Please welcome this weeks guest Melody Blathaser for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
A special thank you to you, Kristena, for allowing me to share my writing journey. It is a privilege!
As a teenager, I stumbled upon romance novels and the rest is history. School nights spent under covers with a flashlight, entrenched in an imaginary world of spirited southern belles and handsome drifters. A time or two, I read all night! This love of a romantic stories inspired voracious book reading into my late teens and twenties and became evident in my affinity to chick flicks, classic as well as modern, and my addiction to soap operas.
The next two decades brought both joy, as I married and gave birth to my three children, and devastation, as I watched my brother battle cancer and cared for my mother as she did the same. I lost them both and began to harbor resentment toward God for the deaf ear He seemingly turned to my prayers. During all of these up and downs, reading romance novels became an escape and gave me a reprieve from my demanding existence.
At forty years of age, I had two teenage daughters and a toddling son when my husband dove into our above ground pool. Although he had done this hundreds of times before, this time he broke his neck. Surgery to fuse two cervical vertebrae was required along with a neck brace for months. This period ushered a trying time in our marriage and our lives in general. It was at this time that a story began to form in my head and God mercifully brought healing to my heart as I penned.
The next couple of years, the manuscript received additions, edits, and got passed around to a select few. One of these people was my middle school English teacher who had made learning fun, letting us create plays, puppet shows and amazingly creative writing projects. I called her and asked if we could meet and chat about a book I had written. She agreed to read it and when finished told me how much she really enjoyed it and that I should continue down this path, where ever it may lead. Reading through the redlined manuscript took me back to my school days. I had always anticipated seeing what the teacher had to say in the margins. Once again and after all these years, she did not disappoint. Written at an angle, in her perfect script, were comments, kudos and suggestions that were insightful and extremely helpful. A few of them were comments from her husband regarding some of the historical facts. Interestingly, he had been my middle school history teacher so I was especially thrilled for him to contribute!
My high school creative writing teacher had also played a significant role in my love of literature. I knew she lived nearby but I had no idea what she was doing except that she had retired many years before. I was reluctant to call her out of the blue and so I said to God one day, “Should I see what she thinks of my book?” God is so awesome because that day I was driving down the street and there she was walking on the sidewalk. Even more providential was the fact that it was right in front of the local, public library. God has such a sense of humor!
I pulled to the curb, got out of my car, and walked over to her. I said something like, “Hi Mrs. E. I’m Melody Balthaser, you were my high school English teacher.” She remembered me. I told her how she had encouraged me so many years ago and that I had written a novel. She was thrilled and asked to read it. I agreed on the condition that she be honest if she thought it not well-written. I got her a copy of the manuscript and then waited anxiously to hear her thoughts. After some time, we met for breakfast at a local restaurant where she told how much she loved the story and that I should seek publication.
Still a lot to navigate in my life, God had an enormous amount of inner healing and restoration He needed to do in me before I could handle the journey to publication. Reality, in the form of raising a little boy and teenage daughters, bookkeeping of husband’s business, a couple of part-time jobs, mother-in-laws terminal cancer battle and living with my father who was slowly getting dementia, was not enough to squelch my creative flow. People often say to me, “How did you have time to write a book?” To which I have no plausible answer but “God placed a story in my heart and bestowed plenty of grace so I could write it down.”
A contest entry yielded some favorable reviews but no wins and a few agent and publishing house rejection letters sent the three-ring binder that held my precious manuscript back into the closet to collect dust particles. Meanwhile, God did some amazing restoration in me. He taught me the importance of resting in His Presence and of trusting Him with my heart. I was finally learning to receive His Love.
A few more years passed and the dust was swiped off the manuscript once again. What now? I perused it and decide I still absolutely love my characters, their dialog and their development. I’m happy with the twists and turns, the surprises and the tension. I just want direction. Is this worthy to be on a bookstore shelf, on Amazon, in someone’s hand while sunbathing on the beach? I know this work will really entertain readers and more importantly it will encourage them and remind them how much God loves them. I believe it is worthy but will the publishing world?
My niece suggested a small publishing company, CrossRiver Media Group, that she had come across online. When I went on their website, what struck me was that their focus was bringing the love of God to readers. That was my focus too! A couple interesting signs happened that I felt God tell me to submit my manuscript on a particular day. I sent if off with this prayer, “Father, I need direction in my life. I can’t keep running this way and that. I’m tired. I will do whatever it is you tell me to do. If you open the door to writing, I will walk through it. If it means getting myself out there I will do it! I trust you and know you have the best intentions for me.” A few months later, I heard back from CrossRiver Media Group. God had opened the door. I could now sit down and write knowing that HE was going to take my creative writing gift to the next level and I could trust Him. I just had to be willing to keep walking through the doors that HE opened. I couldn’t pry them open myself. I really can’t emphasis it enough. I truly believe the gift of creativity is God-given. If we do the work then surrender it to Him, He will take it where it needs to go.
If you like historical romance, please look for my debut novel, Seeking Sophie, due to release in late summer and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and my blog to stay updated about my journey. Also, would love to hear from you!