October 18, 2018

The Story That Changed My Life - Gloria Guest

It was just a high school English essay assignment. And although I enjoyed English and writing I was a procrastinator, just as I am now. And so I postponed it until the night before it was due. To make matters worse, our family was getting company that evening. And so I rushed to get it done. I handed it in and forgot about it.

When my English teacher handed back my story, she had written on the top that she thought that I should enter it into a National Writing Contest for high school students. I was pleased with my good mark and felt complimented by her suggestion and then I forgot about it.

My teacher, did not forget about it. Diminutive in stature she made up for it in determination and what I considered down-right nagging behaviour by constantly reminding me of the deadline to enter.  It was only when she took to stopping me in the hallway and at my locker that I acknowledged her as the victor of our little stand-off. She had hit me right where I couldn’t take it; putting me in the spotlight in front of my friends and others. I could see that she wouldn’t quit. And so, during my noon hours I typed out my good copy, taking note of her editorial comments and entered in that silly contest. And then I forgot about it.

It was sometime in the spring that the results from the contest came in and I was told by my very excited, beaming English teacher that I had placed first place in Alberta for my entry and would receive a scholarship. I was stunned. And due to my low enthusiasm and self- esteem I felt somewhat embarrassed. She had to hound me in the hallway once again to show up to have my picture taken with the award for the yearbook and the moment I had to step on stage in front of the entire high school to accept that award was awkward and anxiety producing. However, I was happy about the money. I knew I could put it to good use somewhere; I just didn’t know where. And so I put it in the bank in a savings account and for the most part forgot about it.

That summer I worked in Edmonton. I hadn’t had a lot of freedom in my life and so my newfound freedom in Edmonton was a little heady for me. I would ride the busses around the city, looking for work or finding interesting places. It was on one of these outings that I met a guy, who became my boyfriend. Little did I know though that the truck he picked me up in for our first date was actually stolen and later in the summer he ended up in prison.  And so, with my one reason for staying in Edmonton gone, I decided to go with plan B and head to Bible College in Eston, Sk. with the money I had from my scholarship being the only money I had to even begin to pay for my tuition.

It was at College that I began to lay down a more secure foundation in my life than I had ever experienced before. I was a Christian but my compass had become shaky, my faith weak and my attitude towards life and God was cynical, mistrusting and still on the rebellious side. I needed a lot of inner healing but that would only come in time, down through the years. But God had a plan. He knew that a big part of that healing would come in the form of a young man that I met one day at the college mail boxes; a man who would become my future husband. I don’t recall what exactly we said to each other after hello, but I must have shared something about my life because apparently my future husband went back to his dorm room and prayed to God for an opportunity to help me. God answered his prayer. We married two and a half years later and he has had many opportunities to be a support to me in my healing journey for thirty-five years now! {And I to him}.

I’ve often thought of the difference in my life that writing that story made. And the difference that one teacher made. My own rebellion almost didn’t allow any of it to happen. But God was stronger  and He prevailed. He has prevailed over my stubbornness, my hard-heartedness, my fight or flight responses that I learned growing up and many more of my ingrained attitudes. Through everything I’ve been through and each stage of my journey He has taught me more about His love and His grace.

I realize that I didn’t even tell you what my story was about. That’s not the real story here though. The real story is what played out behind the scenes. It’s the story that in all reality changed the trajectory of my life. It’s a story that I’ll never forget.

October 17, 2018

The Story Behind the Story by Lynn Dove

The Story Behind “Even Though I Walk Through the Valley”

In 2011, I won a Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Award for an article I wrote in 2010, entitled, “Even Though I Walk Through the Valley”.  My daughter had suffered a traumatic miscarriage and our entire family was trying to negotiate the deep, deep valley of grieving the loss of what would have been our first grandchild.  For my daughter, it was an intense time of sorrow as she and her husband sought comfort from the Lord, but also asked those “Why?” questions of God.  For me, seeing my child suffer so in her grief, led me to express my heartache in writing for her in particular, but also writing and posting an article on my Journey Thoughts blog for all those navigating mountaintop as well as valley experiences in their lifetimes.

