Spring 2001

"At a time when girls think they're so weird, when they feel like they're the only ones who feels that way, books like this one are a great way to find out that in fact, pretty much everyone feels that way."

"I fell in love with Rachel.
I was completely hooked by her honesty with herself and God.

"...this project was completely different than any other I've done. The writing was virtually effortless. I'd sit in my bed, light a candle, and simply pray, 'Okay, God, what does Rachel want to say today.' Almost before I knew it, the words would start to come."

"She left such an interior roadmap to her soul, that writing in the first-person didn't feel like a challenge; it was a joy."


An interview with author
Debra Klingsporn on her new book:

"The Journals of Rachel Scott"
by Michael Tamburello

Many books have been released spawned by events and people surrounding the Columbine tragedy. Among them have been great testaments of spiritual faith like She Said Yes, by Misty Bernall, mother of slain Columbine student, Cassie Bernall, Bruce Porter's The Martyr's Torch, and bestseller, Rachel's Tears, by Darrell Scott and Beth Nimmo, parents of Rachel Joy Scott who also lost her life at Columbine.

To join the ranks of these wonderful writings on spirituality at Columbine is a new book due in bookstores shortly by author Debra Klingsporn and Beth Nimmo titled, The Journals of Rachel Scott. Based on months of painstaking research of Rachel's writings and in-depth interviews with her family and friends, the book comes alive in first-person narrative as if Rachel had written it herself and is styled as a sort of spiritual workbook for teens, especially young girls. The book also features two never-before published chapters of a book that Rachel had been working on before her life was taken away.

A short while ago, I had the opportunity to read a copy of her new book and couldn't put it down. I found it honest to the very core and saturated with powerful testament of this young girl's extraordinary faith in God throughout her everyday life conveyed in a warm, personal style as if Rachel herself had written it. Debra Klingsporn has beautifully captured and brought to life the heart, mind and spirit of this very special young woman who has captivated so many hearts across the world and changed so many lives.

Recently, I had the privilege to do an online interview with Debra about her unique role in the book's creation and to learn more about the "voice" behind Rachel Scott for this spirited writing, which many believe will sit along side Rachel's Tears on the bestseller's list. I asked Debra the kind of questions that I felt would be most asked regarding the process she undertook in the creation of the book. I thank her for time to address each of them under the pressures of a very busy schedule.

MT: To begin, how exactly were you chosen to co-author "The Journals of Rachel Scott"?

DK: It was a "God thing." I have a friend who says "coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous" ....well, my involvement with this project was such a combination of "coincidences," it couldn't have been just "coincidence" that brought Beth and I together across nearly a thousand miles. I'm a freelance writer, mother of two daughters a little younger than Rachel was, and had done quite a bit of "ghost" writing - that's when a writer takes on a project and writes in someone else's "voice." An editor at Tommy Nelson had known me since before I'd "semi-retired" into motherhood and freelance work (Tommy Nelson is the publishing company Beth's agent had contacted about doing something with Rachel's journals). The editor called me, asked if I had time to look at a project, and "introduced" me to Rachel's journals. Both the publisher and Rachel's parents knew there was a "book" in Rachel's journaling, but weren't quite how to pull it together in a way that would work. They asked me to take a look at some of the material, propose a few possibilities, and write some sample work - all in a few week's time. I did, Rachel's mom read through it, liked what she saw, and the publisher arranged for us to meet. We spent three days together and, bottom line, both knew this was a "God thing."

MT: What motivated you step up to the formidable task of doing a book on a person who has grown into nearly a modern icon of the Christian world and among so many teens?

DK: That's easy to answer. I fell in love with Rachel. I was completely hooked by her honesty with herself and God.

MT: How was it decided that the majority of the work would be written in first-person as if Rachel had written it herself? Was it an especially difficult challenge or was it a more natural approach for you?

DK: The publisher had the idea of a first-person narrative, writing as if Rachel herself was talking, and asked me if I thought I could do that. I think the editors and Rachel's mom knew that her journaling, like anyone's journals, only told Rachel's story from the "inside out." Her journals didn't give the complete picture of who she was - because she was so hard on herself. Thoreau said, "It is as hard to see oneself as to look backwards without turning around." Rachel never dreamed someone would gather up all the spiral-bound notebooks, scribbles, drawings, poems, and musings she left laying around her room and put them together for publication. Her parents wanted other kids to benefit from her honesty, her journey, her struggle.

