While my next release, FINDING HOPE, is in the hands of a very capable proofreader (I guess it needs a lot of proof), this writers gotta write. I thought it would be fun to write a MG or YA Fantasy.Confession? I am a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I kept my daughter awake to make the midnight release parties. I have always wanted to build a world. Infact, I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to design their own world.I have outlined a series called, Other Worlds. The first book is called, The Forgetting.
I will never forget the moment I realized that everything I believed about my sweet life was wrong and that I needed to leave behind my marriage, my adorable little home, and essentially everything I was or thought I was. I stood in a therapist’s office on the phone. I was calling my mother to ask her to watch my children overnight so I could go home for the last time and pack to leave my innocence and shattered hopes. The conversation went something like this…
“Hi Mom. Can you keep the girls one more night?”
“How long is this going to take, Shannon? I have a lot of things to do.”
“An eternity, mom.”
The line was silent. She knew where I was. She knew what I meant.
At that moment in time, more than anything on earth, all I needed was someone to hold me and tell me we would be okay. That we might be homeless and helpless, but that they would be there for us and that our Heavenly Father, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost would never, ever, leave our side. But that isn’t what happened.
Heaven will forever bless my family. Even though my parents had their hands full, they made room for us. And may God forever bless the members of my mother’s church, who knew me as a young woman, and never doubted me or my decisions.
But, may Heaven forgive the people at church who said the darndest things.
I wish I could say that my experience of having people at church make unbelievable statements is rare. It isn’t. Survivors of domestic abuse, infidelity, spousal addiction, and those of us who struggle to keep difficult marriages together, and all the other things life throws at us, have heard it all.
Have you ever said something to someone at church and regretted it? I know I have. Do you wonder what to say to your fellow church members who are struggling with challenges like mine? Or do you wonder why people care so much about what other people say? Shouldn’t we just buck up, get over it, and do what is right?
Five months into my divorce, I rented a house and began attending church in a new town. They had all seen the single mother and her five small children move in. From the moment I crossed the threshold at the neighborhood church, people said the darndest things. Here is a short list:
“Have you ever been to church before?”
“I heard you’re divorced. There are two sides to every story.”
“I think people should try harder.”
“You should go home and put your marriage together as God intended.”
And, “Why did you marry him? There are always signs. You should have known.”
Gradually I stopped talking to people. Eventually, I would randomly go to my mother’s church. At one point, I stopped talking to anyone at all except a kind neighbor and my family. Then, to avoid a complete mental breakdown, I began hiring a sitter so I could run once a day because my therapist said it would help.
My sweet father held a garage sale so he could buy me very expensive Nike running shoes and the best in Nike running gear for the over one hundred degree summer temperatures. One of the local clergy said a prayer in a meeting, and in the prayer blessed that I would stop running through town in shorts (honestly. I would have laughed if I wasn’t so concerned for the clergy’s mental health).
I am tough. In fact, I have pretty thick skin. The topper will not be repeated here. Suffice it to say, I left the church and didn’t return for more than a year.
I wish I could say I was alone. Recently, I have spoken to several women who are struggling with the things family, friends, and church members are saying to them at their most vulnerable moments.
I had come to church, bruised, beaten, broken to fill my soul and find connection and sisterhood. I had found something I would learn later was, “Victim Blaming.”
We have all done it. We have seen a couple in our little church get divorced. It rocks us. We look at them and wonder what happened. We think things like, if it happened to them, could it happen to me? They seemed so perfect.
Then, out of fear, we look for ways we are different. We think and actually say things to each other like, “It happened to them because he drinks. We don’t drink so it can’t happen to us. I would have left him too, the poor Alcoholic.” or worse, “Of course he cheated on her. Have you seen how she treats him or keeps house?”
We are engaging in typical victim blaming. It is more obvious, when we examine situations containing abuse. It is easier to see when people say things like, “She was sexually assaulted because of how she dressed.” She was sexually assaulted because the perpetrator made the choice to assault her. Only one person is responsible. The person who hurt her.
Victim blaming is how we make sense of our world. If random abuse can happen to people due to other’s random agency or choices, then we might get hurt. But, if we can find the reason it happened to “someone else” we can exclude ourselves from harm. We look for the difference between us and them, because it is like looking for Dumbo’s magic feather.
