I never aspired to be a writer…yet here I am, launching not only one novel, but an entire series. Here’s why.
I never aspired to be a writer, I hated English in school, hated assigned writing and even voluntary writing, never even wrote a journal or a diary, never felt creative or that I had ideas. I really felt that studying grammar was a waste of time and the dumbest thing ever, but I could write well enough to get through my compulsory schooling. Once I got to college I was sure writing wasn’t for me when I got a D on my first college paper at BYU in freshman English. Yep, writing was not my thing. But, I always had stories.
My earliest memories were in my parents’ bathroom. Yes, you heard me right, they had really cool perfume bottles in there. They all had names, Avon was the beautiful woman, Hai Karate was the dashing young suitor. They had some wonderful adventures on that toilet tank cover, while my family wondered what was taking me so long in there.
The Stories in my Head
Enter real life, adulting and parenthood, and those stories had to move into my head. No time to write anything down, but they were there. Avon and Hai Karate were replaced by more realistic characters and I wondered, “Is this normal? Do other people have a story line constantly running, changing, evolving in their head?”
While I never fully determined my normalcy, I did determine that I could write. Although creativity did not seem my thing yet, I could pen a factual article pretty successfully. As pen and pencil gave way to word processing I found that an electronic platform made all of the difference for me. Being able to write and edit without re- writing, or re-typing and consuming bottles of white-out was a dream, and just what I needed to be won over. I found I was a writer after all!
Writing was one thing, publishing was another. Back in the day, it took a lot of work, and luck, to get published. After forays into writing about things that interested me, and many rejection notices, I was finally able to get a freelance gig with Parenting Magazine. I wrote features that highlighted their advertisers in my local area. It was pretty fun to interview business owners, take their pictures, get paid a small sum and get published. And it gave me some great experience. But the stories in my head just kept growing, and expanding.
While writing didn’t seem my thing as a young person, teaching and raising kids did. As the oldest of 4, a babysitter to dozens, and a nursery leader to countless more I loved kids and being around young people. Teaching came pretty naturally to me, and I entered the teaching field as a teenager working with preschoolers. The skills I learned there helped me in parenthood, as did my talent for being able figure out the best way to do anything I put my mind to. As my 5 kids grew, and my experience as a parent and a teacher with it, people asked me how I did it. Oh, that there was a simple answer. Of course there wasn’t, so instead I wrote a book.
“Don’t Get Mad, Get Busy, A Handbook for Raising Terrific Kids” was published in 2009, the same year I finished my Master’s thesis in Special Education. I still don’t know how I did it during that crazy time in my life, but over these last 10 years the book has been a wonderful resource to many family members and friends. I enjoy sharing and teaching others some of my best tricks of parenting. But, the stories were still in my head, so about this time I decided they needed to be put to paper.
Goats and Sheep
I wrote a few simple chapters about a young Latter-Day Saint mother and her brood of lively little boys . I knew the main character (Randy, as I came to call her) would struggle with understanding who the true followers of Jesus Christ were (or, more aptly, who the goats and the sheep were), she would struggle with learning to access the atonement of Jesus Christ, and she would struggle with her erroneous idea that an easy life was promised to the righteous. By now, Randy had been living in my head for so many years that it was easy to bring her to life. The years I had spent observing the women in my life and thinking about what made them who they were made it easy to know who Randy was and what made her tick. She was truly a composite of so many women I loved and admired.
Happy to start to get Randy out of my head I showed the chapters I had written to my daughter-in-law. She loved what I had done so far and begged for the rest of the book. I felt sure that now that my first book was published and my thesis done I would finish my novel. But, it wasn’t time. As often happens in life, the Lord had a different timetable. I can’t really tell you what got in the way, but there was always so much else to do. Teaching seminary, serving a Pathway mission, needs of kids, husband, parents and grandkids, too many other things in life were just too pressing to deal with Randy’s imaginary problems and finish her saga.
April 17, 2015 stands clear in my mind as the day I knew that the story needed to be completed and shared with the world. I traveled with friends from our Southern California homes for Time Out for Women in Tucson, Arizona, unaware beforehand precisely who the speakers were. My delight at realizing that we would be able to hear Sister Sheri Dew speak was replaced by the feeling, and then the sure confirmation, that the time was drawing near to complete my novel as I heard her speak. While the TOFW talk made me aware that the time was drawing near when the story needed to be committed to paper, it wasn’t until several years had passed that I became fully aware of the timing or the purpose. While I made some tentative efforts to complete my manuscript not long after TOFW life kept getting in the way. Finally, in late 2017 and early 2018, I received the strong impression that the summer of 2018 was when I was to complete it. I felt driven to carve time out of my busy schedule to put these characters, and Randy’s story, on paper. She had been in my head long enough.
General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April of 2018 was a landmark event. Visiting Teaching was no more, and Ministering was in. At the time of the announcement I was a bit confused and perplexed as to where this left my book. You see, Visiting Teaching played a prominent role in my original draft. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a matter of changing the terms, I wanted this to be a timeless tale, how would this work out and why was I prompted to finish it the following summer? Was my book ruined? What about the promptings I had to finish the book that summer? Then it hit me why. This story was about ministering. Making it a timeless tale would be a bit more challenging, but Ministering was the topic for which this story was meant. The full story literally filled my brain and fell onto the pages once I fully understood the purpose and the timing was right. My 30-year quest was coming to a close and my book was ready to share with the world.
A Novel is Born
Once I committed the story to paper I began the pain staking task of editing and looking for publishing opportunities. Just as they had been a help as the story grow in my brain the women in my life were there for me, this time taking a much more active role. Friends and family member stepped up, read my draft, gave me feedback and edited it for me.
Finally, the story was told. Randy could move out of my brain now that she lived on in “The Goats and the Sheep” a novel that I hope will be enjoyed by many. Once the publishing was complete I could rest assured that my task was complete.
Unfortunately, once again, the Lord had other ideas. It was my sister who first suggested it. “When is the next book coming out? I need more, I love these characters!”
“There will be no other book, this is all I have!” I told her. After all, this story had taken 30 years to brew and be completed. I won’t live long enough to put together another novel, and I had no desire to do so. Then the inspiration, and the realization, hit me, there were more books, there are more women’s stories to be told, Randy’s life is just one point of view, I needed to tell the others. Already, they have started living in my head. My dread of having to write more books has been replaced by excitement and I can’t wait to tell their stories, in their own due time.
So, here I am, not just sharing one story, one novel, one women’s point of view. Here I am launching an entire series of books, the Goats and Sheep series.
“And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…”
“Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
Who are these Goats and Sheep? I guess you will just have to read to find out.
Silhouette by Natasha Sinegina and edited by Karen E. Dimick, licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0), for Creazilla.com, used with permission.