People often ask, "How is that you came to writing a sea-faring novel?"
I explained how in my FORWARD of the original edition, left out in the condensed version. Here, then, is that FORWARD, explaining just how I stumbled onto this amazing story—a story I just had to write.
CHRISTMAS 1988, a drizzly wet night, my neighbor Russ Karns knocked on the door. He held in his hands two bright boxes for my sons and a library book for me. Phillip and Blake were delighted to receive so fancy a package from their adopted grandfather, packages shiney red and green with snowmen and glass balls.
"I came across this story, Brenda," he told me. "I couldn't put it down. It's a woman's journal of a shipwreck in 1870, and I thought you might like to read it before I take it back to the library."
"'Yes, I think so," I said, and while winter rain turned to snow I sailed back in time 120 years, to the very end of the world and to the edge...emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I too could not put the book down. Into the wee hours of the morning I sat, turning page after page while outside the wind whistled and inside the fire winked out, and when I came at last to the end, the hush of winter's night wrapping my house, I knew I had another book I just had to write—the courageous story of one Emily Wooldridge.
I wanted to write her story in novel form, to translate narrative into scene, not just because its such terrific story and warrants a wider audience, but because there are so many of us who live shipwrecked lives, cast upon a barren shore and left, we think, to die. But like Emily, in the resolve to live we discover, when push comes to shove, an unknown strength within. Against all odds we triumph. Our shattered faith is restored, our enemies subdued. Loved ones die but loved ones survive, and through it all we learn and grow and suffer and win. And by reading the true story of Emily Wooldridge, we read the inner story of ourselves.
Mrs. Wooldridge's original journal passed into the hands of her doctor before she died in the early 1920s. He in turn passed it into the hands of another of his patients, Laurence Irving. Mr. Irving published it with MacMillan in 1953, and it was this edited and illustrated version that passed into the hands of my neighbor who gave it to me for a Christmas gift: The Wreck of the Maid of Athens. And so by writing Shipwreck! I hope to pass the story on yet again, putting into your hands what Russ gave to me, and let you feel the biting wind, the raging fire, the storm-tossed waves, and grief so great you fear for your sanity.
For in the end we learn that God lives not in the air and earth and fire, in the great tragedies that surround. We learn instead that God lives in the after, in the broken pieces of our lives.
Feel free to contact me. I'd love to hear from you.