As writers we weave our lives into our work. Whether it's subtle or blatant, it’s there.
My work-in-progress, Shelter of Last Resort takes place during Hurricane Katrina. I chose this topic because of the devastation I experienced while working missions in New Orleans after the hurricane. Aside from gutting houses, I also spent time in the evenings playing with the kids at one of the parks. They were a rough bunch. They used language I thought shocking for adults, let alone young kids. They threw rocks at each other. Spit at each other. Made crude remarks and threatened one another. A few in our small missions group, sadly, were so turned off by this disrespect and “wildness” that they did not return the rest of the week to spend time or minister to these precious children.
But these kids craved love. I remember two young girls sitting on a bench braiding each other’s hair, smiling and talking. Another young boy clung to me and was very focused on drawing pictures—one of which I was blessed to be gifted with. A couple of little girls shared my lap while big Bobby Morton (former Notre Dame offensive lineman) presented a Bible story, complete with his unique dramatization. Then the kids flocked around the picnic table for face painting and I watched as they took their paint brushes and completely covered even inch of my son’s head and face in bright colors. He sat there patiently with a big grin on his face, enjoying every minute. And I vividly remember never being without a little hand to hold.
This took place three years after the hurricane. These kids were survivors. And though their little minds couldn’t possibly comprehend everything they had endured, they each had their own survival story. I wondered as I sat there with them how many lost someone they loved. How many lost their homes, their possessions and their beloved pet? How many evacuated and how many stayed behind? What horrors had they seen or experienced?
My heart broke just trying to take it all in.
Jermaine and Cornell, the two main characters in my book, are the embodiment of these children. In addition, I’ve taken my own experience with “survival” and applied it to their situation. I want kids to gain strength from reading Jermaine’s story and feel they can overcome whatever pains and obstacles life puts in their path.
I am in the final stages of writing the book, but it will still have to undergo several editing phases and editor evaluations. I am beginning work on the book proposal, which in itself will easily exceed 25 pages.
I draw my inspiration from a lot of venues. I do a lot of research (articles, videos and books) and read stories from Katrina survivors. One song that still remains a strong inspiration for me is Rascal Flatts’ “Stand.” But my most powerful source of inspiration are those rough, but amazingly strong kids that I had the privilege of spending time playing with in the park during those few hot and sticky evenings in New Orleans.
Never a Duh Moment
Sometimes I feel like I am in God's way. For example, if I forget an appointment or miss a deadline. Or when I place great expectations on myself and fall short. Or when I get lost because my sense of direction falters 98 percent of the time.