The Story Behind the Story

Writers are always asked, “What sparked your
story?” or “What’s made you write this story?”
Chapel Springs Survival was based
on our eldest son, who got himself m 21st Century “mail-order bride”
from Columbia. The novel varied drastically from his actual story. Our
daughter-in-law is the best that ever happened to him.
When I had turned in that book to my publisher, I
asked God, “What now?”
Write your
story.
But mine wasn’t fraught with conflict. Well, there
was some, but not the kind that carries a work of fiction. Still, the idea
would leave me alone. My story happened like this:
On a hot July morning while sipping a
cup of coffee, I opened my email. Nothing breath-taking about that, except on
that particular day, I was asked a question that irrevocably changed my life: “Are you the Ane Mulligan looking for
your birthmother, Elsie Vauna Mullvain?”
It yanked the breath right out me. I’d
always known I was adopted. From the day mom and dad brought me home at three
months old, they told me I was a chosen baby. 
My childhood was idyllic…well, maybe
not for my parents, given the fact I was a barely-contained firecracker. But
for me, it was great. Born in January 1947 in Southern California, I truly was
a child of the fifties, when Cokes were a nickel and roller skates had
keys. 
I can’t say I was never curious about
my birth parents; I was. For one thing, I didn’t look like anyone. I became a
people watcher, always wondering.
In 1998, I received a letter from my
dad. It was the kind of stock paper used for official court documents.
Premonition made my heart pound. I took a deep breath, and with trembling
hands, I slowly slid it from the envelope. A sticky-note was adhered to the
outside of the folder. “I don’t know if you want this or not. Love,
Dad.”
That was all. I peeled off the yellow
sticky and caught my breath as I read:
The adoption of
Roberta Ann Mullvain
Though I’d never seen nor heard that
name before, I knew it was mine. And suddenly I wasn’t me any more. 
But
who was I?
I opened the blue folder and quickly
scanned its pages, until I saw it – my mother’s name; Elsie V. Mullvain. Countless emotions whirled. Scenarios
played out and were cast aside. I truly didn’t know how I felt or should feel.
For a word merchant, I was an empty page. I refolded the papers, and slid them
in the envelope.
Another year passed, and I’d reached an
age where changes were taking place that I wasn’t so happy about. After all,
who wants wrinkles and triceps that continued to goodbye for a full two minutes
after you’d left? I needed a place to lay the blame for the havoc gravity was
playing on my body. When I brushed my hair, I found myself staring into the
mirror, my hand pausing it in its work, wondering how did my mother age? Did I
look like her? I had a million questions and no one to ask. I decided it was
time to search for Elsie. 
In March of 1999, I received a phone
call as a result of my search. The woman said she had an Aunt Elsie Vauna
Mullvain, and she would forward my letter to her. However, this cousin
cautioned, when she’d told Elsie about my letter, her aunt said when she was
young, she’d let a friend use her name. 
That sent me to the state of Confusion
Was that true? Or was she lying to
protect herself? In truth, it made no sense. Back in the 1940s, a person’s good
name meant everything to them. I was left to wonder if my search had ended in
success, or was this only step two? I waited. A month later, I received a
letter from Elsie and with it, more of her story. 

While she told me about her situation
back then, which remarkably matched my earlier fantasies, she did not want a
relationship with me. I understood and honored that. My only other
communication was to send her flowers on her birthday that year. The card
merely said, “Thank you.” 
I didn’t contact her again. Although I
was saddened a bit, I never knew her, so the loss wasn’t as hard as it could
have been. After all, I had no mental picture of her; she was still faceless to
me. I never got a sense of her personality from her letter. Maybe it was
strength of will, but I closed that door.
However, through the cousin who had
called me I learned I had sisters. While I had a loving relationship with my
adopted brother, I’d always wanted a sister and now I had several. I prayed and
hoped one day I could find them. However, with no names, I had no way to search
for them. I relinquished the dream into God’s hands. It was never out of my
mind, though.  
On July 18th, 2009, I got an
email from a woman named Linda, asking that breath-taking question. Linda
connected me with my birth sisters. The moment I met four of them in Seattle,
they welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. One sister told me I’d spent
a lifetime lost and finally I’d come home.