One of my favourite places is the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island.  My husband grew up there, and we continue to visit the area on a regular basis.  It seemed a fitting setting to describe the beauty of both the mountaintop of Mount Washington and the Comox Valley.  I was so well-acquainted with the area it was easy for me to contrast the actual setting of Comox, and to use it as a wonderful analogy for the “mountaintop” and “valley” experiences of life. 

I did a fair bit of research on the article as I read commentaries and online articles that exegeted the 23rd Psalm so I could get a better understanding of the wording and meaning of that beautiful Psalm.  I was especially captivated by the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep as he leads his flock to greener pastures in search of nourishment.  Sheep follow the shepherd as he guides them up and over rocky terrain.  Like sheep, we follow the Good Shepherd, Jesus.  He knows us and we know Him.  “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—“  (John 10:14)

I camped out for weeks in the Psalms and read and reread Psalm 23.  One line in particular drew most of my attention: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley…” (Psalm 23:4)  One word, “through” jumped off the page at me and I took note of it in my notes, and then when I wrote the article I highlighted it in the last paragraph of my article:

“My family and I are walking through one of those “valleys” right now.  Notice I say we’re “walking through“, we’re not rushing through it, nor are we going to camp here indefinitely.  We’re walking through, taking our time, being comforted by the Good Shepherd, and we’ll move on when He says move on.  Until such time, we will take nourishment from Him here in the valley, and though our eyes may stray to the mountain from time to time, we will find rest and comfort here for now.  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

It is humbling that this article still gets read and commented on eight years after it was originally published.  Its message is timeless, I suppose.  My sweet daughter, walked through that particular valley of miscarriage only to carry to term our first grandson in February, 2011.   Two years later our granddaughter was born.  When our daughter-in-law suffered two miscarriages before giving birth to a boy in December 2017, and then our fourth grandbaby in May 2018, we walked through those dark valleys with her before we experienced the mountaintop joy of welcoming those boys into our family. 

Lynn Dove is the award-winning author, of the YA “Wounded Trilogy”- a contemporary Christian fiction series with coming-of-age themes.  A wife, mom, grandmother, and free-lance writer with articles published in several magazines and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul books, her blog, “Journey Thoughts” is a Canadian Christian Writing Award winner.  Readers may connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and at lynndove.com 



October 16, 2018

The Heart of the Story by Nina Faye Morey

Many of my stories are based on events in my life. My stories aren’t driven by these experiences, but by the emotions they elicit. Writing about these memories from the heart means my feelings will form the heart of the story. If I can tap into these emotions, then my tales will touch my readers. They may not have experienced a similar event, but I know they will have experienced the same emotions.

My readers want to be immersed in my fictional world. They want to identify with my protagonist—or perhaps, they favour the antagonist. Therefore, I need to create characters my readers can become emotionally invested in. Then what touches my characters’ hearts will also move the hearts of my readers. They will see the world through her eyes; feel what she feels. For instance, they may never have experienced skydiving, but they want to feel the adrenaline rush, the emotional high, the heart-pounding fear my character feels as she steps out of the plane into the void of space, putting her faith in a skimpy piece of nylon.

Whether my readers will be drawn into and emotionally satisfied by this scene depends solely on my skill as a writer. You see, I’ve never actually parachuted from a plane, but that needn’t stop me from creating a spellbinding scene. Remember, it’s not the events but the feelings that are at the heart of the story. So to make it believable, I’ll need to mine memorable events in my life for those strong feelings of excitement, fear, and faith. I can’t be afraid to relive and reveal my personal memories and heartfelt emotions. They’re vital to my success as a writer.

