PARIS - Susan Spencer-Smith read from her novel "Death at the Parsonage" and her novel-in-progress "The Good Old Babes" at the Sept. 25 Coffee With the Author event at The Gathering Place Coffee Shop.
A former pastor, Spencer-Smith also discussed the compilation of "The Preacher Lady's Cookbook For the Hungry Heart." The cookbook is a collection of church basement lady-tested and -approved recipes, and each recipe includes a Bible verse and prayer.
Cooking can be hurried and stressful, especially when trying to balance dietary restrictions and personal preferences, and Spencer-Smith said she wanted to include the scripture and prayer to allow cooks to center themselves as they go about their daily tasks.
Susan Spencer-Smith was the featured author at the Sept. 25 Coffee With the Author at The Gathering Place Coffee Shop. Spencer-Smith, a retired pastor, authored 'The Preacher Lady's Cookbook For the Hungry Heart' and 'Death at the Parsonage.' -- Summer Wallace-Minger
"I thought, if there were scripture and prayer, that would help me to open and center myself," she said. "I started with Genesis and Revelation. These are my own prayers - I looked at the recipe and reflected on what God called me to share."
She also wanted to pay tribute to those whose ministry includes cooking for and serving others and discussed how providing physical nourishment could lead to spiritual nourishment.
"Food lovingly prepared and graciously offered helps remind us of something else offered for us - Jesus," she said.
Each recipe brings to mind the cook who contributed it. Spencer-Smith collected the recipes during church events during her time as a pastor.
"There were a lot of men and women who were great cooks," she said.
As part of the event, 10 dishes from the cookbook were prepared, and those attending the event could vote for their favorite dish through a free-will donation, with the dish garnering the most donations being declared the winner.
"You know the food is going to be good," said Spencer-Smith. "I want to thank the (Paris Presbyterian) church, (Outreach Director) Margie (Zellars) and (the Rev.) Tina (Hosler) for their hospitality and church's cooks for taking these recipes and bringing them to life."
Lois Allen, who prepared the "Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies," was declared the winner and received a copy of "The Preacher Lady's Cookbook" as a prize. The competition raised $60 for the church's food pantry.
Spencer-Smith also discussed "Death in the Parsonage," noting that much of the setting, Biddlebourne, is based on her parent's hometown of Middlebourne, W.Va. A character is based on a friend, and diary entries throughout the book are based on an account of that friend's childhood.
"She is based on a real, lovely woman who had what could only be described as a horrific childhood," she said. "She overcame what happened to her through her own strength and God's grace."
The protagonist is a woman pastor, and some of her experiences as the first woman pastor in Biddlebourne are based on Spencer-Smith's own.
"At every church where I was pastor, I was the first woman pastor there, and, because of God's grace, I lived to tell all about it," she said.
In addition to reading from "Death in the Parsonage," Spencer-Smith also read from her work in progress, "The Good Old Babes."
The Good Old Babes of the title are a group of mature female lay pastors who butt heads with the town's "good old boys" - and solve a murder. It also is set in Biddlebourne. Edith Fay is the babe-in-charge and based on Spencer-Smith's grandmother.
"She was always calm, quiet and pulled together," she said.
"The Good Old Babes" will be available in 2014.
Spencer-Smith is a 1964 Weir High School graduate and the daughter of the late Jack and Fay Kearns of Weirton, W.Va.
Spencer-Smith's books also may be purchased at Penn-Way Pharmacy located at 3159 Main St., Weirton, and at Amazon.com.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)