Saltwater Portrait

Author Elise Seyfried learns to 'unhale'

Children’s theater founder publishes first book
Elise Seyfried signs autographs for her new book, 'Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life' at Lewes Public Library. BY CAROLYN MAJEWSKI
April 1, 2011



Elise Seyfried

As Elise Seyfried approached the podium in an upstairs room of Lewes Public Library, she made a joke about how she normally looks, standing in front of a crowd.  “It’s very strange to be here not dressed as Peter Pan,” she said.

For nearly 30 years, Seyfried and her husband, Steve, have operated the Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theater.  Seyfried and her husband play about six characters in each performance, she said.  “It’s been very gratifying,” Seyfried said.

Lately, Seyfried is taking center stage for a different reason. At the behest of her oldest son, who, Seyfried said, told her, “Mom, do it or never talk about it again,” Seyfried put pen to paper and is now touring with her new book.

“Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life” is Seyfried’s first published book, a collection of short stories based on memorable moments in her life.  The stories are funny and heartwarming anecdotes, mostly about Seyfried’s relationship with her five children.  At the end of each tale, the author finds a new and unique way to see God in everyday situations.

Maureen Miller of Lewes Public Library introduced Seyfried to the small but eager crowd.  “The universalities are wonderful in here,” Miller said of the book.

Seyfried tells the crowd she is a control freak and a nervous wreck who can’t get her act together.  “But God manages to use me, imperfect as I am,” she said.

Seyfried’s voice is animated as she reads stories from the collection.  She recites one story about her failed attempt to learn piano from her son Sheridan, a classical composer.  Another story details life in her home during daughter Rose’s year-long trip to Thailand.  The title of the collection comes from the final story, “Be Here Now,” about her son, P.J., who is now a college student.  Seyfried tells the audience about P.J. and his easygoing personality, unlike his mother,  Seyfried said.  At age 4, P.J. told Seyfried, he inhales, then “unhales.”  Seyfried said, P.J. teaches her to “unhale.”

A round of applause, to which Seyfried offers a broad smile and humble thanks, follows each tale.  Seyfried’s yellow shoes and matching sweater mirror her sunny disposition.

Though the attendance at the reading was modest, nearly every person bought at least one copy of the book.  Seyfried said she loves public readings because she can pick stories based on her audience.  “It’s always different,” she said.

When Seyfried isn’t writing books, raising children, speaking publicly or playing Peter Pan, she holds a full-time job.  Seyfried has been director of spiritual formation at Christ's Lutheran Church in Oreland, Pa., for nine years.  One of her duties, she said, is to oversee the Sunday school program.  The cover art for “Unhaling” came from one of her classes.

Seyfried said she was trying to teach the class that God uses our brokenness to make something beautiful.  She said she gave the young teens pieces of china and instructed them to break it.  At first, she said, they were hesitant, but before long it became a deluge of destroyed pastel porcelain.  A mosaic cross, featured on the book’s cover, is what the class made from the broken glass.

“Unhaling” is based on a monthly column Seyfried began writing for her church’s newsletter.  One of her articles, a funny anecdote about Groundhog Day, was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer.  “I’ve always loved to write,” she said.

Seyfried said she already half way through her second book.  Meanwhile, Seyfried said, she is planning a mission trip to Guatemala with a youth group from her church.

Visit to purchase a copy of “Unhaling.” A portion of book sales will benefit Lutheran World Relief, which offers international disaster relief assistance, teaches sustainability in third world countries and performs social justice work in Washington, D.C.

Contact Seyfried directly to receive an autographed copy of the book at

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