I Have Something to Say About That…

Thoughts from Author Jenny Proctor


On Writing my Faith

badge-im-a-mormon-blue-borderA few weeks before my novel was released, I had a little bit of a mini panic attack in regards to, you know, the whole concept of people actually READING my book.

What would people think?

What if people didn’t like it?

What if people read and think I deserve to be stoned in town square?

Fine, scratch that last one. I didn’t really worry about being stoned. And we don’t even have a town square. But I did worry about one question in particular, far more than any other.

See, I live in a place that isn’t particularly Mormon. The Mormon church does have a small congregation in our area, but for the most part, the people that I interact with on a daily basis–at the school, the gym, the grocery store, the library–they do not share my Mormon faith. I also have many family members who are not Mormon, most of them, actually. My parents are converts, and my husband is too. So most of our extended family? Not Mormon.

And yet, these lovely wonderful friends and family members were being kind and generous and wanted to support my novel. They were pre-ordering and spreading the word and making me feel loved and lifted.

And this made me worry.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think I wrote a “Mormon” book. It IS a book about finding faith and connecting with your family and redefining your relationship with God. Those themes are pretty universally Christian. But there are elements (just a few) that make the story uniquely Mormon. I am a Mormon, after all. Would the Mormon elements of the story be confusing to others? Would it make people uncomfortable? Would people feel duped when half way through the book, the Mormons show up? I wondered if I needed to send out an email that said, “Hey, just so ya know. There’s Mormons in the book. And they’re the good guys.”

My husband encouraged me to relax, to let the book speak for itself. My critique partner asked me, if those same friends and family members I worried about called me up and asked me to tell them about my faith, would I say no? Would I run away in fear, worry all over my heart? Of course I wouldn’t. So I shouldn’t fear the message the book shares either. Very good, very true, very wonderful points.

And so I did try and relax. I was honest when people asked about the book. I tried to be gracious when people offered their support. Book release came and went, and the reviews and feedback started to trickle in. I asked my nonmember friends what they thought. Did it feel preachy? (No.) Did the Mormon parts bother you? (Not at all.) Did you feel pressured to convert? (Are you crazy? I also read books about the Amish without feeling like I need to throw away my Iphone and move to Amish country. Let it go already.) (I totally didn’t make that answer up. Real friend. Real answer.)

And so I started to relax. (For real, this time.) And I’m still relaxed. I have been humbled and overwhelmed by the positive reception the book has received by so many. It’s selling very well… just made it into the top twenty on Deseret Book’s best seller general fiction list. It’s been nominated for a Whitney Award, an annual awards program for books written by LDS Authors, and it received positive reviews both by Meridian Magazine and LDS Women’s Book Review. These things make me happy and grateful and heart-full.

I’m sure there are plenty (friends and family not withstanding) who have read the book and didn’t care for it. It’s inevitable that everyone will not always like everything. And I’m good with that. But when one reviewer recently commented that she’d felt misled by the book and wished she’d known that the book was about Mormons, my original question resurfaced.

Do Mormons need warning labels?

I’m not sure there’s one answer that would ever fit every person. We all come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences that have contributed to our view of things and people and religions. But I do know this. I am not ashamed of my faith. Take it or leave it, I love what I believe in and I love making it a part of the stories that I write. So? I don’t know what comes after the so. I guess I just felt like I needed to say it out loud.

Leave a comment

A Book Review: In His Hands: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief and Loss

In 2008, Jenny Hess lost her four year old son, Russell, in a sledding accident. In this profound and insightful book, she writes about her journey through the grief that she experienced after her son died. And it is a journey.

But you know? As I sit here and try and figure out what to tell you about the book, it’s hard to come up with the right words. Was it harrowing? Emotionally gripping? Uniquely compelling? It was all those things, and yet those words don’t seem to do it justice. It seems better to simply call it beautiful, and real and pure.

Jenny doesn’t hold anything back in this book. She walks you through every emotion that she felt as she struggled to come to terms with Russell’s death. She shares the darkness and the desperation, which at times was heart wrenching to read, but she also shares her enduring love for Jesus Christ, and bears a near constant witness of His awareness of her.

For someone that has experienced the loss of a child, this is a book that will say, “I understand. I’ve been there. It’s okay. You’re not alone.” It is not a book that preaches or pontificates on “how” to heal; on what is or isn’t normal. It’s simply a mother sharing her heart, bearing her testimony, reaching out to lift others up and say, “this is my journey.” And by doing so, I think it might be one of the most healing books of all.

I have not experienced such loss in my life. I cannot even begin to pretend to understand what it would feel like to lose one of my children. But I know that after reading Jenny’s book I feel like I have a greater sense of awareness, and feel a stronger desire to say and do more when others in my life experience grief. I also found myself asking the question, Would my faith be enough? Would I be okay if this happened to me? This book was a reminder for me how important it is to remain close to my Heavenly Father, to trust in his plan for me, to anchor my faith around Jesus Christ and know that whatever life brings, He is there. He understands. He will help me through.

There were so many passages in this book that I loved, but this one might be my favorite:

Our family now has a new reason to choose the right and follow Jesus. We have a new reason to look to the heavens. Now we belong to heaven. We know someone there, someone who is preparing our home and awaiting our arrival, someone who showed us that the death of a righteous person is not sad for that person even though it is excruciating for those left behind. That was Russell’s gift to us. By going there first, he made heaven a real place, a place where we will be able to live together. In his own special way, Russell connected us to heaven with a bond that can never be broken.

I’m so glad I read, and I’m so glad Jenny had the courage to share her journey.

You can find Jenny’s book On Goodreads, Amazon, and Deseret Book.


To Heaven and Back – A book review

ImageThe concept of this book intrigued me from the very beginning. I’ve never doubted the existence of God, or of life after death, but since I haven’t exactly been through it myself, I was curious to read about the personal experiences of someone who had.

In her book, To Heaven and Back, Dr. Mary C. Neal shares a very detailed, very personal account of what happened when she drowned during a white water rafting accident, went to heaven, and then realized it wasn’t her time and she would be returning to her mortal body to complete her mission here on earth.

What a remarkable story. It was uplifting, compelling, and incredibly interesting. Time and time again, it validated my own feelings about God’s awareness of who we are, and what we are doing. It bore witness to his involvement in our lives, and expressed incredible joy in the realization that this life isn’t all there is. There is more. There is so much more to look forward to.

When asked about how her faith changed after her accident, Dr. Neal said the following:

With my near-death-experience, the truth of God’s promises and the reality of eternal life became a part of my every breath. I am in constant prayer and regardless of what I am doing, I try to reflect God’s love and live for His glory. I try not to miss opportunities to uplift or encourage the spiritual life of others, and I live with gratitude and joy, knowing that I never face challenges alone.

Pretty awesome, huh?