By lifting others, we all rise. People are always more important than problems. Problems can bring us together, or tear us apart. In this case, being vulnerable and authentic, sharing my heart work has brought me closer to family, friends, and a whole new community.
“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.
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.
Do you believe in answers to prayer? I do! Recently I discussed cover art with the talented author of the Buxton Peak series and other clean adult fiction, Julie L. Spencer. She gave me some great tips. I hung up the phone and wondered how I would ever get cover art done in Seaside, Oregon on the edge of the world?
I actually prayed out loud, a name came to mind and the phone rang. One of those rare friends, the kind you meet and feel like you’ve known a hundred years, was calling – Haley Miller of HisNames.org and Captures Photography. She said, “I’ve been thinking about you. How can I help you?” I felt like Angels were in the room singing.
Haley was there for me when I launched Safe House. I was so happy to see her!
Today we went to a little known local spot. I had the privilege of watching Haley, a talented photographic artist, create the cover art for my next novel, “Finding Hope.” She asked about the characters, the story, the feelings, and went to work. I can’t wait to reveal the cover.
Finding Hope is a clean stand-alone novel which takes place in the same beloved town as Safe House with everyone’s favorite characters, Grace and Officer Joe Hart. Maybe this time Grace will find love.
17-year-old Hope Experience Flanagan thought she was escaping danger when she walked away from the Yeti Haven Trailer Park and the Rat. But, the world is a dangerous place, unless you have Grace and a little help from friends. Grace James and Officer Hart work together to help Hope find her mother and a place to call her own before she becomes easy prey for traffickers and finds herself in deep water.
So I leave you with this thought, Can Grace find Hope, while Hart saves Grace?
Comment below if you want to know the location of the shoot and maybe, just maybe, I will share one of my favorite local (and often missed) beaches on the Oregon Coast.
I was never a Mormon. Mormon was an ancient prophet in the Book of Mormon* who has been dead for many years. To top it off, someone once bought a handwritten manuscript of Mormon’s abridgment for 35 million dollars!** Trust me… I have not come close to making that kind of money as an author and no one wants to buy my messy original word doc for ten cents.
I have always been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Recently our Prophet announced we were no longer to be called or call ourselves, “Mormon,” or “LDS.” This was major news to the world. We were being “rebranded.”
This was not major news to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I had been hearing this for years! Here is a little history behind the shortened or slang term or name, “Mormon.”
In the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, according to Deseret News *** and everything I have been taught, “The church has had a complicated relationship with the term Mormon since its restoration in 1830. Church leaders long chafed at antagonists calling them Mormons and, early on, Mormonites, but in recent decades they have been more accepting of the nickname.”
Let me tell you what I think this means. In early history, there was an Extermination Order allowing people to legally kill “Mormons.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were burned out of their homes, run out into the snow and driven across state lines, massacred, and generally misunderstood. “Mormon” was a slang term used in derision that we adopted ourselves and used.
However, I have speculated, as others have, that it created confusion around whether or not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were Christians. We are.
Here are a few facts about me and some of my friends who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are not perfect. We are human. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I go to church in an effort to become more Christlike and grow. At church, I have been taught we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father, and I know from many church meetings, that we want everyone to be together as one big happy family again. We are taught to love everyone, no exceptions, unconditionally. We only ask the same in return. Love us as we are and let us work towards the next life as we choose. If you have questions just ask, and I will find someone who knows more than I do to answer them.
I personally don’t need rebranding. I do need people to stop calling me “Mormon.” He is a dead but respected prophet. I also need people to ask me questions, instead of guessing what I believe or telling me what they think I believe.
In all honesty, not much has changed in history, except we have stepped into the light, stopped hiding, and want you to know we hold firm to our belief in the Savior. I want my friends, co-workers, and neighbors to know I was never a Mormon, but I was always a Christian and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
In honor of my favorite holiday, July 4th, and Safe House’s first birthday on July 11, I am donating 100% of my ebook profits to Operation Underground Railroad and reducing the cost of my ebook to $0.99 for the ENTIRE month of July.
