Please welcome this week’s guest Kateryn Haddad for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
I began to write when I was ten years old when my mother picked up a little book of poems at the grocery store (or was it the 5c and 10c store?) and gave it to me. I still have some of the poems I wrote back in 1950. When I was 12, I wrote a poem about Abraham Lincoln and it made our local newspaper. Shortly thereafter, my teacher said there was someone in the school office who wanted to meet me. I remember he had white hair and looked very dignified, and talked to me about Abraham Lincoln. Looking back, I think he was Carl Sandburg.
By the time I was a teenager, I was writing tidbits on half sheets of paper on whatever was in my mind, and gave them to my girlfriends to read. They always enjoyed them and said I had “a way with words.” I remember when I was 15 or 16, I made a bet with one girlfriend that I could write something that would make her cry. She took the bet and lost. I made her cry.
When I was 17 in 1957, I wrote my first serious (lengthy) piece. It was about the crucifixion. I showed it to my girlfriends who all cried when they read it, and said I should write the entire life of Christ. I told them I would, but I was too inexperienced with life, and did not have enough wisdom. I set aside my chapter on the crucifixion to include when I finally wrote the book. I told them that I would write it when I was 60. When I was 60, I wrote it.
What did I do in the mean time? I wrote for numerous Christian magazines. I wrote a book of 80 Bible songs set to folk tunes, and a book of 500 Bible math problems, both coming out of needs for Sunday School classes I taught. I stapled them together and sold some now and then. This was in the 1960s. I also wrote a newspaper column called, Little-Known Facts About the Bible.
And I raised three kids. During the 1970s when in my thirties, I did write my first “real” book, Applied Christianity, which was a 250-page book on good works and how to do them. It was published by a company in Texas who sent me a supply of 20 free books, and that was my royalty.
My husband died in my late forties, so I had to go to work, and that took time away from my writing for a while. I worked as a professor at a Christian college. I remarried when I was 51 and he encouraged me to resume my writing. I dug out my old chapter on the crucifixion and turned it into a pamphlet. I also wrote my second book, Inside the Hearts of Bible Women, a combination of short stories and numerous questions at the end of each story for class discussion, and which I self-published in a spiral binding, and sold a few now and then.
When I was 59 in 1999, I decided it was time to start writing my life of Christ. I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. I ended up writing eight books! It ended up covering 100 people who met and struggled with Jesus.
It was full of historical events of the day, first among the Roman occupation government, then among the Jewish Sanhedrin government. I devoured Josephus and his Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews. I wanted to make sure everything was backed up with accurate historical proofs.
Actually, I wrote those eight books twice. I wanted very much to be able to appeal to the doubter, and to help the reader connect with the characters. So, the first time I wrote it, it took place in modern times where Jesus wore jeans and he and the apostles got around in an old bus. I named it Time Walk. This made Jesus quite real to me.
When I was 60, I re-wrote it in Bible times. I avoided writing about physical scene and dress as much as possible so the reader would be more likely to identify with the characters. The scenes in my stories were inside the minds of the characters as they struggled with who Jesus was. I kept the modern vocabulary, once again, to help the doubter identify with the characters.
When I was done rewriting the 8-book saga on the life of Christ, I learned about the American Christian Writers organization that was going to hold a week-long conference in a nearby city. This was in the year 2000. I showed parts of my manuscript to several of the attendees and they liked it. I met Reg Forder and his wife, and Gayle Roper, and Gwen Ellis among other leaders in the industry. I showed parts of my manuscript to them and they said it was good, but needed more hook.
So I went back after the conference and added a hook to each of the eighty chapters. The hook was specifically to doubters. I remember well what I wrote at the beginning of the book: “If this were a play, the plot would be all wrong: Mary and Joseph. Whoever heard of them? They’re nobodies.”
During the year that followed, I gave the series a name, Soul Journey With Jesus. I researched and wrote an extensive proposal which filled a loose-leaf notebook. ACW had the conference again the following year, and I returned with my MS and proposal. They said the proposal was wonderful, but people just weren’t buying biographies at that time. They were buying how-to books: How to be the perfect parent, How to be an effective Christian, How to pray, etc. I wanted to get an agent, but was told no agent took anyone unless they had had at least one book already published. So, I spent the following year sending my proposal and MS to most of the Christian publishers, but to no avail.
Three years after completing Soul Journey With Jesus, I was around 63 years old and put it away in a closet. Once again it gathered dust.
Then last year when I was 73, I dug it out again. I thought perhaps I could self-publish it. But I did not know about CreateSpace, so prepared to publish it with plastic spiral binding. I did put my books together like that, but got discouraged again, and put them back in the closet.
Last November, my husband—my Barnabas—passed away. After leaving Canada (my husband was Canadian), I moved to Arizona where my twin brother lives.
Here I ran into a book by Sandi Rog ~ The Master’s Wall, taking place in the first century. After reading it, I noticed she profoundly thanked the American Christian Fiction Writers for their encouragement. I had never heard of them. I looked them up on the internet and joined them. So I dug out my Soul Journey With Jesus again, and began sending it to agents. Nothing happened.
Six months later I wrote my “throw-in-the-towel” message to the ACFW members. I told them that people had said I write like Max Lucado and so many had liked what I wrote, but no one wanted to publish it. It was time to throw away my now 14-year old manuscript and my 57-year-old dream.
Suddenly I was inundated with messages from the Christian Independent Authors members of ACFW, encouraging me to join them. I did. That was last spring. This summer I found a fairly new publisher, Mantle Rock, who said they wanted to publish everything I wrote.
About two weeks from now, Book 1, Star Song, will be published. The other seven will be published in three-month increments. Through all these years, I did indeed take a Soul Journey With Jesus.
Katheryn Maddox Haddad grew up in Michigan and now lives in Arizona where there is no snow. She lives with her palm trees, cacti, music, and a computer with most of the letters worn off the keyboard. She spends half her day writing, and the other half teaching English over the internet worldwide using the Bible as text-book. Students she has converted to Christianity are in hiding in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and Palestine. “They are my heroes,” she declares. She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature, Bible, and social science, from Harding University, a Master’s Degree in management and human relations from Abilene Christian University, and part of a Master’s Degree in Bible from Harding University. She was a social worker in Illinois, Virginia, and North Carolina, and taught business writing and other business courses at Rochester College in Rochester, Michigan. In addition to having led many ladies Bible classes, she has written numerous articles for Gospel Advocate, Twentieth Century Christian, Firm Foundation, Christian Bible Teacher, Christian Woman, and several world mission publications. Her weekly column, Little-Known Facts About the Bible, appeared several years in newspapers in North Carolina and Texas. She has spoken to ladies groups in both Canada and the United States. Katheryn is a member of the Christian Writers of the West, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Christian Independent Authors.