(ROCKWALL, TX — February 12, 2019) I was smitten with someone’s writing several years ago. There was nothing intriguing about the topic of the manuscript that made its way around my critique group table: caring for aged parents. Even so, I became fully engaged by the colorful stringing together of words. I wondered if the newcomer among us—over 60 and unpublished beyond the regional realm of newspapers and such—could be a writer version of Grandma Moses waiting to be discovered.
At that time, Sue Anne Kirkham had recently moved from Minnesota to Texas with her husband in their retirement. Participation in the Rockwall Christian Writers Group provided all the information she needed to refine her writing for publication. Her first book. Loving Zelda, is Sue Anne’s memoir of the time spent caring for her physically declining father and her dementia-burdened stepmother in need of day-to-day assistance.
I connected with Sue Anne in another way since I likewise hoped to publish a first book. I’d been writing with a long-time friend, Luann Mire, to craft an ongoing story from her journals. Signs of His Presence tells of God’s nearness in times of trouble—in Luann’s case, the injustice of man. While our book shows the faithful love of God, Sue Anne’s story demonstrates God’s love in action through a believer serving others.
Sue Anne and I each had a supportive husband while spending countless hours hammering away on our separate projects: word choices, sentence structure, paragraph placement and more. But then she lost her husband (and greatest encourager) to a sudden heart attack.
We soon began meeting weekly as writing partners to urge each other onward. We also critiqued one another’s work outside of the monthly writers’ group. While Sue Anne affirmed my journalistic writing skill, I gushed over her natural ability to put together words—the way a master chef combines ingredients in a way most cooks cannot. What could have been mundane accounts of preparing meals and shuttling parents to their appointments became enriched by the details. Instead of red editing marks, I mostly drew heart shapes next to favorite lines of Loving Zelda, which became my end-of-day reading dessert.
While honoring her stepmother, Sue Anne describes frustrations caused by dementia. When Zelda makes soup: “Into the pot go doggie-bag barbecued ribs and chicken bouillon, cubed chicken breast, rice, and cream of mushroom soup. As she stands at the stove stirring the muddy concoction, I see the Campbell’s lid bobbing around with the other ingredients.”
Scenes described sufficiently for readers to envision, such as articles of clothing hanging from various places of a living room, are enlivened by the author’s witty assessment of any given situation. She writes, “It’s as if the furniture got frisky last night and decided to play ‘dress up’ while everyone was sleeping.”
I’ve been privileged to take part in Sue Anne’s journey to finish Loving Zelda. Her caregiving experience is told with a bit of brilliance. The entire storyline, like the shine of each chapter, remains strong throughout.
As we arrived at the polishing stage of our respective books, Sue Anne and I made a last-minute decision to attend a writers’ conference, where we snagged a publisher’s last two interview slots. Months later, Sue Anne signed a contract with Carpenter’s Son Publishing, and my friend Luann and I did the same. The three of us marvel over God’s provision of friendship and guidance in achieving our goal.
[Releasing February 2019: Loving Zelda—A Stepdaughter’s Caregiving Journal, and Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering.]
By Patti Richter. Patti writes and edits Christian faith articles. Read more of her essays at blueribbonnews.com/category/faith.
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