The book, first published in May 2012, is a work of fiction based on the life of the author. Bishop first thought about writing her story as an autobiography, but she found more freedom to describe tense relationships and embellish funny moments by writing a novel.
“Fiction was a perfect environment to ‘show’ how God's greatness actually filtered into the organic matter of my relationships without sounding bossy, pious or preachy,” Bishop said. “It took some of the nerves out of it.”
“A Hobo’s Faith” follows the life of Phoebe Liner Hoboken as she struggles to discover what it means to have a perfect relationship with God. Her path to this discovery is blocked, however, by situations around her, from oppressive childhood church experiences to interactions in her adult life that influence her to neglect her own spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
Despite the novel being fiction, the events described are very closely paralleled to Bishop’s life in Cleveland, though in the book the town is called Scenic Valley.
The author changed the names of people and places involved and added a glance into what she imagines the supernatural side of the story to be. She uses two angel characters, George and Bailey, to help the reader navigate through Phoebe’s life. Bishop also includes the character Satan, who is constantly trying to derail Phoebe in her quest to strengthen her faith in God.
Bishop was inspired to start writing about her life after hearing a sermon series by co-pastor Allan Lockerman at First Baptist Church in Cleveland. Lockerman encouraged the congregation to “simply share your story,” Bishop said, but she was hesitant on how to do so.
“I’ve been in church all my life. I didn’t think I had a story,” Bishop said.
As Bishop began to consider her life, she decided to go to her parents and talk with them about her childhood church and how harmful it was to her.
“Religion can be painful,” Bishop said. “Church is a great place to cover up conflict.”
The conversation did not end well, so Bishop decided to try to explain again by writing a letter to her parents about her experiences and sending it to them with flowers.
“Writing was always a therapy to me,” Bishop said. “Through my written words, people understand me better,”
After reading her letter, her parents began to accept what she said, though it was still painful for them to hear, Bishop said. From that letter came the idea to write down her story.
“I’m not saying I’m a writer; I just love to write. Honestly, I never aspired to write a book,” Bishop said. “The story found me.”
Bishop began writing her story and sharing it with members of her Bible study and small group at First Baptist. The encouragement she received led her to pursue the idea of publishing her story.
Throughout 2011, she continued writing her story while working as a part-time scheduling coordinator for a local dentist’s office, and spent many nights writing until morning.
“The next day, you drink a lot of coffee,” Bishop said.
As she continued writing, Bishop also started submitting short stories to small writing contests and critique groups. The critiques helped hone her writing style in preparation of sending her story to be published. Bishop learned to limit the number of adjectives she used and she received feedback on her use of dialect writing in her character dialogues. Some of the characters in “A Hobo’s Faith” boast an accent in their speech as a result of what she learned.
“I think reading ‘The Help’ also encouraged me to do it,” Bishop said, adding that she appreciated the way dialects are used to help authentically set the book in the South, since her target audience is Southern people from the Bible belt.
After searching Google for ways to self-publish her book, Bishop found CrossBooks Publishing, a division of Lifeway, on the Internet and began working with it to publish her book in May 2012.
In September 2012, Bishop participated in her first book signing at the Lifeway Bookstore in Cleveland. Someone had told her to consider the event successful if she sold one book; 30 copies of the book sold that day. The crowd at her event at White Wing Christian Bookstore was much smaller, but Bishop said she is optimistic about sharing her story with even just one person.
Bishop will also participate in a book signing at the Lifeway Bookstore in Knoxville, another local city that appears in her book under the name Summit.
Feedback for the book has been very encouraging, Bishop said, especially from those she has spoken with face-to-face. The Facebook page for “A Hobo’s Faith” also hosts various praises for the book.
Bishop continues to write daily updates for her personal blog Quietly Worded (www.quietlyworded.com) that are often filled with the same “simple ordinary encouragement” she hopes to provide through her book.
“I write because I love,” Bishop wrote recently on her blog. “‘A Hobo's Faith’ is the truthful journey about my secret conflicts. My honesty about myself is how I love and support and encourage the best in you.”
Bishop’s book is available at White Wing Christian Bookstore, Lifeway Bookstores, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.