But they also wanted Rachel to be known from the outside in. They wanted the raw honesty and spiritual journey of their daughter to be published in a way that gave a more complete picture of Rachel Joy Scott. They wanted her charm, wit, humor, intelligence, and bravado to be part of the picture that emerges from the publication of her journals. And no, that didn't make it more difficult for me - that actually made it easier.

MT: It is said that you spent several months submerged in Rachel's world with her words and pictures before you even began the writing process. What was that experience like and how did you begin to put the first words together?

DK: Wow - that's an interesting question. Honestly? It was a little unnerving, because I realized early on how similar Rachel's inner world - her journaling, her relationship with God, her questions - was to my own. I'm an experienced ghostwriter and a professional writer. I've written more than half a dozen projects in someone else's voice. But this project was completely different than any other I've done. The writing was virtually effortless. I'd sit in my bed (my favorite place to write), light a candle (Rachel loved candles), and simply pray, "Okay, God, what does Rachel want to say today." Almost before I knew it, the words would start to come.

I also realized about halfway through the writing that our lives shared another uncanny parallel: Rachel faced a life-threatening confrontation at the hands of someone intent on harm and evil, and didn't live to tell about it. As a young woman, I too, faced a life-threatening situation at the hands of someone intent on harm and evil, and although I lived, I never had the courage or clarity to speak of it. Writing Rachel's story, in a sense, became writing my own, because I felt I was doing it for both of us.

MT: Could you tell our readers more about the two chapters of a book Rachel was working on?

DK: Yes. It's clear from Rachel's journals that she was writing a book on discipleship - and the two chapters are so "Rachel"! Straightforward, honest, funny in places, compelling in others. In that material, I let Rachel "speak" for herself, meaning I didn't rewrite that material; I only edited her work in the same way any rough draft would be edited for publication.

MT: Not having known Rachel, but instead, having to rely in part on what her family members and friends shared with you in the many interviews you conducted, did this present an element of subjectivity or bias that made authenticity and believability of your first-person character a special challenge?

DK: I don't think so, because everything I heard was so "congruent" with what Rachel herself had written. Rachel, like all of us, had a "dark" side, that part of her that wrestled, doubted, questioned, became discouraged, struggled with making choices between right and wrong. And I think that's the part of her journals that her parents and family wanted handled with sensitivity and discretion. But Rachel was just Rachel. No pretense. No off and on. She left such an interior roadmap to her soul, that writing in the first-person didn't feel like a challenge; it was a joy. And interestingly, everything I heard from those with whom I spoke or emailed was soooooo congruent; it wasn't like I heard one thing from one source and something completely different from another. Rachel was 100% Rachel.

MT: Such a writing style would seem to turn a biography more into an autobiography of sorts. Is this a commonly used methodology with biographical characters?

DK: That's a good question and I don't know the answer to that. This was the first time I'd been asked to write a first-person narrative, posthumously.

MT: In the actual day-to-day routine of writing, how exactly did you interface with Beth, Rachel's mother? Did she "have a voice" in the creation of "Rachel's words"?

DK: We emailed. Often. I'd write a draft, email it to her, and give her complete freedom to ask for rewrites, revisions, changes - anything. I knew if I wrote something that didn't ring true, Beth would know - she'd sense it immediately. But again, interestingly, Beth requested very few changes, and usually, our emails consisted mainly Beth's answers to my questions for more information or stories, like asking how Rachel would respond to something. I'd ask Beth things like, "Tell me about the day Rachel got her driver's license," or "What kinds of things did she and her brothers fight about." Stuff like that. Beth was so GREAT at details. You know, in Luke it says, "and Mary pondered these things in her heart." A mother has a special way of knowing, of remembering, and Beth was exceptional.

One of my favorite stories is the one about Rachel trying on a wedding dress in a Goodwill store and doing it with such dramatic flair that she turned the moment into an event! Every customer and clerk in the store gathered around because Rachel made it so fun.

