Please welcome this weeks guest Jo Walker for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
In Psalm 139, King David begins by telling us there is simply no place we can go that God isn’t already there. In verses 13-16, he points out the reality that God is even with us when we are being formed in our mother’s womb. He speaks to how wonderfully we are made, and goes on to tell us that every day of our life was recorded before one ever existed.
In Proverbs ch.3 v 5-6, King Solomon tells us to “Trust the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct our steps/make our paths straight.”
I share these scriptures because they are the cornerstone and driving force of my life. There is only one reason I write. God. It was never a dream, a desire, a want, a thought, or on my radar. You see, my dream was to be a wife and a mother. Once the nest was empty, I got a job selling cars in Portland, Oregon, at age forty-nine. The fact I’d never been in a car dealership with my husband to buy a car didn’t deter me. I sold cars for eleven years—and God used me.
At age sixty I got my real estate license. As much as I enjoyed it, and as much as God used me, I knew I didn’t want to do it forever. This prompted a conversation with God. You might say a one-sided chat. Me to Him. I said, “God, I really don’t want to be selling real estate when I’m eighty-five years old. I must have some kind of talent. After all, even Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was eighty.”
I knew I had some artistic ability. I knew I could put a few descriptive words together, but as I mentioned before, writing was never on my radar. One thing for certain, I had no plans to sit on my duff watching television all day long, eating bon-bons.
Evidently God had something planned out for me all along. In late August of 2008, after my husband had his second stroke and I finished reading a poorly written mystery, I said out loud to empty space, “I could have written something that good.” Out of my mouth, into my ears and deep into my heart the words took root and began to grow. In hindsight it seems to me that this moment is where God’s plan for where I am today—began.
What does one do when it seems God is giving an answer, leading the way, but you know nothing about the process? I knew nothing about writing. I mean nothing. Nada. Nyet. Nein. I went to sixteen different schools by the time I graduated high school. Somewhere along the way I suspect I missed a few rules of writing in my English classes.
Write a book. Okay. What kind? Mystery of course, since it was my favorite genre. Oh, by the way, I don’t think I fully understood that word then. What did I do? I talked to God and asked Him to guide me. The end result by October, 2010, was a 100,000 word first draft. My first in the HOPE series. Up to that point, I still hadn’t read a book on writing or taken a class.
The almost two-year delay came from our move to Cody, Wyoming, and my getting a nighttime job as a CNA in a long-term care facility. In October, 2010 I announced to my FB friends and family that I had just completed the book. I asked a simple question. “Now what?” Seriously, I really did that and got two answers. That was the start of my connecting to the writing world.
I won’t go into details except to say that in April of 2011, I learned about the online group, American Christian Fiction Writers. Since I’m a Christian, it seemed the logical move was to join. This partnership with ACFW opened a whole new world and my education began.
My fiction, HOPE, went through two full critique processes, I read recommended books and I took the ACFW writing courses. And I learned a thing or two.
In December of 2011, my world turned upside down. My husband of forty-nine years suffered his third stroke, and God took him home. Less than three months later I received a phone call that changed the direction of my life forever. Up to the point of my husband’s passing, my life was wrapped with his. Now I was alone, still working nights to keep the bills paid. Still working on Hope and learning the craft.
On March 12, 2012, a gentleman I knew called and asked me if I would help his dad write his story. I knew some of the story and of course was honored. They had no idea what they were asking or what it would require. I had no intention of doing it unless God made it clear that was indeed His plan and purpose for me. I had gone through enough pain, so once again in a deeper way surrendered my heart and life to Him. I’d given Him my hopes, my dreams, my wants, my everything. The years between my husband’s second and third strokes were the most painful for him and for me.
I shared with the gentleman who called me and his father John, the facts of life about writing and that anyone who helped out would need to be paid. They prayed and I prayed and in nine days God had made it clear to all involved this was of Him. During those nine days of waiting God gave me the Prologue, the first line of the first chapter and the last word of the Romania part of the story. Even with all that, I still wasn’t certain, so I waited for more confirmation. Because of how everything came together, I have always viewed the book as God’s work and His warning to America.
I quit my job and spent a month with the couple in their home in Costa Mesa, Calif. in the summer of 2012. I did over seventy interviews. Back home in Cody, Wyoming I began the research and the writing. I won’t go into the details of how difficult this journey was, but it was extremely difficult. As good as their English, we had serious issues with clearly understanding what each was saying or meaning. Fortunately I had twenty-six pages of John’s attempt at writing his story. It worked well as an outline.
By the end of Dec., 2012 I knew I had to get back to Costa Mesa. The attempt at Skyping, and John’s need to read each chapter at least three times for accuracy slowed the process. I arrived in California on Jan. 26, 2013 and began to write eight to ten hours a day. I did an additional thirty interviews. Having John’s wife, Stela, to help with details and John’s and my interaction every night moved the chapters along.
One month later on Feb. 26th, four-fifths of the book was finished. I had no publisher, no book proposal, had no synopsis, no query letter, no one sheet. I didn’t really know how to write any of these. One week later, Monday March 4th, 2013, an edited book proposal, with edited prologue and three chapters was in a publishers email. He read it and said he wanted it. By the first Monday of April, the complete edited manuscript was in the publisher’s email.
