The heartbeat of Storyformed Project is simple: putting great books into the hands and hearts of children everywhere. We believe that what starts in a story, grows into a life—the stories that children feed on in their formative years will form their lives for living a story worth telling.
Storyformed.com, originally a standalone website, is now part of this WholeHeart.org website. Sarah Clarkson, Holly Packiam, and Jaime Showmaker have moved on to other commitments, but we have preserved their posts and podcasts here. We still celebrate, defend, and promote the life-shaping role of faith, imagination, reading, story, and talk—the “first” influences that will form your child’s identity, worldview, and vision for life. We want to help you create a storyformed life for your children.
Storyformed Project, a ministry initiative of Whole Heart Ministries, started in the heart Sarah Clarkson as she read great books as a child, and grew as she wrote Journeys of Faithfulness at sixteen, novelized stories of four single women in Scripture. It became a full-grown passion in her book-on-books for parents, Read for the Heart, and later in her narrative description of a storyformed life in Caught Up in a Story. She has gone on to receive undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theology with distinction from Oxford University. During that time, she has won an international narrative writing contest four times, and written popular books Book Girl and Girls’ Club (Tyndale), with more books on the way. She is a storyformed woman, wife, and mother.
As a ministry, we remain committed to Sarah’s vision for encouraging and enabling parents to live a storyformed life with their children, as she is now doing in the life of her first child, Lilian. Future plans for Storyformed Project include a Storyformed Books imprint of Whole Heart Press to include nonfiction books, children's illustrated books, and storyformed-friendly public domain books. In the profiles below, you can meet Sarah and her more recent Storyformed.com partners Holly and Jaime. Join us all in living storyformed lives for God.
SARAH CLARKSON, Storyformed founder
Elizabeth Goudge once wrote that humanity can be roughly divided into three sorts of people by the kinds of comfort they seek; one was those who "take comfort in literature." She's got me pegged since books have helped me to make sense of the world and my own emerging story since I was a tiny child. Three decades of varied exploration haven't changed the fact that it is to a good book I turn when I need to make fresh sense of the world. Words make worlds, they say, and I love the swift and creative way in which a good story can tell us who we are, how we can love or create, and what it looks like to live a good story in our own epic of life in the world.
Words are most definitely my world, the realm from which I work as a freelance writer, blogger, and current student. My themes of interest always centrer on language, beauty, and imagination, all of which are topics I hope to write about in future. I study theology at Oxford University where I focus on the Incarnation and the role of beauty to reveal truth. I blog at sarahclarkson.com, and am at slow work on a children’s story set in my grand old church here in Oxford. I'm the author of four books and am at delighted work on a fifth called Book Girl, an invitation and guide to the reading life for women, to be released with Tyndale Momentum in 2018.
I'm the wife of a marvelous Dutchman named Thomas, and very happy resident of the golden-walled and cobble-streeted Oxford. I hope that someone will say of me when I die what William McGreel said of his wife Elizabeth Yates (a writer, of course): "She has plenty of courage, a strong faith, and a native expectancy of good. Living with her is a high adventure." I'm always up for a long, windy walk, a foray into a new corner of England or a country I've never seen, or a cup of tea with a friend (a good flat white always works well too). I'm ever on the hunt for a new novel and I justify my buying of second-hand books by my dream to open a someday community library. I come from a highly opinionated family that values discussion, good books, strong hot drinks, and the thinking up of impossible ventures. I live in a red-doored cottage with church bells for an alarm clock. One of these days it will all go into my novel.
HOLLY PACKIAM, Storyformed.com Director
Because my family valued education, people would often say to me growing up, “Holly, of course you’ll be a teacher.” As a young girl, I imagined myself as Anne of Green Gables teaching a room full of keen children eager to learn. I didn’t realize how prophetic that would be.
Glenn and I met at a Christian college, married, and settled down in Colorado Springs in 2001. Glenn was a worship leader, and I worked in various positions at church. I completed a Masters in counseling, but soon settled into my new role as a mom when Sophia arrived in 2005, followed by Norah in 2006, Jonas in 2009, and Jane in 2012. Motherhood has been stretching, but joyous. I find myself leaning on the Lord every day as I educate our children at home—reading great books, talking about everything, and learning together. As a dreamer, like Anne Shirley, I love the flexibility I have at home to put aside the schedule and stop to smell the roses with my children.
I also love coffee, dark chocolate, reading and writing in the quiet early hours, and long walks in my forested neighborhood full of wildlife. My children have given all our animal friends names, so it’s like a walk through our own magical land of Narnia. I appreciate a wide variety of music and art when I have time to enjoy it, but especially books. I welcome deep discussions, especially with Glenn, who is now pastor of New Life Downtown, a non-denominational church with ancient liturgical elements. We’re both avid readers and book collectors. As my daughter, Norah, says, "Mom you’re addicted to the library!" Our overflowing bookshelves prove her point.
At the heart of me, I’m driven to read and think deeply, learn new things, teach, and write. Every day I ask, “Lord, what do you want me to learn, see, and do today?” I never tire of invigorating conversations with Glenn, my children, and all my thoughtful and engaging friends. That’s why I love what’s happening here at Storyformed. I’m so delighted to be able to extend those kinds of conversations to so many new friends on the internet. We’ll have a feast of discussion about all the books we love in the Packiam home, and that you all love in your homes. I hope you will join me on this journey of discovering the soul-forming power of story for seeing the goodness, truth, and beauty of God.
JAIME SHOWMAKER, Storyformed.com Contributor
I'm almost certain that I am a reader because of my grandmother. She was an avid lover of books and stories, and some of my earliest memories are of being enveloped in her lap between her iced coffee and the latest mystery novel she was reading. Her house was full of books and I would run my fingers along the spines of every one, longing for the day when I could take them down off of the shelf and read them all for myself. When I was finally old enough to read, I couldn't get enough. My parents would often find their shy, quiet, little dreamer girl curled up on her bed, lost in the latest book series or popular novel. Unfortunately, somehow, I missed reading most of the beloved classics in children's literature, but I am grateful that the books I did read captivated me and created a love of story that has endured. I delighted in the way that books transported me to new and exciting worlds and I longed to live in each one of them.
Not much has changed since then. I can still almost always be found curled up somewhere with a book, but these days I am usually negotiating which one of my three boys gets the prime space in the center of my lap. Will (7), Eli (5), and Zach (3) are the focus of much of my reading life these days, as we explore together all of the beautiful books that I loved (and missed) as a child. Inspired by Alcott's Plumfield, my husband Eric and I educate our pack of "little men" at home in the beautiful foothills of North Carolina. Although I am not technically using the education and religion degrees that I earned, my days are still focused on teaching and discipling, even if it is just for our little class of three. In addition to reading, the boys and I can often be found roughhousing underneath the dozens of oak trees on our property, taking nature walks, and looking for “Glory”, our resident Cardinal friend.
I am still a dreamer at heart. I love contemplating ideas and discussing them with other people, preferably over good food with lots of laughter. Since I am a night owl, you can usually catch me up late--thinking, reading, writing, and eating chocolate. And since I do love chocolate, I also enjoy working out. I love being challenged and learning new things. Over the past several years, I have become passionate about children's literature and the way that it forms children in the most profound ways. I have enjoyed discussing the True, Good, and Beautiful that can be found in books with my online book club and blogging at the book club's supporting blog, and now I am thrilled to be able to continue those discussions with the Storyformed community.