Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Get Going: Journal Your Way

“I want to write a book. How do I get started?”

My answer rarely varies: “Start writing.”

It’s impossible to get a book written simply by saying you want to write one.

“But, Stanley, I’m not a writer!”

Guess what? None of the books we’ve published at Vision Publishing other than my own were done by writers. All were amateurs who had never written anything approaching a book before.

Several, however, were by women who were wise enough to keep a journal during an important episode in their lives. (Men generally are much less likely to journal.)

Alice C. Hamilton was sixty-six years old when she began a mission to pray in every state capitol in the nation. The idea came to her while taking part in a monthly prayer session in the fall of 1995. Later, as she walked to her car, she heard a voice say, “You can do it. You can pray for one hour at each capitol in every state of the union and plead the blood over that state and its political leaders.”

She knew immediately who was speaking to her. It was the Holy Spirit.

Four months after she heard the voice she boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Houston, on her way to her first destination – Austin, Texas. She visited nine other capitols before returning home thirty days later.

Alice made four other treks, a second covering ten states, a third covering twelve, a fourth covering seventeen (including Washington D.C.), and the fifth covering two, Alaska and Hawaii. Six months after her first trip, she left Honolulu, having prayed in the last capitol.

Mission accomplished!

In most places she had recorded dates and times, memories of plane or taxi rides, lines of conversations, the weather, the scenery, descriptions of the capitols, what she did in each capitol, Bible verses that seemed relevant to the issues she faced at the time, meals, etc.

Sure, words were misspelled, the grammar was often incorrect, sentences were fragmented, and information was patchy in places. Still, though she didn’t know it, she was writing a book, and a good one at that.

Traveling Mercies: My Personal Prayer Journey to the 50 State Capitols was published in August, 2008. (Vision Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9762730-5-9, $8.99.)

It is an inspiring work that finally saw light of print eleven years after her journey – or journal – began. Alice is now seventy-seven years old. See her review under the month of September.


Julie Landry took a much more melancholy road to publishing success. It clearly was not a road she would have chosen.

Her book concerned the death of her husband, Allen Landry. Allen was an assistant pastor at Crenshaw Christian Center, the mega-church founded in Los Angeles by Pastor Frederick K.C. Price.

During the final months of Allen’s life, with cancer brutally sapping every ounce of his strength, Julie began keeping a journal. She would cheerfully attend to her husband’s needs during the day, but at night she would cry herself to sleep. Her notes are a record of her desperate plight over the prospect of losing her husband of thirty-four years, information about his treatments, his faith, his strength, their son’s strength, and his last moments as life ebbed away.

Like Alice, Julie’s journal was crucial to the formation of her book. Although both journals were far from being publishable on their own, they formed an excellent basis on which to start.

And that’s where an editor comes in.

I did several interviews with both authors, restructured the material, and fleshed out the details. Without their notes the task of editing would have been almost too difficult.

Julie’s book, published in October, 2008, is titled In Sickness and in Health: How to Keep Going When Death Interrupts Life (Vision Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9762730-6-6, $9.99). See a review under the month of October.

It is a wonderful resource, and includes fifteen lessons for overcoming grief.
To be continued.

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