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Between the lines
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Elizabeth Sherrill's most recent book, "All The Way to Heaven," is a gripping account of her journey from atheism to a new found relationship with God in her 30s. Using honesty, humor and insight, Sherrill allows the readers to draw parallels to their own lives, to find themselves, feel her struggles and rejoice in the hope that God gives in difficult situations.

Sherrill's ambition to make Christian writing as good as any other writing is evident in her many years as editor and writer for Guideposts - and in more than 30 books, many co-written with her husband, John. Since their first meeting aboard a ship to Europe, the couple recently celebrated 60 years of marriage. After 56 years of working together as writing and editing partners, they continue to take pride in being best friends. Their work is translated into 40 languages.

The Sherrills spent the winter teaching workshops in southeastern Asia where they coached local people to tell the Christian message based on their own relevant experiences in challenging places. Occasionally, they are home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

"As I meet and interview people, I find wonderful Christian adventures," she said. "Our ministry is one of encouragement as we help them to see that their story is worthy to be told."

As ghostwriters, Sherrill and her husband spend half of the year on the road conducting interviews and following writing assignments. An effective ghostwriter goes to the person, meets the rest of the family and interacts with others to get basic facts.

Sherrill attended a Bible study in Germany hosted by a group of Lutheran women who acknowledged the tragedy of the Holocaust. A Jewish man with trembling hands recounted his haunting experience in Hitler's concentration camps.

Corrie ten Boom, a broad-framed woman, beamed as she shared her life and losses. Sherrill was compelled to discover the difference in her persona. In the months that followed, ten Boom spent time at the Sherrill's home and they visited her in Holland.

Often, because of the amount of time spent in prayer and with less attention given to details, the person being interviewed cannot provide the ghostwriter with adequate descriptions. This was the case as Sherrill interviewed ten Boom.

"A man came into your shop - let me see this man - beard, fat, thin?" Sherrill coaxed.

"He was a man," ten Boom replied.

"The Hiding Place," a story that continues to show a new generation of readers how God's love will triumph is a product of Sherrill's intuitiveness.

"The only time John and I ever disagreed was when I told him I was going to write a book about the Holocaust," she said laying claim to one of the few occasions when she was right and he was wrong.

When asked about her greatest desire for her children and grandchildren, she expressed joy in seeing them develop into their own individual, exceptional and distinctive roles. She conveyed the same wish for all of us - to find our individuality as a particular person God made, unlike any other.

Marion Bond West won a coveted spot in a Guideposts Writers' Contest in 1976. She related how Sherrill edits an article gently with compassion, so her pencil marks seem constructive rather than destructive. She described how Sherrill listened intently, how her teaching is alive and clear - how she brings life into a dead story.

"When the entire group went into the eloquent dining room at the Wainwright House for breakfast on the first morning, she was asked to pray," West said. "In her soft voice, she gave thanks to a God she's intimately acquainted with -not by shutting her eyes, but by keeping them wide-open as though he were right there with us in the circle."

Sherrill was West's editor when she wrote "The Nevertheless Principle." West referred to her as the expert lifeguard who rescued her with calm assurance. West added that Sherrill is a quiet, soothing genius with genuine humility, rare talent and a surprising touch of shyness that quickly endears her to writers.