An old Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That was how Finding Grace came to be. With a single step. Unfortunately, the cause of that step was the passing of my wife of 45 years, Sharee, from leukemia. Thus began a long winding road of dealing with loss and finding an outlet for my grief. I don’t believe in coincidence, and there were an extraordinary number of occurrences which could have been attributed to coincidence. I know that sometimes we have an angel (or angels) on our shoulder which lead us down paths meant to be traveled. And so began my journey.
Over the years of our marriage, very infrequently, I would write some song lyrics. Not the music, but just the words to express my feelings or to tell a story. Sharee thought they were good and always encouraged me to write more. But our life was busy raising our daughters and earning a living, so writing never became a priority. After her passing in May, 2019, I had too much time available to be alone with my memories and thoughts. That’s when I began spending time writing song lyrics again. Most of my lyrics are called “spoken word”, which tell a story, rather than the traditional Verse, Chorus, Bridge structure. Writing several times each week over the summer I soon had over a dozen song lyrics. Then one day, the angel on my shoulder whispered in my ear, “You know if you take these six song lyrics, they might make a pretty interesting story.” And that was the first step.
They say to write what you know, so while Finding Grace is a fiction novel, there is a tremendous amount of detail based on my first-hand experience with Sharee and her illness. While never having written a screenplay or novel, I wrote what I knew. The characters for each song materialized quickly, as did the idea for the cross-country trip. Then came the two main characters of Judith and Grace. The reason for a cross-country trip was easy, based on my losing Sharee. Grace was dying from leukemia and wanted Judith to come home to visit her before it was too late.
The next step was contacting a friend of mine in LA in the movie industry, sharing my thoughts about writing a screenplay called Finding Grace. He said to write a two-page pitch, which I did. He read it, saying my lyrics were very strong and the idea of Finding Grace was very solid as well. He encouraged me to write the screenplay/script. I had no idea about the structure of a screenplay, so I googled and printed the first ten pages of five movies. After narrowing down the different format structures to two that felt comfortable to me, I began writing the first five pages. Then I sat back, reading those first pages, satisfied and at ease with my format. So, over the next six months, I wrote. That’s when things got interesting.
I wrote when, emotionally, I had the need. There was no schedule to when I would sit down to write. Sometimes a week or more would go by without writing, but there was a routine when I did write. I would sit at the end of my kitchen table with my favorite picture of Sharee facing me on the other end. On my right was the bay window where I could see the trees, birds, rabbits, and squirrels. Seeing God’s blessing of nature helped. Then I would bring up my Spotify playlist of favorite songs that Sharee and I loved, with it playing softly in the background.
To say things got interesting perhaps is an understatement. I have always been a very visual person, so as I began writing, more often than not, I found myself as an outside observer. It was as if I were actually watching the characters in my mind as they talked with each other, and there were times when it was challenging to keep up typing their back-and-forth dialogue. It truly felt surreal to me. Again, I believed it was that angel on my shoulder still whispering in my ear. So, I listened.