In 1999, I was twenty-eight years old and had already published over one hundred articles for national publications. I’d also been contracted to work on two book projects for well-known publishers. Still, I felt far from successful. I needed to do something more. For five years I’d labored full-time on my own book projects with no luck. I just have to try harder, write more, I thought. It didn’t help. In fact, nothing worked until I stopped writing and started living.
It all began when my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and moved into our home. Between doctor’s appointments, hospice visits, taking care of my husband and three children, there was little time to pen prose. My grandfather passed away after only four months, but inside I was changed. It was as if my heart had been rubbed raw with sandpaper. My eyes were opened to pain, and I had a new appreciation for helping those in need.
Just a few months after my grandfather’s death, I started a non-profit agency that helps women and children in need. I cried with young moms who struggled to balance their numerous, overwhelming tasks. I used my writing skills to create a community newsletters and to write grants. At night I often felt drained by the number of young women who needed assistance—who needed hope—yet, I also felt a renewed sense of satisfaction.
A year later, I was able to take a break from my growing organization to make a trip to Europe with two friends. One day, after visiting Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria, the true events of WWII inspired a new novel idea. After arriving home, I poured the story onto the paper, writing from the perspective of a Nazi wife forced to witness the horrors of a death camp, yet powerless to do anything about it. The story was different from than anything I’d written before. It expressed a young woman’s helplessness and pain—things I’d recently learned about on deeper levels.
Within nine months my agent called to let me know I had a contract for my first novel, From Dust and Ashes (Moody Publishing). It was released January 2003 and has done well. My next WWII novel, Night Song (Moody Publishing), was released in 2004. Eighteen more books, both fiction and non-fiction have released since then.
During that time, I was also contracted to write a non-fiction book, Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom (Zondervan). This non-fiction, self-help book hit store shelves Spring of 2004. It’s a book especially written to meet the needs of the young moms I worked with—needs that older, married moms have a hard time understanding.
I don’t think these successes are a coincidence. For years as freelancer I thought I was doing it all right. I followed the formulas and kept “pounding out the words.” And though those words sounded good on paper something more was needed before they became alive on the page.
For me that “something more” was to experience life with those hurting and in need. It was only then that I had something worthy to share. My sandpapered heart now bleeds onto the page, and I’m able to connect in a new way with readers who often find themselves helpless, hurting, and in need of hope.