I enjoyed chatting to people as I sold my books, but just as I was packing up, a rather intimidating lady approached me.‘When you have a moment, I’d like to ask you something.’
I hurried to finish what I was doing, wondering what her question would be. Had she objected to something I had said in my interview? Did she not like the idea of Christians writing novels? I was ready for just about anything.Eventually, she drew me to one side.
‘I’d like to ask you—how do you write a book?’Just a simple little question! I tried not to look too shocked and hoped my mouth wasn’t hanging open. I have been asked this question before, especially during bookstore appearances, but this time I couldn’t think how to respond. You see, this lady seemed well educated and very articulate. Was she really expecting me to give her a comprehensive response then and there?
In the end, I decided to ask a question of my own—several, in fact. Was she interested in writing a book herself? If so, what sort? Would it be for her family or for a wider audience? Had she begun to write already? Did she enjoy writing?As we talked, I discovered she wanted to write her own life story. I offered to give her some notes I have available on topics such as getting started in writing and getting published. I recommended a couple of books on the subject. I suggested she write letters, journal entries, brief articles—anything to stretch her creative writing abilities. I told her about a Christian writers’ group nearby, but she did not seem interested. On top of that, she does not use a computer and was not keen to learn.
Then came another abrupt question.‘Well, I actually wondered if you’d write it for me.’
Hmm. Was this her real question all along? Was she hoping I would jump at the opportunity? Perhaps you have received similar requests and, like me, have had to turn them down. I have too many books of my own waiting to be written at present—and, apart from that, I am in the middle of a very busy period of promoting my new novel. I could see this lady did not appreciate all this, however, and I felt mean disappointing her.How would you have responded to this lady’s first question? Had I been less busy, I could perhaps have offered to meet with her and talk more about it. After all, many authors have answered my inept questions about writing over the years. Is there a better or more gracious way to help such people? What do you think?
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com or www.soulfriend.com.au.