I recently had the privilege of interviewing up-and-coming video blogger and author Jackie G (sister of YouTube sensation and music artist Alex G!); via email as she readies her debut book Be Free, to be released later on in 2017. We discussed her weekly video blog series “Coffee Chats With Jax”, and what she wants readers to gain from reading her autobiography. Check out the interview below with Jackie G, and be sure to check out the book in stores in 2017 sometime.
- First of all, how has your week been, Jackie? For those who do not know your story and how you came to be an author and video blogger, can you give us a quick synopsis (I’m sure it’s more detailed in the book!) of your testimony and how God showed you what His plan for you was, at least when it comes to writing?
Well hello there! First off, thank you so much for interviewing me. Feels a little surreal. My week has been great! I’ve had a lot of good friends in and out of town lately so it’s been fun.
In a really nutshell ‘spark notes’ type version, I got to know Jesus when I was 19. I was at the end of one of the hardest, most life altering years of my life when a friend called me and asked ‘What does God mean to you?’ I was actually really offended at first by a question like that because I was embarrassed to admit that I actually didn’t really know. I went out to my backyard and started listening to a bunch of sermons on the internet to try to come up with an answer for my friend. Then I went up to my room and opened up an old Bible where the bookmark was perfectly placed on the first page of 1 Corinthians. It was in the first chapter of that book that everything made sense, and suddenly all I wanted to do was know everything humanly possible to know about Jesus. I thought ‘If this Jesus guy is real, I want it all.’ So instead of finding an answer for my friend to ‘save face’, I ended up finding the answer to my whole life’s existence. It was pretty rad.
As for writing, I had a million thoughts and questions every single day about Jesus and the Bible, and just life things. So I started journaling for about an hour a day, everyday, and haven’t stopped in almost three years. It was about a year ago when I had this moment during worship at a church service when I suddenly realized a much bigger purpose behind my loads of journal entries. It was at that moment that I felt like God invited me on this journey into writing a personal memoir about my life, and there was suddenly nothing that I wanted to do more. It just hit me like a load of bricks, but the kind that didn’t hurt. So maybe not bricks, maybe like a bunch of teddy bears or something. I remember running home that night trying to avoid all the after church catch up conversations, because all I could think about was wanting to write this book.
- Congratulations on the completion of your debut book Be Free: How To Be Human. It must have been quite a ride and journey over the past few years. What is the one thing you hope readers will take away when they read the book? What has God been showing you over the years and through your writing process?
That’s a great question! I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot this weekend. I think the main thing I want readers to take away from my story is that no matter WHAT the circumstances are, no matter how bad it seems or how much pain you feel, there is ALWAYS hope and you are NEVER alone. You are never ‘too much’, never ‘not enough’, and never should have to do life alone. When it’s done right, friendship is the most healing, life changing, greatest idea in the whole world. AND we’re allowed to be human. We’re allowed to mess up, and the love Jesus has for us will never change based on that.
I guess that’s more than one thing, but that’s the best I could do for now haha.
- Tell us about ‘Coffee Chats With Jax’- the ongoing video series that probably started the whole book thing that God placed in your heart. How did you decide the topics talked about during each week, or were they decided the day before shooting the video, or even an hour before? Which topics were the easiest to talk about and why? Considering how some internet trolls like to lurk on youtube (or any other message board for the matter!) and bad mouth almost everything for the sake of it; were you afraid to publicly announce your Christian faith to the world, or were you unashamed and proud of being a follower of Jesus, knowing that your interaction with fans could’ve been different? And as for the video series, I absolutely love the videos, and I pray that you keep continuing and blessing us with insights about God’s lavish and unending love for each one of us, at least for the near future!
