I never thought I’d write a book, not really. It’s not like I don’t have anything to say, but write it down? So that other people can read and think about it? Hell no. So here are the people you can blame for how Fierce became a reality.

My parents Nancye and Tom Van Brunt and my brother Trevor encouraged me to argue, to see other people’s arguments from their side, and to have compassion for everyone. They’re pretty damn great, really. 

The kids in my junior high classes who told me, “No one cares,” when I talked about the books I was reading and the thoughts I was having. Thanks for cementing in me that I do have something to say.

At my first priest-ing job, Cindy Carlton-Ford said I should publish a book of my sermons. Which I appreciated and then ignored. (Though in the back of my head, I thought about a nice, leather-bound volume of sermons like the Victorians used to wile away their evenings with. No reality TV for them, the reality of hellfire and long explanations of theology. Sign me up.)

After a bible study where I told the group about how scripture is not what you thought and it’s a lot more disgusting and sexy, my friend Mark Ragase said, “You should write a book.” I said, “Meh.” He said, “But really though.” And then he asked me about it once a year, every year.

That this book exists is also the fault of Nat Kutcher and my husband Leighton Connor. We were driving back from the Wild Goose conference in North Carolina and talking about what keeps us from doing the things we love. After pushing the two of them to articulate their deep-seated vulnerabilities and come to stunning realizations, they turned the power of their new awareness on me and said, “So, Alice, why haven’t you written your book?” 

Then there was the series of unlikely events where Tony Jones, bless him, thought he’d like to publish what was in my brain. 

And after that Leighton, light of my life, thought he’d be interested in illustrating what was in my brain.

And then a ton of people who cheered me on even though they had no idea what I was really doing: Tristan Vaught, Mandy Smith, Ione Damasco, David Leiserson, Stacy Forsythe, David Martin, Angela Erisman.

Of course, my editor Lisa Gruenisen who I’ve never actually met and who put up with my insistence for months that the chapter about Mary the Mother of Jesus was perfect as it was before I caved in to her wisdom.

I’m sure there’s someone blindingly obvious missing from this list because I’m really shit remembering who’s supposed to be in group. You’re amazing though. Really top shelf. Please know that I remembered you right after this went to print and felt terrible for three days. 

Honestly, I’d like to thank everyone I’ve ever come into contact with for whatever reason. You all changed me and had a hand in shaping my story.