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A week or two ago, I wrote an article entitled Reading… A Waste of Time, or a Good Investment?

One job I did periodically do on my Dad's farm was to help pick up rocks. The job's only redeeming quality was that we would find fossils, agates, and beautiful rocks in every color of the rainbow, deposited in our fields by glaciers, hundreds of years earlier.
One job I did periodically do on my Dad’s farm was to help pick up rocks. The job’s only redeeming quality was that we would find fossils, agates, and beautiful rocks in every color of the rainbow, deposited in our fields by glaciers, hundreds of years earlier.

In the blog, I spoke to my Dad’s philosophy – working hard to get the work done you did something relaxing or fun like reading a book, and how it often clashed with my desire to read (or play the piano) every second of every day.

On Sunday, May 17, the Austin Daily Herald published a story about the release of my new book, Night and Day, where they quoted me discussing the same subject.

What didn’t get said in that article, follows… the rest of the story, if you will.

I’ll freely admit that I was not a good candidate for a farmer’s daughter. How my hard-working Dad and Mom ended up with a child like me, who was allergic to being outdoors, hated big trucks and farm equipment, and wanted to read all the time, is still a mystery to me. When I was about twelve, I became convinced I was adopted. I was just so different than the rest of my family. (This strikes me as extremely funny now that I am older, look like both my Mom and Dad, and am like them in countless ways.)

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One thing I should have seen, even then, was that we shared a certain “stubborn” gene.  Even as a child, it was impossible to get me to do anything I didn’t want to do. When my Dad  tried to teach me how to drive a stick shift so I could drive tractor, the pick-up, or his truck, I would act dumb, grind the gears, and generally be a pain in the butt until he got irritated with me, gave up, and sent me back inside – where I went to my room and opened whatever book I was reading.

I did cook, help with the laundry, clean, and baby-sit my younger brothers and sisters so my mom could drive tractor – usually with a book in one hand. Later on, I learned bookkeeping and did the books for the farm business. But contrary to the article in the Austin Daily Herald, I very rarely did anything farming related. Like Jensen’s parents in my book, my Mom and Dad worked sun up to sun down. I did not. I read at least one book every night of my life through junior high.

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I gave up reading, in part, because I was busy with classes, and being yearbook editor, and yes, in part because at that age, my parents felt like I should be helping on the farm or around the house instead of reading all the time, like I always had. My reading was a bone of contention at times, yes, but what little I did around the farm didn’t prevent me from reading.

I’m sure, if any of my brothers and sisters read the article, they chuckled when it implied that I worked on the farm at all.

But that is beside the point. The important thing that I think needs to be mentioned is that, looking back, I am eternally thankful that I was raised to appreciate the value of hard work, and the importance of getting the work done first, before I played. Why? Because writing a book is very, very hard work.

If it weren’t for my parents instilling their work ethic in me, I’d
still be one of those creative persons who has always said, and probably will say to their dying day, “I should write a book someday.” Because of my parents, I did it. I worked and worked until it was finished, and then I worked some more, making it better and better, until it was ready to publish, and then I worked and worked to get it in front of editors and agents and publishers. When I got a rejection, I worked even harder to make the book even better, until I got an offer. And now, I’m working hard to promote and market it.

Night & Day actual cover

While the article touched on this, my parents weren’t given credit, and I really think they deserve it, for teaching me persistence and determination, and the value of hard work.

I know many an artist, musician, writer, craftsperson, who although talented beyond words, can’t earn a living doing what they love and are gifted at because they don’t have a clue how to finish what they start, or keep at it until the job is done, say nothing about marketing themselves, selling themselves, or running a business.

Looking back on my farm experience, I feel passionate about the fact that my upbringing empowered me to be the person I am today, both innkeeper and author… because like it or not, my Dad taught me the value of hard work… an essential ingredient in the journey to getting published.

Some of my earliest memories are of bedtime stories being read to me, and I loved to read books from the time I learned how. When I was in grade school and junior high I had special library privileges – because I had to jump on the school bus as soon as school was out, I was dismissed from class 5 or 10 minutes early each day so I could go to the library and pick out a book, which I would then read that night and return the next morning. On Sundays, I would check out several books from the church library. I read at least one book a day.

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When I was little, my parents thought it was nice that I liked to read so much. They were proud that I was such an avid reader. But I was raised on a farm where everyone was expected to pitch in and help, and as I got older, what was perceived as cute became an irritation, especially to my Dad, who thought I should be working instead of “wasting time” reading. I took to reading late at night, sometimes in my bed, with a flashlight, half hidden under the covers, so my parents wouldn’t see the light. There are photos of me sitting at a picnic table or in the back seat of the car when we were on family vacations, reading, when according to my Mom and Dad, I should have been doing things with my family – hiking, swimming – the things “normal” kids do. When I tried to read, my sisters and brothers teased me. My parents yelled at me. Reading became a sore spot.