Ah! The video series that changed my life you mean? It’s so special to me. I seriously can’t explain how thankful I am to be able to do what I love for a living, and get the opportunity to have a voice in this world that matters. I decide on video topics differently each week, there’s honestly not too much of a formula to it. When I first started, however, I would sit in a coffee shop and write out, word for word, what I was planning on saying. They ended up being like mini sermons each week and I had a lot of fun with them, but I felt like I needed to switch it up a bit. That’s when I started just sitting in front of the camera and talking, hoping something good would come out of it. Sometimes I’ll know all week what I want my topic to be, and sometimes I don’t know till I press record. Those variables change a lot, but what stays consistent is that every Monday or Tuesday afternoon I sit down and pray to God to speak through me, then I record. He’s never let me down. Honestly I think sometimes about how crazy it is that He has never failed to give me topics each week that speak to people. Sometimes I feel like my videos are better than others, but regardless of how I feel, the responses of how something I said affected someone so deeply never fail.
The easiest topics to talk about are the stories that have already happened. They’re the stories that have a clear beginning, end, moral of the story, and positive life lesson at the end. It’s kind of crazy but I feel like I can share literally anything on the internet if it has a ‘lesson learned’ at the end. But when it comes to letting people into problems that are current in my life that I don’t have answers for, that’s when it becomes the most difficult to share. That’s a big lesson that I’ve learned throughout this process.
As far as publicly proclaiming my faith on the internet, I surprisingly and thankfully have not gotten a lot of hate for it. I’m not really sure why, but I am very thankful for that! I do get the occasional annoying or rude comment, but it’s never been a big and loud consistent thing. I was a little nervous at first to have the big direction and style of my videos change from random comedy or typical ‘YouTube challenges/tag’ videos to talking about Jesus and every other vulnerable topic in the book. I was nervous that people wouldn’t want to watch anymore for one, and for two, I was nervous that some of my old friends would think I was insane. After all, it did seem to kind of come out of nowhere. But I decided to just do it anyway I guess, and I’m really thankful that I did.
- A couple of years ago when you started ‘Coffee Chats With Jax’, you were relatively new to the writing/blogging industry, and thus you used Patreon as a way for fans of your videos to contribute financially to your ministry, so that we can all be blessed by God’s wisdom and words speaking through you. I’ll admit, it’s a pretty nifty and clever idea, but for all the doubters, can you please outline what Patreon is all about and the benefits it provides to all parties concerned?
Oh my goodness, yes of course! Patreon has absolutely changed my life. In simple terms, it’s basically a fan funded label. It’s a site where people can choose to support me however much or little they’d like per video. It can be as little as $1 to as much as $100, but there’s no obligations! No matter what I will make videos for everyone, but if people want to support me they can do so via patreon. There’s different incentives for different dollar amounts pledged, and milestone goals (my personal favorite) that we shoot for. For example, I set a goal that for every $250 we reach per video we sponsor a child from Compassion International (a nonprofit that helps get kids out of poverty around the world). We have one kid right now named Enmanuel, and are working towards sponsoring another! Other goals have been reached where I release different pages of my book for patrons only, and more. A patron can end/adjust their pledge at anytime they’d like, and they can also put a cap on their pledge so they can be sure to be in control of how much money they are willing to donate each month.
- A lot of bands/artists/authors/bloggers are also doing what you are- releasing books/albums/videos independently, through funds from the fans, either via gofundme, kickstarter, Indiegogo, Pledgemusic, patreon or other fan-funded platforms. What is your opinion on this stance, and how do you think music, books, media etc will be sold in the future? Do you think the physical copy of books/CD’s/DVD’s will die out?
I absolutely LOVE what is happening today in the world of independent art. I LOVE the fact that the internet has supplied a platform where anyone can pursue any sort of creative art that they’d like with the potential of making a living from it. I love the opportunity that it provides for people, and I love the art that has come from it. I love that it encourages hard work and dedication, and that artists get to be in full creative control of what they want to say and represent.
Regardless, I do personally hope that physical copies of books /CD’s/ DVD’s are still available in the future. I think there’s something really rewarding and exciting about collecting and holding onto things like that. I love the internet, but I’m an old soul when it comes to some of this stuff.
