STORIES FOR YOUR LIFE TODAY
[Video: Janet Stobie with Christmas Stories]
At this point I’ve written five books:
A Child Speaks
Can I Hold Him?
A Place Called Home
Fireweed (not yet published)
Why do I write?
Unlike many authors, I did not spend my childhood writing. Although I read voraciously, (7 books a week by the time I was 8), I only wrote what was required of me in school. I remember my High School English teacher telling me my writing was much too plain and simple to give me an A. It wasn’t until seminary that my clear simple style gained appreciation. From the beginning of my job as a pastor, parishioners have shaken my hand at the church door and blessed me with statements like:
“I understood everything you said, this morning. Thank you.”
“You were talking right to me, today. How did you know what I needed to hear?”
“Your words touched my heart. Thank you.”
Very quickly I realized, it wasn’t me and my silver tongue but rather God, using my words to touch their open hearts.
After about five years in my first pastorate, I looked for new ways to add spice to my sermons. I wanted to stimulate young parents to think about God. I wanted their faith to be real in their lives. And of course, I loved their children. I wanted them to have a good experience at church, to want to come. I started telling story sermons and discovered that God has given me the gift of storytelling. The congregation loved my stories.
“You bring the Bible to life,” they said. “You make it relevant. Eventually, young families started to come. I loved the children’s time and so did the kids.” Very soon, they started telling me that I needed to publish my stories in a book so people outside our congregation could read them.
After a great deal of prayer, Tom and I decided we would try self-publishing a book of my short stories. My life as a writer had begun.
Now that sounded easy, didn’t it? But, let me tell you, it wasn’t. First, I had to choose the stories. As a child, I couldn’t identify with David, or Moses, or any of the children of the Bible. Children have so much wisdom for us, if we only listen to them. So I decided to use the stories that involved the children in the Bible. Once the stories were gathered, I needed a title. I’ve never been good at titles. Since I write in the first person, I finally settled on A Child Speaks. I spent hours editing the stories as did my husband. Illustrations, I thought. I can’t afford an illustrator. With the children speaking, why not have children do the illustrations. I asked some of the church kids, and one of my grandsons if they’d draw a picture to go with a story. They were thrilled. Once the manuscript was ready, I took it to a local stationary store and had one hundred copies made. They sold in less than three weeks. My friends loved the book. With that Tom and I took a leap of faith and contacted a printer. When a thousand books were delivered to our door, I worried that the boxes would languish in the garage forever. Instead they all sold. I’ve published it now as an ebook and made an audio copy available as well. The whole publishing process took a year. Selling the books took three years.
Was it worth it? Of course. I’ll never forget receiving those first copies with my name on the front. I was an author. I’ve even made a little money – enough to buy a new computer, take a few writing courses, and pay for a trip to Tucson. Would I do it again? Certainly. In fact, I already have three more times. Those three are nearly sold out as well. My first novel is ready to launch.
What do I write?
I write stories of faith, usually but not always based on Bible passages. I started with Bible stories intended for children aged ten to fifteen and quickly discovered they were enjoyed by all ages. My second book, Spectacular Stella, is intended for young children. It also carries God’s message. When I read it to my granddaughter Ellie (age 6) she said, “Grandma, you’re telling kids that they are special just as God made them.” Tears came to my eyes. That was the message I wanted my readers to receive. I sign the books with the message, “Always remember you are God’s precious child.”
The readers of “A Child Speaks”, asked for Christmas stories. Out of that request,
evolved Can I Hold Him? Christmas Stories for All Ages. This time, I included some contemporary stories. They were fun. For me, it’s easiest to weave a story through the eyes of a scripture story character, but I’m learning that I can create out of God’s suggestion as I did with Spectacular Stella.
My fourth book, A Place Called Home. Homeless? Who Me?, was a result of a request from our local Homeless Shelter. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the director Lorrie Polito, as I created the story, connected with a professional illustrator and then published the book. The secular world would classify A Place Called Home as a secular book, since it doesn’t talk about God. We did that intentionally so the book would be acceptable in Canadian schools. If you are a Christian, it’s easy to see our Christian values shining through this touching story.
This year I hope to launch my first novel, Fireweed. The book offers strategies for dealing with grief, through the vehicle of a mystery story. Originally written for teens, the manuscript has been enjoyed by teens and adults alike.
I guess you might say that my writing has evolved, or maybe that its eclectic. Whatever, I write from my heart.
How do I write?
A common question from my readers is “Where do I get my ideas?” My answer to that is “God”. Yes, bottom line, I start with God. I usually wake up in the morning with an idea or situation rolling in my head. I have no choice but to do something with it. I wrote Fireweed because God presented me with the vision of a teenage girl sitting on the attic steps, sobbing. I sat down at my computer and wrote those words and then just kept on writing. I’m not saying that God dictates every word. It’s just that God seems always to be there pushing me, throwing out ideas, getting me started.
What else can I tell you about how I write? I have an office – our spare bedroom. Actually, it’s a place to put stuff. I’ve a lateral filing cabinet, a printer, a small writing desk, a comfy chair and of course a bed in there. But I do all my writing in my lazy boy, right in the middle of my living room. You see, I have a lap desk for my computer, so I settle down with my feet up, right in front of our big living room window. The sun shines in or the rain pours down and I work away. I can do that because our children are grown and Tom has his space downstairs. If I were thirty-five and just starting out, I’d probably bury myself in my bedroom and write late at night or escape to the city library.
Mostly I write in the early morning, after I’ve completed my morning reflection time with God. Or, I write in the car, when Tom is driving, as we travel. I’ve sure done lots of that. In fact I’m writing this text for the website as we drive into Toronto.