Category: Writing

Confessions of a Rookie Novelist #2

Meet my pink piggybank!

When I was born, my dad quit smoking and deposited his cigarette quarters in Miss Piggy. Eighteen years later, those quarters were well on the way for paying for my undergraduate degree.

            A novice at life, I began my career teaching eighth graders language arts at Paul Hadley Middle School in Mooresville. After four years, I left to dabble in journalism. After the kids were born, I taught English night classes at IUPUI. Later I taught eighth graders at Greenwood Middle School, enjoying the fun staff and memorable but sometimes quirky students.

            As God often does, He transplanted me from my comfort zone and opened a door to work in nonprofit communications, first at my church Mount Pleasant Christian, and then at Center for Global Impact. For the first time, I received a paycheck for writing instead of teaching. It felt good to practice what I’d taught.

            Fast forward to 2019. I wanted my third book to be about the importance of legacy since God had blessed us with three amazing and beyond-cute granddaughters. I thought a Bible study researching the Old Testament’s emphasis on legacy would be interesting. Yet when I sat down that March morning and prayed, my soul heard a still, small voice, “Joyce, what do you know about your legacy?”

            My faith journey had begun.

Confessions of a Rookie Novelist

Every decade or so, I fish through the file cabinet for the original manuscript of my first novel—The Scott Twins in the Jewelry Mystery.  Sound familiar? Especially for you Baby Boomers?

            Yes, my first printed story. Literally, because I hadn’t learned cursive writing yet. In 1961, I’d copied Laura Lee Hope’s Bobbsey Twins children’s mystery format by simply changing names. In second grade, I had no idea what plagiarizing meant. Nor did I know anything about intellectual property.

            This rookie story had seven chapters starting with Snappy’s Find and ending with chapter seven’s A Reward. Can you guess the plot? My seven-year-old mind thought it sparkled, even on the dingy wide-spaced paper whose penciled words and erasures can still be seen.

            At the time, my mother worked at Crane Naval Depot in southern Indiana as a clerk typist. Maybe my work of fiction impressed her or maybe not, but she lent her typing skills and onion skin paper to publish her firstborn’s premiere piece.

            Mom let me cut out photos from our Sears Catalog to paste on a thick brown folder. I still remember the power of using those scissors to find two sets of perfect twins. That my mother trusted me with scissors was even more astonishing.

            Somehow, I instinctively knew each set of twins needed names that started with the same letter. Alliteration, if you can recall 8th grade English. Meet Bonnie and Bobbie, Nancy and Ned. Ms. Hope had paved the way with her plot and characters.

            Why is any of this relevant? A few months ago, I finished writing the first full draft of a historical novel that features my mother as a child and a young adult. My prayer is that our granddaughters will advance past the The Scott Twins and the Jewelry Mystery and someday enjoy reading about their great-grandmother.

            Even still, Mom’s encouragement continues to motivate me to reach beyond what I think is possible.

I’m There!

Last week one of my favorite writers, who doubles as my dentist, shared his experiences from El Salvador.  Not your typical tourist, Doug Harty or Doctor Doug as Haitians call him, travels the world to provide medical and dental expertise in the name of Jesus for some of the poorest, most neglected people walking this planet.

What I most enjoy about Doug’s writing is he puts me in the moment. When I read his emails, I’m there with him. When I visit his office, I see those experiences portrayed in photographs.  

A recent email paints the picture: “I write from under a beautiful, red-blossomed tree in the clinic area.  It is 87, the sun is bright, but it feels amazing and I have had just a wonderful day!  Birds are singing, there is talk from the patients who are leaving and the drone of the students helping us in the air. They laugh, and mess around after a hard day of helping us and patients, and I am enjoying sitting back and taking all of it in.”

I’ve never been to El Salvador but through Doug’s words, I’m there. That is what I’ve always loved about reading. It takes me places I’ve never been and shares experiences I may never have. Good writers do that for their readers.

The power of the written word is just that—powerful! Don’t underestimate the impact a note, a remembrance, or even an email can make.

In like a lamb, out like a lion! Even if reversed, the March weather proverb describes our year, one that began with my partial knee replacement. That transcribes as lots of rehab and taking it easy. My end goal was to hike Utah’s amazing national parks with no pain in September. That prayer came true!

But what you might not know is that I sent a book manuscript, one that had been in the works for almost a decade, to CrossLink Publishing the day before my surgery. My thought process? I figured if they rejected it, I’d still be on painkillers and wouldn’t care. Strangely enough, the same day I quit taking the meds, the publisher emailed he wanted the book.

During this time, our daughter announced she was pregnant. A few weeks later, our son and daughter-in-law shared their same surprising news. So the lion part of our year began when our second granddaughter was born September 1, the night before we hiked the Delicate Arch in Moab with only four hours sleep. Our son and his wife gave birth to our third granddaughter October 23. Fifty-three days and 1,470 miles apart, the two girls entered this world, raising our grandchild total to 3.

Three is definitely a good number! Trinity: Walk in Love, Forgiveness and Peace was locally released two weeks later, November 9. In a way, it, too, was a birth, a labor of love chronicling how God had revealed Himself to me over the past decade. Through nature, travel, deaths, weddings and births, God, in His magnificent fullness, revealed Himself by ministering to my family and me.

As another year closes, let’s take the time to reflect upon the One who loves us enough to be our Father, our Savior, and our Counselor.

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