Choosing Hope: An Interview with Comedian Dorie McLemore

Congratulations! You’ve landed on a giveaway blog post! All you need to do is this: After reading Dorie’s interview, post a comment below and tell me one place in your life where you could use a little hope and joy right now.  The winner will receive a signed copy of Dorie’s book. But everyone who comments will receive something for me (while supplies last!). 

About 3 years ago, I accidentally attended a 2-day conference that I had seen advertised on my friend Lisa Mills’ Facebook page. It was for women speakers- but specifically, as I was soon to find out, for women comedians. Still, Lisa encouraged me to attend- so I did. I spent most of those 2 days hiding in the shadows, terrified, praying that no one would call on me to say anything. My jaws haven’t been locked so tight since I had them wired shut after some sort of dental surgery in 9thgrade.

Let me just say, though, I learned so much during that conference that has helped me as a speaker, and I met some absolutely lovely people.  It was a happy accident!

Dorie McLemore is one of those lovely ladies I was honored to meet during that conference.  According to her bio, Dorie is a “joy-bringer/story-teller/licensed minister/coffee-lover/comedian,” and when you meet her in-real-life (IRL) you meet every single one of those Dorie’s!  

Now Dorie can add “Author” to her list, as she has published a 21-day devotional, Hope Looks Good on You: A Comedian’s Joy-Inducing Daily Devotional for Women.  

Okay, I’ll be real with y’all right now. Those two words “comedian” and “devotional” created something of a cognitive dissonance in my head. But Dorie is one of the most engaging speakers I have heard, so I knew I would buy her book. I mean, I’ve heard her pasta salad story in person, so I figured anything she writes can’t be bad.

When her book was launched on April 1, I went ahead and bought the Kindle version of it. I read it over the course of two days because I couldn’t put it down. Every single page was amazingly right on- so relatable, so very inspiring- even the pasta salad story! I’ve ordered many more copies of this book.  It has become my go-to gift of encouragement to women I know who need a little hope and a little joy.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  

As an author of devotionals in multiple formats, I’m often asked by other writers to offer critiques. I’ve read a lot of excellent devotionals. I’ve read a lot of devotionals that are not so excellent. There is a misconception that anyone can sit down and successfully write something inspiring in an hour or so, click a “Publish Now” button, and change the world. This is not the case. It takes prayer, Bible study, work, re-work (type-delete-repeat until you get it right), strong writing skills (think spelling, grammar, and punctuation), and it takes a calling from the Lord that often gets communicated to the author through life experiences that humble and sometimes even break us. Dorie’s book reflects all of that, and many of her pages have reached right through to my spirit.

Loving Dorie’s book as I do, I asked her if she would share with my readers about how her book came to be. She has graciously taken the time to answer some questions and share some good words about this new avenue of writing ministry that the Lord has opened to her.

You interact with a lot of people in your ministry. How did that shape your decision to write this book?  How did these interactions help you pinpoint the theme of hope?

Dorie: I have the honor of being able to speak at events, mostly performing stand-up comedy for groups of middle-aged women and the occasional retirement community.   We enjoy the time together, laughing about the common things we share or some of the uncommon things that seem to happen to only me, or some of the things that I have done that make the women feel better about themselves!   I love connecting with these women through this time of laughter and our experiences and sometimes I am also able to share a message of joy or hope at the end of the comedy segment.   

For years, I have wished I had something I could offer these ladies after the event is over.  I wanted them to have a resource, something they could carry with them back into real life.    I felt like this devotional book was the answer to that desire.   

I realized through 2020, that I wasn’t grasping the full value of living a hopeful life and that there were many of these women in this same boat.  I had always ‘protected’ myself from disappointment by not allowing myself to get my hopes up.  What I didn’t realize is that I wasn’t protecting myself from disappointment…I was ensuring it.  I was always living in fear even when things were great because I would assume that it wouldn’t last forever and I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall.  

God showed me that I should get my hopes up…if my hope was put in Him.   He wouldn’t disappoint me.  It’s true that we can’t put our hopes in the circumstances around us or our emotions will be tossed around in the waves, but if we choose to anchor our hope in Him, we can live a hopeful life, full of promise and joy no matter what is going on around us.  It was for that reason that I felt led to offer a hope-themed, joy-inducing daily devotional to these women…that they might develop a habit of hope!

