At the ACFW Conference in September 2013, I met Shelia Stovall as we both perused through a display of books. We became instant friends. Meet Shelia and you’ll understand why I adore her so very much…
I am the director of a small town, public library. Prior to accepting the position at the library, I was a human resource professional at a large corporation. One afternoon, after taking two aspirin to be chased by an antacid, I decided to do something different with my life. The sudden death of my parents made me evaluate my life choices. I realized I didn’t want to spend the next twenty years in a conference room listening to people argue. I love books, and the bookstore was my favorite place. I considered walking away from my career and starting as a clerk in a bookstore. But a tiny ad in the newspaper caught my eye. The public library in the next county was looking for a director. The rest is history. Working in the library has allowed me to combine two things I love, books and a desire to help others succeed. My children are adults and after receiving my professional library accreditation I thought I could coast to retirement. And then I attended a Bible study written by Priscilla Shirer called Gideon.
“What is God asking you to do that you don’t want to do?” God placed in my heart the idea to write a book. My response was, No! I can’t write a book. I was embarrassed to have such a thought. I didn’t record a response in my workbook for fear someone would see it. After much stalling and arguing with God, I started an outline of the story God had inspired me to write, but life got in the way. Several months later, I was cleaning and pulled my laptop out of the closet. I wiped off the dust and remembered my abandoned task. I covered my face with my hands and prayed and argued with God again. “I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I don’t know how to write a book.”
The next morning, I received an email inviting me to a Christian writers’ conference to be held at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, TX. It is the only email I’ve ever received advertising a writers’ conference, much less a Christian writers’ conference. I live in Kentucky and a trip to Texas was out of the question. At least I thought it was, but my husband reminded me that I had a travel credit from Delta that was about to expire. He encouraged me to go and so I registered.
Two of the writing instructors were authors I’ve read and admired. Both Lisa Wingate and Judy Christie encouraged me to keep working. Judy helped me develop a timeline for finishing the book. She also gave me the email address of a developmental editor to contact.
I finished the first book Finding Hope in Weldon last year. Emma Baker, a librarian, lives in the picture perfect small town of Weldon. However, her life is anything but perfect. She is struggling with grief and anger. Her dream of filling the big house on Main Street with children is shattered, when her schoolteacher husband is brutally stabbed to death by a student, leaving her without hope – and a fear she’ll end up alone and as emotionally crippled as her mother. But then a teenager is found living in the library, and Emma takes her home until the girl’s mother can be found. A teacher her husband was mentoring becomes a victim of vicious gossip that only Emma can silence. And her prickly, independent mother falls desperately ill and must submit to Emma’s care – and love. Emma realizes there’s more than one way to build a family – and she learns she must forgive so she – and her family can face a future of hope.
I envision seven books in the Weldon Series. The second book is currently being edited. It will be interesting to see how God works through this project. One of my favorite series is The Mitford Series written by Jan Karon. It is my hope that readers will see a shadow of her writing influence in my work. As a library director, I read almost all genres, but my favorite authors include Jan Karon, Joan Medlicott, Lisa Wingate, Robin Jones Gunn, Fannie Flagg, Elizabeth Berg, Barbara Kingsolver, Judy Christie, and Cynthia Ruchti. I can’t wait to read Angie Brashear’s new book to be released in June.
I am also passionate about mission work in Africa. I’ve been blessed to travel to Niger, Africa three times and plan to return annually as long as my health allows. Perhaps royalties from my book will provide me with resources to do more work in Africa. Or maybe my books will encourage others to go to Africa where many have never heard the name of Jesus. The second book in the Weldon series, features a mission trip to Niger. To read about my mission trips, check out my blog at www.sheliastovall.com. You’ll see how God is changing me and working in my life. I pray that you too will allow Him to change you.
The road to publication is long. I don’t know when my books will be published, but two publishers have shown an interest. In the meantime, I have five more books to write. I write simple stories to share my faith and I pray that God will bless those who read my work. Maybe something I write will help someone struggling with their faith. I’ll never know. But just the idea of helping someone find their way to having a relationship with Christ gives me the energy and courage to try.