Monday, April 19, 2010

The Real Test

The call from the Women's Center was surprising: "We've got a homeless woman here who lives in her car. She's written a book and would like to see about getting it published. Since you're an author, we wondered if you'd mind speaking with her."

I cringed quietly (didn't want the counselor to know how annoyed I was) and replied, "Well, I'm kind of busy right now with two speaking events coming up next weekend to prepare for and a book proposal my agent wanted yesterday."

No reply.

Enter conscience. I had volunteered to help the charity "in any way I can." And I had just finished writing in my speech on "Becoming a Barnabas" the incriminating statements, "A true Encourager must be willing to be used whenever, however, and for whomever God places in her path. That means willingness to be available, even if it means interrupting our own busy schedules for unexpected developments."

Yikes! Time to put my conviction where my mouth is.

So regardless of my private eyerolling and preconceived ideas that that this would be a waste of valuable time, I met with "Lynn" in the lobby of a church where we could sit in air conditioned comfort to discuss her manuscript.

To my utter astonishment, it was good. Very good. She was a bit rough around the edges in appearance (who wouldn't be, living in a car?) but was articulate and well educated. Lynn had been working on her memoir for nearly two years and had painstakingly typed it into book form on a computer at the public library.

I found her story fascinating and well written, and with some good editing, I believe it has commercial potential.

When we first met and she reluctantly turned over her well guarded manuscript to me, I could read the fear in her eyes. Or was it distrust? Probably both. Her tension was palpable. For a moment, I thought she might snatch the bundle of papers out of my hands and bolt for the door. But after I completed the first chapter, I'll never forget the light in her eyes and relief on her lined face when I aasssured her it was one of the best firsts drafts I'd ever encoutered.

Her smile was absolutely radiant!

I was able to offer a few tips and recommend a professional editor I know. But most of all, despite my initial selfishness, I was able to encourage this aspiring writer who had received much discouragement and disappointment from life in recent years. I gave her a copy of my book, Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers and invited her to our monthly writing group and a free writing mini-workshop I'll be doing at a local bookstore soon.

We hugged as kindred spirits when we parted ways, me to my nice home in a safe neighborhood and her to her rusty car packed with all her earthly posessions.

Yet I was the one most encouraged.