Debby Jo’s words “come home” resonated in my heart
long after I returned to Atlanta, and I knew I would one day write this story. Home to Chapel Springs is that book.
A homeless author, a
theatre ghost, and a heartbroken daughter ~ there’s trouble in Chapel Springs
There’s always someone new in Chapel Springs, either coming
home or stirring up trouble. Bestselling author Carin Jardine’s latest book is
a flop. Homeless and broke, she and her little boy have no choice but to
retreat to the house she inherited from her nana in Chapel Springs—the house
that’s been gutted. Then, a stranger knocks on her door. One that will change
the course of her life. With one of her daughters in love with the wrong boy, a
theatre rumored to be haunted, and Howie Newlander and Mayor Riley go
head-to-head in a hot election, Claire gets caught in the middle.
Do you have a story that needs to be a book?

TWEETABLE:

RESCUE OPERATION

by Cynthia Ruchti

Most weekends of their college days, two young friends of mine volunteered at an animal shelter. They bathed the dogs, walked them, played, exercised them, and more than anything let them know they were appreciated. Even the saddest cases received attention they wouldn’t otherwise have known.

The shelter where the girls volunteered took great care to match abandoned animals with the right individual or family. Temperaments of both canine and humans helped inform the decisions. From the moment a dog arrived at the shelter, the goal became adoption–finding it a home. Not just any home. The right home.

In some ways, the writer’s role is similar. We discover rescue-ideas as we walk through life, take them home, spiff them up, and then look for the perfect new home for the idea–one where it will be welcomed and add to the interactive experience between thought and heart.

II Timothy 2:2 urges us to take what we’ve learned from God’s Word and from godly teachers and “entrust” those things to others who can benefit from them and communicate them to still others.

God is the ultimate economist and He invented the Rescue/Adoption principle. What we discover in His Word impacts our own lives. But it has the potential to reach beyond that moment or season to impact the lives of others as we watch for adoptive homes for those nuggets of truth.

The act of entrusting our discoveries to others opens our eyes to the depth and value of the truth. It’s often in the process of sharing–matchmaking the idea, promise, comfort, encouragement, challenge with the one waiting for it–that we see its true worth.

November is National Adoption Month. Child adoption is the focus. But perhaps we novelists can gain from considering the parallels in searching for the right home for our ideas to land. Where is the reader who is a perfect fit? Who will fall in love with “that face” of truth within our stories?

Glory Be ~ by Rachel Allord

Rachel Allord writes from central Wisconsin. A pastor’s wife and adoption advocate, Rachel speaks for women’s conferences and adoption groups and teaches writing classes via her town’s university. You can find Rachel on her website, Twitter, and Facebook
Glory Be
If we’re not
careful, we writers can be an
egocentric bunch. We love our work, love to coddle and relish and fuss over our
words, and if someone fails to appreciate our literary flair we tend to get the
tiniest bit defensive.
Published or pre-published,
rejections, unfavorable book reviews, and criticism are hard pills for a writer
to swallow. Yet for as unwelcome as they these ego jabs are, they produce
humility and help us become better writers and, hopefully, better people.
Because it’s that twentieth rejection letter or caustic review that prompts us
to wrestle with a crucial question: why
am I doing this?
why am I writing?
Naturally, writing starts
with us. (I have to get this story out of
me!
) But in time, hopefully, our motivation becomes others—to please,
entertain, enlighten, or serve others.
Our audience. Yet ultimately, for those who are striving to follow Christ, all
of our reasons for writing—feeding our inner artist and impacting an audience—should hinge on our desire to write for God’s
glory. To show Him off. To put Him in
the spotlight.
Writing for God’s glory.
It sounds a bit lofty, doesn’t it? But often we complicate matters and
conveniently shut our ears to any possibility that doesn’t neatly align with
our agenda—like the fact that seeing our name on the cover of a book isn’t a promise
from God but “I will not share my glory with another” is.
Here’s the truth, if we
can handle it: writing for God’s glory may not match the visions in our
ever-imaginative mind. It may mean that our readership is small—much smaller
than we’d hoped. Writing for God’s glory might mean that we’ll “only” be
writing for church. Or for our local newspaper. Or writing letters to kids in
third world countries. Or inmates behind bars.
Writing for God’s glory
means we are open to whatever he has for us. It means working hard, no doubt,
honing our craft, heeding the advice of those we’ve come to respect in the
industry, but holding all of that loosely—so loosely that if God so chooses to
pluck that passion from our heart and replace it with another one, we’d be okay
with that.
Easy words to type out;
harder words to live out.
I know. I’ve been there.
After over a decade of
writing and rewriting and rejections and praying and conference-going, the day
I sent my full novel proposal of Mother
of My Son
to my now publisher was one of the darkest days ever in my
personal life. As my finger hovered over my keyboard, poised to launch my baby,
a daunting and startling truth hit me: getting my story published, the story I
loved so much, hardly mattered. Not in the moment.
My once burning desire to
be a published novelist was now a mere flicker. You’ve been there at some point
I’m sure; you know how quickly unexpected troubles shift everything into proper
perspective, how sorrow can cultivate humility.
And humility is a glorious
thing. Or to be more precise, humility, ironically, is the forerunner to glory.
We are after all, no matter how many words we can churn out in a day, no matter
how many accolades we’ve received or haven’t received, no matter how many books
we’ve published or dreamed of publishing, ordinary jars of clay. Ordinary,
crude even, vessels made to showcase a fragment of God’s glory.
Right now we’re smack dab
in the middle of crazy Christmas season, that fleeting time of year when we
repeatedly sing out and prolong the word gloria.  As we sing, as we live, as we click away on
our keyboards—dare we ask?
Who’s getting the glory?

