Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ~ Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
About Teresa Santoski: In addition to being an award-winning humorist and a devotional author, Teresa Santoski is the editor of the English language editions of Living Life and Sena English, two monthly Christian devotional magazines published by Duranno Press, a division of the Seoul, Korea-based Duranno International Ministry. Having spent ten years in the newspaper industry, Teresa continues to write her award-winning humor column, Tete-a-tete. She resides in New Hampshire, “the birthplace of Tupperware and paintball and home of the world’s largest wooden barrel.”
Clarice: Here’s my icebreaker question. Since New Hampshire is their birthplace, how do you support Tupperware and paintball?
Teresa: Whenever I had to bring treats to school for a party, my mom would always put them in a large red and white Tupperware container. So for me, Tupperware means dessert, which means happiness. However, I do not personally support paintball—if I may lapse into the New England vernacular here, I’m a “wicked easy tahget” in a game like that.
Clarice: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? And who supported you in this dream and how?
Teresa: I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, but I didn’t do much writing outside of school assignments until my first year of college. At that time, I began writing for various college publications as well as a newspaper and an online magazine. My “ah-hah” moment, however, didn’t come until the summer going into my junior year. I had declared a double major in Japanese Studies and Cinema and Media Studies, but I wanted to take a class on short story writing. Soon, I realized that no matter what I studied, I wanted to write after I graduated. So one week into my junior year, I dropped both of my majors and started from scratch as an English major.
Hands-down, my family has been my biggest supporters. They have always believed in my God-given gifts as a writer and encouraged me to take hold of opportunities to do more with my craft. They also let me write about them in my award-winning humor column, Tete-a-tete, which has been reassuring readers that they aren’t the only ones with odd families since May 2008.
Clarice: I first met you a few years ago at a writers’ critique group. You were working on a charming anthropomorphic story featuring feline characters. Please, tell my readers more about this story and how you came to choose this genre. What are your plans for this story?
Teresa: The story has its roots in a conversation I had with my oldest younger brother. He was talking about how he would like to own two cats in the future. One, named Beardsley, would be an evil mastermind who was always causing trouble, and the other, named Porkins, would be a pudgy and lovable oaf who was always taking the blame for Beardsley’s escapades.
I asked Oldest Younger Brother’s permission to develop his future felines into full-fledged characters, and he consented. Beardsley became a former general with a checkered past and a disabled leg due to his service in World War I, and Porkins morphed into a clueless aristocrat with a heart of gold whose family has fallen on hard times in the war’s aftermath.
At the time, also through Oldest Younger Brother’s influence, I was quite interested in monocles and Pickelhauben (those German military helmets with the spike on top), so interwar England seemed like an appropriate setting for my characters. (To see a monocle and a Pickelhaube in action, I encourage you to visit Oldest Younger Brother’s website, www.wanderingwalltoskis.com, and look at the header image at the top of the page.)
Clarice: Your recent book, Prayers for Oppa, is a devotional for performers and their fans, with a focus on the East Asian entertainment industry. Do you mind telling us how a young woman from Brookline, New Hampshire became interested in East Asian pop culture?
Teresa: It’s something that’s always had a presence in my life, in various small ways. We lived on a military base in Massachusetts when I was really little, and my mom was friends with an officer’s wife who was from Korea. They swapped recipes, and her son and I played together. My first-grade teacher had a Japanese exchange student, and she incorporated a lot of Japanese culture into our lessons.
Things came to a head in college, when my friends recruited me for their anime viewing parties because I had a TV and a VCR. Anime (Japanese cartoons) was my main entry point into East Asian pop culture, followed by music, movies, musicals, and more. I always wanted to do something meaningful for the performers who brought me so much joy through their work. That something took shape as Prayers for Oppa.
Clarice: Can you tell us what are you currently working on and/or projects you have planned?
Teresa: At this time, my main focus is promoting Prayers for Oppa, working on the second draft of Porkins and Beardsley, and writing my humor column. In the pipeline, I have a compilation of my humor columns, a collection of short stories based on the adventures of my stuffed animals, and a screenplay about a Japanese-American street musician who gives his life to Christ.
Clarice: Family life is a great source of material and inspiration for your humor column Tete-a-tete. Since turnabout is fair play, how would your siblings describe you?
Teresa: I gave each of them the opportunity to describe me in their own words. Here’s what they came up with.
Oldest Younger Brother, age 28: “As a family, we make fun of Teresa for moving slowly. However, this affords her the opportunity to drink in all that happens around her, distilling it into finely tuned wit. While she is never quick on the sidewalk, she is also never quick to anger. It is this ability to always take her time that fills Teresa’s work with nuance, both physical and spiritual, that would elude other writers. Teresa has also afforded me the knowledge that if I were born a woman, I’d be pretty good looking. [Teresa’s note: Oldest Younger Brother once grew out his hair. We looked like twins.] If Teresa were a Harlem Globetrotter, her nickname would be Frozen Molasses. Love you Teresa!”
Youngest Brother, age 16: “I would describe my sister as a humorous person who enjoys life, cats, and literature. She is in my life to brighten my day and put a different spin on things when the necessity arises. She also is my chauffer when I need her to.”
Younger Sister, age 15: “You are very slow and make weird cat voices and make things become alive.” [Teresa’s note: I make our cat talk, and I give voices and personalities to any stuffed animal that happens to be handy.] “You are nice, but kinda bossy.” [Teresa’s note: I’m her big sister. I’m supposed to be a little bossy.] “You make cool origami boxes and fancy cards and those are cool, and you talk like you’re reading from a dictionary and that can be annoying, but it’s cool. Oh, and you burn easily.” [Teresa’s note: SPF 45 is the best friend of those of us with Irish ancestry.]
Clarice: As a committed Christian, do you plan to seek publication solely in the Christian market? If not, how do you see yourself fitting into the general publishing market?
Teresa: My intention is to go with whatever publication method best suits that particular work. The publishing landscape has changed significantly in recent years, with smaller publishing houses and self-publishing becoming increasingly viable options.
To learn more about Teresa Santoski and her writing, visit her website at www.teresasantoski.com.
A committed Christian and an enthusiast of East Asian pop culture, Teresa combined these passions to write Prayers for Oppa, a devotional for performers and their fans with a focus on the East Asian entertainment industry. The book was published in November 2013 and is available in print and as an ebook. Purchase information can be found here.