Guestblog by Joy DeKok
A Time When My Life and Fiction Intersected by Joy DeKok
From the time I could read, I wanted to write my own stories. Maybe because I was a little girl when the dream was born, I was certain I was going to write children’s books. Determined to make this happen, I wrote, read books on writing, joined critique groups, and went to conferences. Editors and other writers said, “Write articles – they reach the largest reading group.” Others said, “Write articles on topics that matter most to you.” Wanting to write for children wasn’t a topic I could write potential magazine articles, so I wrote about my life. I wrote about infertility.
At another conference, a novelist told a group of dreamers like me to write a novel involving a topic very close to our hearts. I slapped my notebook shut thinking, “No way.” A few years later I was cleaning house when an idea for a novel took up residence in my mind. It came with two well-developed characters, a plot line, and a few scenes so clear I could see them playing out movie-style. I told God it was a good idea and I hoped He’d find another writer. I reminded Him about the children’s books I wanted to write. Then, I argued with Him about what I’d been taught – autobiographical novels don’t sell. Neither do issue-based books and this one was both. Really – who wants to read about a woman who can’t have children and one who chooses abortion? It was as if I felt His eyebrow rise at me. Next I told Him, “Besides, the emotions and struggles are years in the past – I won’t remember them with the kind of clarity needed to write them into a novel.”
I thought I had Him. I really did. Instead, He reminded me of the journals stored in our basement full of my real-time struggles. I sat on the cold cement, reading my words, and weeping for the young woman I had been. He didn’t want me to waste those experiences. Still, I resisted Him. I’d never had an abortion – how could I write that character’s story? I kept reading my scribbles and there they were – women in my life who I loved dearly who had chosen abortion.
So I waved the white flag at Him and started writing. Day after day, God graced the effort. The novel became a back and forth journal of two pretend women driven by women I knew – one of them me.
My surrender wasn’t a spiritual thing as much as it was a way to get God off my back. I knew I was breaking a lot of writing rules and for a first time novelist, that’s not a great idea. On hard days when the memories or the revelations were painful, I’d stomp the foot in my heart and remind Him of all the ways this book was going to fail. I felt Him massaging my heart and preparing me for something – for a gift He had for me in the process. Blessings came and each time I was sure I’d found the one I knew He had for me.
It happened at a book signing when a beautiful women walked up to me hugging Rain Dance in her arms as if it were precious to her. She whispered in my ear, “I’m a Stacie.” I asked her if she was okay and she said, “I am now.” Later, another said, “I’m a Jonica.” At the end of the day, I stood looking at an empty table realizing that while the book was in part about me, it had always been about them. That was the gift my heavenly Father wanted me to have.
The book has been in print for awhile – I self-published it first and then Sheaf House Publishers picked it up and released it in 2010. Every week this work of fiction intersects with my real life as readers send me notes after reading the book. A few have come to faith. Others to healing and some to the point where they can offer grace instead of condemnation to women they once considered the enemy. Many have found forgiveness. A few admit they read the book to understand two types of women they just couldn’t “get” but now love and accept.
I’d expected the intersecting of my real and pretend worlds to be a head-on collision. Instead I watched God weave it gently together in a pattern and with a purpose only that could only come from Him.
You can tell your real life story or you can write it as a work of fiction. Either way, your story matters.