As survivors, we are already looking for a way it is our fault. It is our fault because we are loud, fat, or made bad choices. Just like others, who victim blame, we are desperately seeking a way to make sense of the senseless.
Here is what Elise Lopez, a researcher said in DomesticViolence.org’s article, Why We Blame Victims for Domestic Violence:
“Why do some people jump to blame the victim? At its core,…victim-blaming is about self-preservation.
Compare these reactions to how some people respond to seeing a photo of an overweight person, says Lopez. “People think, ‘If I were overweight, I’d go to the gym every day and I would lose that weight.’ They don’t think about how hard that would be,” she says. …They think if somebody is being abused, they probably did something to incite it.” In essence, if people can find a reason why abuse is the victim’s fault, then abuse is something that can not only be controlled but prevented. And, in turn, it won’t happen to them.”
So, what do you say to people whose lives are falling apart?
Speak honestly, from the heart. You don’t understand. You can’t, unless you have lived their life. Only one person understands, the Savior. Avoid judgment. Try to be a judgement free and shame free friend. Leave the judgment to the Savior.
Things to say to domestic violence or sexual assault survivors:
- I am glad you survived.
- It isn’t your fault.
- Whatever decision you make, I will support you. I know you know what is best for you.
- I may not know how you feel, but I am here to (list anything you are willing to offer including time, provide service, be a friend, always be by their side).
- Listen (No words necessary).
We all have friends who are making serious decisions or engaged in heartbreaking challenges. LDS Living’s article, The LDS Divorce Experience talks about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They share statistics which show prior to divorce nine percent of those surveyed were less active and eight percent were not attending church. After, six percent occasionally went, eight percent had a short period away (that was me), six percent stopped going, and then two percent increased their activity.
Interestingly, even though I was too tender to deal with the looks, the words, the strange things people said, I personally felt an increase of the spirit. Although, I was wrestling with who I was and how I wanted to live; I prayed more, read my scriptures more, and felt the sweet peace of the Savior’s love for me in miracle after miracle. I admire the two percent who increased their activity and developed the ability to seek what they needed to connect and heal. Maybe, because I write, words mattered too much to me.
During the years I was putting my life back together, I develop compassion for people who struggle. I gradually got my feet back underneath me. I was not only running for sanity; I was running towards the Savior. I experienced the mightiest miracles during my darkest times.
While I was still inactive, I was blessed to have the rare opportunity to meet with an Apostle in my church, President James E. Faust. President Faust spent an hour asking me about my experience as a sister in the church during my trials. At the end of the meeting, he very gently asked me why I was inactive. I shared the things that had been said and transpired. He was straightforward and honest in his opinion. he was compassionate and caring.
He said the darndest thing. “Why aren’t you active?” Four little words said with love and compassion, a listening ear, and an honest response.
That was it. I went back.
People say the darndest things. Things like, “I love you,” or “I don’t care what you choose, I will be here for you.”
“The reality is, the depth of our relationships is correlated to the time in which we’re willing to spend together. It’s marked by our honesty and vulnerability with one another, by the things we have in common, and in our service to one another.” MultiplyGoodness.com
It was my privilege to be a guest on Valerie Loveless's podcast! Valerie is an author and a world changer. Learn ways to support survivors, tips for keeping teens safe, and why I love Oregon's services for survivors. Hear about Safe House, and my next novel with the same characters and setting, FINDING HOPE.
Meet bestselling author, Julie L. Spencer, and learn why a group of authors has dedicated themselves to writing clean fiction! Find out how to subscribe to Julie's fun, free Chapter a Day emails featuring her works in progress.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
Not long ago I found myself crying alone on a bridge. As there are many bridges in Seaside, that isn’t as odd as it sounds. I still haven’t decided if I was crying because I was heartbroken, betrayed by my own people, or just plain furious. You see, writers make a grand joke of rejection. We are experts at querying agents and publishers and being told our stories are, “Not what we are looking for,” or “you don’t have a large enough following,” or even, “your work needs more work.” But this rejection was personal.
