Today I get the privilege of sharing my first ever guest post! It’s an incredible honour to be trusted with Valerie’s story, which she sent to me the day her debut middle grade novel released into the world.
I don’t know about you, but as an artist, I always find it affirming to hear the very human stories behind works of art. It reminds me that beauty and goodness can come out of my story. May you be inspired to believe that same about your own.
I will start with something many ladies my age won’t tell you.
I am fifty-two.
Today, I published a book. Yes, it was self-published. It was not picked up by a drooling agent. I’ll even admit it was spurned a time or two by a publishing house.
But I am fifty-two. There comes a time when you worry less about the gatekeepers. When your children are grown and nearly gone and there are still a few things you wish you could shout to all posterity. When there’s so much you’ve learned humming inside, and so little opportunity to spill it. When your body vibrates with a message.
That’s when you reach for self-publishing.
When I was fourteen, I wrote a book for a school project. It had mystery and a touch of romance. I typed it up and hand-coloured a cover. I offered it to a friend, who read it and passed it to another friend. I watched my book wander up and down the student aisles all the next week. I would glance up from doing my Math, or Spelling, and see someone across the room, engrossed in my story. Many said nothing. Others gushed. A few gave helpful critique.
It awakened a hunger, that exercise of peeking from my complex and confusing geometry problem and seeing the Math whiz drink in my words. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to write. Why did I wait so long?
When a teen and young adult, I taught, I worked, I partied. I dreamed. I was much too busy to write a book. I had the confidence it would happen someday.
When I married, I began to write. I learned how great was the gap between the teacher’s 100% and the editor’s approval. I took a writing course.
I became a mother. Amidst baby fog, I started a book. I got to 50,000 words and the story dissolved. I took another writing course.
I became a homeschool mom and read books aloud. We lived, breathed and enjoyed the cultural experiences between the pages. I started to write again, got to 50,000 words, and hated every one of them. I attended a writer’s conference and started another course.
Two children graduated. Our home became a microcosm of its own with a revolving front door and a dinner table with the bewitching ability to make food vanish as quickly as it appeared. I wrote articles that were published. I started a book but got my characters embroiled in messes I couldn’t fix. I took…
I’m embarrassed. But you already know what I did.
You see, by this time, in my forties, I still hung onto the dream of writing a book someday. But by now, it was going to be the perfect book. It would be a book like none other ever. Every word would sparkle. Oxymorons and euphemisms would leap from the page. Wise men would weep
Life raced by for another ten years. The door kept revolving. I was much too busy to write a word.
But I studied writing. I kept reading. I dreamed of having a book written.
Oh, that… that can keep one ever so occupied, that dreaming of having a book written.
March of 2020 happened. Our revolving doors slammed shut. My dear daughter was at home, cooking banquets for the family to try to keep life liveable. I was out of a job.
I had also just spent two years listening to the BEMA Discipleship podcasts and uncovering, one episode at a time, a whole new concept of the God I had worshipped and served for 40 years.
And with my family around me, and my menopausal brain buzzing, and Covid news alarming, I sat down and wrote a book.
With one difference. First, I plotted a book.
And next, I determined the shape of God’s thumbprint on this book.
And then, I wrote the book.
And let me tell you, I was tempted a dozen times over to take another writing course. I may have succumbed and even ordered one on a day when self-doubt wouldn’t shut up.
For me, maybe fifty-two years was exactly perfect before I saw a book in print. On one hand, I weep as I hold it, wondering how long I allowed self-doubt to silence me, and how many words Satan sabotaged.
On the other hand, maybe I didn’t really have anything worthwhile to say, and once God really laid a message on my heart, He also provided the passion. Perhaps it was Him who breathed on my courage as often as it nearly died. Just enough to make the ember glow, just enough to finish the story.
I look at bloggers like dear Yolanda who invited me to high-jack her platform. Thank you so much, Yolanda. As I told you, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I’ve never written a blog in my life.
But here’s the thing about the blogging trend. It bypasses that anxiety of birthing our word babies.
It gives you practice in being courageous, in expressing a thought, letting it drop into the void, hearing feedback, or not… and surrendering it.
The whole experience.
Giving it to God to work with, or not, however He pleases.
It’s a practice exercise in letting go before things are perfect.
Because guess what. Today I released a book. I waited fifty-two years. I took multiple writing courses.
