I feel honoured to have been invited to write a guest blog and, having read through some of the others, hope that mine will live up to expectation. Phil suggested that I say something about myself and what I do. As if the two were separable!
Which came first: faith or writing? My earliest recollection is of sitting on a beach, when I was four, asking my (non-Christian) father about God, and learning that unbelief did not equate to a closed mind – thank God! My second is of absorbing his love of words as he read to me, nightly, from a leather-bound copy of Great Short Stories of the World; and my third of the way his lip trembled as he spoke the ‘who hath dared to wound thee’ line in the story of The Selfish Giant.
By the age of fourteen, despite my non-Christian family, I had met my Saviour, made a private commitment to God (confirmed in my twenties), and picked up my first rejection slip – from a prestigious short-story magazine. Later, as PA to Paul Gallico (author of Snow Goose and Poseidon Adventure) I continued what was to be a lifetime of learning the craft of creative writing.
Those early experiences shaped my life. My passion, which has never wavered, is to comfort others with the comfort with which I have been comforted, a scriptural adage which I have translated as ‘bringing hope to the hurting’. Betrayal and a broken marriage spawned the first of numerous articles, published in various magazines, and my first books on the subject of being unequally yoked, and divorced but not defeated. A deluge of readers’ letters convinced me that I was bringing to my readers the much needed comfort of my commissioning verse.
My middle daughter’s reaction was less positive! Eventually, her ongoing heroin addiction became the subject of a book, followed by another on stepfamilies when I was happily remarried. My husband and I trained as marriage enrichment counsellors, and led family forums. By then, I was being sought by radio and TV programme makers, and speaking engagements came thick and fast. Major publishers began to commission me, and my seventh or eighth book made it to No. 4 in the Sunday Times Bestseller list.
Then everything came to a halt! My daughter’s thirteen years of heroin abuse and much prayed for deliverance, had been followed by five, happy, productive years, during which she’d graduated from college, settled down with a young man and had a baby. Proud of her achievements, she begged me to write a book. I felt uneasy – and with good reason. When I agreed to a magazine article, it soon became apparent that there were those who had an interest in seeing her plug a gap in the heroin trade.
On the morning of my twelfth wedding anniversary, came the phone call I no longer thought to dread. Kat (not her real name) had been found dead. Two people were arrested. However, because it is government policy not to pursue such cases through the courts, they were cautioned, at the Inquest, to say nothing that would incriminate them. I had my own views, but one thing was clear. Better my daughter was with the Lord than returned to the hell she’d previously inhabited.
It took me twelve years to begin to write Kat’s story. When, soon after her death, my husband’s business nearly failed and I was offered employment as Copyright & Financial Manager of The Jubilate Group, I accepted it as God’s provision for us. The privilege of working with such gifted hymn and song writers as Michael Baughen, Michael Saward and others, and more recently Matt Osgood, Joel Payne and Sam Hargreaves (Resoundworship.org) left me no time to pursue my writing career – until recently.
Having already written Kat’s story in that earlier book, this time I wanted to reflect my journey: a mother’s loss, and a faith in a God who never wavers. A Painful Post Mortem is the result: a novel written, primarily, for non-Christians. All proceeds are for charity: Tearfund, for children who are the victims of HIV and AIDS; and Care for the Family, for their drugs project. The book, now available as an e-book, has also been adopted by Care’s Bereaved Parents’ Network. Readers’ Reviews are available here.
Currently, I’m working on a book about enlarging my vision, based on a talk I gave last year, as Keynote Speaker at the Salvation Army Leaders’ Conference at Swanwick. I also blog, regularly, on relationships and creative writing and, as Book Club leader at church, write book reviews as a resource for other Readers’ Groups.
© Mel Menzies, 2010