We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

It Takes a Team . . . (Behind the Scenes # 4)

Do you ever scan through the Acknowledgments of a book? I do. Maybe because it tells a little bit more about the story. 

Today, I want to give you a glimpse of the team behind Penned Without Ink. This book would never have been born without my writing critique group. I'm indebted to these writers who sit at my dining room table every other Monday. This is how it works. We each bring copies of a piece/chapter we've written and read our work aloud. The others, pen in hand, give input and offer suggestions. What works? What's unclear? What would make it better? It didn't take long for me to realize that accepting criticism with a teachable spirit is part of the writing process.

With time, our group has grown closer. We laugh together, cry together, brainstorm together, pray together, cheer each other on, and shoot emails back and forth for feedback on our latest projects. What a gift these dear writer friends are. May I introduce you to them?

Barbara writes wonderful stories for children. Cindy gives history a heartbeat with her middle grade Underground Railroad novel, Dark Enough to See the Stars. Sherry, speaker, author, and creator of But-Kickers: Growing Your Faith Bigger Than your "But!" combines humor with deep truths from Scripture. Becky, who brings a three-inch thick synonym finder to our meetings, wordsmiths science fun for children and offers her Martha's Vineyard books to vacationers each summer. Jo Ann writes with flair as she shares devotionals and stories about her time in China and living on Layton Road. Over the years Vi, Shari, Leslee, Gail, and Cheryl have also made significant contributions to my writing journey.

The team at Lighthouse  Publishing of the Carolinas, with Eddie Jones as Founder and CEO, patiently worked with me over several years. Cindy, the acquisitions editor who handed me a contract last summer, is overseeing my book, making sure it goes through the process smoothly. Andrea has worked with me through two edits and more. She smoothed out the wrinkles and graciously asked, "What do you think?" The Design Team is presently working on the book layout and has put together a marvelous cover. I can't wait to show it to you! Soon the Marketing Team will step in with guidance and direction.

I solicited permission from every person named in our story. Ten people graciously read the manuscript and wrote an endorsement. Then there are the "beta readers," friends with laser-sharp eyes who look for mistakes, reading with expertise. Last but not least are the "influencers" who believe in our story and its power to offer hope in the hard times. They act as the front runners to get the word out and share the book with others.  

Authors don't write their books alone. We gratefully depend on many others to help us. No wonder we want to include a page to say "Thank You."

Life's a little like writing a book, wouldn't you say? We need community, a team of cheerleaders, critiquers, and come-along-siders . . . the give and take of faithful interaction . . . all to push us toward our potential and bring out the best in each other's life stories. 

Photos from bing.com/images 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Memory of a Man

One year.

The events of May 15, 2015 changed my life and the lives of many others forever. It's been a year since my husband, Barry, passed away. 

2014 Birthday
A year of tears, loneliness, and loss. A year of uncertainty mixed with grit and determination. A year of learning about cars, home repairs, finances, health insurance, and legal matters. A year of trying to think of what he might decide . . . and of learning about myself . . . without the man who would do anything for me.

It's also been a year filled with grace. A year of experiencing God's loving-kindness and mercy day after day, night after night. Even through the tears. Even when I paced the floor wondering what to do. Even when one more thing went wrong. God's grace often showed up in the form of new friends and old, who came along side at just the right time to give counsel, coach me through home projects, and offer wisdom about everything from tax questions to gardening

Barry with his siblings
So, how does one commemorate a life? What would you do? On Friday, I found our local Red Cross and gave blood. It seemed fitting in light of our car accident in 2003 when someone else's life-giving blood saved Barry's life. Our family is spending the weekend together, the girls cutting squares from Barry's shirts to make quilts. Good memories mingled with masculine patterns and the hum of sewing machines somehow seem comforting. 
Mexico in 2002

The words of Steve Green's song have played themselves over and over in my mind during these months: "May all who come behind us find us faithful." When a person passes on, everything is left behind. I've done my share of sorting Barry's "everything" over the last year. And as I've sifted through boxes and files and papers and drawers, I've found him faithful. Faithful to God. Faithful to me. Faithful to our girls.  A wonderful legacy. 
Memory Quilt, May 15, 2016

So, today as we remember Barry, I pray we will be faithful . . . in the little things and in the big things . . . and that we will run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:2). 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Behind the Scenes # 3: Ready. Set . . . No?

I felt ready. Ready, after a half a dozen years, to share my journey through trauma and change--a journey I didn't choose or could ever imagine.

Helicopter Pilot, Altoona Hospital
I let my mind wander down hospital hallways, beside hushed, uncertain bedsides, and into the busy room of rehab centers. Once again, I looked into the misty eyes of my children, who had to be so brave. I remembered, with gratitude and guilt, how they and others cared for me and my husband over many months. Memories poured over me in vivid color, always with one common thread. From the moment of the multi-car pile-up, God surrounded us with His grace.

And so, with the support of my family, a few friends, and my writers' group, I began to write. But writing a book isn't that easy.

I brought my idea to a writers' conference only to be told my book didn't have much of a chance to succeed. I needed a platform, and in addition to the story, a practical or spiritual takeaway. The next year, I brought the first six chapters of a Bible study with the themes of God's Story, My Story, and Your Story. A wonderful idea, some said, but each Bible study publisher already has a format in place. It would be better to use my themes in a non-fiction work. They even gave me a word count. But culture and markets change. I had expanded my platform and offered a takeaway, but now the book was too long.

Seven years have passed since my first attempt. I'm grateful for the advice I received. In the process, I have unwittingly and painstakingly learned the craft of writing . . . and waiting.

My story begins on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 10:53 a.m. on Saturday, April 5, 2003. Bit by bit the chapters came together as I poured over articles, reports,  journals, emails, photos, eye-witness accounts . . . and recalled many quiet conversations I will always cherish. Each one involved in the aftermath of our car accident has his or her own story.

This is mine.
The events unfolded in Penned Without Ink reflect what I saw, felt, struggled through, and dared pray for. At the same time, our families and friends experienced the story in very different ways, often no less painful. I could never have written this book without their perspectives, so willingly given. I carefully pieced their stories together with mine, like shards of a mosaic, to form picture after picture of our story. Even then, my book reflects only one journey of many. All of us walk forward changed, with the assurance that, even in the darkest of times. God writes our stories with purpose.

We can trust Him.