- I cannot begin to imagine how scary it is to bare your soul and be vulnerable on the internet with your in depth videos, and now your first book, essentially an autobiography- can you give us a quick rundown on which topic written about in your book, or spoken about in your videos style came to you the easiest, and which area of writing brought you out of your comfort zone in a good/challenging/scary way (in the way that generally in autobiographies, you have to dive deep and bare all ‘secrets’ and baggage to the public, and bits that you may be afraid to show anyone!)?
I think the topics that are the easiest for me to talk about, both in videos and in my book have been the ones where I get to tell a bit of a funny story in them. Humor and comedy is one of my favorite things about the world, which at times has gotten me into trouble. I’ve had a bad habit of covering up pain with humor, so I’m trying to learn what is and isn’t healthy with that currently. However telling funny stories about my life or things that I’ve done is really natural and fun for me, especially when I get to make fun of myself a little. I think we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously, so anytime where I get to be an example of that makes me really happy.
The hardest things by far for me to write about which took me WAY out of my comfort zone, have been the traumatic stories from my life. The most difficult story to tell was that the one where when I was 17, I was raped. That story in itself has been one of the most challenging stories to tell, yet the most rewarding. In simply telling that story I have received so much healing in my own heart, so I am so hopeful in what that story can do for other women who have been through the same thing as well. I remember when I talked about that story for my vlog, it was the scariest video I ever posted. I hated talking about it nonetheless saying the word ‘raped’, so overcoming that and being bold was a huge deal to me. I learned that if I can own my story, my story won’t own me anymore.
- As a first time author and a relatively new video blogger, what have been the challenges as well as benefits in terms of exposure to your blogs? Who do you hope to reach the most with your debut book? Friends, young people, single people, males/females, older folk… what has God shown you about Himself and yourself through diving deep and revisiting the deepest parts of your past?
Exposure to my video blogs have been quite the journey. I’ve been really fortunate for the opportunity to work with some other YouTubers in the past which has been really helpful in getting my name out there!
I really hope my videos and book will reach young adults just like me, and people in the high school crowd as well. The stories I share range throughout my whole life, but I feel like teenagers and young adults in their 20s will be able to relate the most.
The biggest thing God has taught me about himself in my process of diving deep into my past has been that there is grace for literally everything, and there is nothing more healing than real, true love. I learned that avoiding the pain and covering it up does nothing but make it worse, and the only way to truly heal your heart is to let Jesus into those scary places so that He can love you in that space. The dark parts are the parts that need the most love, so they are the most important to bring to Jesus, ya know? By doing so I have been completely blown away by how real the love of God is, and how healing it is. There’s nothing that I can ever do that will change that.
- What has been the overall highlight of the whole process of writing your first book? Were there any difficult chapters to write/parts of your life to revisit? Or were they therapeutic or healing?
I think the highlight of my writing process has been the healing that I’ve experienced from genuine self-reflection. It’s been really cool seeing things in my life come full circle, and seeing the healing and redemption that Jesus has brought through that. I’ve also realized that I LOVE writing. I didn’t know that before I started this book. Other than that I loved being able to bring my friends into this project with me. I loved sharing about my best friends, and I loved that one of my best friends Amy Pape is writing my forward, another one, Eva, took my photos, Jordy is making my website, and Trinity was my editor! Having my friends involved has made this SO much more fun.
It was really difficult to talk about the rape when I was 17, and some different body image issues that I’ve had growing up. Those topics have been the most difficult, yet also the most healing in a weird way.
- As you were writing this first book, or even as you were embarking on creating inspirational teaching videos every week, who did you look up to in the book industry and also the online video industry, either as a spiritual mentor, or someone you ask advice from? Or did you just rely in friends and family (and God) for support and as a sounding board? If anyone reading this interview is wanting to move into writing books or creating online video content with the intention of sharing the Gospel, what would you say to them as advice?
I looked up to so many people! As far as people in the writing world, Donald Miller is without a doubt my favorite author. I was given the book Blue Like Jazz for Christmas a couple years ago, and ever since reading it I have been beyond inspired to not only read every word Donald Miller has ever written, but also write books myself! Other than him, Bob Goff, Christa Black, and Amy Poehler. They’re all just amazing humans that I would love to be like and write like. As far as spiritual mentors, I had a few different ones that I would go to advice for, but my main source of counsel and advice in both this and life in general is from my friends. One friend specifically, Megan, was INSANELY helpful through the book process. She’s an incredible writer, so that on top of asking me questions, listening to me ramble on about my process, being willing to answer all of my questions, and just calling me to check in on how I was doing pretty much daily has been a real game changer.
