Writer, Counselor, Nurturer
The treacherous journey to find yourself will always lead you home--LCM
Rev. Sam Wright earned a Ph.D. in biblical studies. Part of his work on his doctorate involved study in Israel at the Ecumenical Institute. He has served as a pastor, professor, and missionary (Brazil). He has served the United Methodist churches of Florida since 1994. He was appointed to First UMC Sarasota in July 2016.
In addition to serving as pastor, Dr. Sam has a passion for both teaching and writing. He has taught in universities and seminaries in Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, and Brazil – mostly in the field of Biblical Studies, although he has also taught world religions, ethics and philosophy. He has written Sunday School curriculum and articles for theological journals.
In 2013, he and his wife, Yvonne, suffered the tragic loss of their son. Their personal journey through the grieving process is the basis for his book Heartbreak to Hope: Overcoming the Anguish of Grief. This 2016 publication has helped many people find their way through the grieving process. It is available on Amazon.com
He is currently working on the second volume of a series entitled Smart Aleck’s Guide to the Bible, a humorous look at the stories of the Bible. People are enjoying the first volume of the book, which is also available on Amazon.
Q. Dr. Sam, you have published several books, one being Heartbreak to Hope: Overcoming the Anguish of Grief. This is an area many struggle with and sometimes get stuck in. How was this book born and where did it enter your writing journey?
Answer: Our son was killed in an accident on May 20, 2013. In struggling to work through my grief, I found initially I could not talk about it. After a while I did go to a counselor, which was helpful. I discovered I could work through my grief by writing. I would write a reflection or poem about how I was feeling, always ending up in tears. It was cathartic for me. After a while, I began to share those pieces with my wife and daughter. They both found them helpful. Then I wrote more and shared more pieces of writing with others going through grief. Everyone said they were helpful because that’s what they were feeling. So, I continued, not just to help myself in the process but to help others. One counselor told me it was the most helpful book on grief he had read, which shocked and humbled me. I give the book to people I know who are struggling with grief.
Q: I love your pastor/writer vision. You see through very special glasses, and I believe your work encourages readers. Would you share how you started writing, and how your ministerial life co-exists or intersects with your writing?
Answer: When I was young, I wanted to be an adventurer and writer like Jack London. However, it was only after decades of ministry as a professor, missionary, and pastor that I began writing. I always found there were too many things to do rather than discipline myself to sit down and write. The book on grief got me started in a serious way. When I’ve seen how people can be impacted through the written word, it is opening a whole new arena of ministry for me.
Q: You’re currently working on your second, or the sequel to “Smart Aleck’s Guide to the Bible” Please share how the first book idea came about, and when you expect release of the second book.
Answer: It was strange how it happened. I have always loved humor and always been a smart aleck, which got me in trouble in school more than once. A few years ago, I was one of twelve clergy who were accepted to study for a week with the writer Robert Benson at a retreat center in Jackson, Mississippi. In the mornings, we listened to Robert Benson share his insights into decades of making a living as a writer (not an easy task). In the afternoons, we wrote. In the evenings, a couple of us clergy would read a little of something we had written. When it was my turn, I shared two things, a smart aleck (and perhaps irreverent) paragraph about God creating light because perhaps God was afraid of the dark and a paragraph about being with my mother before she died. Afterward, a participant who turned out not to be a clergy person, but involved editor for a devotional publisher, came to me and asked for a copy of the smart aleck piece. She did not say why. They offered me a contract for two volumes of a humorous commentary on Genesis. I’m almost finished with the second. I have no idea when it will be published. But I am enjoying the journey.
Q: Do you find it hard to juggle writing, home life, being a pastor along with all your duties, and what is your favorite aspect within the writing life?
Answer: Yes, writing usually comes last. Other than writing sermons, emails, etc. for my work as a pastor, I find little time to write. I write on vacations or early in the mornings when I can grab an hour.
Two aspects of writing appeal to me: 1) the authors I have met and the amazing things that they write and 2) the creative process of coming up with ideas as I write and reflect on what I have written and through this I see even more possibilities.
Q. Are you on social media as an author? What is your favorite piece and why?
Answer: Answer: I have not really taken advantage of social media as an author. I do have a sorely neglected website. http://www.drsamwright.com/
Q. Please share a little about how you became a facilitator of your Word Weaver writing critique group.
Answer: While I was writing Heartbreak to Hope: Overcoming the Anguish of Grief I joined a Word Weavers critique group. They were very helpful and encouraging. When I moved to Sarasota in 2016, I had published Heartbreak to Hope and was writing what would become Smart Aleck’s Guide to the Bible. I could not find a Word Weavers group near me. When I complained to the president of Word Weavers, she told me to start one. So, I did.
Q: What is your favorite genre to read, and what book has impacted your writing the most?
Answer: I love fiction. But I find myself reading more how-to books especially related to ministry.
Q: Would you share how your professional background has shaped your writing and given you a unique, empathetic approach to characterization?
Answer: I have engaged in research and writing at the most demanding academic levels, reading academic articles and books in German, French, and Spanish. I have been a professor and wrote lectures. When I was a missionary in Brazil, I had to write lectures for my classes, as well as theological journal articles and Sunday School literature in Portuguese. I still enjoy doing research but have left the heady (and often dry) world of academia (although I have taught as an adjunct professor from time to time.) Each week I write a sermon. I am a people person and have met many interesting people along the way, which probably helps me relate to people in my sermons and helps me to flesh out characters in the Bible.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your writing?
Answer: For my work on grief, I hope people will be encouraged. For the Smart Aleck’s Guide to the Bible, I hope people will laugh and also that the biblical characters will seem more real and more human.
Q: The publishing journey is unpredictable, but if you could write your own publishing story, what would be the next step for you? Do you already have an idea of what is next when you are done with your work-in-progress?
Answer: At several writer’s conferences, I pitched Heartbreak to Hope to many publishers. I sent out query letters to publishers I thought might be interested. No one was. But because I knew the book would help people, I self-published it. And I’m glad I did because it has been a huge help to many people. That’s also what made the out-of-the-blue offer to publish Smart Aleck’s Guide to the Bible such a shock to me.
I have three writing projects. I will continue to re-write and edit Smart Aleck’s Guide to the Bible, vol. 2. I will finish the book on grief I started three years ago: Ten Days with Mom about the last ten days I spent with her before she died. The working title for the third book is Coming Out for Gays. It’s autobiographical about a conservative pastor’s struggle to understand homosexuality in light of his experience with LGBTQ persons and his understanding of Scripture. I would also like to write biblical fiction novels about Samson, Joseph, David, and Zebedee, the father of James & John. We will see where God leads and how disciplined I can be.
Q: If there’s anything else you’d like to share, please do so. I may be leaving out your blogs, YouTube videos, other books or published articles that I might not have found on the internet.
Answer: My sermons are published each week on the church website. You can also find an occasional blog on the church website or on my website, The sermons are published on Sunday mornings on Facebook and are available on You Tube.