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About the Author

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Andrea Useem, creator and publisher of, is a freelance journalist and editor based in Northern Virginia who specializes in writing about religion. Andrea holds a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, as well as a Bachelors degree in religion from Dartmouth College. Previously, Andrea worked as a freelance journalist in Eastern Africa for four years; she has also lived in Muscat, Oman. She is married and has three sons.

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Inspiration and Vacation, with a Small Dose of Poetry

It’s August now — and time to take a break. When I launched this website in April, 2007, my biggest concern was not getting burned out. I had seen some statistics somewhere (which I’m too lazy to Google just now, so you’ll have to trust me) that lots of blogs die out quickly. I know anecdotally this is true — often I visit an interesting blog, only to find the last post dated six months ago. I have managed my own workload here by posting only once a week.

But it’s August now, and I just noticed that everyone is out of town. Or wishing they were out of town. As I have sat down at my computer each morning to get to work, I have found myself dragged down to some pit of anti-inspiration, where I feel suddenly compelled to perform important creative tasks like deleting old messages in my Gmail inbox.

Writing is about ideas; ideas require some inspiration; and inspiration, it turns out, does not show up in August. So while I’ll be around working on other deadlines (including my blogging for, I will allow ReligionWriter to lie fallow until September 1. And then do I have some juicy stuff lined up! For one thing, it will be Ramadan, for another I’ll be attending the Religion Newswriter Association conference in DC, and for another I am going to publish a really fascinating interview with opinion journalist Rod Dreher. And I’ll hopefully be having a guest posting from fellow Harvard Div School graduate Tim Manatt on a recent Hindu blessing ceremony for his car.

Before I sign off, let me leave you with two tidbits. The first is a set of cartoon drawings from my college friend and fellow blogger Priscilla Gilman: She illustrates in painful but whimsical detail the difficulties of giving herself a break.

The second is a poem from my friend, Yilma Tafere Tasew. Yilma was a refugee in Kakuma refugee camp In Kenya when I first met him (you can read my interview with him about why and how he fled his native Ethiopia — a photo of him writing in his small wooden hut at the refugee camp is above). Today he is resettled in New Zealand, where he writes, organizes other writers and generally inspires all he meets. One of the greatest things about Yilma is he doesn’t let you forget about the stress and hardships refugees face everyday. So often when I wake up at night and pad down the hall to the bathroom, I feel unbelievably lucky just to wake up in my own home, to have indoor plumbing and privacy and all the other things that refugees in Kakuma don’t have. Yilma really deserves his own post — I’ll have to get to that another time — but I’ll leave you with one of sad, funny and thought-provoking his poems:


Love can blind

War also

Love can separate

War also

Love can bring sorrow

War also

Love can bring happiness

War also

Love can wound

War also

Love can distract

War also

Love can bring war

War can bring love

Anyways, LOVE is Better than WAR

By Yilma Tafere Tasew, October 1993, Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

There Are 6 Responses So Far. »

  1. Thanks Andrea.

    Yay for taking a break! You know, I find it absolutely astounding how writing productive you are (with three little people to care for too). I’m learning a lot from watching you work your niche as a freelance writer on the web, and I really appreciate the clarity, thoughtfulness, courage, and gentleness of your voice.

  2. Enjoy the break! I look forward to your forthcoming features.

  3. Andrea, I SO hear you about Aug not being a month of inspiration. Last night, my husband and I got back from a week at Lake Tahoe and let me tell you, we both needed it. Today, I am back at the computer and just thinking, “oooooooo nooooooo.” Take your break, have some fun with the kids and I can’t wait to see you in Sept.


  4. The greatest part about blogging is the fellow bloggers — thanks to you all.

  5. Andrea,

    I have to admit I am somewhat embarrassed by my post. I’m afraid I exaggerated a bit much. Some people go their entire lives without ever having a religious experience. And no two people have the same experience. So I’m sure it is possible that a runner who is passionate about running could experience something akin to a religious experience. What I meant by my post is that I can’t imagine myself to ever have one. And if you live in Alabama-as I do-you definitely would never run long enough to have one……as it’s so hot! You’re a great writer, and I apologize if I was too harsh. I simply related to the article in a first person perspective. I hope to read more of your work.

    Ashley Boyd

  6. ” my biggest concern was not getting burned out. I had seen some statistics somewhere (which I’m too lazy to Google just now, so you’ll have to trust me) that lots of blogs die out quickly. I know anecdotally this is true — often I visit an interesting blog, only to find the last post dated six months ago. I have managed my own workload here by posting only once a week.”

    That’s my concern too with my new blog:

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