Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Judy Duarte Talks About How A Story Came To Be
“Oh! You’re a writer!”
When people learn that I’m multi-published, most of them ask where I get my ideas. Some even want to offer suggestions for stories they don’t have the time or the confidence to write.
But truthfully? I’m not in need of ideas. I’m bombarded with more than my share every day.
Sometimes a song on the radio will spark an idea. Or an article in the newspaper will catch my eye. Even a nearly forgotten memory will do the trick.
In fact, that’s how MULBERRY PARK, the book of my heart, came to be.
Do you remember those notes we used to write in school?
Do you love me? Mark the one .
Yes____ or No____
Well, that’s the kind of letter I’m talking about. But the one that actually tickled my imagination and sparked the inciting incident in MULBERRY PARK wasn’t written to a boy I had a crush on.
It was written to God.
When I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to my question through ordinary measures, like asking the adults around me, I sat down and wrote a letter to God, tucked it between the mattresses of my bed, and went to sleep, knowing I’d have the answer by morning.
Of course, God didn’t respond in the way in which I’d expected-- with the pen I’d included in my letter and a big X in the Yes or No boxes I’d drawn. So, needless to say, I was disappointed.
In retrospect, and with a few years behind me-- I won’t tell you how many-- I now realize that I’d had His answer all along.
You see, my mother had already given it to me. I just hadn’t agreed. So I went around her—and over her head. I’d planned for God to clarify things and set her straight.
Two years ago, during an RWA conference, I was sitting in a hotel room, resting for a moment between workshops. I was a long way from home and waxing nostalgic. Memories are often linked, and as one flipped to the next, that letter to God came to mind, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if I wrote a story in which a child wrote a letter to God?”
Oh, wow. And wouldn’t it be cool if someone found that letter and wrote back, as if he or she were God?
Ooh. And what if the child began peppering that poor person with more notes…?
And there you have it--the start of MULBERRY PARK, my first women’s fiction novel.
God didn’t answer my question that night--nor did He eat the red licorice I left him. But He answered me indirectly, which is what He does in MULBERRY PARK.
When Analisa Dawson, a seven-year-old orphan, can’t find the answers she seeks, she takes a felt-tip marker and addresses God. Then she places her note in a flamingo pink envelope, decorated with globs of glue and glitter, and sets it high in a large Mulberry tree in the center of the park, believing the branches reach all the way to Heaven.
Claire Harper, a jogger whose faith was shattered by the loss of her son, finds the heartfelt plea and feels compelled to respond. That simple act sets motion to a miracle that touches the lives of nine different people, all strangers to each other, all lonely and hurting in their own way.
In the pages of MULBERRY PARK, the characters learn, as I have over the years, that sometimes God’s voice is a whisper in the wind, a peace within the storm. And that some of His biggest miracles occur when the heart listens and obeys.
MULBERRY PARK, April 2008