I was told by an editor that my work contained characters who were members of my religion, and no one buys books with characters of my religion. They just don’t sell. And so, they’d voted and wouldn’t take any more novels that weren’t secular or contained characters who were members of my church.
In a knee jerk reaction, I offered to obliterate my religion from my story and thankfully they declined. You see, they said, my followers already know what church I belong too, and it was too late to go back in the closet. So, I countered, I read Anne Frank’s Diary, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and would have read 7 years in Tibet, except Brad Pitt starred in the Move, so I watched it 2 or 3 times. People read novels with religions in them. But, apparently, they don’t sell.
So, channeling Brene Brown, and in the spirit of authenticity and vulnerability, I am perhaps one of the few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be rejected by an unnamed publisher for writing about characters that belong to the aforementioned church.
Most authors would just counter, oh well! That’s rejection number 666. Then they would either take out their religion or keep submitting. But, not the very successful authors and members of my critique group. Sometime in the evening, wearing pajamas and reading our work to each other over Google Hangouts and chatting over Facebook Messenger, I confessed – rejected because some of my characters went to The Church.
Immediately, I got the best advice of my life, “Wait by the gate.”
I replied, “Wait by the gate?”
The reply was a quote from a song.
“They came to a place which was named, Gethsemane
And Jesus saith unto his disciples, sit ye here while I pray…”
In those few lines, I experienced greatness. You see, these lines came from a fellow author who also writes about characters in The Church who navigate the challenges of life, are regularly misunderstood for their beliefs, and yet cling to them. She waits by the gate, true to her beliefs, authentic, honest, hilarious, and a true friend. We write about what we know.
I decided to join her and wait by the gate. I will be true to my beliefs, to who I am and I will keep the strange little bishop who interferes with the love interest in my book and the funny lady who has never had a cup of coffee, but… well you’ll just have to read the book.
I don’t know what you believe in, but I hope whatever gate you choose to camp out at, you are faithful to it. I hope you are brave, honest and honorable about who you are and what you believe. If you write a book, I will read it.
As for me and my friend? We will be waiting by our gate, with laptops, good books, good friends, family, laughter, and tears of joy. Because it isn’t about how many books we sell (Okay, we keep score and compete a little) as much as it is telling a great story. Not the greatest story ever told, yet. But then, you’ll just have to read the book.
CONTEST CLOSED! WATCH FOR NAMES OF WINNERS!
Enter Mrs. Lady Wordsmith’s giveaway of my novel, Safe House, and Carried by Michelle Schmidt and Angie Taylor. You will love Mrs. Lady Wordsmith’s website. She shares clean literature and more.
Have you ever lost someone? Are you navigating life challenges and wonder how you will make it thought? Carried is the uplifting story loss, hope, and miracles. It is also the story of a woman who lives by faith.
I am enjoying Deseret Book’s audio version. Michelle shares a lifetime of faith, including marrying a musician.
It is my great privilege to be able to participate. I look forward to sending the winners signed books. What else would you like? If you could win anything from an author what would you ask for? Name it! Let’s celebrate Michelle Schmidt’s story and Mrs. Lady Wordsmiths quest for quality books.
Carried on Amazon
“On October 19, 2016, Michelle Schmidt’s plane landed in Oregon, where she was meeting her daughter, Annie, for a camping trip. But Annie didn’t show up at the airport to pick up her mother as planned.
Thus began a season of searching and coming up short, of miracles and frustrations, of love poured out and faith tested, until Annie’s body was finally discovered more than three weeks later in the Columbia River Gorge, where she had fallen while hiking.
As Annie’s mother opens her heart to tell her story, her husband’s story (Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys), and Annie’s story, she writes: “It is my hope that my journey of being tutored by God to trust Him more—not only through the loss of Annie but through some of my most vulnerable and personal past experiences—will be the means of bringing strength and hope to anyone suffering at this time.”
When the unthinkable happened, Michelle Schmidt made a choice: to trust in God. This remarkable book will give readers the courage and inspiration to make that same choice.”
For my birthday, I want to give you a gift. The SAFE HOUSE kindle version is 0.99 cents for the month of January. Thanks to a very special editor and my critique group (who shall remain nameless until they approve the final copy!), I am editing away on the final draft of the next novel in my clean mystery-suspense series, set in the same coastal location, with the same beloved characters. While I work, I wanted to share the first story, set in the small town of Necanicum where the winds blow and the rain falls.