I think the best advice I could give to someone wanting to pursue this similar path would be to find your voice. Find what you believe is true, what you’re convicted about saying to the world, and go out there and say it. It’s not going to sound perfect, and you might never feel ‘ready’, but you just have to do it. Post the video, write the blog, write the book, just go for it. Don’t be afraid of controversy. Not everyone is going to agree with you, like what you have to say, or want to support what you’re doing but THAT IS OKAY. Your voice matters. I had to learn that lesson, and it might be the greatest thing I could have ever learned. Other than that, just work hard! Be consistent, spend time, and keep moving forward. You’ve got this 🙂
- For those who do not know, a big part of your journey as a writer and even as a Christian, was moving from Colorado to LA to Nashville (where you reside now!) in the space of 2-ish years! Can you describe to us how you felt when you made these life-altering changes, and can you give advice for anyone facing any life altering change? Did you have any fleeces or signs you asked God to make known to you, before knowing that moving to Nashville was from God? How did you know Nashville was from God and not from yourself?
I seriously can’t tell you how thankful I am the two moves that I made. For my whole life I wanted to move to California to be a dolphin trainer, so that move didn’t take a lot of thought. It was surprisingly easy because I already had a job, a community, and some family over there. However the move from LA to Nashville was incredibly hard. It was hard because I was leaving the city that I really grew into myself in. I was only there for two years, but in those two years I experienced my first real community, some of the greatest friends I had ever had, and I just learned who Jesus was. That’s where I learned that I was loved, that I’m forgiven, and that no matter how low life can get there is always hope. Gosh! I love that city so much.
My move to Nashville was definitely by a sign from God. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s always going to be a big sign that tells us when we should and shouldn’t move or what we should and shouldn’t do, but in this situation there definitely was one. Long story short, I sat on my bed in my little apartment in Burbank, CA and I prayed so, so hard. I prayed and I asked God for ‘a super specific sign’ for if I’m supposed to move to Nashville. I asked for a sign because I was scared. I was scared to leave my friends; I was scared to leave everything that I knew to go to a city that I didn’t know AT ALL. It didn’t make sense, but I there was something in me that told me I had to go. About an hour later I went to church where I started talking to my friend Amy (who had no idea that I was praying for a sign to move to Nashville), and she started talking about her sister. So I asked ‘Oh who’s your sister? What does she do?’ And Amy says ‘She works at this school in Nashville! Don’t you love Nashville? You should totally go to this school in Nashville!’ So I went home, put my 30 days’ notice in on my first apartment ever and I planned my move.
My advice to anyone facing a life altering change would be, if it’s about moving somewhere, just go. Trust me. Lemony Snicket said “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life.” I strongly agree with him. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone to grow, at least in my opinion anyway. It might feel hard at first, might get a little lonely at times, but it’s totally worth it! For me it was anyway. If it’s just a change in general, give yourself loads and loads of grace. Like so much of it. Life is hard, changes are unavoidable, and I have found that the best way to handle them is to go talk to, or if you’re lucky enough to live in the same city, go be with the people you love. Go be with the people who feel like home to you, and let them into your process. Know that IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY. Write it out, sing it out, whatever your outlet is just do not keep it bottled up inside okay?!
- What is next for Jackie G in 2017 career-wise? Do you have a second book idea? What do you hope God will convey, to yourself and others, as you promote your book and spread the message of God’s love to readers and viewers of Youtube? Are there any authors you would love to collaborate with if given the chance? Or do you want to tour as an international speaker like Louie Giglio in the future? Or maybe open up that coffee shop you wanted to way back in one of the video blogs you released last year (Why It’s Scary To Have Dreams)? As for what’s next for you personally in 2017, is there anything on your bucket list you’d like to accomplish that you’d like to share with us?
