Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My "Little Flower" Book; The story behind the book

"It seems to me that if a little flower could speak, it would tell simply what God done without trying to hide its blessings....the Flower about to tell her story rejoices at having to publish the totally gratuitous gifts of Jesus. She knows nothing in herself was capable of attracting divine glances, and His mercy alone brought about everything that is good in her. " --St.Therese

After many months of waiting impatiently (me, that is!), my book is finally ready for pre-order and only a few months away from being published!

These days, it seems that everyone is writing a book. It's not as big a deal as it was about 20 years ago when a publisher actually bought your story. So even though I'm excited about the whole thing, I'm also keeping it in perspective that my book is like a little fish in the sea of many, many fish.

Never in a million years did I think I would ever write a book! Jerry, my brother, is the writer in the family. He has published a few of his own books and now even owns a small publishing company!  A little promo here: go check out his site and see what it's all about!  His website is giving away free books all for the month of January (for those who sign up for a monthly newsletter.)

Anyway, over the summer, we were focused on moving into our new house and writing a book was not something I even thought about or would have wanted to do with all we had going on. Yet, in the midst of the chaos and changes, I felt myself wanting to relax reading a familiar book. Story of a Soul by St.Therese kept coming to mind; I have read and re-read this book since I discovered it at the age of sixteen. Every time I read her autobiography, I learn something new, drawing from her wisdom about our faith. Not to mention,  I never get tired of reading of her childhood stories! Yet, with all the boxes piled around us, some halfway emptied, some not even opened, I didn't have a clue where to even start looking for my beloved book, so I put it out of my mind for the moment. Yet this desire, this persistent thought to read this book again was constantly on my mind.

I don't know if it was the next day or a few days later, that Dennis surprised me by asking me about a shoebox of books that he found. Handing it to me, I took off the cover and to my surprise, there on the very top of many books, was Story of a Soul! I was so excited to have found it without the effort of even looking (or without even telling Dennis I was wanting to read it) that I took it as a blessing from God that He agreed that I should read the story once again.

And so I delved into Therese's story, reading again my most favorite line of the whole book that I have it memorized: "It is to you, dear Mother, to you who are doubly my Mother, that I give to you the story of my soul..."

I read again all her childhood escapades of her babyhood, and toddler years, how she lost her mother at such a young age..how she was so close to her sisters and her relationship with her father who affectionately referred to her as his "little Queen". I read of her struggles of entering the convent at the age of 15, and in this, being the youngest postulant of many. I loved it all.

But what struck me most (as it always has) were her little parables in the story. Parables of "the little flower", "the little ball" , "the little plaything" and "the little bird" are just a few of what are hidden with her story. These little parables served well in explaining not just how God was acting in her life but in many ways, how He deals with us in our own lives. I always wondered if Therese knew that she what she doing at the time she was writing her story; that years later, her little parables would serve as little lessons for so many.

I knew that many fans of St.Therese already knew of these parables, but I would always think about the children. The little parables are so deep and yet told in such a simple and charming way that even children could learn from these simple, yet profound lessons. It was then I began to think:

"What about the children?"

Later, after a few more days reading her book, again the thought would come to me: "I wonder if anyone has ever thought of turning her parables into stories for children?"

And again, out of nowhere, as I was cooking, cleaning, or driving: "Well, someone should write a book for the children. They need to learn her simple lessons too."

Yet, in never occurred to me that maybe that "someone" was me. It's true, isn't it? We have a great idea that would be "great" to do, but it never occurs to us that maybe it's us that God is calling to execute it. We always wait for "the other guy" to do it.

The idea of writing and publishing a children's book never occurred to me. Again, I figured "the other guy" could do it, and would eventually do it, in time. For now, I would simply write the story for my own children. And I did, on a simple notebook.

Yet, it wasn't coming out quite right. The explanations didn't come as easy as I thought they would when I tried to translate Therese's beautiful and eloquent words into simple, childlike ones. My desire to write a book for my children was dying away, and instead, the thought of writing a children's book was coming more and more to the forefront of my mind. I finally decided to email Jerry to get his thoughts about my idea--thinking that he would help me put the whole crazy scheme out of my head by telling me that it would never work.

He ended up supporting it. Not only that, but he told me to re-write it. Then again. And again. And every time I felt like giving up the whole crazy notion and convince myself that "this isn't meant to be because I'm not a writer", he would email me and ask, "how's the children's book coming?"  or, "Did you finish that re-write yet?"  In some ways, I felt like the decision to write the book had been made for me, but at the same time, I couldn't seem to get the idea out of my head either.

I didn't tell anyone what I was doing. For some reason, I felt embarrassed about it, like I would be ridiculed or something. I didn't even tell Dennis, not that he would ever ridicule me, but if he even raised one eyebrow in surprise, I thought I would "go off" in a defensive rant--that's how sensitive I was feeling. Only Jerry knew. And then I decided to email Leila to get her thoughts about it, which I not only got her support but also her encouragement to keep going with it, and my little circle of confidents grew. Eventually, I let my mom in on my secret too--it just didn't seem right to purposely keep her out. :-)

After about 3 months of many rewrites, hitting brick walls, and stalling for time, I finally made myself sit down and write again (for what felt like the umpteenth time), the story of the Little Flower, and this time, to get it right. As always, I began my writing with a prayer--more in imitation to what Therese did before she began writing her autobiography (she knelt before a statue of Mary and prayed that she would guide her pen to write only what was pleasing to God), than holiness, I'm afraid.

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. It all came so easily. I suddenly knew how to tell her story, the story of a little flower. I envisioned myself reading the story to a group of children as I scribbled down the words, starting with the famous line, "Once upon a time..." 

And then it was done--and this time, I knew it was finished. Just a little clean up on grammar and spelling was all that was needed and probably some editing which I knew Jerry would take care of, but I knew I finally had it right.  I had tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat because I knew what I wrote was good. Just like St. Therese.

 I looked at the time on my computer: 11:50 PM. And then it hit me--ten minutes before October 1st. It was St.Therese's feast day. I had completely forgotten that her feast day was even coming up. How good it was to get this blessing from God that I should finish the hardest story I have ever written--a simple little children's book--on the Little Flowers feast day?

The rest, as they say, is history. I handed the story over to my brother, who then took it as his own and made the necessary changes to it, took care of the financial expenses to it, and helped me with the agonizing task of finding an illustrator. (Another post for another day.) 

Which, by the way, I'm proud to say that our illustrator is from Etsy. :-) 

And now, here were are, only a few months away from the book being published. For now, you can preorder the book by going to my brother's website where he is selling the book (as well as others) for a discounted price. (The book will officially come out in April. It will also be available on Kindle.)

Ideally, I would love to turn this book into a series of many of St.Therese's lessons and parables. I already have ideas for books called The Little Ball or The Little Bird or even of Therese's Little King (her father) and how she learned about the Mass just by looking at his face!  But in order to write more books, this first one has to sell well. And in order to sell--people need to order!

So please share this post with others so they too can order. I would love to write more of Therese's little teachings.

It's interesting what God will do with us if we let Him. It's also awesome to see what He can make us become. "I could never do that" doesn't cut it as an excuse for Him. "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me" is how he usually reminds us instead.

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