Describe the writing process that you go through when writing devotions.  How long did it take from the inception of the idea to publication? 

Dorie: If you count from the actual inception, we are talking about a bunch of years since I once won a teen devotional contest that included being published in a teen devotional brochure-like magazine when I was a senior in high school in 1993!  Even though that was not the start of this book, it did birth an interest in me to one day publish a devotional book that would reach others with a message of hope.  I began to focus on writing this book early Fall 2020 and had my first proof in hand the last week of the year.  The editing process took about two months more, including three additional proofs.  Then, the book launch phase was one month from the April 1st launch date, bringing it to a grand total of seven months…or like 28 years!

I had read something habit-guru James Clear wrote that helped my procrastinator-self immensely in the process of writing this book:  habits are more powerful than goals.   It struck me and I decided to begin the habit of writing twenty minutes every day whether I felt like it or not.   Sometimes I wanted to write for much longer, but I made myself write at least twenty minutes, even on the days I wasn’t feeling creative at all.   I had the goal of writing a book for a long time, but it wasn’t until this habit of writing was a constant in my life that the goal turned into something tangible.  

What are some of the challenges that you faced in putting the book together, whether within the writing process, design process, etc., and how did you get through them?

Dorie: I am stubbornly frugal so when my laptop decided to break at the beginning of the writing process, I wouldn’t buy a new one because I was convinced I could fix it if I watched enough YouTube videos and bought enough special tools from Amazon.   So, I started using my smartphone to write my book as entries into a note-taking app.   I didn’t mind doing that for the most part because I was able to write from anywhere, but then I had to start formatting the notes to a template and that was not fun to do on a phone.  I had written and formatted my whole book through to the first proof on my phone!    Luckily, I surrendered my old laptop for a new one before the editing stage!    

My stubborn frugality spilled over into not wanting to outsource anything so each new step meant a new thing to google and a new learning curve.  I appreciated the process at times and I don’t necessarily regret learning all the things, but I definitely slowed down the book’s publication by refusing to hire out any part of it!

I am grateful for the support of my family and friends who encouraged me not to rush the editing process and launching stages.  I was anxious to release the book once I had the first proof in my hand, feeling like I had already invested so much time that I thought I should just publish it.  Not that there aren’t things in the book I might cringe to read now, but I’m glad I allowed time for feedback and to give attention to the idea of marketing it to more than my four family members before clicking the ‘publish’ button.

The stories that you share seem to flow seamlessly into the application of Scripture. Are these lessons that God has been using in your life for a while? 

Dorie: Yes, every lesson in each devotional is something I had to personally walk through or I’m still walking through some of them!  I believe I will always be a work in progress and that each stage of life will bring its own challenges.  I’m definitely not finished learning things from the Lord!   

It seems that often when God gives me a theme to write about, He provides me with opportunities to build that area of my life.  How did you experience this while writing “Hope…”?

Dorie: So true.  I think God had to build the area of hope in my life during 2020.  If 2020 was a test, I failed it miserably for several months running.   I was probably about as hope-bankrupt as I could be.  Live events had completely shut down.  My identity as a speaker/performer was inconsequential and non-essential.  I was too extroverted to be locked down.  I had already watched too many movie trilogies and I found puzzles to be too challenging.  We actually gave up on a puzzle.  I couldn’t watch the news or engage with the world outside of me.  I felt paralyzed by fear and anxiety and the noise of all the issues that surrounded us all. 

I was having an all-out pity party when God tapped me on the shoulder, reminding me about writing this book.  He reminded me that He is good.  He reminded me that He is stable, that the chaos doesn’t come to Him as a surprise.  He told me that fear and anxiety isn’t productive.  He taught me that hope is not just some form of unrealistic optimism — that there is actual power in living hopeful.  

I started choosing to see hope.

This might be a silly example, but do you ever notice that when you are shopping for a certain type of car, they are suddenly all over the roads?  I don’t think that these cars actually know that we are shopping for them and just pull up next to us.  They have always been there.  It’s just that we are looking for them now so we can see them.  When we look for hope, it’s everywhere.  We can choose to see negative circumstances, and they will show up too, but when we tune in to hope…there’s always hope.

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