I was considering starting another book write away actually, but I think I’m going to take a little break from book writing and start a blog. I really want to focus on improving my writing, learn my style, and just live a bit more life before I start another project. But don’t worry, there will definitely be more 🙂 My blog will most likely be a bi-weekly travel blog! I’m about to go on tour with my friend Brynn for the rest of the summer, and have some other road trips planned as well so I would absolutely love to write about my travel experiences for anyone who would like to read! Other than that I will be continuing my video blog, and hope to grow in that as well!
I think the main message I’d like to communicate to people through promoting my book is that we’re in this together. In all seriousness, writing my book would never have been possible without my friends and family. I’ve learned so much from so many incredible people, and have been supported and encouraged more than I could have ever deserved. So we need each other you guys!
My dream would be to collaborate with Donald Miller and Bob Goff. That is like my utmost nerdiest writer’s dream. So if anyone can get my book to one of them, I’d greatly appreciate it! Haha.
I would love to do a tour someday! That would be so rad! I just want to write, speak, travel, and write and speak about what I learn while I’m traveling and meeting people all over the world. People are where we experience Jesus the most, at least in my opinion! So I want to meet as many as I can so I can see as much of Him as I can. After I’ve gotten the travel bug out of my system, I would love to settle down and start working towards that coffee shop! Great memory!
- For anyone who is reading this interview and is feeling discouraged or down, either because of something in their life currently or something spoken over them, what can you say to them?
The first thing I would say would be that I wish I could just sit with them and hug them. Then I’d give them a chocolate chip cookie, another hug, then I’d eat half of their cookie because it’s more fun that way.
Whoever you are out there, know that you’re loved. Like a lot. I don’t even have to know who you are or anything about you to know THAT fact. You are loved, messiness, broken pieces and all. It’s going to get better. But it’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to cry. Sometimes we just need a day to be sad, you know? It took me a while to accept that. But I’ve found that one of the most healing things I can do when I’m feeling down is to grab a bowl of cereal and spend a few hours watching Parks and Rec. Then I call my friend, talk it out, write it out, and things seem a little brighter.
- Other than Be Free: How To Be Human, your own book, or https://www.youtube.com/user/JackieGTV/videos, your video channel, has there been a book, or interesting youtube channel, that has released recently, and has made an impact in your walk with God this far?
The most recent book that I’ve read that has impacted me was Scary Close by Donald Miller. Other than that, keeping up with blog posts by Darling Magazine has been incredible!
- What do you do in your downtime- any music that is on your iTunes playlist currently (besides your sister Alex’s!)? Any TV shows you are currently binge-watching, or sports you watch/play?
My favorite things to do in my downtime is be outside, go for a run, drink good coffee, read good books, cook good food, or just sit outside on the porch and watch the fireflies. Take any of those things and add my best friends in the mix, and you’ve got my typical day in a nutshell.
Music wise I’m kind of a nerd and just listen to old school music from before I was born, or throwbacks from like 8 years ago. If not, it’s normally JohnnySwimm, Mat Kearney, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Tori Kelly, and so many more. I like it when my friend Eva picks the tunes, she’s better at that. I’m unashamed to admit that I’m currently binge watching Gossip Girl, but my all time favorite shows are Friends and Parks and Rec. Amy Poehler is a comedic genius, and Rachel Green has the best hair in the world. I watch baseball and am a constantly disappointed LA Dodgers fan, so there’s that.
- Any parting words, encouragements or anything else you want to share to potential readers of your book and future projects that you haven’t discussed in this interview yet?
Thank you. Thank you SO much for reading this and caring about what I have to say. It blows me away every single day when I think about how much it means that you guys care. You’ve changed my life, you’ve given my voice a purpose I never would have thought it could have, and you’ve just been the greatest humans out there. Love you all, so so much.
Be sure to listen to Jackie G’s youtube channel here, and her patreon page here as well. Also, be on the lookout for news about the official release date of Be Free. We will be reviewing the book as well, so be on the lookout for that this year as well.