College student Amber Swansen gives birth alone. In desperation, she
abandons the newborn, buries her secret, and attempts to get on with her life.
No matter how far she runs, she can’t escape the guilt. Years later and still
haunted by her past, Amber meets Beth Dilinger. Friendship blossoms between the
two women, but Beth’s son is a constant, painful reminder to Amber of the child
she abandoned.
When
heartache hits, causing Amber to grapple with the answers to life’s deeper
questions, Beth stands by her side. Yet just when peace seems to be within
Amber’s grasp, the truth of her past and the parentage of Beth’s son comes to
light and threatens to shatter not only their worlds, but the life of the
teenager they both love.

Using the Power of Story to Promote an Agenda

Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 10 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Dance and What Follows After. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 2 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year. Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take long walks. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

*     *     *

Why do people read novels, or watch movies for that matter? Is it simply to be entertained? To unwind, to check out, to escape the pressures and hardships of life for a little while by getting lost in a good story?

Maybe. I’m guessing most people would not answer this question with things like: 

  • To be persuaded to think differently about something controversial.
  • To be emotionally manipulated into letting go of a strongly held opinion and be willing to embrace a totally different view.

But what if that’s the authors goal in writing the story, to accomplish that purpose? To use the power of story to promote an agenda that really matters to them. Does that ever happen?
I think it happens all the time. I’m guilty of it myself.
I believe the entertainment industry has known this for decades and has used the power of story to change the minds of an entire generation of Americans on a host of controversial topics. They like to say, and would like us to think, they are not out to change public opinion. They merely create entertainment that reflects the views and values of the culture. In other words, they’re giving “We the people” what we want to see, hear and read. 
But they know that’s pure baloney. They were, and still are, using the power of story to promote an agenda. Let me offer some examples. When I was a kid, the prevailing view in America was that premarital sex was morally wrong. So it wasn’t allowed to be shown on TV, and when it was depicted in movies it was shown as something morally wrong. Even sex within marriage, though obviously approved, was never seen, and rarely talked about. I remember watching episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show that had the main couple sleeping in separate twin beds.
Throughout the 70s and 80s more and more movies and TV shows began depicting premarital sex as perfectly normal and acceptable behavior. Nowadays, it’s actually hard to find stories that show anyone willing to wait until marriage to have sex. People are shown to engage in one night stands all the time, and to talk about their sex lives with their friends as casually as they talk about the weather.
We’ve seen the same trend followed with a homosexual lifestyle. Ten to fifteen years ago, it was rare to find a homosexual character depicted as healthy and normal in a popular movie or TV show. Now, it’s rare to find a show that doesn’t have a main character who is a practicing homosexual. The agenda now includes a new message: Anyone who has a problem with this is homophobic.
The point of my post is not to point out how wrong it is to use the power of story to promote an
agenda. Quite the opposite. I’m saying the power of story is one of the most effective means to promote an agenda, and always has been. 
Gary Smalley and I hope to use the power of story this way in our just-released novel, The Desire. Although you can’t tell from the cover, we’re hoping to encourage the pro-life message in our story. In addition, we hope to draw attention to the often overlooked members in our churches who struggle with the heartbreak of infertility (more than 1 in 8 couples do). And we want to encourage people to seriously consider the adoption option (including unwed moms facing an uncertain future). Both of my children were adopted, and Gary has two adopted grandchildren.
Are we wrong to use fictional stories to promote an agenda? I say…absolutely not. I think it’s just the norm, whether we’re admitting it, doing it deliberately or unintentionally.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you used the power of story to promote an issue you care about? Can you think of books, TV shows or movies that have effectively used fiction stories to persuade others to see something a different way?