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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Manuscript (04/29/10)

TITLE: A Dream…A Reality!
By Helen Dowd


Don't let anyone discourage you from fulfilling your dreams.

"The Manuscript! What a wonderful surprise!"

My dream? To write a book. When I was fifteen I heard my youngest sister ask Mom what it was like when she was young. "Oh, I could write a book." That's all she said. She wasn't one to talk about her youth. That day I determined that one day I would write her story. I didn't mention it to anyone. I just "pondered it in my heart." To ponder means to muse. I am a "gleaner" and would remember little things that I would hear. At that time I was no more capable of writing, than I was of flying. In school, I barely made my grade each year. So I mused about writing the story for many-a-year.

One day I heard my two youngest sisters discussing their childhood: "I don't remember many happy times when we were growing up," the older said. "Neither do I," replied the youngest . . . Well, I did. And I wanted them to remember too: mingled with hardships, was happiness; amidst tears, was laughter.

Through the years I had corresponded with Mom's sister, who not only encouraged me to write, but also supplied me with many of her stories about their childhood. In 1970, I had written pages of questions to Dad about Mom's early days, and about their life together. In his hen-scratch-like writing, he wrote pages back—out of order and jumbled.

In order to get the feel of the story, I revisited the old homestead, the site of the shack I spent much of my early childhood in. I talked to people who remembered my parents, read accounts of life during the depression, and went to the archives of newspapers in the areas where the story took place, in order to acquaint myself with the times of which I would be writing. I located a couple of Mom's nursing friends and interviewed them. They were as happy to talk of old times, as I was to get first-hand information on that part of her life.

Now the challenging part began—making my scattered notes into a manuscript.

My husband's work required his being on the road a good deal of time, and I went with him. While he was on a call, I sat in the car with my notes, a pen and a pad, and my thoughts. Back in the travel trailer, I would organize my scribbles, and write until my hand became numb. I remember my brain telling my hand to keep writing. When my tears made it impossible to see what I was writing, I would throw my pen down. "Why? Oh why?" I would cry. "When I want so badly to fulfill my dream of completing this manuscript, is my hand not letting me?" (I found out later that I had carpel tunnel syndrome.)

"Burning the midnight oil" took on a new meaning for me. While my husband and the dog were peacefully sleeping, by the dim light of the one propane lamp in the travel trailer, I would pour over the manuscript.

"What's next?" I kept thinking. "How do I get this scribble to the next stage?"

I plodded on, struggling at last to convert my scribbles to typing--never being my best subject in school--filling wastebasket after wastebasket with discarded material. (This was before I knew anything about computers.)

Glorious was the day I got a Word Processor, then even more glorious when I acquired a computer. After many revisions and reams and reams of paper, I decided editing would have to cease.

My manuscript became a reality. I printed out all 365 pages of it, designed a cover, and took it to a print shop to have copies made for family and close friends, never dreaming that it would ever be more than that—a manuscript.


"What a wonderful surprise: 'The Manuscript!' … I was thrilled to receive a copy. You always said you had no artistic ability, but you are an artist. Your brush is your pen." (my sister)

"Great stuff! Proud of you!" (another sister)

"Thank you for sending the manuscript. I couldn't put it down once I started to read it. I think it is fantastic, and I think you should get it to a publisher." (a friend)


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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 05/07/10
Oh, I hope this is true... how cool. Congrats on this accomplishment. I was cheering and "laboring" with you during the process. Wonderful!
Mariane Holbrook 05/12/10
I've had the great pleasure of reading that wonderful book, too, and I can attest to its being one of the best of its kind, so much so that when we have visitors, I leave it out for them to read and invariably they ask if they can take it home to finish it and mail it back to me. You presented a manuscript that was faithful to the era and brought in so much that those of us who are of your generation can relate to. It was indeed a book that needed to be written and I'm happy that discouragement or illness didn't prevent its being published. God bless you, dear friend.