The REAL Reason I Became an Author  

Posted by Heidi in ,

I'm the one with the hand over my eyes . . . my little brother hadn't been born, yet

Psychologists say that growing up one of eight siblings, one of seven daughters and one of a set of twins are all "adversities". I, however, thought it was great fun! I adored each and every member of my family, wanted to be just like them and even hero-worshipped a few of them. However, I did have one problem: as daughter number six, born five minutes after the child who was expected to be a single until two weeks before our birth, I must have felt a bit lost in the shuffle. I don’t remember thinking that consciously but, looking back, the feeling that there was no niche left for me has dictated many of my actions throughout the years.

For example, my sisters were, variously, smart, wise and witty, funny, fashionable and pretty. There were the ones who were very popular with the boys, the ones who had lots of friends, the ones who had lots of talents, the ones who had my parents’ respect. It seemed to me the only labels available by the time I arrived were “dramatic”, “sensitive”, “vain”, “conceited” and “she who will not eat beets”. I didn’t have my own room, my own look (since my twin and I looked pretty much exactly alike) or even my own birthday. In fact, until my little brother was five years old, I didn’t even have my own name! He thought each of us was called “Heidiandholly”. Or was it “Hollyandheidi”?

When I was in the sixth grade, I remember going to our rival elementary school for a softball game between our team and theirs. The catcher was a lovely girl with lots of curves and long, dark, hair who was clearly very popular because everyone was constantly calling her name. It was “Heidi, Heidi, Heidi,” all afternoon and they weren’t referring to me. I despised her not for her beauty or popularity but because she had the one thing I had ever really been able to call my own—my name.

Meanwhile, I had wonderful, fantastic parents who were, understandably, fully consumed with the business of raising a large family. Getting any one-on-one time with them was rare and an opportunity to be cherished. When I was seven, my dad spent some time with me teaching me to play chess. I was so proud of myself for beating him a few times and feeling like I really knew how to play. It was years later before I realized he must have let me win. However, this was such a happy thing for me that I wrote a little story about a chess piece. As soon as I finished it, I brought it to my mother to read. She was out in the backyard pulling weeds but she stopped what she was doing to carefully read it and to encourage me.

From that moment on, I knew what I was going to do with the rest of my life: I was going to be a writer. I had found my niche, my definition of myself that was as much uniquely mine as my name and thenceforth I spent countless hours scribbling little stories and reading everything of interest. I studied the lives of the authors I admired and took typing classes in Jr. High as well as High School so I would be able to submit proper manuscripts when the time came. I wrote pages and pages of poetry, subscribed to writer’s magazines, entered contests and eventually wrote several full-length books. I even submitted one for publication (it was rejected—that time). As a newly married wife, I took a correspondence course in writing children’s literature and later, as a young mother, I took a class in writing romance novels and joined various writer’s groups including an online email group frequented by some of my favorite authors.

In short, I was determined.

I remember well the day I knew I must give it all up. We were living in Littleton, Colorado and the Columbine massacre had just occurred. There was a lot of speculation on the news about the boys who had committed these murders and their character—or lack thereof. Knowing little to nothing at the time of the Big Guy's physical, mental and learning disabilities but fully aware of the result they had on the people around him, I felt a lot of fear that he would one day be just like these two boys who had killed so many and cast a pall of grief over the entire town.

In fact, I had known before then that something at my house had to give—it had been so painful to have my focus constantly pulled away from my writing by the unusually high demands of my undiagnosed (therefore, un-helped) family members. Suddenly, never being published, a dream of mine for twenty plus years, seemed a small thing compared to the agony of regret I would feel if my husband or children became the lead story on the six o’clock news because I was too busy pursuing a writing career to meet their needs.

Over the course of the next ten or so years the dream would rise to the surface now and again like an unquenchable thirst. When that happened I always pushed it down and away, reminding myself that I was barely managing my much more important role of wife and mother and there was no time to give to the writing of books. One of these times was when a friend with whom I had taken a writing class years before finally found a publisher for the sweet romances we both enjoyed writing. I was so happy for her and only a little sad for me. It wasn’t until she sold her third book that she really started to pressure me into submitting a manuscript I had written over a dozen years before. I always changed the subject when she said these things but she never gave up. Then, when my youngest was out of kindergarten and in school all day, I finally felt like I had the time to deal with the demands of this particular publisher. After re-tooling the manuscript for a broader audience (i.e. someone other than die-hard Jane Austen fans who know that a beaver is not an animal but a hat, a spencer is a lady’s jacket because a jacket was something only a man would wear and that envelopes had not yet been invented) I submitted it.

