God in the Detours

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Faith, Friends of ACFW, writing 4 Comments

by Suzanne J. Bratcher, PhD

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28, RSV]

 My writing road began in a bookmobile on McCollough Drive in Austin, Texas in 1957. I was eight, and I was waiting for Brighty of the Grand Canyon, a book that had come all the way from the downtown library. I was an earnest child, and because my father was a minister, I knew about being called. As I stood in the narrow aisle and inhaled the scents of dusty paper, old ink, and petrified glue, I felt God calling me to write.

My faith in God’s call never wavered, but sixty years passed before I slit a piece of brown paper tape on a sturdy cardboard box and lifted out my first published mystery. Detour after detour  had interrupted the road from the bookmobile to that box.

At the beginning, the road was straight. I wrote papers for my teachers. I also wrote stories, first for my mother and eventually for magazine editors. Occasionally a story even made it into print.

I reached the first Road Out sign when I was a junior in college. My father showed me the math: my writing couldn’t pay rent, much less buy food. I took the first detour—teaching. Determined to write during the summers, I accepted a job teaching junior high English. Two years later I headed to graduate school to get certified in remedial reading.

When I landed a job teaching writing to college freshmen, academia threw up three Road Out signs: a PhD, professional writing demands, and the need for a specialization. My personal life posted its own Road Out signs (marriage, a child, divorce, and Multiple Sclerosis).

Because of the many detours, I had to wait for retirement before I could focus on the writing I knew God had called me to. I was sixty-eight when my first book, The Copper Box, was published and seventy when The Silver Lode followed. I’ll be seventy-one next month when Kokopelli’s Song makes it into print.

Until a few months ago that’s the way I saw my writing journey.

Then, as I prepared a book talk, the map I’d drawn of my writing road did a somersault. I saw God at work for good on every detour. Teaching and graduate school took me into the theory and practice of writing. That specialty led me to establish a summer writing project for teachers which helped all of us look at writing from our students’ point of view. My professional writing produced two books that showed teachers how to teach writing effectively and compassionately.

I even spotted God at work for good in my personal detours. The marriage that ended in divorce took me to the Grand Canyon, Jerome, and Hopiland—settings I use in my fiction. It also immersed me in the themes I write about—grace and God’s call to new life. Now Multiple Sclerosis is whispering to me to write about how God can use the halt and the lame.

As I write this we’re embarked together on a detour called COVID-19. While I don’t yet see clearly what God is up to on this stretch of the road, I’ve had enough experience with detours to believe God is here working for good. That trust brings me peace.

What about you? What detours have you encountered on your writing road? As you look back, where do you see God working for good?

God Works for Good in the Detours @AuthorBratcher #ACFWBlogs #writetips #ACFWCommunity

A mystery fan since her first encounter with Nancy Drew, Suzanne J. Bratcher, PhD, lives in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains in central Arkansas. Professor Emeritus, Northern Arizona University, she delights in spinning adventures set in the majestic, mysterious Southwest. Find her at https://suzannebratcher.com, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



Comments 4

  1. Suzanne,

    Thank you for sharing your journey! I, too, published my first novel in retirement, although I had an entirely different route to publication.

    Best wishes for continued success and writing.

  2. Thank you for your beautiful story. It gives hope and inspiration to those of us who are challenged by these detours life presents. You remind us that we must never give up, and despite the detours our stories flourish because of God’s grace. You remind us we are not alone and there is always hope and God’s guiding light as we persevere and pursue our calling as writers.

  3. Suzanne, Kay, and Patricia, each of you has encouraged me greatly! I love hearing that God can still launch us into new fruitful endeavors without regard for our age. Thanks for sharing your stories.

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