Cedar Fort is supporting the cause and donating 1 signed copy of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for their aftercare programs, auctions, or to give away for every 50 ebooks sold during the month of July.
July 4th is my favorite holiday! Since 1921, our family has gathered on the Seaside, Oregon Beach and lit a massive bonfire, made s’mores, and celebrated Independence Day together. So, of course, I want the same for everyone in America, including victims of human trafficking!
Comment below or on my blog, FaceBook page, Instagram, or Twitter, with the word Freedom and I will enter you into a Facebook Live drawing from a jar! One of my beautiful family members will help me on the 4th of July.
Remember, the fight for freedom is far from over. Somewhere out there are children who need us to care. Learn more at OurRescue.org.
And watch for the first annual Seaside, Oregon family fun run on the historic prom on August 18th. I will be there and we will be running to raise funds for Operation Underground Railroad, as well as our local Seaside Sunset Empire Parks & Recreation- providing safe programs for kids!
- Sam’s Seaside Cafe
- Providence Seaside Hospital
- Clatsop Community Bank
- The Human Bean
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? …For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little… ”
Isaiah 28: 9-10
My Grandmother, my father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and I all walked on this wall along the sea, and now my children’s children walk the same wall. Each one of us learned to walk the wall holding a grown-up’s hand until we all insisted on letting go. Step by step, starting with our first baby steps we learned and grew.
Seaside summer evenings were often spent walking as a family to the ice-cream shop. Twenty or more of us strung out along the promenade or Prom on the beach laughing, chasing children, holding our lover’s hands, pushing baby strollers, or watching our parents, aunts, and uncles smile and talk.
We learned about more than how to balance on a cement wall by the sea. We learned trusted loved ones had rules because they cared about us. We learned through quiet conversations on the mile-long walk to town for ice-cream. We learned by watching the grown-ups hold hands and treat each other with respect. The journey was so much more than a walk on the wall. We were building little people and a large family.
Life is a lot like our walks by the sea. It looks like you are doing dishes, going on a diet, teaching your children how to plant a garden, but you are actually doing something much deeper and wider, you are building love, trust, identity, connection, and a family.
A month ago, I committed to making some health changes. I was going on a cleanse. It absolutely made me giggle. For the first time in my life, I joined a group, bought some shakes, and began a sugar fast. All the laughter covered my terror. Remember, I am the girl on the prom wall. All our major childhood accomplishments were followed by dessert or sweet reward, and family gatherings always had food.
I set a goal. One month without refined sugar, caffeine (Diet coke which always led to needing Hot Tamales and a bucket of popcorn), as well as a TON of other foods like corn, honey, potatoes, and soy that I wouldn’t eat.
A few days ago, I finished the month! I was changed. Did I look different? Was I thinner and prettier? No. Was I changed? Absolutely. But the change was on the inside. I felt healthier. I had gained the strength that comes from setting out to accomplish something, anything, and finishing it. The sense of self-worth that comes from seeing something through, especially when it is difficult. I had endured with honor.
Just like the walk on the Prom, it looked simple, fun and easy but the results I hope will be much deeper than improved health today. Years down the road, I hope I look back and find I am grateful for the things I chose to change, the lessons I learned along the way, and the blessing of inner strength that comes from striving to be just a tiny bit better each day.
Every step we take is a choice. Even when we try to take random road trips through life, we are making a choice. But when we choose a direction and take one small step after another toward our goal we just might find we reach not only reach our destination, we have changed along the way.
Special thanks to Hilary and the group at Designing Health. I may stumble and I may fall, but I have a new network of friends headed the same direction. See you all at the Salad Bar!
Ready, Set, Write Podcast crew spotlighted Safe House today on their new show, “So You Think You Can Write!” I am so excited! I am a huge fan of this fun bunch. If you dream of being published they give great advice. It’s a hilarious way to laugh your way through the struggles of the first chapter and writing a great hook. Enjoy!