Therefore, I’m pleased to share “the story behind the story” of “Isabella’s Green Shamrock Sweater” (Canadian Messenger, March 2010, pp. 24-5). The inspiration for this story was my memory of being bullied by classmates for wearing green to school the Friday before St. Patrick’s Day. Managing to free my heart from the pain of hurt feelings through forgiveness is what forms the heart of the story. Here is an excerpt:

“Why are you wearing that sweater with green shamrocks?” Jenna demanded to know in a haughty tone as she came up behind Isabella.

“My grandmother knit this sweater for me to wear on St. Patrick’s Day,” Isabella replied proudly.

“Today isn’t St. Patrick’s Day, stupid!” Robin sneered.

“Yeah, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t until Saturday,” Jenna added with her usual air of superiority.

“And you’re not Irish, anyway! So why are you even celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?” Robin taunted Isabella as she shoved her into a corner of the cloakroom. Isabella recovered her balance just in time to feel Jenna shove her from the other side.

A crowd of students began to gather around the threesome. Isabella felt her face flush and tears welled up in her eyes as she turned to see that some were merely staring, while several others were laughing at her.

When Miss Fran, Isabella’s history teacher, learns of her classmates’ bullying, she uses it as an opportunity to teach her class the story of St. Patrick. They learn how he was captured by Irish marauders as a teenager and sold into slavery. Relying on prayer and a vision from the Holy Spirit, he escapes after six years. He eventually forgives his captors for the hardship and hurt they caused him and returns to Ireland as a Christian missionary and bishop. Miss Fran urges her class to honour him on St. Patrick’s Day by following his example of forgiveness.

Unfortunately, it’s the traumatic events in our lives that form our most indelible memories and trigger our most intense emotions. That’s the reason I chose this childhood incident of bullying as “the story behind the story.” 

Photo Credits: Pixabay

October 15, 2018

Too Many Stories! by Tracy Krauss

This month we're sharing the 'story behind the story'. But which story? I must admit my imagination is often fueled by many and varied stimuli...

Conspiracy of Bones (formerly And the Beat Goes On) - inspired by research while homeschooling my kids when we discovered holes in evolutionary theory compared to documented evidence backing up intelligent design and what the Bible says about creation.

My Mother the Man-Eater - inspired partly by characters I had created while playing the 'Sims' and studying the book of Hosea. I love the boundless grace of God displayed in this story - and the title came to me in the shower!

Play It Again - inspired by listening to the radio while driving one time (don't remember the song!) and my friend's account of visiting Hecla Island (in Manitoba) for a conference.

Wind Over Marshdale - inspired by my hometown of Mossbank, various real life 'characters' we met in our many moves, and an interest in Native spirituality as it relates to Christianity after many lively discussions with several Indigenous friends who have strong views on all sides of the debate.

Neighbours Series 1 - inspired by 'people watching' in airports and coffee shops along with conversations with family and friends about 'boom and bust' economic cycles, especially around non-renewable resources and agriculture. Also inspired by Maeve Binchy's style of using multiple POVs to tell one story. Parts of this book were written as a 'nanowrimo' project.

Keeping Up With the Neighbours Series 2 - readers seemed to really like Jed Malloy, a minor character from Series 1, (and I did too!) so I tapped into my many Newfie friends and wrote a whole book about Jed's family. So fun! I love these guys!

Lone Wolf - The question, "But what happened to Thomas?" (from Wind Over Marshdale) kept re-occurring. Plus, I also felt drawn to his character and wanted him to get a happy ending, so I wrote this short novella length sequel.

Three Strand Cord - Ecclesiastics 4:12 (a three strand cord is not easily broken) was the starting point coupled with my observations that close friends and even couples aren't necessarily 'compatible', yet it works somehow, because one person's strengths balance the other's weaknesses. This one also started as a 'nanowrimo' project, too.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! I've got many more in various stages of 'completeness' - inspired by:  my love of science fiction; a conversation with my son about early eastern block hockey players who literally took their lives in their hands by defecting; an idea that came after hearing about a mercy killing on the news; a drive along a windy road full of switchbacks... the list goes on! And I didn't even mention my children's book inspired by a song my mother used to sing to us as kids, or some non-fiction based on speaking engagements, or my need to organize my prayer journals, or my plays. Now there is another whole blog post!

