Writing New

by kmcallister

Writing has been a life-long passion for me. Over the course of the last decade, I’ve dipped my toes in the waters of publication by submitting short articles and poetry to a variety of publications. (For a sampling of my published short works, click here.) In 2008, I set aside a fiction manuscript to devote my energies to a story that had captivated me body and soul. Four years later, I finished Passionate Embrace: Faith, Flesh, Tango. The manuscript won the Luci Shaw Prize for Creative Writing in my Masters program in 2012, found its way to publication in 2013, and was a Word Award finalist in 2014. It is a great encouragement to me that my work has been well-received and is finding its way into readers’ hearts around the world. Scroll down on this page to read more about Passionate Embrace: Faith, Flesh, Tango. To read a sample and/or buy the book in print or e-book format, just click here to access the Google Books portal.
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Currently, I’m working on a variety of projects including a children’s book on the theme of belonging, poetry on themes of longing, and a longer non-fiction project exploring the universal notion of home. Of course, some of my writing intentions will find their way onto my blog, next to the stories and reflections of guests writers.

Passionate Embrace cover-ss

Passionate Embrace: Faith, Flesh, Tango

A vividly sensual story
of faith and doubt,
beauty and desire,
body and soul,
and tango.

Click HERE to read a sample of the book or make a purchase.

What readers are saying about Passionate Embrace:

shaw Luci Shaw, author of Breath for the Bones and Adventure of Ascent

“This is a sumptuous story, dramatic, literally an invitation to the dance.  It made me want to tango along with Sandra.  I read it straight through, drawn into it as she was when first invited to tango.  She daringly compares learning the dance with learning to pray; each is a movement of faith. That this new venture into physical intimacy was the means of grace that led her to greater spiritual intimacy with God is the refreshing surprise of this striking and moving account of renewal.”

petersonEugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, and author of The Message

“Passionate Embrace
is a remarkable achievement.  An honest and skillfully narrated story of a slow but steady realization that the body—any body’s body but never excluding the Christian body—is also the body of Christ.  Vander Schaaf grew up in church but it was on a Vancouver dance floor, learning to dance the Tango of all things, that she learned that “the body has much to do with religion” (General Gordon).  This story belongs in the company of Miriam and the women dancing with timbrels after their deliverance from the darkest days of Egypt, and with David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant, while his wife Michel looked on with contempt.”


Celeste Snowber, PhD, dancer, educator, writer, author of Embodied Prayer: Towards Wholeness of Body, Mind, Soul

“Vander Schaaf brings us into a beautiful, vibrant space, filled with visceral details of a life lived authentically. With poetic sensibility, she tells the story of how the beauty of tango lead her on an intimate and profound journey.  Vander Schaaf brings spirit and body to all her words, words that celebrate vulnerability, resilience, and yearning. We are led as by a beautiful dance partner, with words that dance on the page.”


Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun

“Now this is refreshingly different. A Vancouver Christian found her way out of depression, cancer and a stultified faith through the sensuality of Argentinian tango.  Along the way she rediscovered the divine.  Sandra Vander Schaaf explores the body, the erotic, God and the power of mutual human attraction in her intoxicating new book.”

nicolaNicola Aimé, poet, featured in The Edges of Time:  A Celebration of Canadian Poetry

“I could not stop turning the pages.  Sandra has taken an number of themes and addressed them with humour, integrity, a light touch, and the sure-footedness of a tango dancer.  This is a story of the flesh made sacred, and the sacred made flesh.  And it’s set to music, tango music.”

WIPFSTOCK_TemplateKurt Armstrong, author of Why Love Will Always Be A Poor Investment, and Reviews Editor at GEEZ magazine

“Dazzling and sensuous, Passionate Embrace boldly confronts our skewed assumptions about what makes a body beautiful.  Vander Schaaf’s dance lessons form a pilgrimage, each step a disciplined practice of breath and motion, her words as graceful as the movements she describes.  In the tango Vander Schaaf discovers the miraculous gift of being a body, and she, in turn, shares her gifts of eloquence, honesty, wisdom, and beauty.”

beckmanBetsey Beckman, founder of The Dancing Word and co-author of Awakening the Creative Spirit

“From despair to dance, from fear to faith, from sweat to the sacred, Vander Schaaf’s memoir leads us out of the grip of shame into the arms of divine embrace.  Passionate Embrace offers a tribute to tango and an invitation to awaken our bodies to the blessed dance of life.”

leggoCarl Leggo, professor of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia, and author of View From My Mother’s House

Passionate Embrace: Faith, Flesh, Tango is a profound song of love, a lyrical testimony to living with humanity, humility, and humour.  Vander Schaaf invites us to engage enthusiastically with mysterious questions about identity, desire, and faith, in the midst of memory, disenchantment, and fear.  Passionate Embrace pulses with the body’s rhythms as it encourages readers to dance with hopeful wisdom.”

runionsErin Runions, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies and core faculty of Gender and Women’s Studies, Pomona College, California

“In this vividly sensual memoir, Vander Schaaf takes us on a spiritual journey from depression and bodily alienation to healing, confidence, and integration.  The most powerful insights emerge from an encounter with the divine in visceral communion with others.  Passionate Embrace gently leads us into a kind of prayer through shared breath, movement, trust, and intimacy. The rigor and vulnerable strength required for tango carry the dancer into a timeless sacred space that allows her to hold together the perfections and  imperfections, joys and tragedies of embodied human life.  Along the way, Vander Schaaf speaks with candid beauty, wisdom, and humor about the challenges for herself as a woman to embody wholeness and strength.”

shklankaKaren Shklanka, poet, author of Sumac’s Red Arms

Passionate Embrace is not only a nuanced description of falling in love with Argentine tango, it is a powerful story of healing.  Vander Schaaf leads the reader into the dance to share her experience as a beginning tanguera—the spark of curiosity, the awkward beginnings, the surprise of being held tenderly and respectfully in the arms of strangers, and the exquisite moment of spiritual abandon when she inhabits her body anew, awake once again to the unselfconscious joy of movement and beauty of her childhood self.  As a professional photographer, Vander Schaaf adds another dimension to the story.  Her subtle images transcend tango clichés and capture moments of connection and interiority, inviting the reader to discover this rich and complex social dance and its profoundly textured culture and community.”

Click HERE to read a sample of the book or make a purchase.