I have known Elizabeth Sherrill since I started at Guideposts in 1984, but I knew her by reputation before that. To say I was in awe of her gifts as an editor and writer would be only a slight overstatement. She was the toughest editor I ever wrote for. When you thought you had done your best on a manuscript, Tibby—as we know her—was just getting started. She’d take your opus and cut it down to a one-pager. “This works nicely now, Rick.” Ouch! A hard way to learn but probably the best. And Tibby was the best.
For all the lasting influence Tibby imparted to Guideposts in her nearly seven decades as a contributor, retiring only recently, she was thoughtful and reserved in her manner, quiet-spoken for a writer of such editorial and spiritual conviction. Tibby was as kind and compassionate a person as she was tough as an editor.
Behind that unassuming exterior is the heart, faith and voice of Guideposts. Amazing then that she was not a person of faith when she arrived at Guideposts. (More on that in a bit.) She was a writer looking for a gig.
That was in 1951, just six years after Norman Vincent Peale founded the magazine with his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale, and one year before he would publish The Power of Positive Thinking, that bestseller of spiritual well-being. For most of those seven decades, Tibby worked alongside her beloved husband, John, also a longtime contributor. Do you love Guideposts’ vivid first-person stories full of heartfelt spiritual struggles and lessons? Do you feel as if you are right there with the writer when you read a Guideposts story? Do stories move you to tears or inspire you to take a step forward in your own spiritual life?
Thank Tibby Sherrill.
She’s the one who shaped and modeled Guideposts’ distinctive voice and approach to storytelling. She shared her own often deeply personal stories, and she helped countless others do the same. Generations of writers and editors learned from her at the Guideposts Writers Workshop, of which she was a founding editor and lead teacher. And what a teacher!
Today, at 93, Tibby’s vision loss prevents her from doing much writing or even reading e-mails. We felt it was high time to do what she would never do herself: pay tribute to her distinguished career and shine a light on how she shaped the Guideposts you know and love today.
Like many other Guideposts editors and writers, I first got to know Tibby at the Writers Workshop in Rye, New York. In 1984, I was about to start my job with the magazine as an assistant editor. All new staff editors are required to attend the workshop, so there I was, alongside the winners of that year’s contest, in the Wainwright House library. I stared at the book-lined shelves and the frayed rug on the floor, not quite sure what I was doing there.
I’d graduated from Princeton University a few years earlier and done a fair bit of writing. I figured I didn’t have much to learn.
Tibby proved me wrong.
I had to listen carefully to hear everything she said. She spoke softly and deliberately as she laid out a clear and deceptively simple vision of what made a great story.
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