I’ve loved John Grisham a long time. Over 25 years.
He came into my turbulent life with The Firm. I stayed up all night reading it, my heart racing and on the run with Mitch McDeere. I didn’t want the story to end and return to my uncertain life.
In John Grisham’s stories, the characters were pushed into uncertainty. But, unlike me, they always found their way. I, too, was seeking answers after failing out of college (panic attacks hinder getting to class!), a failed marriage, and a stint in the Navy – I landed in limbo. Like John Grisham’s characters, I had been on the run a long time. Running from my depression, from my dark childhood, from my anxiety, from my uncertainty – from not believing I had any worth.
Reading and writing were my only escapes then where I could have purpose, have strength, have confidence, and change my life.
John Grisham was there for me.
I fought for justice and the truth in The Last Juror. I faced my demons and overcame them in The Testament. I returned to my childhood and found solace from it in The Painted House. I sought a champion by my side in The Client.
So, when my husband passed along the ad that John Grisham was coming to our town’s bookstore, The Doylestown Bookshop, for his first book tour signing in 25 years to celebrate the release of his 30th book, Camino Island, I rushed to get a ticket.
Giddy with delight, I fan-girled in line waiting to get my book signed with another lady as giddy as me. And he was all I dreamed of. Gracious, inviting. He shook my hand, looked me in the eye, asked me about my books. He was a true southern gentleman. I couldn’t breathe! He’d been my rock star author for decades.
This man had given me hope in desperate times. Times when I knew I wanted to be an author but didn’t even know myself yet. I could only dream of writing a book and getting it published. And at times, the hope of fulfilling this dream was all I could cling to.
But my time with him wasn’t over. I sat in the front row for over an hour and listened to him in discussion with author Lisa Scottoline. His conservative wit crackled alongside her unbridled humor.
He told us that he wrote his first book, A Time to Kill, without any outline. It came out to 1,000 pages! He said he would never do that again as the editor cut over 1/3 of it. He said, “That third was a year of my life!” He always uses an outline ever since then and knows the end first.
Just like me.
He shared how he rose at 5 a.m. each morning to write for hours on his first novel at his office before his lawyer job started.
Just like me.
He said how he was rejected for years but never gave up.
Just like me.
He persisted. He kept writing.
Just like me.
John Grisham knew what he wanted to write. He’s forged the top niche in legal thrillers. He’s written a book a year for 30 years. I didn’t always know what I wanted to write. I just knew I must.
I’m not that young woman I was decades ago when I first fell in love with him. I am no longer uncertain about my path. I am no longer paralyzed with fear and depression. I am worthy. But I didn’t take the straight road to get here. I took the road of his characters. I wandered. I stumbled. I ran into walls. I ran away. I wrote my first novel from grief when my mother passed away, a dark thriller. I wrote my demons out with that series. I wandered then to writing middle grade. My writing path has been a crooked twist.
It took me longer to get here but I. AM. HERE.
John Grisham made it all clear to me in a time now when my life is filled with so many project details – business and teaching – that flood my day. I was born to be storyteller. That’s what I do. That’s what I need to get back to. The simplicity (and complexity) of telling a story, sinking myself into it, and not tearing its claws from me until I am done. Share my awareness of the world around me. Share the human condition. Explore our purpose. Take readers on a journey to find themselves. Just like John Grisham did for me.
He made it clear to me that all this messiness of life can’t get in my way of doing what I was born to do. And if one way doesn’t work out, I will find another. And another.
And I have finally found my way in my writing. To write for kids and weave stories in that magical place with one foot in the dream world of endless possibilities and one foot grounded in the grown-up world. A place where I dwell as well. I took a roundabout path to get here. But I. AM. STILL. HERE.
The next 30 years look splendid.
Thank you, John Grisham.
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