Jennifer Skiff is searching for witnesses.
She’s not looking for people who have seen crimes or historic events, but for men and women who have encountered the divine.
Skiff, 44, who lives part of the year in Somesville, is gathering stories for a book, “God Stories: Modern Day Encounters with the Divine,” to be published by Random House in about 18 months.
“I’m looking for stories from around the world,” she said during a phone interview earlier this month from her Somesville home. “I’m asking the people of Maine first so they can have a chance to submit their stories.”
The veteran journalist, who grew up on Mount Desert Island, had her own run-in with God on her 12th birthday while riding the 10-speed bicycle she had received as a present.
“My mother told me not to go onto Route 102,” she said, “so I immediately went out onto Route 102. I was riding along when I had this extremely euphoric feeling. The next thing I knew, I was looking down at my body in front of a car. … I watched as a woman got out of the car and I saw my friend, who was riding her bicycle with me, standing frozen next to her bicycle. The whole time, I felt absolutely wonderful.
“The next minute, I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off because I was back in my body,” she said. “From that moment on, I never feared death. I still don’t.”
Skiff had been struck by a car while riding her new bike. Much of her blond hair was “scalped” off her head. She had a concussion, and skin was scraped off her back. It took her months to recover.
It had not occurred to her to collect similar tales until a minister asked if Skiff had any “God stories” that she could use in an upcoming sermon.
Skiff e-mailed the minister a story about her cancer scare more than a decade ago, but then began thinking about writing a book on the subject.
Nine editors at publishing firms expressed interest in the project, she said, but Harmony Books, a division of Crown Publishing at Random House, sealed the deal. Skiff plans to use 70 or so one-page stories in the book.
“I’m looking for stories from all cultures and all religions,” she said. “I’m very respectful of the teachings of all faiths. I’m hoping this book helps people to see what different religions have in common.”
Those chosen will be interviewed by Skiff, and their stories will be published along with the person’s name, his or her occupation and religion.
Skiff described her own religious life as a combination of Christian and Buddhist. Like many who think of Maine as home, Skiff says her church today is the outdoors although she grew up attending a Congregational church in Bar Harbor.
She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1983 with a degree in broadcast journalism and criminal justice. She began her professional career at WABI-TV 5 in Bangor. Skiff worked as a correspondent and producer for CNN for 14 years.
At CNN, she specialized in environmental issues for the network’s award-winning program, “Earth Matters.” About 10 years ago, she made the film “Maine Wild” about the state’s wildlife and ecosystems.
Before joining CNN, she worked at stations in New York, Florida and Salt Lake City.
People who want to have their encounters with the divine considered for publication should submit them via Skiff’s Web site: www.godstories.com.