Since Caroline is a pastor’s wife, I’m sure she won’t mind if I start this post out with a Bible verse:
…Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
– Luke 22:31, 32 (Jubilee Bible)
When my mother passed away, she didn’t have many possessions. But what she had, we—her children—treasured. The item I treasured most was her sifter. It reminded me of my childhood and the many times she and I sifted flour to make biscuits. I even have the grandmother in MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON sifting flour. You see, sifting, for me, is a pleasant memory.
However, that warning to Simon Peter was not something pleasant. That snake in the grass (or should I say tree?), Satan, wanted to sift Peter as wheat. He wanted to shred Peter to itty bitty pieces—destroy his faith. When he was done with Peter, no one was going to recognize him.
But what does any of this have to do with writing?
Imagine the scene: A mom drops her two kids off at school and is back home around 8:30. She has the house to herself—all is quiet. She can do whatever she wishes because she doesn’t have to leave the house again until 2:55 to pick up the kiddos from school. She could choose to go for a run, do errands, laundry, plan meals, clean the house, or… since she is a writer AND since she did just land a two-book deal with a major publisher, she could choose to use those hours to write. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly how a writer friend (one who has a regular full-time job) described this mom’s upcoming days: “Oh, my friend,” she said, “you’re about to have long swaths* of writing time now that school is in.” (*Not sure whether this word is used properly, but I shall use it throughout the story.)
Ah, the good life….
But little did this mom know that two weeks into the school year, her life was about to take a drastic turn—for the worse. For the next eighteen months, she was about to be sifted as wheat.
In case you haven’t figured it out, the mom in the paragraph above is me. Two days after my editor sent the second round of revision notes on MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON, I got a call from the college where my oldest child was a senior. The semester had barely started, but she was coming home. Wait? What? Home? After all we had been through, financially, to keep her there?
Yes, my daughter, who had been away from home for three solid years, including two summer school sessions, was moving back. Now, if she had only been moving back home to take a break, that would have been different. Instead, she was coming home because she HAD to, because she needed time to regroup, time to deal with some messy issues going on in her young adult life. But that part is her story to tell, not mine. Let’s just say, difficult issues that affect the child also affect the parent.
The sifting had begun.
Within days of getting the call about my daughter, I got a note from my son’s school: He was getting detention. Wait? What? Detention? In third grade? But he’s been getting smiley faces in his conduct folder all week. How can he have detention? “He hasn’t done his work all week,” came the reply. (Yet, smiley faces all week???)
Oldest child dealing with life issues; youngest child gets detention the same week. Boy, did I feel like a failure. I locked myself in the bathroom and bawled like a baby. Still, the sifting had only begun.
“You’ll have to homeschool,” said Hubby regarding the youngest when he seemed to not be able to handle the structured classroom environment.
Wait? What? Homeschool? But, what about this manuscript I have to revise? And what about that other book I have to write—the one under contract, the one with a deadline?
Remember those long swaths of writing time?
So now, two children home, and only one in school. How’s that child doing, by the way? Shall we talk about how frustrating it was for her to get up early every morning and leave the house when her siblings didn’t have to?
Nope. That’s wasn’t frustrating at all. Let’s move on.
Life wasn’t smooth, but it was cranking along. Even without the long swaths of time, I managed to squeeze in time to revise the first manuscript and begin drafting the second one. When January rolled around, the oldest child enrolled in a local university, but the youngest was still homeschooled. By then, something started changing with the middle child. Life was getting to her, and it wasn’t just the fact that she was the only child who had to get up early in the morning. She had begun to need me more, emotionally, than she ever had before.
Though I was being sifted, I was still writing. But it was SO HARD. Even when I had the house to myself, it took me over a year to write the first draft of MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON. Now, with a deadline and with kids at home, and with kids needing their mama’s emotional support, I had to draft the sequel, A SKY FULL OF STARS, in less than three months.
I’ve heard people say, “March roared in like a lion.” Well, ours certainly did. Right after I turned in the first draft of A SKY FULL OF STARS, it seemed my world fell apart. To protect my children’s privacy, I’ll just say we still have a lot of unpaid doctors’ bills from the month of March. During that time, I found myself fearing for my children’s lives. I kid you not, before August 2015, we were just an average family. If someone had told me that we would be going through all the emotional turmoil that we went through during the month of March 2016, I wouldn’t have believed them. Compare March 2016 to March 2015: While on a wonderful vacation with my seemingly wonderful kids in 2015, I got the news that an editor wanted to publish my book. Oh, how drastically our lives changed from one year to the next!
By the time my first editorial letter arrived for Book Two, things had settled down. Or so I thought. Trouble chased my oldest child like a dog, so much so that she was in a serious car accident that required emergency surgery and totaled her car. She couldn’t walk without using a walker for four weeks.
Yet, somehow I managed to get that manuscript revised. But this time, I asked for a month-long extension. I had never asked for more than a few days or a week-long extension before, but the car accident was my breaking point. I had even resolved to give up writing once we finalized Book Two.
As July drew to a close, I found myself having a panic attack. I didn’t think I could handle August, especially seeing that August 2015 was when all our troubles had started. But August was also going to be super busy. Not only did I have to revise A SKY FULL OF STARS, but I also had to help my oldest child emotionally and physically; I had to homeschool my youngest child; I had to help the middle child navigate her senior year of high school (plus teach her how to drive), AND I was babysitting a two-year-old. ALL. DAY. LONG. Did I mention we had long-term guests in our home during this time as well?
I literally wanted to give up on everything, just lock myself in my bedroom and stay there. Yet, through the grace of God, I managed to revise that manuscript. I also managed to revise a shorter MG manuscript for my agent during this stressful time. One day, when things were a bit harder to handle than usual, my middle child placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “You can do this, Mom. I believe in you. And when you do, you’ll be able to write about it and help another writer who’s going through the same thing.”
…Linda, Linda, behold, Satan has desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Through much prayer, I survived my year-long sifting. My faith failed me not. And, yes, I was converted. I hope that I am stronger, wiser, better. And I hope that you, my friends, have been strengthened by my story.
After reading MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON, be one of the first to read the sequel, A SKY FULL OF STARS. Enter to win an ARC (to be mailed out as soon as they are available) US residents only, please. Contest closes Wednesday, January 18.