That my friends is God. God alone made this happen. Christian’s who understand the process call it a miracle. I agree. Non-believers think it was luck. I have no illusions as to my ability to write. There were times I felt lost, didn’t know what to do or write, so would stop and say to God. “I didn’t ask for this gig. If you don’t do it in me, it won’t get done.” God got it done.
I take no credit for “Willing to Die, the John Muntean story”. The true story of a man of simple but strong faith who was willing to die for his kids. A man who forced open the doors of safe, legal emigration out of communist Romania in 1980. Succeed or die, no compromising. Getting his children to freedom and safe from religious persecution was worth his life. The book shares his life under socialism/communism. It tells of the destruction of a country once called the Breadbasket of Europe. It also shows how God will use your enemies to bless you. And it also warns Christians and America of its future if we don’t understand and stop what is happening.
The book was picked up by a traditional publisher who has been amazing. Working with me, an author, who still knows so little about the entire process of writing, and the work required after being published. The book was released as an e-book on Amazon, as well as Barnes and Noble in August, and as a paperback in late Sept. 2013.
These last two years have been glorious, extremely hard, emotional, painful and joyous. I have shared all the details of my journey because I want it understood that we are never too old to begin a new journey. We are never too old to be used by God. I just celebrated my seventieth birthday and am finally finishing up my first book in the HOPE series, which will be published this year. I also wanted to let aspiring writers know that you don’t have to know everything about writing, to write. Just get started. Yes, learn the craft, but don’t keep from writing because you are like I was—totally ignorant.
Writing is now the biggest part of my life. I am learning the craft. I am only interested in writing what He directs and gives glory to Him. I give God full credit for all He has done in my life. If the Holy Spirit does not lead my writing, I am not interested in doing it. I have nothing of value to offer but what He speaks through me.
This journey has been amazing. My life is in His hands and my heart is in His keeping. I am honored He chose me to write “Willing to Die”. Where it goes is up to Him. I am doing my part. Book signings, social media, visiting the smaller stores and getting the book on their shelves. As I do my part, God will do His part.
Psalm 139 says all my days were written before any existed. I treasure each day I am given. I love that He brought writing into my life. Daily I trust God will lead me in His plan and purpose for my life. To God be the glory.
Jo Walker writing as Josephine Walker
Willing to Die, the John Muntean Story
Publisher: Ambassador International
Title: Willing to Die .. The True Story of John Muntean as told to Josephine Walker
Author bio: Josephine Walker a former stay-at-home mom, car sales associate, Realtor and CNA in a long-term care center started her writing career in 2009 after asking God “When I get old, what am I going to be doing? I must have some talent somewhere.” God planted a seed in her heart, gave her the idea for her first book, a fiction called Hope, soon to be published. Over the two years of writing Hope, she learned her craft, which prepared her for God connecting her with Mr. Muntean to author, Willing to Die.
A rough partial outline for the book was written by John Muntean, that and a total of 107 interviews brought the story and John’s warning to America to light.
Josephine Walker is the pen-name for Jo Walker, a member of ACFW. Mother of three grown children, grandmother of eleven, widowed in 2011.
This was the intended back cover, but the endorsements were so good the publisher used them for the back instead. J
One man can make a difference. For thousands of persecuted believers in Communist Romania, one man did. He was “Willing to Die” for freedom.
Born in Romania when it was still the beautiful, vibrant, productive Breadbasket of Europe, John Muntean had a taste of real freedom. Thirty-two years later, his desire to flee religious persecution and Communist control pushed him into a plan that very well could have cost him his life. All he had to do was get past the throng of specially-trained guards keeping Romanian citizens away from the American Embassy. If he didn’t, his family would live forever under one of history’s most ruthless Communist dictatorships. John’s willingness to die for his family’s freedom rocked the nation and brought hope to those trapped under the thumb of Nicolae Ceausescu. Until November 10, 1980, hope hadn’t been a word heard too often on the lips of the average Romanian citizen. Then, with one broadcast from Radio Free Europe, it exploded across the nation into the hearts and minds of all those yearning for independence.
Now, after living thirty-two years in his beloved America he sees the same things happening, and fears not only for his children’s and grandchildren’s religious freedoms, but for all their liberties. John has a strong warning for God’s people and every liberty loving patriot.
Please take a look at the news release on the book as well as info on the book itself:
Willing to Die News Release
Willing to Die Book Info
Kristena Tunstall says
Jo, Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. It’s such a touching one and feel blessed for having been able to read it. I know it will help to encourage other writers out there, especially those who are unpublished. As you said, we just have to put our faith in God and He will lead us in the direction He has planned for us. We just have to trust in what He does in our lives. 🙂
Jean Williams says
What a story. Thank you, Jo and Kristena! This gives me hope after nineteen years of writing and studying the craft and no book of my own published. :)) God bless you, ladies.
Kristena Tunstall says
Thank you Jean. You are always so sweet. 😀 And I’m with you. Jo’s story is very encouraging and uplifting to read.