Some people think I'm full of energy because, from appearances, it looks like I'm quite productive. Perhaps I am, but it's mostly because my head is so full I have to keep producing in order to let off some of the pressure!

Tracy Krauss just keeps on letting off steam as she writes, writes, writes from her home in Northern BC. Visit her website for more - fiction on the edge without crossing the line - http://tracykrauss.com

October 14, 2018

Equipped: How God Prepared Me to Write My Latest Book - Ruth L. Snyder

God is amazing! When was the last time you stopped and worshipped Him—not because you wanted or needed anything, but because you just enjoy fellowshipping with Him so much?

As I look back at how God prepared me to write Equipped: Ephesians 6 Devotionals to Empower and Make You Victorious in Everyday Struggles, I am amazed at His grace and mercy, and humbled that He chooses to use weak earthly vessels like me to share His glorious message.

I first heard about God, my Heavenly Father, from my earthly parents. I heard them praying when people were afraid to come to church because lightening struck the giant tree where our church members met. I watched their example of standing firm in faith against witch doctors and their curses. I experienced God's financial provision for our family.

Jesus Christ became my personal Saviour when I confessed my sin and accepted His forgiveness as a five-year-old. Four years later, I attended school five hundred miles away from where my parents were working, and the "faith of my fathers" became my own faith in practical ways. Several years after that, I was challenged to stand firm in my faith while attending a Christian school where others made fun of my devotion to Jesus. Camp ministry during my high school summers provided many opportunities to share the gospel, nurture others in their faith, and play the piano by ear. During these years a couple of high school teachers encouraged me in my writing and gave me practical experience working on the school newsletter and yearbook. After graduation, I chose to attend Prairie Bible College, where the foundation of my faith was further strengthened. I was able to experience a variety of work including cleaning, supervising, doing computer work for a college teacher, and helping teachers rewrite course syllabi. When I finished college, I enjoyed working in the Prairie Book Room, where I learned how to place orders, track stock, and deal with frustrated customers.

Then God began the training in earnest. My husband and I experienced the confusion and pain of infertility and a miscarriage. My first published article, Gifts From A Loving God, chronicled our journey through loss into the incredible and challenging world of adopting children with special needs. My writing journey continued as I took courses from The Children's Institute of Literature, joined The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship, entered contests and began blogging. This led to more opportunities for publication and eventually I wrote my first set of ebooks: Learn Twitter—10 Beginning Steps and Learn Twitter—10 Intermediate Steps. When people asked for a paperback version, I learned how to self-publish on Amazon with Twitter Decoded: Tips and Tools for Authors. My spiritual journey deepened as I experienced challenges in parenting, marriage, and leadership. My writing life and spiritual journey continued to intersect. God took me through deep waters where I knew I was helpless without Him: a prodigal child, separation from my husband, and my dad's struggle with dementia. Our daughter is now happily married and the mother of our first grandson. My husband and I have been reunited and are working on our marriage. My dad's struggle with dementia makes me look forward to heaven.

When God laid on my heart that I should write a devotional on spiritual warfare, based on Ephesians 6:10-18, I resisted. However, God's still, small voice persisted. (I share more detail in my devotional in the November 2018 issue of FellowScript.) Today the manuscript is in the final edits. My goal is to have the ebook and paperback available in November.

Are you writing a book? Tell us about it and share the story behind your work!

Sheila Webster and other executive members
presented me with this cross in 2016, which
reminds me to put on the full armour of God!

Ruth L. Snyder lives in northeastern Alberta with her husband and children. She writes in a variety of genres, sharing the lessons God is teaching her about walking with God, parenting, marriage, self publishing, and healthy living. Connect with Ruth at ruthlsnyder.com.