So enjoy the winter storms that roll in over the ocean or the snow that falls on your lawn. Snuggle up by the fire and READ! I know I will…when the edits are done.
My oldest daughter, nicknamed E.R., lives in Farmington, Utah with her husband and 4 children. A few days ago, I called E.R., and she answered the call on Bluetooth in the family car. The call went something like this:
Maddy: I want to buy a cow!
Haley: We're buying water!
Maddy: But, I want to buy a cow!
Haley: We all decided, water!
"Look! It's a fender bender in Bethlehem! You see, everyone is so excited to see baby Jesus, so of course there are lots of cars," Elliott said, as he proudly showed me his arrangement of our Nativity scene.
Today, sleep eluded me, and I was up and on my knees talking to my Father in Heaven. Just like so many of us, I was feeling overwhelmed with my list of responsibilities. I felt I was failing. I listed the things I am thankful for and asked for a few massive miracles. On my list was, “Please give me more hours in this day.”
I am in the middle of editing my next novel, Finding Hope, and it is taking much longer than I thought it should. Editing is a long process for me. Errors don’t jump out at me, they hide. I have to hunt them down by reading my entire book out loud. I beg saints to be beta readers who correct a copy which I integrate into my master copy. And then, after another read through and a second, third, fourth, edit I can send it off to a professional editor.
At 4 this morning my brain woke me up to think about editing. I had a whole conversation with myself. It went something like this:
Me: You should just get up right now and edit until work and then through the next night. You could get it all done.
Also Me: Right….like that time you were writing in the night and woke up to find out you had typed a whole paragraph of a dream? Editing is not something a sleep-deprived person like you should be doing.
Me: I can push harder. Let’s see. Editing from 4:30 to 7:30, Workout 7:30, work 8:30 (looking really bad), Editing from 5:00 to Midnight. See, it can work.
Also Me: Why am I am so anxious. Why isn’t it done? Everyone else in the whole world, I mean every single person, could do this faster than me.
Satan: You’re not good enough. This is a waste of time. You should be spending time cleaning the house or with your family. You should just quit. Quit. Quit.
It was at that moment that I decided to roll onto my knees and give all my worries to my Heavenly Father.
One of my favorite spiritual leaders, Deiter F. Uchtdorf said,
“We must learn that in the Lord’s plan, our understanding comes “line upon line, precept upon precept.”6 In short, knowledge and understanding come at the price of patience.
Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness.”
This morning, I didn’t get my answer on my knees. All I could do was give my challenges up in prayer, say Amen, and get on with my day.
I work at a nonprofit that sits a few blocks from the ocean. Weekly, we have the gift of a wellness hour with free yoga. Today, however, was bright and sunny so I opted to take a walk. I put my headphones in, turned on a good book and walked to the beach.
Somewhere on the walk, I remembered I needed to call Deseret Book and update my platinum membership. Ironically, I am on a tight budget, but it felt important.
Because I was walking, (And I am a new age girl who can walk and text), I googled the customer service line and got on with an Operator.
Me: Hello? I think I need to renew my platinum membership so I get Bookshelf for less. I might have been charged more this month. Someone there called me last month, but I forgot to call back. My name is Shannon Symonds.
Operator: That was me! I called you last month. I remember because after we talked, I bought your book, Safe House, and read it. I have been wanting to tell you I loved it. It was good. I think it will help people.
Me: You just answered my prayer! I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I was pretty discouraged this morning and wondering if I was doing the right thing.
Operator: You are! Keep writing.
Me: Tears of gratitude for a Heavenly Father who answers prayers and for a sweet woman who listens to the spirit and blessed my life.
When it feels like you are overwhelmed, and your burden is too hard to carry, remember the operator. Call Heaven and ask for help. Maybe you will get the operator, maybe you will get a miracle, or maybe, if you are patient, you will find a mountaintop and look back to see the Lord was with you every step of the way, and the journey was for your own good.
Wait! Did I use too many commas, not enough? I should edit this again.