While growing up in a no-stoplight town in the land of perpetual winter in northwest Wisconsin, it’s no surprise that author, freelance writer and movie critic Christa A. Banister fell in love with words and stories at a very young age.
Reading was always a favorite escape from the small-town doldrums, and some of her happiest days were spent looking for new literary treasures at the local public library. It was there, surrounded by a veritable sea of books, where Christa discovered everyone from Judy Blume to Jane Austen to Robin Jones Gunn, three authors who would inspire her own novels one day.
In fact, it was during one of her many re-readings of Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing when Christa had a major epiphany. Basically, if Judy was actually paid to make up stories for a living (!!!), well, that’s exactly what she wanted to be doing.
So after four years of journalism training at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis, the obligatory internships, paying her dues and the like, Christa has been writing professionally in various capacities for the past 16 years.
Of course, the journey from freshly minted college graduate to a girl with a regular byline had its fair share of growing pains. While she loved Minneapolis, Christa’s ultimate dream was to write for a music magazine she loved in Nashville. Granted she’d only visited Music City exactly once and knew exactly no one, but she wasn’t about to let those small details deter her.
The Road to Nashville
Packing up whatever fit into her plushy Buick Century (don’t pretend you’re not jealous—ha ha), she made her way (in the blistering August heat, no less) to the land of sweet tea and aspiring musicians. And while her goal of writing for an industry pub seemed far more attainable than, say, landing a recording contract, Christa’s first gigs in Nashville were decidedly less than glamorous.
But persistence eventually paid off. After a year and a half of sporting an unflattering green smock at Walgreens, working at a bookstore, babysitting and writing the odd music review, her big break arrived when she was hired as an Editorial Assistant for CCM Magazine. Coincidentally, it was the same publication she’d been reading since she was 14—and always wanted to write for.
The best first job a girl could ask for, she loved the collaborative process, complete with lengthy debates about what to cover in each new issue. She loved interviewing musicians, authors and filmmakers and offering her .02 about the latest music. Even the somewhat tedious process of proofreading the same stories over and over again to make sure every last comma was in place, was a joy. In short, working at CCM was not only a fun way to spend a work day, but the ideal training for her next big career move.
The Transition to Being Her Own Boss
2005 was a year of exciting changes, happy changes, and everything in Christa’s life felt new. After getting engaged in May and marrying the love of her life later that year, Christa thought the time was also right for a change of pace on the work front.
Like most new endeavors, making the leap into freelancing full-time was more than a little scary at first. As anyone who is self-employed knows all too well, it’s quite a stretch from merely being the “worker” to serving as the talent, secretary, human resources department, C.E.O. and accountant. Plus, if you decide on a whim to go out to lunch, your co-workers are no longer just a stone’s throw away. You have to make plans. In advance.
But once the initial shock of no longer working in an office wore off, Christa loved having the freedom to write for a variety of new clients including MTV.com, Christianity Today, Songs4Worship, Collegiate, Threads Media, BurnLounge, UpTV and more.
In addition to continuing her relationship with CCM and their sister company, Crosswalk.com, where she reviews on movies on a weekly basis, and writing professional bios for bands and authors, more excitement was in store. After submitting her sample chapters to a handful of publishers, Christa’s lifelong dream of having her own novels in libraries and bookstores came true with the release of Around the World in 80 Dates (NavPress) in 2006. A year later, the sequel Blessed Are the Meddlers (also NavPress) would follow.
Described as “thoroughly original,” “sublimely funny” and “hilarious and true to life,” Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers tackled the joys and pratfalls of modern relationships with an amusing ensemble cast.
After writing two novels in less than a year and promoting them for the next couple of years, Christa took her time in considering what she wanted to write about next. After flirting with a few different ideas, it was her own foray into taking cooking classes that ended up sticking around for the long haul.
After moving from Nashville back to the frozen tundra of St. Paul, Minnesota, cooking became a creative outlet that Christa thoroughly enjoyed—a joy that’s reflected in her upcoming novel.
Tentatively titled Spaghetti in Exile, it’s the story of four women of varying ages and backgrounds who find themselves in the midst of big life transition. Whether it’s changing jobs, losing a spouse or marrying into a new family, these women wind up finding unexpected community in a weekly Italian cooking class.
Set in the Minneapolis/St.Paul-area, a place that couldn’t be less like Italy in those frigid winter months, making comfort food together winds up being surprisingly therapeutic for these women.
As she puts the finishing touches on Spaghetti in Exile, something she “couldn’t be more excited about,” Christa, now living in Dallas with her husband, Will, continues to blog about pop culture, cooking and everything else that’s on her mind at www.christabanister.com. Her film reviews and features can be found on www.crosswalk.com/culture/movies.