MT: Being the voice for such a spirited individual, It would seem that authoring a book of this kind would require that you literally take on Rachel's persona.

DK: Like a sacred trust, quite literally.

How did it feel to "be" Rachel's heart, mind and voice?

DK: I found it very humbling.

MT: After having immersed a year of your life into Rachel's, and having spent an in-depth involvement with her family and friends, do you feel a closeness - a connection to her?

DK: Oh, absolutely. She is part of my soul, and always will be. I began praying for Rachel's family as soon as I got the call about the project - and haven't stopped. Having journaled myself since I was a teenager, I knew making the decision to publish her journals would be a difficult one, especially when trying to heal from such a devastating loss. I wanted the work I did as part of their healing, part of bringing something redemptive out of something so utterly dark.

MT: Several books have recently come out on the market for young teenage girls. Do you feel this a growing trend?

DK: I hope it's a growing trend, because it's a tough time for girls. Growing through those early teen years is growing through a lot of change and conflicting cultural messages: changing bodies, changing friends, hormones that do wacky things to your emotions. It's just a tough time.

Books like this one, where girls can hear from other girls, are kind of like the best side of slumber parties - they let you find out you're normal. At a time when girls think they're so weird, when they feel like they're the only ones who feels that way, books like this one are a great way to find out that in fact, pretty much everyone feels that way. It's just an age when kids find it really difficult to talk about some of their more vulnerable feelings.

MT: What is the primary message you want readers of your book to come away with?

DK: That life is a gift, both the good and the bad. That the ONLY way to have a real relationship with God is to be honest with God about everything - hopes, doubts, fears, longings, dreams, questions. God wants all of us - not just what we think is the "good" part of ourselves.

MT: Do you feel that this book will experience similar success as bestseller Rachel's Tears?

DK: I certainly hope so. I feel that Rachel's Tears was about the Columbine tragedy, it was about Rachel's death and how to make some sense of something so horrible. But this book is about Rachel's life, it's about being a teen, being a Christian, and making sense of the ups and downs. I've had adults and teens read excerpts from this book and tell me, this is a book for everyone, because it's so real. One woman told me she read it cover to cover in two hours and found herself laughing one minute, crying the next, and couldn't wait to read it again.

MT: What sort of things are you jointly planning for its promotion?

DK: Like any of the parents of the kids killed or injured at Columbine, the loss is still a big part of Beth's day-to-day life. They live with this constantly. I wanted to work with Beth to publicize The Journals of Rachel Scott, basically, to try to be her hands and feet - to do some of the things she might not have time or energy to do. I'm working to generate some media exposure, line up some interviews, create some awareness of this book.

Because of the nature of the Columbine tragedy, doing any "promotional" work has to be done with sensitivity. Beth would be deeply grieved if any effort came across as commercial or something done for personal gain. So, I'm working to schedule interviews and line up contacts, but I consider the "promotion" to be in God's hands. We're hoping to have Beth come to Minnesota for a speaking engagement at one of the large churches in the Minneapolis area sometime in the fall. Beth has done some speaking engagements, but I hope to do what I can to facilitate more of that.

MT: Do you plan on doing any more books like this one?

DK: Well, I didn't "plan" on doing this one. God sorta brought me into the loop. So, I guess the best answer for that question is, God hasn't told me if I am yet!

MT: Any closing thoughts you would like to share with our readers?

DK: Hmmm. Just that I think Rachel would have loved this book. And thanks for asking the questions, and for the readers, thanks for being interested. Blessings.


To Feature Story
written by
Rachel's brother
Craig Scott

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Debra Klingsporn is the author, co-author or writer of more than a dozen books. Before writing and mothering became her consuming passions, she was vice president of a public relations firm in Chicago, Illinois, and was director of marketing for a publishing company prior to her work in Chicago. She served as a creative consultant in product development and marketing for numerous publishers. She is married, the mother of two daughters ages 11 and 14, and lives with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Debra also does speaking engagements. Her topics are "Living Inside A 17-Year-Old's Head" where she covers the process of writing the narrative for her new book, and "Why Journals Intrigue and Fascinate", which covers autobiographical writings ranging from the "Confession of St. Augustine" to "The Diary of Anne Frank".


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