Eight months later, I received the call that made me a published author. I was so incredibly sick with a rotten cold that day I could barely enjoy it but I have known much joy since then as a result of my succeeding at something I had worked at for so long.

Even better than the approval of a real live editor was the A- my father gave my book (he claims it would have been an A+ if I had developed a better relationship between the hero and his horse, if I had set the story farther out west and if there had actually been bullets in the gun for the duel but not all books can be Westerns), and my mother’s reaction. She told me that as she read it she chuckled and said to herself “She did it!”

And I had. Finally, I had done something that none of my sisters had and I, in some small way, had a chance to stand out for something good and positive that I had achieved.

I “did it” in more ways than, that, however. As much as I have craved the recognition and approval of my parents (it is often thus in large families) I have benefited far greater from the personalized, intimate attention from my Father in Heaven. Though much of the world might think being a published author is an unworthy desire (at least in the grand scheme of things), He knew exactly what it meant to me and why. When I gave it up to better honor the stewardships I was given by Him, He took my sacrifice and turned it into the sweetest gift of frosting a cake has ever known---and not just because my little book finally made it between covers but because, in spite of the billions of daughters He has . . . He knows my name.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 6, 2011 at Sunday, March 06, 2011 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

21 wise, witty and wonderful comments

What a great story! And I love the family photo.

March 6, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Beautiful post, Heidi! Truly inspirational and the ending was perfect. So glad you got your frosting on the cake! Heavenly Father is so good that way.

March 6, 2011 at 2:05 PM

Don't you love God's timing? Even when we think we know best, He knows better. Lovely story Heidi, thanks for sharing!

March 6, 2011 at 3:25 PM

Thank you for sharing the story behind your story. It makes any creation more meaningful to know the creator.

March 6, 2011 at 3:25 PM

That was so lovely and so well written (duh), the last sentence literally made me cry. I love you Heidi, you are such a good, beautiful, caring, wonderful person! Thank you for sharing, it made my day!

March 6, 2011 at 4:24 PM
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March 6, 2011 at 4:24 PM

People tell you about their big families - but it's hard to really "get" that until you see a picture. I loved looking through this window into your childhood. And it makes your success as an author seem even more wonderful.

I still have to catch up on the reviews people are writing! I've fallen behind on everything - but plan to be fully caught up by next weekend (especially since I'll have a couple of bed rest days after my surgery).

March 6, 2011 at 4:38 PM

You are someone who really gets it. That last sentence is exactly it, and I love that you recognize the Lord's hand in your life.

March 6, 2011 at 7:05 PM

and so glad we all are for that last truth...

I feel like I always write the same comment here - "I love your writing!!!" are you sick of it???

March 6, 2011 at 7:08 PM

How fun to hear more about you and your roots.

You so deserve some of your own interests and successes.

You have been a successful wife and mother, and now, in getting some recognition for your writing, you are fulfilling the real measure of your creation.

Way to go, friend!

March 6, 2011 at 7:10 PM

Oh, Heids. I'm crying over here. Could any story have a better ending? I'm so, so glad you got your frosting--but more importantly, that you know someone up there is chanting your name. Love you!

March 6, 2011 at 7:15 PM

What a great post! Thanks for sharing Heidi. I love the story of you sharing your story with your mom and how from that experience you knew you were going to be a writer. It's amazing the influence we have on our kids. Also, you're such a good mom to your kids. I hope they know or will some day know of the sacrifices you have made for them and your family.

March 6, 2011 at 8:05 PM

Oh Heidi, he does know your name and I am sure he is so proud of you, I know I am!

Your cuz

March 6, 2011 at 8:59 PM

I love this. He knows my name.

March 7, 2011 at 7:34 AM

I am so glad that you are my friend. Reading this reminds me that even though there are so many things that I want to do, I don't have to do them all RIGHT NOW.

Thank you.

March 7, 2011 at 7:48 AM

I loved this post Heidi, especially the last paragraph. It brought tears to my eyes! Love, your cousin Janeth

March 7, 2011 at 11:35 AM

Such a powerful, moving story. Oh Heidi, you give me hope!

March 7, 2011 at 1:42 PM

Lovely post, Heidi - all the more moving because none of us know how many more blessings and surprises are ahead of us. I am so glad that you chose Avalon (and that they had the good judgment) to publish your book) - otherwise our paths would never have crossed.

March 8, 2011 at 4:42 AM

This is a great story. And it is full of hope. And a lesson that I find all too easy to forget, that Heavenly Father knows my name.

I think you're wonderful!

March 8, 2011 at 9:12 AM

I love you!!!!!!!!

March 9, 2011 at 12:16 AM

Beautiful, beautiful post, Heidi. So well said. I was able to relate to so much of this.

March 12, 2011 at 6:53 PM

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