Ann Voskamp has six children; 600 acres in rural Ontario, Canada; 1,000 piglets she and her farmer husband raise; and a book that has sold 450,000 copies.
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (Zondervan, 2011) is her first book. Voskamp’s own story may be at least as compelling as her book, a series of poetic reflections on her life, beginning with painful memories of the death of her young sister and ending in Paris in grateful communion with God.
Voskamp is a writer for DaySpring, Hallmark’s inspirational division, and a farmer’s wife who has always kept journals. She began a blog on a friend’s dare as a way of working out fears, including agoraphobia, by counting blessings--a thousand of them. “It was no comments, no site meter,” Voskamp says. “I wasn’t trying to get a platform at all.” The blog eventually attracted the attention of an agent, Bill Jensen. She wasn’t even sure it was a book; she calls her writing style “idiosyncratic” and offers the word “prosetry” in describing it.
Zondervan noticed an unusual number of preorders for a first-time author’s book and then watched it chart for 30 weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists (it’s still on the extended list) . It also has consistently charted on the Christian bestsellers lists. Kathie Lee Gifford featured the book on NBC’s Today show and hosted Voskamp on a subsequent show. The book’s phenomenal success has snowballed via social media; there’s a #1000gifts hashtag, and movement, on Twitter, and Voskamp has almost 20,000 followers. A gift book spinoff, Selections from One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan, Mar.) features Voskamp’s own photos, and yes, there’s an app for it, too.
“People ask me if it’s exciting,” Voskamp says. “It hushes me. God did something in spite of me, or multiplied loaves and fishes.” The loaves and fishes will support Compassion International. Using proceeds from the book, Voskamp is partnering with the group to build an educational center for children who live in the Guatemala City dump. She visited the country in 2010 to live blog for Compassion as a way to promote child sponsorship. “It was my first Third World experience,” she says.
Voskamp is going to Haiti this summer to live blog again, she’s outlining her next book, and she would like to write a children’s book. “It’s all good,” she says, but notes the pressure for a big follow-up. Voskamp was one of more than 100 featured speakers at the Festival of Faith and Writing (see related story in this issue).