I loved English including the writing assignments back in high school, more years ago than I might care to remember. My final grade twelve project, a short story, received a very good mark which has been lost to time. In my mind's eye I can still vividly see the teacher's last remark at the end of the piece, "You have an unrealistic viewpoint." I told no one about the comment or asked what it really meant. I simply felt it negated the great mark and maybe I could not or should not write.
My English professor, in first year university, added to my inner negative voice with a failing grade on the first essay assignment. The big red circle around the number 40 stared at me. The comment beside it read, "You didn't answer the question!" Beating back the tears and humiliation, I chose to make an appointment with him to discover what I needed to learn in order to succeed. His answer, "You're in university. You should just know." left me uncertain about how to proceed.
My plan included regurgitating what the professor spouted in class. It helped me pass the class but did not teach me anything constructive. I promised myself I would write enough to pass my classes but never write for anyone else to read. The joy of writing, the longing to put ideas on paper could not enter into my thinking. I was not a writer!
Years later my husband began pestering me to write about the journey with our youngest daughter after her stroke at birth. I had continued to write in journals, especially details of everyday life with the challenges of raising a daughter with special needs. I intended to keep the promise I made to myself to never write for others to read, including my husband and family. Even my dear hubby had no idea of how much I used to enjoy writing. My answer to his periodic requests remained the same, "I can't! I am not a writer!"
This dance around writing this story that needed telling continued for years. Our daughter, Amee, started to plead with me to tell her story so others would understand. The refusals became harder but continued to escape my lips. I did not consider this might be the time God needed to do some alterations in my attitude.
Hubby and daughter began to wear down the wall of resistance built around my heart. I sat at the computer and attempted to start this on going story. I hit delete. After a few weeks I tried again with the same results. Fast forward through many starts and deletes. To combat the inadequacy and the writing going nowhere, I opted to spend time sorting all the reports and notes. I organized everything chronologically, read every piece of information and researched a few terms to make sure I still understood them.
With nothing left to sort, I began again but did not hit delete. One chapter and then two appeared on the screen before the mental block of how to continue surfaced. I wanted to give up. Who was I to think I could write? Why did my loved ones push me so hard?
A friend saw a poster for a Christian Writers conference in Saskatoon and urged me to attend. You can only imagine all the excuses which came out of my mouth. But God had a plan. My friend, husband and daughter would not let me give up. They encouraged, cajoled, pushed, prayed and did whatever they felt might work on any given day.
I entered that conference room with heart racing and beads of sweat popping out on my brow. Yet people welcomed me. I met some amazing people from Inscribe like Marcia Laycock and Jan Dick. I found myself enjoying the day. I added to the bravery and went to a monthly meeting of His Imprint and continued to go back each month to listen to others read their works in progress, hear encouraging words and helpful hints.
It took a few more months of being stuck with my writing until I took that first chapter and read part of it out loud to other more experienced, published authors. I needed help. I remember Bonnie Grove being very quiet and not offering suggestions. After the meeting I cornered her and asked for her help. She asked me several questions and then bluntly told me to cut a number of things and start at a different spot. After delivering her thoughts she walked away.
I must admit I had thoughts running through my head like, "Who does she think she is? It's my story." which turned to, "Carol you asked her what she thought and told her to be honest. You're stuck. What can it hurt to try it her way."
The next time I sat at my computer I opened a new file and began in the spot Bonnie suggested. I tightened up the writing making sure only pertinent words and information made it to the page. This unstuck my writing and it began to flow from chapter to chapter. It remained my story, only done in a way to grab the reader's attention.
Thank you Bonnie. Thank you to each person who I met at the conference and the His Imprint group. You encouraged, taught, critiqued and helped me move from my refusal to even try to thinking I might be able to.
It took several years of work from those first weeks of sorting material and research until the book was ready for more edits, cover design and publication in January 2010. God has used the story in places I could not imagine, touched lives I may never know about and allowed me to share one glimpse for others that the God of the Bible is still God today. He had a plan for me which I resisted for a long time. He had a plan for the book, Amee's Story which goes beyond anything I could ever have imagined. Things do not always look like what we expect but I am glad I finally listened and let God lead the way into this new venture.
Carol Harrison, B.Ed. from Saskatoon, has published one book, Amee’s Story, and has short stories in fifteen anthologies including eight Chicken Soup for the Soul books and two of Susan King’s Short and Sweet books. She has a passion for sharing stories from real-life experiences and God’s Word to help others find a glimmer of hope.