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At school I was known at the girl who played the piano and clarinet, who always had a job (Library, Chamber of Commerce, J.C. Penney's), who loved being Barn warming Queen, who played the organ at church before she was old enough to drive and who skipped her senior year because her grandfather was ill and wanted to see her graduate from high school and go on to college.
As a teenager, I read the library's collection of Grace Livingston Hill's faith-based romances, but I didn't dream of writing a book myself, not then. I won the Freshman Writing Award at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri, but writing wasn't as interesting as the captain of the basketball team. I married David ‘Squeak’ Marr the summer after his graduation, and we moved to Macon, Missouri. He coached and taught, and I led a Girl Scout troop, drove cheerleaders to away games, kept the basketball shot chart and was active at church. At the same time, I commuted to college and took the maximum load – mostly business classes, preparing to support myself if I had to. Any children I might have would not be raised by grandparents. I didn't expect to graduate, but I did at the age twenty, with honours and with child.
During a prayer for financial help, I received a phone call with an offer to teach in a one-room school – grades one to eight. Since I knew nothing about children and wasn't prepared to teach them, I declined the offer and returned to praying. The idea, however, stuck, and I accepted the position for one year. Later, I saw this period as a God set-up, as I went on to work with thousands of children in Sunday school, children's church, children's choirs and vacation Bible school over the years.
Our son Dane was born two years after our daughter J-J. We lived in East Moline, Illinois, where David coached and I was a substitute teacher. When the kids were in school, I taught business full-time, earned my master's degree in guidance and counselling, switched to the counselling department and loved being a mother. During those busy years of raising children, attending ball games, doing church ministry, performing music, building a house and working a challenging job, I discovered a perfect way to relax.
Short contemporary romances provided a wonderful three-hour escape, and my friend Jackie provided the books. She would pass on big grocery bags full of romance novels to me in the church parking lot, having torn the corners from the covers of the ones she thought were the best.
After reading a few hundred of these books, I knew I could write one myself. I bought my first computer, gave it a try and discovered that it was so easy it only took me ten years to write a book that would sell. That book was a faith-based romance, a little like the Grace Livingston Hill books I still love.
When my next book was rejected, I redecorated the house and focused on my terrific family, my treasured friends and my wonderful church that started with forty people and grew to more than 1,500 in eight years. I ran from the rejection instead of remembering that readers don't always agree on what makes a great book.
Finally, in the winter of 2003, I realised that words were cheap, and it would cost me nothing but free time if I got back to business and tried again. If God wanted to use me to write inspirational romance, I could do my part. It was a good decision. I sold that book the following July! My family and friends rejoiced, and my husband was thrilled. (Possibly because it meant I would stop redecorating.)