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I stubbornly ignored them and kept reading… and writing. A poetry class and then, a creative writing teacher, inspired and encouraged me to write, to express myself. I was a straight A student, fueled as much by what I learned from the books I read as what I was taught in class.

But somewhere about the time I was a junior in high school, I started to accept the message that was repeated over and over again – at worst, that reading was a waste of time, at best, that reading was something people only did when they were too old to work and had nothing better to do with their time. I stopped reading for pleasure. My school courses became more demanding and required more reading, and I was involved in several extracurricular activities – choir, yearbook editor, 4-H, youth group at church – that required my attention and took a lot of time.

This was even more true in college. What free time I did have was spent talking with friends in my dorm. I started working and dating. I wrote reams of poetry while I was at Wheaton, exulting in first loves and new experiences, questioning, learning, growing up. But I read only what I had to.

I married after two years at Wheaton and moved to Germany. I continued my studies and wrote avidly – this time in the form of term papers and hundreds of hand-written letters to my parents, in-laws, Grandmas, and friends. But I didn’t read. I earned money and I worked. I gave up the fight and listened to the inner voice in my head that said I was being lazy when I sat down to read a book… that I should be working… that I should be doing something worthwhile, productive… if nothing else, seeing the sights and experiencing Europe.

It didn’t help that books written in English weren’t that readily available in Germany. No e-books back in the 70’s! But more importantly, my life was in crisis. My marriage was a mess, and I made a series of bad choices in the years that followed… choices that I was ashamed of, felt guilty about, and couldn’t talk… or write… about. I lost hope, felt depressed, eventually got divorced. I neither read nor wrote during this period. How can a person read stories with a happy ending when you are so cynical that you don’t believe in them? Writing seemed pointless. It didn’t solve anything, help anything, change anything.

I acquired a sarcastic wit as I fought my way back to emotional health and rebuilt my tattered financial status. I worked countless hours opening a business and eventually found both happiness and success. But I never opened a book.

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It’s ironic now to think back on that time period — the fact that each of the rooms at my Bed and Breakfast is named after a book attests to the fact that I still had a passion for reading. But the rooms are named after books I’d read as a child… “On the Banks of Plum Creek” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, “The Secret Garden”, Sherwood Forest from “Robin Hood”, “Sleeping Beauty”, NeverNeverland from “Peter Pan”, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madelaine L’Engle, “Heaven to Betsy”, one of the Betsy – Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace… the books I’d loved as a child were the only books I knew, because I had stopped reading by the time I became an adult.

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Then, a friend invited me to join her at Prince Edward Island for a week and a half. Her aunt and uncle owned a vacation house on the water, and had rented the one next door for us to stay. I arrived at the sleepy little island one summer day, and felt immediately at home. Plainly rural, yet beautifully scenic, it lives up to its Indian name, Abegweit, or land cradled by the waves.

I’d never been on a seaside vacation. My family camped, changing locations every night, seeing new sights every day, traveling hundreds of miles over the course of a week’s vacation. I was bored silly, or more accurately, fit to be tied, after 3 days.

My friend’s Aunt Doris was a reader. She handed me a book and told me to relax. I started Sandra Brown’s “French Silk” later that afternoon, sitting in an old lawn chair, overlooking the water. I had read six books by the time I left for home. She let me take another to read on the airplane. I had finished it by the time I reached New Jersey, and bought another at the airport to take me to Minneapolis. I haven’t stopped since.

I read everything Sandra Brown had ever written. I discovered Susan Elizabth Phillips, Jill Marie Landis, Dorothy Garlock, LaVyrle Spencer, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Debbie Macomber, Janet Evanovich, Linda Lael Miller, Pamela Morsi, Julie Garwood, Jennifer Crusie and more, devouring their books one by one. Bookshelves once filled with baskets and knick-knacks were now crammed with books.

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A year after I visited Prince Edward Island and started reading again, I was inspired to write my first novel. I spent hundreds of dollars to fly to Colorado, rent a car, and attend a writing workshop led by Madelaine L’Engle. My employees, parents, and brothers and sisters all seemed to think I was wasting my time. Would writing pay off? It didn’t seem likely that I would ever get paid for the hours and hours I was spending in front of the computer, typing away.

This time, I again refused to listen. I kept reading… and writing. In my first published book, “Night and Day”, recently released by Second Wind Publishing, Jensen Marie Christiansen finds pure magic on Prince Edward Island, the place where I rediscovered my love of reading. Is it any surprise I chose this very special island to be the setting of Jensen’s dream come true?

Although my family has learned to accept my passion for books and writing, the entrepreneurial side of me is still bothered on some level that I may never net more than one or two cents an hour for the time and energy I’ve spent writing my books. But I have learned to be proud of my voice. I have learned that dreams really do come true. I have learned that I must write… and read. With every book I read, I am far richer than I was before.

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PLUM TART IRIS – New Release

Seaside Daisy

NEW RELEASE!

Daybreak (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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