It’s an imperfect book.
I hold the copy in my hands and I instantly see what should be improved in this sentence.
And this one.
And this ordinary word, which I wish would be resplendent.
Satan still wants to sabotage and shame me.
And here’s what I’m telling myself. God can use imperfection.
I should have learned that long ago. It’s time to learn it now.
What if the mother in Jesus’ day had snatched the loaves back out of her boy’s basket. What if she’d said,
“Wait, not these, they’re not perfect.
My sister-in-law might see them.
Just go to the market and buy some better ones.”
What would Jesus have used, then?
Oh, I laboured over these loaves, I sure did. I kneaded and kneaded again, I opened the oven door one thousand times in their unfolding. I brought loaves as lovely as I could.
But they are not perfect.
It’s time to see what my great God will do with my imperfect offering.
That is the story of
Reigning Cats and Frogs, a novel of ancient Egypt.
That is the story of its birth.
Valerie Diefenbacher lives with her husband Steve and three of her four children on a rolling country property in Southern Ontario.
When she’s not homemaking or writing, she trains dogs and greets guests at their rustic, riverside Hipcamp.
If you’d like to get in touch, you may shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
is a historical middle grade novel that follows the misadventures of an Egyptian boy living in the era of the biblical plagues.
I love any story behind the story (sensing a theme here?). While reading it both to myself and with my students, we all kept asking, “Did this really happen?” and reaching for our Bibles. While Valerie took some poetic license, there really were just so many parts of the story that I had missed. Reading Kafele’s story reminded me that human’s in all cultures have the same passions and questions. Kafele’s is a story of questioning religion and finding a faith of his own.
Reigning Cats and Frogs explores the themes of friendship, mother-son relationships, and the complexity of religion. The language is rich and immersive. While written for children, adult readers will likely find a deeper level of meaning.
You can purchase your copy here on Amazon, where it’s currently a #1 Bestseller in Children’s Historical Fiction on Ancient Civilizations.
If you buy and enjoy the book, please, rate it on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. This will help get Reigning Cats and Frogs and the incredible God of the Hebrews in front of many more readers.
I hope you’ve enjoyed Melissa’s and Valerie’s stories. I would love to share your story. If you’re a writer, I welcome guest posts. If you’d love to share your experience but would rather not write, I’d love to interview you and write about it.
No story is too small. I’m just a coffee-spilling, twenty-something, music student myself. But God is faithful, and when we trace the grace and truth that His Presence brings to our stories, we shed just a little bit of light onto someone else’s path.
I’m an email away email@example.com. All’s grace, Yolanda
Well, I hope my post’s takeaway is ‘don’t wait as long as I did’, but can I offer advice if I didn’t get it done? I believe Yolanda and other younger authors should speak to this!
I wonder if we don’t realize the great cosmic battle we are in with words. Everything around us conspires at times to shut us up, even our loved ones and their needs. But why can a secular artist sit down and produce so much…could it be that as truth-holders we are under exceptional attack?
Words are powerful. “I love you” “I forgive you” “I was wrong” “I am so proud of you”. Words claim territory.
And words released to an amazing God? Endless possibility.
Here is a challenge, if you believe you carry a glowing coal and you’re in a battle for truth:
1) surround yourself with a prayer team,
2) find a secular writer your own age and stage who is producing content, and
3) keep up.
Val, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your words here. I love the way you shared your writing journey by placing in the context of “real life”. Really, how could those two things- writing and life- ever not be influenced by each other? If you ever decide to blog more, I’ll happily read your words! 🙂 Looking forward to reading your book!
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I don’t think I could figure out the balance of dividing writing time for both blogs and books. Fiction is a jealous mistress, I’m finding.
Thank you, Jasmine, but I don’t think I have the brain space to balance blogging and writing fiction just now. Fiction is a jealous mistress, I’m finding.
What an inspiring story! I love how you didn’t let age or multiple rejections stop you from pursuing your dream of writing a book. Your perseverance shows that passion coupled with hard work can lead to success. My question is, what advice do you have for aspiring writers who may be struggling with self-doubt or waiting for their “perfect” book?
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Thanks Jasmine. I don’t know if I could figure out how to blog, but not use up all the creative time and brain space I would need to write fiction. Fiction is a beastly demanding enterprise, I find.
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