Part 1. The Writing. 12/6/2008
Two years on from July 1st 2006 and the deaths of Claire and Jen, a book is out and waiting to be read. It’s quite a mixed experience, the elation of publication and the reason for it being written in the first place.
I had no idea that much of the writing I did on MySpace, starting in August ’06, was going to end up in print. I just remember that loads of it was written in tears and that often the tears were to do with Jesus and just how much he was meeting with me. There were times I could barely cope with his presence and my eyes were running and my nose was dripping so that I could barely type the words.
Some people suggested that the writing was a way of dealing with the pain but I never saw it that way. I knew that he wanted me to write, I just didn’t see it as anything beyond whoever read it on the website.
Just under a year later, someone prayed over me and started talking about a book, then someone else did and the idea just grew on me. I had loads of material to start with; not only was there the blogs, but also a diary from my early 20s that included how I turned from being an atheist to becoming a Christian. Then there were Claire and Jenny’s diaries.
It had been so fantastic to read their diaries after the accident. You never really know where people stand, you just have your observations of their lives to go on. Admittedly I had a strong conviction from God that they were safe with him, but to read their own accounts of a personal faith. They talked about God as a friend and I could look at what they said in plain print and conclude that if they weren’t Christians then I’m not one either. Their faith was as strong as mine, if not stronger.
I loved Claire agonising over doing what God wanted and not what was easy. And I was so proud that Jenny risked rejection by ‘cool’ people at school to confess she was a Christian and proud of it. I love my girls for their faith. A reporter questioned me whether I found something embarrassing in their diaries. I found nothing, I am so proud of my girls.
Put these three sources together and the book was well on the way to birth. Within a year it was written and the next step was to try and get it published …. but that’s another story …
Part 2. The Arrival. 13/7/2008
Bevan Street in Lowestoft is a piddly and irritating length of tarmac. Firstly it is only one-way for motor vehicles and once committed you face sitting in traffic before even reaching the bottle-neck junction. Next you must somehow barge into the queue spawned by two sets of traffic lights and occasionally a risen bridge.
The second irritation is parking. So close as the street is to the bustling town centre, competition for a free half hour is most fierce. Of course a sensible person wouldn’t take the risk of driving up a congested one-way street just to park. But occasionally reason is abandoned and the inevitable plight of escaping the street has to be faced. This can be particularly galling when all you wanted to do was go back from whence you came. A quick reverse would have saved half an hour of annoyance, but sadly this can’t be done.
Decorating both sides of our delightful Bevan Street is an array of small shops including the Oasis Christian Bookshop and its charming manager David Willis. A discerning customer on the morning of Thursday 12th June might have noticed a slight withdrawal of his usual friendly service and an odd fixation on the crawling traffic outside.
Finally, the reason for his interest arrived. A medium-sized lorry pulled up outside the shop and dispatched a miserable driver. “Oasis Bookshop?” he enquired on walking through the door. “Journey was going well until I got onto this street. Did over 100 miles in two hours and now 100 yards in half an hour!”
“That’s Lowestoft for you”, grinned Dave, “Got the books then?”
Forty-five minutes later and 3000 copies of ‘A12 To Heaven’ squatted proudly on nearly all the floor space available. Dave had rung to see if I could help with the unloading but the higher call of teaching was upon me. One could not abandon the noble education of the student masses for the menial groan of box-shifting. And so it was, that I arrived a short time later – fresh as a daisy on a bright spring morning – to find Dave slacking on the job, collapsed against the boxes and allowing sweat to drip dangerously near to them.
It took three journeys to transport the bulk of the books to my house. We have a Ford Galaxy within which you can remove all the back seats and transform it into a mini-van. They went under the stairs and lined the walls of two other rooms. It was both exciting and scary to look at the mini-mountains and think “will people want to read this book? Suppose I go through the rest of my life with 2999 books that nobody wants?”
In reality I wasn’t too scared, convicted as I was that that God had initiated this book and as the bible verse says: “He who began a good work in you will carry it through to the day of completion” (Philippians).
Nevertheless it was still quite a gamble, for in the month before printing, an offer had been received from an established publisher to take the book on and therefore take responsibility for production and distribution. The offer came with conditions but it was still an offer. So why didn’t I take it? So glad I didn’t …