Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees
Every time I attend a writer’s conference, or travel in association with any writing related endeavor, I have a file in my briefcase called, “Why I write.” This file, composed of words God has spoken to me over the years, is for those times when I give in to the temptation of comparing myself to others and grow discouraged, or when I see how much I’ve yet to learn. That file is also for those times when I’m sitting at my computer at home, after already working ten hours and still have work to finish. I’ve turned to that file especially when those dreaded rejection slips come rolling in to my inbox.
Why do I write? In the simplest of terms, it’s because God has called me. I began keeping journals when I was eight years old. I couldn’t explain then what motivated me to keep an account of my life, and the happenings around me, but I know now it was God related. Journaling has been many things to me--therapeutic, consoling, a way of declaring the truth, worshipful, but in addition to these things, it has paved the path for me to become a writer.
Up until about ten years ago, my writing endeavors consisted of journaling and song writing. I saw myself as a singer/songwriter and experienced joy in expressing God’s word through song. However, in 1998 I began to sense in my spirit a shifting of sorts, some yet indefinable unrest in that area. I began to have dreams at night where I saw myself moving into a new place, and as time went on, I realized that area was writing. When I sat down to connect the dots of what had at first seemed unrelated spoken encouragements from people throughout my life, I realized, too, that when connected, these dots all pointed to one thing—moving more fully into a writing career.
In 1999, I briefly corresponded with Jan Karon, author of the Mitford series. An encouraging note she wrote to me is framed and hangs in my office to this day. Her words served as confirmation to the writing calling I already felt in my heart.
I tried as much as possible to walk in this new calling by producing two devotional booklets shared with family and friends. One of the big signposts in my life occurred at a Christian family camp high in the Montana mountains in 2001. The experience bears a strong similarity to one a character has in Coming to Currahee. Someone I’d never met before simply came up to me and said, “Do it afraid.” The fear of stepping onto a larger stage and falling flat on my face was huge. I thought maybe I’d stop feeling afraid and could more easily take the plunge, but I knew because of this admonition that I had to do it no matter how I felt.
In 2005, the event that really changed everything occurred. And it all seemed so random at the time. I had to pick up some Bible study materials in the Atlanta area, and the store that had them just a week before had sold out. I was then forced to drive almost into the downtown Atlanta area to another store. I was very frustrated due to the time constraints I had that day, and was in a big hurry. I ran in the store to get the materials, paid, and when I was leaving, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a brochure on the counter. I left the store, but then turned around and came back in. I picked up the leaflet about the “Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference” and took it home with me.
Over the next few weeks, that brochure laid on my desk, then early one morning I knew I had to go. So, I registered and sent in a few things to their unpublished writer’s contest. I won three awards. When Yvonne Lehman, the organizer of the conference, retired recently, I told her that every good thing that has happened to me in writing happened because of that conference.
I saw myself at that time as a non-fiction writer. I really enjoyed article and devotional writing and actually won an award that year for one of my devotional books. But the most surprising award was the second place in short story. I remember sitting beside author Gayle Roper. When my name was announced I said, “I don’t write fiction.”
She said, “Apparently you do.”
Fear once more reared its nasty head. This was the only fiction piece I’d written since college. Fiction terrified me, because it required using the imagination. I thought the reality of nonfiction provided a firmer foundation and less risk. Once more, I entered into a period of unrest. Surely, God would not ask me to do this thing.
But, he did.
A couple of months later, I woke up in the morning from a dream with a scene about finding a desk in a basement. It wouldn’t go away, so I followed it to see where it led. It led to more than thirty chapters that became Home to Currahee.
I started work on another novel, and as I continued to work, I remembered the words of Dr. Ted Baehr, President of the Christian Film and Television Association. I’d had a class with him at Blue Ridge that year, and he said, “If you’re a novelist, write the screenplay first.” His admonition led to me writing the screenplay, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, which was a finalist at the Gideon Media Arts Conference in 2008 and 2009 and was a finalist for the Kairos Prize in Screenwriting also in 2009.
In the summer of 2010, I started my blog, “One Ringing Bell,” and have enjoyed connecting with readers.
Also, in 2010, the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers sponsored a contest for which the winner would be awarded a book deal with Westbow/Thomas Nelson. You can imagine my shock when my name was called for the novel manuscript, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees. In February of 2011, the novel also placed in the top ten for Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel and was released later that year.
My script, Brave Girl made the semi-finalists for the Kairos Prize in 2012 and 2013, and I also finished another novel manuscript, The General’s Legacy.
This year, 2014, after eight years, and many revisions, Home to Currahee is finally available.