Book is stories of sisters’ unique love

Sisters Dani Neff, left, and Jessie Dickey have co-authored a new book. PROVIDED PHOTO

Sisters Jessie Dickey and Dani Neff have woven their unique love into every page of a new book they co-authored.

“Sistering: The Art of Holding Close and Letting Go,” wth a launch date of May 15,  is the story of two girls growing up in Waynesboro who answered very unusual callings – one as a pastor and the other as a playwright – and their trials and triumphs on the way. They are the daughters of Barry and Sara Dickey of Waynesboro and graduates of Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

“She’s the peanut butter to my jelly, the fries to my burger, the salt to my pepper. It’s always been that way,” according to Neff, who lives in York – where she is a pastor – with her husband and three children.

Dickey, a playwright and screenwriter, divides her time between Brooklyn, Los Angeles and the south of France, her home base.

Inspiration for the book started as a joke … “we’ll put that in the book one day” Neff said. “When the pandemic hit, it was so hard to have Jessie so far away and so we decided to write the book as a way to be close to one another during such a hard time.”

“This writing project gave us a new way to be together even as we were suddenly trapped apart,” added Dickey. “Dani and I have always shared our writing. When I am working on a play or a TV script, I always have Dani read my draft at some point to help me figure out what’s missing. And Dani often sends me her sermons before she preaches for any notes I can provide.”

“It was hard work to add this kind of writing to our plate every week – Dani has three kids and a super demanding job, and I have a bazillion writing projects – but we did it. We sent each other drafts of our essays, sent notes back, whittled away at it until the true heart of the book began to emerge. It was fun and exhausting and challenging and sometimes unsettling, writing so personally and during such a strange time. But we’re really proud of the book and excited to share it with the world now,” noted Dickey.

People should buy the book, “because it’s funny,” Dickey added. “It’s a series of essays that cover a range of topics, from the deeply personal to the hilarious and absurd. Though this book is about our story as sisters, it’s really about relationships in general. In carpentry, the term ‘sistering’ means to add support to a structure when the load it is bearing becomes too much to hold alone. Everyone deserves someone in their life that sisters with them – makes them stronger and helps bear the load. The stories in our book are ones that will remind you of those people in your life (men or women) who have ‘sistered’ alongside you.”

“As a pastor,” added Neff, “I share stories – stories from the Bible, stories of people’s lives and their faith. I also hold other people’s stories – the joys, heartaches and challenges they share with me as their pastor.  Stories are sacred.

“As a playwright, Jessie also shares stories – from all aspects of people’s lives.  She brings alive on the stage, experiences of others so that we might better understand them and ourselves. Storytelling is how people connect and remembering the stories of our lives (and others’ lives) is how we learn and grow. Jessie is one of the people who holds my story and I hold hers. The book is about walking with someone as they write the story of their life and the impact that can have. While it includes personal stories from our lives, it touches on universal themes and topics that everyone can relate to,” according to Neff.

“Dani and I are very symbiotic, but we are extremely different,” added Dickey. “We have wildly different ways of being in the world sometimes. So part of what was fun about writing the book was discovering that despite those differences, or maybe even because of them, we are very good collaborators. We had very similar instincts about how to approach the book, what we should change, what it was about …that was a delightful surprise.”

The writing process was challenging, the authors said. “Jessie and I speak on the phone every morning, so we were constantly batting around ideas. We would send each other essays, talk about them, rework them and keep going. We also had four intensive writing retreats we took together. One where I traveled to France and to LA to where Jessie lived, and two when Jessie traveled to Pennsylvania. Writing this book has been one of the many ways that we stay connected despite living so far apart,” Neff noted.

The title phrase, “the art of holding close and letting go,” is articulated throughout the book as the authors talk about times they have supported each other, as well as the ways they have had to let go of the idea that they can be each other’s only support.

“Though Jessie and I have always been close, we have always had to leave each other in the care of other people,” noted Neff.

“One thing we discovered while writing was that a huge part of the story was actually about growing apart,” Dickey added, “watching our lives diverge in very different directions, and finding ways to both accept that separation, to let each other go our own way, but also stay true to our bond.”

The book, which may be pre-ordered at, and, was written for adults, and there are topics that may not be appropriate for children. Events at bookstores in and around Waynesboro also are planned.

After reading the book, “I hope people feel like they’ve just spent the afternoon with a friend,” Neff said, “and that it makes them think and reminds them of someone they love. I hope they will have belly laughed and shed a few tears.”

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