Interview: Fall Contest Runner-Up Maria Chythlook

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I had the privilege of talking to Maria Chythlook, author of A Teddy Bear Prayer, which won honorable mention in the Fall WOW-Women on Writing Essay contest. The story centers around a promise Maria made to herself as a young girl and the application of her prayer in her current situation. Maria currently has several children's books in progress centering around a young character that has many adventures within Alaska.

LuAnn: Congratulations on your winning entry! Your faith boldly shines through your story. How did your faith help guide your family to make such an important decision?

Maria: Thank you. Our faith was the main determining factor in our decision. We asked ourselves a question, “What would Jesus do?” I know this may sound over simplified for such a big decision. Matthew 18:5 says, “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.” We live to love God, to love others as Jesus does and as we want to be loved. We felt then, as to this day, that Jesus gave us our son. It was an easy decision.

LuAnn: The power of prayer can be miraculous. What feelings did you experience after remembering your girlhood prayer to adopt children?

Maria: When I remembered my girlhood prayer concerning adoption, I literally had goose bumps. There are certain times in my life upon which I look back and see the hand of God orchestrating everything. This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest event like that. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.

LuAnn: Your story gives me goose bumps, too! As a former counselor, I've been involved in several similar situations. Sometimes, the foster system doesn't always move at a fast pace. Were there any difficulties in adding a new little brother to the family?

Maria: We had no difficulties at all adding a little brother. In fact, the Sunday I wrote about was the only day during which we had time to think. The next day, at 10 am, the state social worker came to our home. At 6 pm, eight hours later, I went to pick up our new son. We did not know it at the time, but that Monday was his second birthday. What a birthday present for us all!

LuAnn: You live in Alaska, which many people consider "God's country." Do you ever include the landscape of the land in your writing?

Maria: I love living in Alaska. I was born here and consider it a God given gift. When I write I love to include as much of Alaska as I can, especially in children’s stories. When I write poetry it always includes Alaska, the landscape, the wonders and the wildness of it all.

LuAnn: What inspired you to enter the contest?

Maria: I was inspired to enter the contest on a whim. I am a certified teacher, and have recently opted to home school my children instead of teach everyone else’s. As I have no income now, I was looking for writing jobs on the Internet. Little ones I could do on the side which would not detract from home schooling four children. I stumbled upon the WOW website and began devouring it. I did not even consider the contest at first. I later mentioned it to my children, who eagerly prompted me to write the story. They would not let it rest. So, I wrote and God has blessed me.

LuAnn: Kudos to your kids for encouraging your writing. Have you entered or won other writing contests or awards?

Maria: I have not entered any other contest, previously or presently. I do some local freelance work and web site content writing, and a few technical jobs over the Internet. My reward is reading what I have written to my kids.

LuAnn: You lead an extremely active life! How do you make time to write?

Maria: How do I have time to write? As it is currently 2:30 am, this may give a clue! I used to keep a notebook with me. Now I carry my laptop with me everywhere. I took it to the doctor’s office with me the other day and got in a whole 45 minutes of writing time, uninterrupted! Writing relaxes me, and as we have no television here, I write for my fun/free time. My mom has always encouraged me to write, especially about the antics that go on in our home. Thank God for giving me a talent which is also a stress relief. What could be better?

LuAnn: I understand you are a thespian at heart. I used to teach drama! Do you have any plans to adapt your children's books for the stage? Or perhaps, write a screenplay at some point?

Maria: Yes, I am a thespian at heart. The stage gets into your blood, like an addiction. When my children are older I am going to join our local playhouse. They have a wonderful time. For now, we are content to watch plays, both local productions and the ones that come up to the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage (a three hour drive from here). I encourage my children to participate as well. As for incorporating my children’s books into plays, I have never thought about it before. Most of the action takes place outside in the great Alaskan wilderness. That might be hard to put on the stage. I do think writing a play would be a blast. As with every true writer, I have my own set of ideas constantly running through my head. Time will tell.

LuAnn: Good luck with that project! I understand you are an ASL interpreter. How did your interest in American Sign Language develop?

Maria: My interest in American Sign Language has always been a part of me. I have family members that are deaf, and who taught me the basics at an early age. In college, I decided to take ASL courses as well. As time progressed, I have used my signing ability with the school district and in the community as an interpreter, with deaf friends, and in church with our worship team. ASL is a beautiful language. I think it is much more expressive than spoken languages.

LuAnn: What authors inspire you and why?

Maria: I have many favorite authors. I will mention four here, but they are by no means the only ones. When I was a child, my dad would read me Jack London stories. I still reread them today. His style of writing is so poetic and dramatic. The words bring your imagination to life. I can feel the air he describes, the sound of the snow is audible, and the tragedy is as if it were happening to my loved ones. His words can be daunting, but they are pleasurable to the ear. During my young adult life I began to read Anna McCaffrey’s works. I love her fantasy series Pern the best. Four out of six members in my family have read the entire series, and we relate life to them at times. We even call our coffee ‘klah”. Ms. McCaffrey makes her characters come to life so vividly, as if they were standing right next to you. She has created an amazing world in Pern, intricate to the last detail. Another author is Dana Stabenow. She writes Alaskan murder mysteries, which brings her work dear to my heart. Her Alaskan content is very accurate and she has depicted the social climate within Alaska very well. Growing up in Alaskan villages, I can appreciate this. Her characters are real, like the people I know here in Alaska. (Yes, we are a different world up here in the frozen north.) The next author I would like to mention is Max Lucado. His work has touched my soul. He writes so poetically. He delivers his message by enveloping you with his words, bringing you into the presence of Christ. His children’s books are some of the best I have ever read. I truly believe his gift of words comes from God.
The truth is, I can find the good in everything I read. When I find the works that move me, I feel satisfied, contented. When I read ones that don’t, I think to myself, “If this got published, then there is hope yet!” So, even the works I personally don’t like, they inspire me too. It’s all in how you look at it.


If you haven't done so already, check out Maria's award winning story A Teddy Bear Prayer.


Cher'ley said...

Great interview. I enjoyed learning about her life and a bit about how living in Alaska has influenced her.

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