse the bestsellers, gleaning ideas of which topics are selling. She then adds her own twist to make the article new and fresh. The second way she arrives at a topic is available to her because of the amount of time she has spent in the writing field. An editor from one of the magazines for which she writes will approach her with an article idea that needs to be written, and Mary Yerkes will work on that assignment. Although she has written articles that tackle difficult issues, she firmly stated during the interview that she would never work on a piece that goes against her moral standards and beliefs, even if it meant that she would lose that particular job.
Great, so now Mary Yerkes has an article to write, but how does she research her topic? She says she looks at other authors’ pieces on the subject to gain understanding. She brought up an example from an article she worked on concerning eating disorders. While she looked at recent pieces on the subject, Yerkes noticed that almost all the articles covered the same disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia; however, she wanted to take a new spin on the article. She then Googled on eating disorders to see what was new in the field. Yerkes came upon a disorder called orthorexia, characterized by eating so healthily it becomes a disorder. Yerkes decided to center her article on that condition. She called two different psychological centers and spoke with doctors and other employees there to gain a better understanding of the disorder.
Among writers, there are two different factions: outline or don’t outline. When asked if she employed an outline while writing, Mary Yerkes grinned and promptly said, “Never”. She said it is very writer specific what one does with regard to an outline, but Yerkes said that when she tried to do one, “I almost pulled my hair out!”
During the interview, Mary Yerkes was happy and open to questions of all sorts. She was very supportive of aspiring writers and gave great tips about topic decision and research. When asked what she was planning in the future, Yerkes responded that she had several book ideas that had yet to be picked up by a publisher, but was determined to print these books. Whenever the books come out, you can be sure they will be on an interesting topic as well as being thoroughly researched.