Called to Story

by Kristy Cambron

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story… —Psalm 107:2 (NIV)

“Isn’t your hand going to get tired after signing that in each book?”

I was standing at a podium, signing a stack of books at a large library conference. I’d prayed about it, and felt led to write a specific phrase and Bible verse in the front cover of each book. And yes– with a Sharpie in hand, it amounted to a small paragraph for each person, all the way down a signing line.
I smiled at the reader, closed the cover and handed her the book. She couldn’t know I was thinking back to the days when a book signing line was still a dream for me.

“No. My hand won’t get tired. I’ve waited all year to sign this book for you, and I want to do it well.”

Authors are often asked why we write.

Having a clear understanding of why we’re called to story is critical to the task of creation. It’s a source of inspiration we can draw from when the word-well dries up. It’s a reminder of our eternal motivation when earthly setbacks threaten to derail. And it’s a powerful testimony to God’s faithfulness when we create stories with Him, at the same time we create stories about Him.

I told that reader I’d waited all year to sign her book because she’s the reason I was called to story. With the hours/days/weeks of the time it took to agonize over every word choice,editing decision, and proofing mark in that book, I made a down payment. The down payment of my time came on the front end, so I could earn maybe sixty seconds of her time later. And of that sixty seconds in a book signing line, it would be a win if I could share something of the truth, and life, and love, and absolute grace of Jesus Christ.

The why I write? Down payments of grace.

It took me a while to get there. To see writing–and story–through the lens of grace. It may have started out as dream-chasing a publishing contract. I may have envisioned books on the shelves with lovely covers and my name printed on the front. Or leaving a career I didn’t enjoy for one that truly fed the innermost parts of my soul. And may have continued on the writing journey in part, because of the fellowship of believers putting stunning books to market. All of these markers fed my walk on the road to publication. But it took one plane ride… one conversation of faith… one opportunity to see that grace shared with a stranger… and the why I write became crystal clear.

The man sitting next to me on the plane had a book tucked in his seat-back pocket.

We bookish folk notice things like that, so I kept my eye on the title. And as polite conversation goes, the man and I chatted on our plane ride home from Dallas. He talked about his life choice to follow Atheism. I asked questions. He answered. And I talked about my life choice to surrender to Jesus. He asked questions. I answered. There was respect, and genuine curiosity from both of us. And when the time came to talk about books, and what I do, and why I write– I asked to see that novel in his seat-back pocket.

Imagine my heart palpitations when I turned the binding over in my hands and saw the stamp from a faith-based publisher.

The man told me he was enjoying the story and planned to purchase more books by the author. This was a man who had no interest in faith. Or Jesus. Or the depths of His grace. But where I hadn’t earned this man’s trust and couldn’t go to that level of depth– the author had, and could.

I will never forget that plane ride.

I smiled. Handed the book back. I didn’t mention the publisher. I simply told him I hoped he enjoyed the story and would go out to purchase more of them. Because I knew that if the author was working on a new book, he was already thick in the down payment process to earn hours on a plane ride, and sixty seconds in a book signing line somewhere down the road.

Some author’s sixty seconds could be for this man.

Writers– if your heart is called to story, make sure you’re first called to the why long before you start working on the what. Because while it’s incredible to be a part of the conversation of grace with lovely book covers and your name printed on the front, that comes later. Way later. What comes first is the time of making down payments. Of agonizing over every word. Of spending time in editing. Of digging through proofing decisions and characters and plot maps… of spending hours/days/weeks making down payments on future grace.

So, no. My hand didn’t tire that day. I signed that short paragraph in every single book. And as I turned the cover over and saw the faith-based publisher stamp on the binding, I remembered what it took to get to that very moment.

And I smiled, because that’s why I was called to story.


Book Summary:

Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926— Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

Kristy Cambron has a background in art and design, but she fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. She is the author of The Ringmaster’s Wife, named to Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Religion & Spirituality TOP 10. Her novels have been named to Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books and RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards Best lists, and received a 2015 INSPY Awards nomination for best debut novel. The Illusionist’s Apprentice (HarperCollins, 2017) is her fourth novel. Her first Bible study DVD and study guides, The Verse Mapping Series, will release in spring, 2018.

Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University and has 15 years of experience in education and leadership development for a Fortune-100 Corporation. Kristy lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.

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