Have you ever read a book where you find yourself talking out loud in response to what you\’re reading? Simcha Fisher\’s The Sinner\’s Guide to Natural Family Planning (available on Kindle with upcoming publications in Audible and print formats) is definitely one of those books. I can\’t remember how many times I said, “Yes!” or “Exactly!” or “Preach it, sister!” while reading, but it was quite a few.
This is not your mother\’s NFP manual. (And thank goodness for that, because… ew.) It\’s not really an NFP manual, at least not in the technical, analytical side of things. This book doesn\’t teach couples the nuts and bolts of charting and analyzing fertility signs, but it does help navigate the roadblocks, worries and frustrations that Catholic couples encounter when they struggle to live in the world but not of the world, especially in the realm of spacing pregnancies.
NFP can be difficult, both practically and emotionally, and anyone who says differently is selling something. Simcha acknowledges this reality in a no-nonsense, brutally honest, engaging fashion and then tells her audience how to deal with it and get past the hardest parts. In this, she does every NFP-using couple a great service.
I had a brief e-mail exchange with Simcha and asked her to share some of her thoughts about the creation and publication of The Sinner\’s Guide to NFP):
Was writing the book your idea, or someone else\’s? Was there an angelic visitation from the angel Gabriel where he told you to write a book about NFP, or was it more of a gradual realization on your part?
No, the truth was actually weirder. A self identified \”sex-positive feminist\” writer and activist named Susie Bright was looking for information about Thomas Kinkade when he died, and she happened across my post about him. She also happens to be an editor for Audible.com, and she liked the Kinkade piece so much that she kept reading my stuff, and contacted me to suggest I publish an ebook of my favorite blog posts on any topic.
I made a huge list of the ones I liked the best, and realized that an awful lot of them were about NFP, or at least about love and marriage. So that\’s how it began. Several of the chapters are based on those blog posts; several are new.
Which part of the book are you most proud of? Why?
Chapter Three, \”The Golden Box,\” deals with the will of God, and how following it is not like some riddle or code. I learned a lot while writing it, and I think it\’s applicable to all sorts of things, and not just discerning God\’s will about family size.
I\’m also fairly proud of of having written what I\’m pretty sure is the only satirical examination of conscience to be included in a book that was the #1 bestseller in Catholicism on Amazon.
What was the hardest thing to cut from your rough draft? Is there anything that made it in that you kind of wish you\’d cut?
My first draft was a lot angrier. Writing this book helped me work through a lot of things I was upset about — people who misunderstood me, people who had steered me wrong, things that seemed unfair. I hope that most of that anger got cut, since I don\’t feel it anymore.
I also regretfully cut an illustration I had done. It was funny, but probably on the wrong side of blasphemy. Totally not worth the royalties, so that had to go.
What do I wish I\’d cut? In \”The Golden Chain,\” the chapter which talks about chastity within marriage, I used the word \”duh.\” I deeply regret this, because I had already used the word \”duh\” in a previous section.
Is writing a book easier or harder than raising kids, or going through pregnancy/childbirth? Are the experiences similar in any way?
Not only similar, they were simultaneous. Well, not childbirth, but I did an awful lot of writing and editing while children were crawling on me, licking me, drawing on the back of my neck with marker, and so on.
Is writing like giving birth? If so, I\’m definitely still having the afterbirth pangs. Also, the one thing about writing is that, once you get it out of you, you can eventually stop thinking about it. With children, not so much.
If Pope Francis called and asked you if he should read your book, what would you say to him?
Yes,. please! I really am hoping that priests will read my book, because it may give them more context around the things they hear in the confessional. I have never gotten bad advice in the confessional, but I\’ve gotten some baffled silences. I don\’t know if I\’m helping him with that Theology of Women Pope Francis was calling for, but it couldn\’t hurt.
What is the takeaway message you want for your readers? (In other words, what is the one message or concept you hope your readers will glean from the book?)
I\’ll steal from Padre Pio here: Pray, hope, and don\’t worry. If you\’re struggling with NFP, or with love and marriage, it doesn\’t mean there\’s something wrong with you, or you\’re some crummy, immature, hopeless slob. It means that love, like everything worthwhile, can be hard.
Are you and your family being pursued by albino monk assassins dispatched by the \”NFP-Is-A-Heresy\” Cabal?
Yeah, but I reminded them that self flagellation and the wearing of the cilice barely registers as suffering when you compare it with trying to figure out a postpartum chart. Ba bing!